Michelle Keown

Professor of Pacific and Postcolonial Literature


Professor Keown was born and grew up in New Zealand, where she completed a BA in English and Linguistics, and an MA in English Literature (specialising in Maori Literature in English), at the University of Waikato. She came to the UK in 1997 on a Commonwealth Scholarship, completing a PhD in Postcolonial Studies at the University of Kent (in 2000) and subsequently taking up a Lectureship in Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Stirling (in 2001). In 2005, she joined the English Department at Edinburgh, where she teaches courses on Postcolonial writing, New Zealand and Pacific literature and film, and Modernism and empire. Professor Keown is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College, serves on the Publications Committee for the UK Postcolonial Studies Association, and is a member of editorial and advisory boards for the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, the Journal of Contemporary Literature, the Journal of Postcolonial Culture and Societies, the Journal of New Zealand Literature, Ka Mate Ka Ora (journal of the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre), Kotare: New Zealand Notes and Queries, and Dreadlocks (a journal of Pacific studies).

Research summary

Professor Keown specialises in Postcolonial literature and theory, particularly that of the Pacific region. She has published widely on Maori and Pacific writing and is the author of Poscolonial Pacific Writing: Representations of the Body (Routledge, 2005) and Pacific Islands Writing: The Postcolonial Literatures of Aotearoa/New Zealand and Oceania (Oxford University Press, 2007). She is co-editor (with David Murphy and James Procter) of Comparing Postcolonial Diaspora (Palgrave, 2009); co-editor of The Edinburgh Introduction to Studying English Literature (Edinburgh University Press, 2010); and co-editor (with Andrew Taylor and Mandy Treagus) of Anglo-American Imperialism and the Pacific: Discourses of Encounter (Routledge, 2018). She has also edited (with Stuart Murray) a special issue of the Journal of New Zealand Literature (no. 21, 2003) focusing upon diasporic connections between Aotearoa/New Zealand and the UK; and has edited several volumes of creative writing/art from the Republic of the Marshall Islands; and graphic novels featuring adaptations of antinuclear poetry by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, adaptations of Marshallese traditional stories about canoe technology and travel, and an indigenous futurist narrative by Hawaiian artist Solomon Enos. Current research projects are focused on postcolonial diasporas; postcolonial translation studies; Anglo-American imperialism and the Pacific; nuclear colonialism and toxicity; and the medical and environmental humanities.

Professor Keown is happy to consider research proposals in the following areas: Postcolonial literature and theory; Indigenous and European literatures of the Pacific region (including Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia); the literatures of Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia; diaspora culture and theory; settler writing and settlement studies; the medical and environmental humanities.

Project activity

Current research projects are focused on postcolonial diasporas; postcolonial translation studies; Anglo-American imperialism and the Pacific; postcolonial reception theory; and the medical and environmental humanities.