Nicole Gervasio is a Ph.D. Candidate in English & Comparative Literature with a certificate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University. Using postcolonial, feminist, and queer frameworks, her research explores collective trauma, genocide, political violence, human rights, and state repression in contemporary Anglophone, Hispanophone, and Francophone literature from the Global South. Her dissertation, “Arts of the Impossible: Remembering Political Repression in Today’s Decolonial Literatures,” examines the innovative methods by which descendants and witnesses of genocide and dictatorship across the Global South have represented unimaginable political violence. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a B.A. in English and Growth & Structure of Cities and has received Beinecke, Javits, Mellon Mays, and Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellowships. A 2015-16 Public Humanities Fellow at Humanities New York, she is founder of the Kaleidoscope Project, a not-for-profit, diversity-based contemporary literature and creative writing workshop for teens in New York City.


  • Ph.D. English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University (Feb. 2018)

  • M.A. English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University (May 2012)

  • B.A. English and Growth & Structure of Cities, Bryn Mawr College (May 2010)


“Why Boys Must Cry,” a review of Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen (Little, Brown & Company, 2015) in Public Books and The Guardian


Dissertation Project

“Arts of the Impossible: Political Repression in Today’s Decolonial Literatures” examines contemporary postcolonial and post-dictatorship authors’ methods for ethically representing unimaginable political violence across the Global South. Atrocity inherently resists representation because the scale of violence is unthinkable. While this quandary is not in itself new, my dissertation has assembled a corps of authors who have never been drawn into comparison previously and share a very unique strategy for tackling the ethical predicament of representing collective trauma. Namely, the six transnational authors in my dissertation– Cristina Peri Rossi (Uruguay/Spain), Roberto Bolaño (Chile/Spain), Michael Ondaatje (Sri Lanka/Canada), M. NourbeSe Philip (Tobago/Canada), Edwidge Danticat (U.S./Haiti), Boubacar Boris Diop (Senegal/Rwanda)– ironize the discursive and rhetorical features of statist repression’s dominant narratives, like erasure of minorities, suppression of dissent, patriarchy, and the law-as-status quo, to interrogate afterlives of political violence persisting to the present day.

Public Humanities Projects

Kaleidoscope Project | A nonprofit diversity-based contemporary literature and creative writing workshop for underserved teens in New York City

Harlem Memory Walk | An open-source walk through intersectional memory sites in Harlem’s history, featuring women’s and queer lives, created in collaboration with graduate students in the Women Mobilizing Memory Working Group at Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference

Nicole Marie Gervasio

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