Dr Nicole Willson

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow

Nicole’s research is situated at the intersection of Black Studies, Haitian Studies and American and Caribbean Cultural Studies. Her work focuses largely on the transgenerational legacies of the Haitian Revolution and, more broadly, on articulations of resistance across the Black Atlantic from the age of slavery to the present. She is interested, in particular, in recovering the often forgotten, silenced and mediated stories of women of colour and is an advocate of engaged scholarly practise.

After completing her PhD at the University of East Anglia in 2016, Nicole worked at the Universities of Greenwich and Kent and, from 2018-2019, served as the Postdoctoral Research Associate on the AHRC-funded project Our Bondage and Our Freedom: Frederick Douglass and Family (1818-2018) at the University of Edinburgh. She is currently a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow at IBAR.

Drawing on literary, historical, visual and material cultural, anthropological and heritage studies frameworks, Nicole’s published work spans a broad interdisciplinary trajectory, and engages with subjects ranging from sartorial resistance in the revolutionary Black Atlantic to cultural icons such as Beyoncé and Meghan Markle. She acts as co-Treasurer for the British Association of American Studies and serves on the editorial board for the Journal of American Studies.

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Projects

Nicole is currently working on a three-year Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship entitled ‘Fanm Rebèl: Recovering the Histories of Haiti’s Women Revolutionaries’. ‘Fanm Rebèl’, a Haitian Kreyòl term meaning ‘Rebel Women.’

The project represents the most comprehensive, critical, creative and interdisciplinary study of women in the Haitian Revolution to date. Spanning a 100-year trajectory, from 1750-1850, it broadens the conventional scope of the Haitian revolutionary calendar to encompass the radical acts of female insurgency and marroonage that predate the Ogé Rebellion of 1790 and the slave insurgency of 1791. It also extends beyond the birth of the Haitian Republic in 1804 to encompass the life cycle of Marie-Louise Christophe, first Queen of Haiti. It shows how women before, during and after the revolutionary moment articulated narratives of resistance through spiritual practice, domestic labour, creativity, survival, subterfuge and armed combat. It further shows how the symbolic and imaginative legacy of these acts of female-led resistance have been preserved in artistic practices, oral histories, community customs and activist networks in Haiti and across the Haitian diaspora in the present.

As part of this project, Nicole will produce the first monograph-length study on women in the Haitian Revolution and will host an international conference entitled ‘Istwa Fanm: Haitian Women’s (Hi)Stories Past, Present, Future’ in 2022.

Publications

Monograph:

  • Willson, Nicole, Caribbean Convulsions: the Haitian Revolution, Literary Ghosts and the Incomplete Dream of America (Edinburgh University Press: contracted; forecast 2021).

Edited Journal Issues:

  • Bernier, Celeste-Marie, and Nicole Willson eds., Special Issue: ‘A New Dawn of Freedom: Black Acts and Arts of Radicalism, Revolution, and Resistance (1818-2018)’, Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies (forecast 2020).
  • Bernier, Celeste-Marie, and Nicole Willson eds., Special Issue: ‘Strike for Freedom: Acts and Arts of Liberation in the African Atlantic Imaginary (1818-2018)’, Slavery and Abolition (forecast 2020).

Journal Articles – in Print:

  • Willson, Nicole, ‘Excavating Occluded Histories at Destrehan Plantation: Afro-Creole Resistance from Marguerite to Beyoncé’, Journal of American Studies (2019). https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875819000021.
  • Willson, Nicole. ‘People Without Shoes: Jacques Roumain, Langston Hughes, and the Transnational Ti Neg Aesthetic’. Special Issue: ‘American Networks: Radicals Under the Radar (1868-1968)’, Comparative American Studies (2019). https://doi.org/10.1080/14775700.2017.1551601.
  • Willson, Nicole. ‘“The Realm of Maiden Beauty”: Spectres of Slavery, Rebellion, and Creolization in the Landscape of Cable’s Louisiana’. Comparative American Studies 15, nos 1-2 (2017): 36-53. https://doi.org/10.1080/14775700.2017.1406683.
  • Willson, Nicole, ‘A New “Kavalesque”: Re-imagining Haiti’s Revolution(s) through the Work of Leah Gordon’, Harts and Minds 1, no. 1 (2013). http://media.wix.com/ugd/3089fd_ebdc55a0d68ae1c8fa4bcea651fe731f.pdf.

Journal Articles – in Press:

  • Willson, Nicole, ‘Vestiges of Black Internationalism: The Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint-Domingue in History and Memory’, in Celeste-Marie Bernier and Nicole Willson eds., Special Issue: ‘A New Dawn of Freedom: Black Acts and Arts of Radicalism, Revolution, and Resistance (1818-2018)’, Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies (forecast 2020).
  • Willson, Nicole, ‘Catherine Flon, Material Testimony and Occluded Narratives of Female-Led Resistance in Haiti and the Haitian Dyaspora’, in Celeste-Marie Bernier and Nicole Willson eds., Special Issue: ‘Strike for Freedom: Acts and Arts of Liberation in the African Atlantic Imaginary (1818-2018)’, Slavery and Abolition (forecast 2020).
  • Willson, Nicole, ‘Sartorial insurgencies: Women of colour, Afro-Creole head wraps and the revolutionary Black Atlantic’, Special Issue: ‘Colonial Caribbean Visual Cultures’, Atlantic Studies: Global Currents (forecast 2020).