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Holly Brown


Holly Brown writes on biopolitics, corporeality and medicine, and is currently reading for a PhD in literature at Ghent University. Prior to this, she obtained a BA in American Studies at Nottingham University, where she was an exchange student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She also holds an MA in Comparative Literary Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. From January to June 2017, she will be a Visiting Scholar with the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute for the Arts, Los Angeles.

Holly’s thesis focuses on the recurring presence of the trope of white male illness in contemporary American fiction, examining this figure through the conceptual framework of immunity. Initially a term used in a legal context to describe an individual’s exemption from a jurisdiction that applies to all other citizens, immunity has been adopted in biomedical discourse from the nineteenth century onwards to conceptualize the health and security of the physical body. This project examines how biomedicine’s construction of the individual as bounded, atomized and self-defensive is indebted to modern theories of political personhood, privileging a white male subjectivity which is construed as abstract and impermeable. Bringing together the extensive philosophical consideration of immunity with critical approaches to embodiment found in gender, queer, disability and race studies, Holly’s research contends that the disintegration of this “immunocompetent” body (Waldby) is significant for thinking about questions of sovereignty and citizenship in an era defined by neoliberal globalization and biomedicalization. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, her thesis places fiction by Hanya Yanagihara, Don DeLillo, Joshua Ferris and Ben Marcus into dialogue with performance and visual artists who examine the alternative experiences of embodiment which illness produces. Challenging the constricting diagnostic perspective of biomedical discourse, these literary and artistic works aid us in thinking through new modes of community and relationality outside of the immunitary paradigm.


Department of Literary Studies / Room 130.029FullSizeRender
Ghent University
Blandijnberg 2
9000 Ghent
Tel: +32 (0)9 264 36 55
Fax: +32 (0)9 264 41 79