From South Africa, Jessica Dubow obtained her honours degree in Art History and Aesthetic Theory from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and her PhD in Cultural Geography from Royal Holloway College, University of London. Before joining Sheffield in 2005, she held a three-year postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the School of Geography, University of Nottingham.
Jessica was promoted to Reader in Cultural Geography from January 2016. She is Co-Director of Research in Geography.
- Critical Theory (with specific focus on Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno)
- Continental Philosophy (with specific focus on Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, Phenomenology and Ethics)
- Cultural Geographies
- Aesthetic Theory/Visual Practice
- Colonial and Post-colonial Studies (with specific reference to both colonial and post-apartheid South Africa)
With a background in art history and aesthetic theory and principal interests in philosophy and critical theory, I am committed to working outside of discrete academic boundaries and see cultural geography as a field in which a truly creative interdisciplinary scholarship might best be achieved. My current research project ('Thinking Outside the City Walls: Geography, Philosophy and the Jewish Body') is concerned with the philosophy and aesthetics of spatial perception as it relates to critical discourses of territoriality, 'nomadology' and the problem of the exilic body.
Looking at certain leading figures within a 20th-century Jewish European intellectual tradition (eg Benjamin, Adorno, Kafka, Levinas), I am concerned with the ways in which the experience of spatial displacement relates to the making and dynamic of critical thought. As such, the key questions this research poses are:
- How may mobility be understood less as the historical 'fate' of the 20th-century Jewish European intellectual, than as the structural precondition of a critical consciousness?
- What are the connections between geography and philosophy? the body's spatial negotiation and its theoretical deliberation?
- What is specific about a Judaic thought and identity that allows us to understand the shared ontology of diaspora and the making of a critical imagination?
In a related vein, I publish on the work of the German novelist WG Sebald as it frames the phenomenal processes of spatial and visual perception in narratives of trauma and testimony, past and present. Alongside this current project I maintain a research interest in issues of landscape, perception and identity in the context of South Africa's colonial past and post-apartheid present. Together with my published work in this area, I have previously co-curated a major exhibition of South African landscape art and practice and written catalogue essays to accompany the gallery exhibitions of notable UK and South African artists (eg Simon Lewty, Will Maclean, Karel Nel). More recently, academic work focusing on the art and animated films of William Kentridge has looked at the aesthetic response to the politics of memory, trauma and new nation-hood as formulated by South Africa's 'Truth and Reconciliation' Commission.
I teach a range of modules at undergraduate level related to key themes and theoretical issues in contemporary cultural geography. I'm particularly interested in the interdisciplinary nature of cultural geography and so I encourage students to explore the many ways it opens onto the cognate fields of philosophy, aesthetic and critical theory, visual studies and history. From looking at the relationship between space and memory (especially as it concerns the representations of personal and national trauma) to the ways that philosophy and critical thought has a profound spatial basis, I'm very keen on encouraging undergraduates to think as creatively and widely as possible about our geographic lives and imaginations. I often use art, sculpture and films to enliven my undergraduate lectures and really enjoy the challenge of class discussion – and argument!
Jessica's specialist teaching on undergraduate courses includes:
GEO223 Philosophical Issues in Human Geography
GEO241 Social and Cultural Geographies
GEO364 Urban Field Class
GEO375 Cities and Modernities
All staff also engage in personal supervision and tutoring of individual students at all three levels in the following modules:
GEO163 (Information & Communication Skills for Geographers)
GEO263 or GEO264 (Research Design in Human or Physical Geography)
GEO356 (Geographical Research Project)
I also teach on several Masters modules and convene two of them which focus particularly on the contemporary theoretical debates in Human Geography and how they draw on, and participate in, broader intellectual concerns in both the social sciences and the arts and humanities. I believe very strongly in 'reading' for a degree and believe that real academic scholarship – and enjoyment – comes from immersing oneself in the literature and using this as the basis for creative and challenging discussion. I am also dedicated to allowing students to think as openly as possible about their Masters dissertations and to use their personal passions – music, art, politics, animals, theatre, whatever! – to guide their research topics.
Jessica's teaching on Masters courses includes:
GEO6002 Research Design in Human Geography
GEO6003 Theoretical Issues in Human Geography
|Awards and other projects
- 2016: Leverhulme Research Fellowship
- 2015-16: Awarded Research Fellowship, Frankel Institute of Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
- In 2013, Jessica was the recipient of the Ashby Prize for the ‘Most Innovative Article Published 2012/13’ for her article published in Environment and Planning A.
- Jessica is currently Co-I on an AHRC/ESRC Connected Communities Engagement project as part of the Sheffield-based stream “Imagining Different Communities and Making them Happen”. Working with Richard Steadman-Jones (School of English) and collaborating with the Site Gallery, Sheffield, the research focuses on the theme of ‘Utopia, Art and the City’.
- From 2009 - 2012, Jessica was Principal Investigator of a large AHRC Speculative Grant entitled Archive of Exile which involves the interdiscplinary collaboration with collegues in the School of English at Sheffield (Dr Richard Steadman-Jones and Dr Francis Babbage), together with Pam Skelton - a London-based video installation artist, Eve Beglarian - a New York-based musician and composer, and Hannah Fox - a performance-maker and visual artist. Together with a number of research publications, the project resulted in a public exhibition in Sheffield in summer 2011.
- Jessica is also co-director of the Arts-Science Encounters 2011 at Sheffield, which brings together artists and academics in an interdisciplinary public forum to stimuate creative and critical discussion between artistic practice, scientific research and intellectual scholarship.
- Jessica is a member of the AHRC Peer-Review College.
- Jessica is the named mentor on James Riding’s 3-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship research project entitled: ‘For Sarajevo: New Regional Geographies’
Teaching and Learning
- In 2013, Jessica was a finalist in ‘Inspiration & Co’, the Student Union’s initiative for promoting inspirational teaching practice.
- In 2012, Jessica was nominated by the Sheffield University Student Union for an ‘Excellence in Teaching’ award.