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Professor William Spurlin
Honorary Professor


William J Spurlin is Professor Emeritus and Honorary Professor of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Business, Arts & Social Sciences; prior to his retirement in 2022, Professor Spurlin was Professor of English and Vice-Dean in the College of Business, Arts & Social Sciences where he held the portfolio for teaching and learning.  Professor Spurlin has written extensively on the politics of gender and sexual dissidence and is widely known for his research in queer studies and modern and contemporary comparative literature which spans the 20th and 21st centuries. His latest monograph, Contested Borders: Queer Politics and Cultural Translation in Contemporary Francophone Writing from the Maghreb (2022) broadens understandings of dissident sexualities in Africa throgh examining representations of same-sex desire emerging in recent francophone autofictional writing from the Maghreb complicated and nuanced by the experience of emigration and settlement by the writers concerned in France.  His previous monograph, Lost Intimacies: Rethinking Homosexuality under National Socialism (2009), uses queer theory as a hermeneutic tool with which to read against the grain of hetero-textual narratives of the Holocaust and as a way for locating sexuality at its intersections with race, gender, and eugenics within the National Socialist imaginary.  His book also challenges prevailing assumptions in the received scholarship that lesbians were not as systematically persecuted by the Nazis. The research for Lost Intimacies was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the book is widely cited and has been reviewed in such journals as Men and Masculinities; German Studies Review; International Review of Social History; and Zeitscrift für Geschichtswissenscaft.

Professor Spurlin’s research also investigates sexuality as a significant vector of social organisation and cultural arrangement in colonial and postcolonial Africa.  His earlier book, Imperialism within the Margins: Queer Representation and the Politics of Culture in Southern Africa (2006), examines the politics of sexuality that emerged in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy and analyses its effects in the region.  This work, funded by the US National Endowment for the Humanities, led to his theorisation of the racialisation of sexuality under the Third Reich, given that the framers of apartheid in South Africa visited Nazi Germany, in the years prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, to study Nazi eugenics and fascist hierarchies of race, which engendered, in both regimes, the policing of sexuality through the regulation of gender norms and racial policies.  Professor Spurlin has also co-edited, with Jarrod Hayes and Margaret R. Higonnet, Comparatively Queer: Interrogating Identities across Time and Cultures (2010), and he has written extensively on postcolonial/queer theory, African studies, queer translation studies, modern and contemporary comparative literature, and the biomedicalisation of sexuality in more than 50 essays in international journals and as chapters in volumes, most recently in The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Holocaust Studies (forthcoming 2020), Journal of Medical Humanities (2018), Queer in Translation (2017), Research in African Literatures (2016), The Future of Postcolonial Studies (2015), Comparative Literature Studies (2014), and Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism (2013).  He is currently writing a book on representations of sexual dissidence in new queer francophone life writing from the Maghreb.

Professor Spurlin has given invited lectures on his work in queer Holocaust studies across New Zealand at universities, the Auckland Museum, and the National Library in Wellington sponsored by the New Zealand Holocaust Centre. He has given invited lectures in queer studies, postcolonial studies, and translation studies around the world in English and in French, most recently in South Africa, China, Australia, and across Europe and North America. He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. For the outstanding contribution of his research in queer studies to social science scholarship, Professor Spurlin has been named a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (2017) and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2016) in recognition of exceptional leadership and scholarship in teaching.


Ph.D. Columbia University; M.Phil. Columbia University (en passant to Ph.D.); Ed.M. Columbia University (Teachers College); M.A. Columbia University; B.A. Rowan University (magna cum laude); FAcSS; PFHEA


Professor of English, Department of Arts and Humanities, Division of English and Creative Writing (2011-2022)

Vice Dean/Education, College of Business, Arts & Social Sciences (2017-2022)

Newest selected publications

Spurlin, WJ. (2022) 'Contested Borders: Queer Politics and Cultural Translation in Contemporary Francophone Writing from the Maghreb'. Lanham, MD USA: Rowman and Littlefield. ISSN 13: 9781786600813


Spurlin, WJ. (2020) 'Queering Holocaust Studies: New Frameworks for Understanding Nazi Homophobia and the Politics of Sexuality under National Socialism', in Gigliotti, S. and Earl, H. (eds.) A Companion to the Holocaust. Oxford : Wiley Blackwell. pp. 75 - 93. ISBN 10: 1-118-97052-7. ISBN 13: 978-1-118-97052-2. Open Access Link

Book chapter

Spurlin, WJ. (2018) 'Queer Theory and Biomedical Practice: The Biomedicalization of Sexuality/The Cultural Politics of Biomedicine'. Journal of Medical Humanities, 40 (1). pp. 7 - 20. ISSN: 1041-3545 Open Access Link

Journal article

Spurlin, WJ. (2016) 'Contested Borders: Cultural Translation and Queer Politics in Contemporary Francophone Writing from the Maghreb'. Research in African Literatures, 47 (2). pp. 104 - 120. ISSN: 0034-5210 Open Access Link

Journal article

Spurlin, WJ. (2014) 'Postcolonially Queer: Sexual Dissidence as Cultural Struggle in Emergent Democracies in Africa', in Zabus, C. (ed.) The Future of Postcolonial Studies. New York and Abingdon : Routledge. , 29. pp. 157 - 171. ISBN 10: 0415714265. ISBN 13: 978-0-415-71426-6. Open Access Link

Book chapter
More publications(41)