What are women researching in the humanities at Oxford?

For International Women’s Day, here are a few women at Oxford researching women and gender across diverse times and cultures. The Women in Humanities Programme at TORCH brings together scholars working on a wide-range of subjects from across humanities disciplines to develop new approaches to women’s equalities. Find out more about the programme here.


Kathleen Lawton-Trask (DPhil Candidate, Faculty of English)
My topic is 18th century women who wrote mock-heroic poetry about domestic matters. The argument is essentially that the mock-heroic enabled them to both elevate and critique the domestic even as the cult of domesticity was growing.



Ros Ballaster (Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies, Faculty of English and Mansfield College)
I am working on a monograph on the theatre and the novel in eighteenth-century London which pays particular attention to female authors and performance and the imagining of female ‘character’. This book builds on the work I did on a project on Georgian Theatre and the Novel 1714-1830.


Imaobong Umoren (Pembroke-TORCH Career Development Fellow in Women in the Humanities)
My research interests include the history of race, gender, religion, and migration in the nineteenth and twentieth century African diaspora. I am currently working on the international travels of a group of African American and Caribbean women intellectuals in the early to mid twentieth century. Read more here.



Bethany White (DPhil Candidate, Faculty of History)
I research the experiences of working-class women in higher education in post-war Britain. Using oral history, I explore the everyday experiences of university and the impact of university on women's class and gender identities. At the same time, I trace how ideas such as class and social mobility were discussed and circulated within universities, and how students grappled with these abstract concepts on a subjective level. 



Cláudia Pazos Alonso (University Lecturer in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies)
I specialise in Lusophone Women's Writing and am currently preparing a monograph on the transnational journalist and novelist Francisca Wood, in the context of European-wide debates concerning the Woman Question, including voting rights, in the late 1860s. My research explores the diverse mechanisms that have contributed to de-authorize pre-1900 Portuguese women as intellectuals. Building on my previous work on canonical 20th century writers (ranging widely from Florbela Espanca to Lidia Jorge), I address the adverse symbolic impact of such cultural memory loss and its lasting effect on present-day perceptions of gender in Portugal.



Ruth Percy (Stipendiary Lecturer in Modern British History, St Hilda’s College)
My book project, ‘I am not a feminist’: Equality, Rights, and Working Women’s Culture in London and Chicago, 1870s-1920s, examines the intersection of experiences and discourses of class and gender in the context of the women’s labour movement in late nineteenth and early twentieth century London and Chicago, using archived oral histories alongside more conventional written sources.



Vanessa Lee (DPhil Candidate in French Studies)
I am a second year DPhil student in French Studies working on French Caribbean Women's Theatre. My research focuses on the dramatic works of  Ina Césaire, Michèle Césaire, Maryse Condé, Suzanne Dracius and Gerty Dambury. I look at the use of theatrical genre as a vector to explore issues of history-writing, of gender, of inter-generational relations, and of marginalisation. French Caribbean theatre is an under-studied field, and the works of French Caribbean women writers is even more under-researched, however the dominance of the theatrical field in the French Caribbean by such writers as the ones who constitute the object of my thesis encourages the study of such a phenomenon.



Olivia Robinson (DPhil Candidate, Faculty of History)
Using the migration, work and non-work experiences of foreign female domestic servants in Britain from 1880–1939, I examine British attitudes towards class, gender and being ‘foreign’ in the heart of the domestic sphere. Far from being passive victims, I show how these women navigated their ‘otherness’, turning it to their own strategic advantage and linking London sculleries with global networks of movement and cultural exchange. Why did they come? How were they treated? What did they gain? And what does this tell us about the origins of the global domestic service industry we recognise today?



Güzin A. Yener (DPhil Candidate, Faculty of Theology and Religion)
Originally a psychotherapist, I am currently reading for my DPhil in Tibetan Buddhism at Wolfson College, concentrating on the ritual practises of the Tantric female deities Lotus Dakini and Kurukulle associated with magic and magnetising. Analysing the ritual from a gender perspective is naturally part of my methodology as I am focusing on the transformative aspects of the ritual for the individual.



Hannah Wirta Kinney (DPhil Candidate, Faculty of History of Art)
My research investigates how copies and replicas of sculpture made in 17th and 18th century Florence were bearers of social, political, cultural, and economic value. In doing so, my goal is to question how creativity and authorship were defined in the period. 



Jennifer Wallis (Postdoctoral Researcher in the History of Science and Medicine)
I am working as part of the ‘Diseases of Modern Life’ project, which examines 19th-century responses to problems such as stress, addiction, and environmental health. My work explores how air was used as a therapy in the 19th century – from respirators to ozone papers to artificial respiration – and I am particularly interested in interactions between individuals and medical technologies at this time.


Anna Sarkissian (DPhil Candidate, Department of Anthropology)
I am examining the challenges that women directors face in the Hollywood industry. I will spend the next year conducting fieldwork in LA, shadowing directors and learning about their lives and careers, in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. I will post updates on Twitter as I go (@annasarkissian). 


María del Carmen Hidalgo-Chacón Díez (Postdoctoral Researcher, Oriental Studies Faculty (Khalili Research Centre))
I am a researcher on the OCIANA project – The Online Corpus of the Inscriptions of Ancient North Arabia. I am an Epigraphist specialising in Ancient North Arabia inscriptions that have been carved in stones and rock-faces from southern Syria to northern Saudi Arabia.



Alice Kelly (Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Women in the Humanities Programme, TORCH)
My interdisciplinary research interests include British and American twentieth-century literature, war cultures and commemoration, and the history of death and my research to date has focused on rethinking modernism from the perspective of war commemoration. My book project examines the culture of war commemoration that underlies British and American modernism in the wartime and immediate postwar period. My edition of Edith Wharton’s 1915 war reportage, Fighting France, was published in December 2015, as well as an unknown war story by Wharton, focusing on the ways the war affected women.


Marilyn Booth (Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud Professor for the Study of the Contemporary Arab World, Oriental Institute and Magdalen College, University of Oxford)
I research 19th-century Arab feminism and discourses on gender in the Egyptian public sphere of the time. I focus especially on a fascinating woman called Zaynab Fawwaz (c1850-1914), who emigrated from the south of Lebanon to urban Egypt in circumstances we do not know and made a place for herself amongst the intelligentsia, writing a biographical dictionary of world women, two novels, a play, and many hard-hitting essays in the press. In a time of intense anticolonial nationalism in Egypt, gender arrangements and whether they ought to change were a key focus of debate - partly but not only because imperial spokespeople made 'the status of women' a central item in their justificatory rhetoric for continued occupation of the country (a theme which continues to resound!). I've published one book on Fawwaz's work, Classes of Ladies of Cloistered Spaces: Writing Feminist History through BIography in fin-de-siecle Egypt (Edinburgh 2015) and I'm working on another that focuses even more directly on these debates. I also work on (other) early Arab female novelists and how fiction played a central role in these debates - as it has in so many other regions of the world.

Sos Eltis (Associate Professor, Faculty of English)
My research interests are in Victorian and modern drama, with particular interest in gender and sexuality - my most recent book is Acts of Desire: Women and Sex on Stage, 1800-1930 (OUP, 2013). I have also recently become Vice-Principal of Brasenose College, and am chair of a working group on improving gender and diversity in the college - so am very interested in drawing on suggestions, ideas and comments on how to improve the recruitment, appointment and retention of women to academic posts in Oxford, across all subjects including the Humanities. 

- TORCH team


Women in the Humanities

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