Dr. Ksenia Robbe

  • Assistant Professor
  • International Studies, South Africa, African Literature

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2358
E-Mail: k.robbe@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Centre for the Arts in Society, KG Moderne beeldende kunst
Office Address: Witte Singel-complex
van Wijkplaats 2
2311 BX Leiden
Room number 1.03a

Curriculum vitae

Ksenia Robbe is Assistant Professor at Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, specializing in African and Comparative literature. She received her PhD (summa cum laude) in English and American Literature and Culture from the University of Giessen (GCSC) with a dissertation on South African women’s writing. She holds degrees in African literatures (MA), English language and translation (MA) and Southern African languages and cultures (BA) from the University of St. Petersburg.

Before coming to Leiden in August 2012, she taught at the Department of English and American studies in Giessen and at the Department of English, Postcolonial and Media studies in Muenster. She has been a research fellow at the University of Freiburg, working within the Research group 'Universality and the Acceptance Potential of Social Knowledge: On the Circulation of Knowledge between Europe and the Global South' (2012) and a visiting researcher at the African Studies Centre at the University of Cape Town (2013).

Ksenia has published comparative studies of the work of several South African authors writing in English and Afrikaans, on the practices of comparison and production of cultural theory in South Africa, and on nostalgia and re-writing of ‘transition’ in the work of Antjie Krog. Her current research explores comparative perspectives on memory and social transformation in contemporary Russian and South African literature and art. 

Recent publication

The subject of motherhood is interwoven with themes of survival, power and identity. It is also at the heart of any consideration of women’s writing. Conversations of Motherhood sensitively charts common themes, intersecting experiences and related topics within the cultural specificities of South African society. Ksenia Robbe comparatively explores seminal novels by South African authors written in English and Afrikaans from the 1970s to 2010 through the prism of motherhood. Drawing on the work of theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, this book develops a transcultural approach to the study of literature and literary culture in postcolonial multilingual societies. This method offers striking rewards when comparatively pairing Zoë Wicomb with Pamphilia Hlapa, Sindiwe Magona with Marlene van Niekerk, Ellen Kuzwayo with Antjie Krog and Elsa Joubert with Wilma Stockenström. 

Fields of interest

  • Postcolonial literature and theory
  • Trans-regional perspectives on transformation in post-repressive societies: politics of memory, cultural regulation and public culture
  • African literary and cultural studies
  • South African literature
  • 20th-century Russian literature and culture

Teaching activities

Courses currently taught

  • Introduction to Gender Studies
  • Culture: Africa
  • Postcolonial Literature: Interrogating Race and Ethnicity
  • Censorship and Social Transformation
  • Global Memory Practices
  • Thesis seminars ‘Russia & Eurasia: Culture and Society’

Courses previously taught

  • Romantic (Re)Visions: Enlightenment, Revolutions and their Postcolonial Afterlives
  • Globalization and Cultural Studies
  • Postcolonial Intellectuals and Exile
  • African Women’s Writing and Activism
  • South African Literatures


My current research focuses on practices of memory in post-soviet and post-apartheid literature, film and art. I am approaching contemporary expressions of disillusionment, dissatisfaction and resentment in these post-repressive societies through the lens of nostalgia as a practice of resisting narratives of transition. Part of this project looks into the possibilities of public culture and transnational linkages against the backdrop of persisting Cold-War imaginaries and reinforced social inequalities.

Key publications

  • Conversations of Motherhood: South African Women's Writing Across Traditions. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2015.
  • “Translating Transition: The politics of Nostalgia and Provincialization in Antjie Krog’s A Change of Tongue and Begging to Be Black”. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde (forthcoming)
  • “African studies at a crossroads: producing theory across the disciplines in South Africa.” Social Dynamics: A journal of African studies 2014:1-19.
  • “Comparison as Translation: The Possibility of the Comparative Study of South African Literatures.” Ipsen G., Mathews T., Obradović D. (Eds.) Provocation and Negotiation: Essays in Comparative Criticism.Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2013. 21-33
  • “Controversies and Conversations: Linguistic and generic Translations in/of Antjie Krog's Relaas van 'n Moord.” Gehrmann S, Veit-Wild F (Eds.)Conventions and Conversions: Generic Innovations in African Literatures. Trier: WVT, 2012. 195-210.

Last Modified: 10-12-2015