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Head of Department

Associate Professor Barbara Boswell


MPhil Western Cape, PhD Maryland

Office: Room 122, AC Jordan Building


Barbara is a feminist literary scholar with an interest in Black diasporic women’s writing, Black South African women’s literature, and queer theory. She earned a PhD in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2010, after joining the Department of Women’s Studies as a Fulbright Scholar. Her MPhil was completed at the Women’s and Gender Studies Programme at the University of the Western Cape.

Barbara has taught South African literature, feminist theory, and representations of race and gender at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the University of Virginia, where she was a ACLS Postdoctoral fellow at the Carter G Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. She has also taught in the English Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, and in Gender Studies at the University of Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape. Her book manuscript in progress examines the ways in which Black South African women writers engaged with nationalisms during and after apartheid in their fiction. She is an editorial board member of the literary journal scrutiny2, as well as a board member of the feminist journal Agenda. Barbara has co-edited special issues of journals on Lauretta Ngcobo’s literary legacy, and womxn’s participation in student movements. She is also the author of Grace: a Novel (2017), published by Modjaji Books.

Research Interests

Postcolonial African literature

Feminism and Postcoloniality

Queer Theory

Black Feminist Thought

Intersectional Feminist Theory

Recent publications

With Victoria J. Collis-Buthelezi. "And She Didn’t Die: Celebrating Lauretta Ngcobo’s Life and Literary Legacy (1931–2015)." scrutiny2 (2017): 1-5.

With Sandy Ndelu and Simamkele Dlakavu. "Womxn's and nonbinary activists’ contribution to the RhodesMustFall and FeesMustFall student movements: 2015 and 2016." (2017): 1-4.

Boswell, Barbara. "Overcoming the ‘daily bludgeoning by apartheid’: black South African women writers, agency, and space." African Identities (2017): 1-14.

"Rewriting apartheid South Africa: race and space in Miriam Tlali and Lauretta Ngcobo’s novels." Gender, Place & Culture 23.9 (2016): 1329-1342.

"On Miniskirts and Hegemonic Masculinity." in Contested Intimacies: Sexuality, Gender and Law in Africa. Edited by Victoria Collis-Buthelezi and Derrick Higginbotham. Siber Ink Press (2015): 46-65.

"Black revolutionary masculinity in Miriam Tlali's Amandla: Lessons for contemporary South Africa." Agenda 27.1 (2013): 32-39.