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Staff Profile

Dr Janine Bradbury

Associate Professor in Literature

I am a poet and interdisciplinary scholar specialising in African American literature, American popular culture, and (most recently) the colonial history of Trinidad and Tobago. I joined York St John in 2013 and I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2017. I hold a First-class degree in American Studies, an MA (Distinction) in American Literature, and a PhD in Literature all from the University of Sheffield. I am also an alumna of The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (study abroad 2004/5). I have held a variety of administrative roles at York St John including School Learning and Teaching Lead and Acting Subject Director of American Studies.

I started writing poetry in 2019. In 2020 I was selected for the Poetry London Mentoring scheme (mentored by Rachel Long) and was shortlisted for The Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition (judged by Fiona Benson). In 2021, building upon over a decade of work in equality and diversity, I joined Alycia Pirmohamed, Dave Coates, Sandeep Parmar, Sarah Howe, Vidyan Ravinthiran and Catherine Gander to support the organisation of the AHRC-funded Ledbury Critics Scheme - a national programme that aims to encourage diversity in poetry reviewing culture and emerging critical voices.

My writing has been published by The Guardian and I have been a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. In 2013 I was appointed to The Runnymede Trust’s Emerging Scholars Forum, which brought together 30 of the UK’s brightest and most promising early-career academics working on race. Before joining York St John, I was a teaching associate and project officer at The University of Sheffield and I provided American literature courses for adult learners through the Workers Education Association. I am a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the British Association of American Studies.


I contribute to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching on the English Literature and American Studies programmes. I teach and direct across a wide variety of modules including:

  • Writing, Research and Literature
  • Introduction to American Literature
  • Theorising Literature: Power and Identity
  • From Harlem to Hip-Hop: African American Literature and Culture
  • Gender and Sexualities 
  • Alternative Americas. 


My practice examines the nexus between race, gender, and sexuality in The United States and the colonial Caribbean (specifically Trinidad). I’m especially interested in the performative and writerly processes involved in constructing, pluralising, queering, and destabilising notions of blackness, whiteness, national identity, masculinity, and femininity (including passing and drag). I am additionally drawn to archival, genealogical, and narrative gaps, omissions, silences, elisions, ellipses, palimpsests, and footnotes (which I write about at length in my forthcoming book). My next project, “Speculative Genealogies” examines these concerns in depth.

I am currently preparing my first book, Contemporary African American Women Writers and Passing (under contract with Palgrave Macmillan, New York). This monograph explores contemporary re-imaginings of racial passing in the work of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Dorothy West, and Gloria Naylor (among others) as a means of exploring genealogical descent. Previous projects include published chapters on professional wrestling, African American comedy, and the Jamaican-American icon Grace Jones.

I welcome enquires from PhD applicants interested in writing on representations of race/gender/sexuality in African American literature or popular culture.



  • Contemporary African American Women Writers and Passing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (under contract).

Book Chapters

  • “Genealogy and History: Tracing the Ancestor in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (1977).” Bloomsbury Handbook to Toni Morrison. Eds. Linda Wagner-Martin and Kelly Reames (under contract).
  • “Grace Jones: Cyborg Memoirist.” Music/Memory/Memoir. Robert Edgar, Fraser Mann, Helen Pleasance. New York: Bloomsbury, 2019.
  • “Parodying Racial Passing in Chappelle’s Show and Key & Peele.” Comedy and the Politics of Representation: Mocking the Weak. Eds. Helen Davis and Sarah Illot. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
  • “Grappling and Ga(y)zing: Gender, Sexuality, and Performance in the WWE Debut of Goldust.” Performance and Pro Wrestling. Eds. Broderick Chow, Laine Eero, Claire Warden. London: Routledge, 2016.
  • “Critical Reception: Zora Neale Hurston and the Paradox of Patronage.” Critical Insights: Zora Neale Hurston. Sharon Lynette Jones. Ipswich: Salem Press, 2013. 


  • BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, July 2020 (interviewed by Jenni Murray about Brit Bennett’s novel The Vanishing Act).
  • ‘“Passing for white”: how a taboo film genre is being revived to expose racial privilege.’ The Guardian. August 2018.
  •  BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, July 2013 (interviewed by Jenni Murray about the career of Zora Neale Hurston).
  •  “Black, female, and postgraduate: why I cannot be the only one.” The Guardian, May 2013.

 Selected Papers and Panel Discussions

  •  [Panel Discussion] Decolonising the Curriculum event, Durham University, May 2020.
  • “Re-imagining Passing: A Feminist Project." Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York, February 2019
  • “Racial Passing and Its Transatlantic Contexts.” Transatlantic Literary Women Series, University of Glasgow, November 2018.
  • [Panel Discussion] “Why is my curriculum white?” Broaden My Bookshelf/Black History Month, The University of Huddersfield, October 2018.
  • “Passing Amid Protest: Imitation of Life, One Life to Live, and Passing Narratives in 1968.” The Joint 32nd European Association for American Studies & 63rd British Association for American Studies Conference. Kings College London, April 2018.
  • [Plenary] “Safe spaces, neutral spaces? Navigating the Library as a Researcher of Colour”. UX in Libraries Conference, Sheffield Hallam University, June 2018.
  • [Panel Discussion] “Performance and Professional Wrestling.” Everybody’s Reading Festival, Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester, October 2017.
  • “Beyond the Passing-For-White Figure in Post-Black Comedy.” Race in the Americas (RITA) Seminar Series (Passing and Colourism), University of Leeds, March 2014.
  • [Invited Speaker] “Using African American Literature in BME Widening Participation.” HEA Sponsored Event - Teaching African American Literature and Culture, University of Durham, January 2014.
  • [Invited Speaker] “Breaking into the Academy.” Runnymede Trust – Race and HE Seminar, University of Manchester, October 2013.
  • [Invited Speaker] “Using Pedagogy to Celebrate Diversity.” Critical Pedagogies Conference University of Edinburgh, September 2013.


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