Dr Shela Sheikh

Staff details

Position Lecturer, convenor of the MA in Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy and the MPhil/PhD in Cultural Studies
Email shela.sheikh (@gold.ac.uk)
Phone +44 (0)20 7717 2939
Dr Shela Sheikh

Shela Sheikh has convened the MA Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy since 2014. Prior to joining the Centre for Cultural Studies, Shela was Research Fellow and Publications Coordinator on the ERC-funded “Forensic Architecture” project based in the Centre for Research Architecture, and Associate Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths.

Academic qualifications

Shela received her PhD in History from Goldsmiths, University of London (under the direction of Professor Howard Caygill and Dr. Elina Staikou; Thesis examiners: Professor Alexander García Düttman, Professor Eduardo Cadava). Thesis title: “‘I am the martyr (x)’: Philosophical Reflections of Testimony and Martyrdom”. She has an MA Postcolonial Studies from the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London (under the direction of Dr. Hito Steyerl) and a BA Spanish & History of Art, University College London. 


Shela teaches two core modules for the MA Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy: Postcolonial Theory (Autumn Term), and Globalization: Policy, Politics, Critique (Spring Term). She contributes to the centre’s weekly PhD seminars, and co-convenes (with Josephine Berry) a twice-termly “Globalism, Activism, Art” PhD colloquium. 

Area of supervision

Shela co-supervises a number of MPhil/PhD students working broadly in the fields of postcolonial and decolonial studies, globalization, activism, conflict, art/research, visual cultures and cultural memory. 

Professional projects

Besides research and teaching, Shela has worked in publishing since 2005, most recently as Managing Editor and member of the editorial board of Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth, ed. Forensic Architecture (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014), and as editor for Fazal Sheikh’s Erasure Trilogy (Göttingen: Steidl, 2015). She is also a peer reviewer for Theory, Culture & Society. 

Research Interests

Shela’s research is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing together continental philosophy, post- and de-colonial studies, environmental humanities, contemporary art, literary theory, theatre and performance studies, and visual cultures.

Central to her research are concepts and practices of witnessing, whether this be in the context of performative acts of political and ethical resistance (as explored in a current monograph project about the phenomenon of the “martyr video-testimony” and its cultural representation, read primarily through the lens of deconstruction); in the cultural politics of forensic anthropology, the “biographies” of bones in post-conflict milieus and performative public interventions into the politics of memory (developed within the context of her former position within the ERC-funded “Forensic Architecture” project); in the role of visual cultures as evidentiary media and tools for activism; or in the exploration of plants and natural environments as “silent witnesses” to (historical and ongoing) colonial violence.

Increasingly, this stress on witnessing has been supplemented with a consideration of alternative forms of community and collectivities, be these through activist, artistic, filmmaking and/or ecological practices.

Shela's research strands take various output forms, including a monograph (in progress), journal articles and reviews, book chapters, presentations within both an academic and public context (often in museums and galleries), and the organisation of workshops and conferences. 

Shela is currently working on two collaborative projects that are significant for the fields of post- and decolonial studies and indigenous activism in their foregrounding of the entanglement of historical and ongoing colonialism with environmentalism, botanical classification, extractive capitalism, law and spatial politics: an edited collection (with Professor Matthew Fuller, director of CCS) based on a major conference, “Cultivation: Vegetal Lives, Global Systems and the Politics of Planting” (18–19 March 2016), which explores the cultural politics of botany and planting from a philosophical, legal, and post- and decolonial perspectives; and a special issue of Third Text (due Spring 2017), entitled “The Wretched Earth: Botanical Conflicts and Artistic Interventions,” which she is co-editing with Dr. Ros Gray (Department of Art, Goldsmiths). 


Edited Book

Sheikh, Shela and Orlow, Uriel, eds. 2018. Theatrum Botanicum. Berlin: Sternberg Press. ISBN 978-3-956794-15-5

Edited Journal

Gray, Ros and Sheikh, Shela, eds. 2018. The Wretched Earth: Botanical Conflicts and Artistic Interventions, Third Text, 32(2-3). 0952-8822

Book Section

Sheikh, Shela. 2020. Conversing with. In: , ed. UNSPECIFIED Archive Books. ISBN 9783948212049

Sheikh, Shela. 2019. More-than-Human Cosmopolitics. In: Maria Hlavajova and Wietske Maas, eds. Propositions for Non-Fascist Living: Tentative and Urgent. Utrecht and Cambridge, Mass.: BAK and MIT Press, pp. 125-140. ISBN 9780262537896

Sheikh, Shela; Gray, Ros; Wolf, Nicole; César, Filipa; Grisey, Raphaël and Touré, Bouba. 2018. Fugitive Remains: Soil, Celluloid and Resistant Collectivities. In: Cooking Sections, ed. The Empire Remains Shop. New York: Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, pp. 209-223. ISBN 978-1-941332-37-5

Sheikh, Shela. 2018. Violence. In: Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova, eds. The Posthuman Glossary. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 448-452. ISBN 978-1-350-03024-4

Sheikh, Shela. 2017. Translating Geontologies. In: James Graham, ed. And Now: Architecture Against a Developer Presidency: Essays on the Occasion of Trump's Inauguration. New York: Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, pp. 165-184. ISBN 978-1-941332-31-3

Sheikh, Shela. 2014. ‘Forensic Theater: Grupa Spomenik’s Pythagorean Lecture––Mathemes of Re-association’. In: , ed. Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth. Berlin: Sternberg Press. ISBN 978-3956790119

Sheikh, Shela. 2013. ‘Responding: Bartleby–Derrida. Literature, Law and Responsibility’. In: Efterpi Mitsi; Christina Dokou and Stamatina Dimakopoulou, eds. The Letter of the Law: Literature, Justice and the Other. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp. 215-234. ISBN 978-3631634332


Sheikh, Shela. 2020. Independence/Nakba. Ideas and Futures,

Sheikh, Shela. 2020. The Madness of the Mother Tongue. The Contemporary Journal(1),

Sheikh, Shela. 2020. After Capital: Towards Alternative Worlds. Subjectivity, 13(1), pp. 148-151. ISSN 1755-6341

Sheikh, Shela. 2019. Corinne Silva: plants, power and the Israeli state. FT Weekend Magazine, pp. 16-21. ISSN 0307-1766

Sheikh, Shela. 2018. The Future of the Witness: Nature, Race and More-than-Human Environmental Publics. Kronos: Southern African Histories, 44(1), pp. 145-162. ISSN 0259-0190

Sheikh, Shela and Gray, Ros. 2018. La terre damnée: conflits botaniques et interventions artistiques. Le journal des laboratoires (Cahier C), pp. 3-6.

Gray, Ros and Sheikh, Shela. 2018. Editor's Introduction: The Wretched Earth: Botanical Conflicts and Artistic Interventions. Third Text, 32(2-3), pp. 163-175. ISSN 0952-8822

Sheikh, Shela. 2018. “Planting Seeds/The Fires of War”: The Geopolitics of Seed Saving in Jumana Manna’s Wild Relatives. Third Text, 32(2-3), pp. 220-229. ISSN 0952-8822

Sheikh, Shela. 2017. Translating Geontologies. Avery Review(21),

Sheikh, Shela and Sheikh, Fazal. 2016. The Erasure Trilogy: Fazal Sheikh interviewed by Shela Sheikh. Slought,

Sheikh, Shela. 2013. ‘“Re: Turn”: Bashir Makhoul’. Third Text, ISSN 0952-8822

Conference or Workshop Item

Sheikh, Shela. 2017. 'Decolonising Environmentalism'. In: Re-framing Environmentalism. Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom.

Sheikh, Shela. 2016. 'Panelist: Culture and Self-determination'. In: New World Embassy: Rojava. Oslo City Hall, Norway.

Sheikh, Shela. 2016. 'Introduction: Monocultures of Knowledge'. In: ‘Under the Tree: Taxonomy, Empire and Reclaiming the Commons’, part of Qalandiya International. Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre, Ramallah, Palestinian Territory, Occupied.

Sheikh, Shela. 2016. 'Introduction: Ecologies of Knowledge'. In: Theatrum Botanicum and Other Forms of Knowledge. The Showroom, London, United Kingdom.

Sheikh, Shela. 2016. 'Introduction'. In: ‘Fugitive Remains: Soil, Celluloid and Resistant Collectivities’, with Nicole Wolf, Ros Gray, Filipa César, Raphaël Grisey, Bouba Touré. The Empire Remains Shop, London, United Kingdom.

Sheikh, Shela. 2016. 'Returning to the Wretched Earth: Fanon and Postcolonial Ecologies'. In: ‘Sites of Return: On Re-growth, Restlessness and Reconstruction’ panel, part of Qalandiya Encounters. Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre, Ramallah, Palestinian Territory, Occupied.

Sheikh, Shela. 2016. 'Independence / Nakba'. In: Reading Images: On Memory and Place. Storefront for Art and Architecture, United States.

Sheikh, Shela. 2016. '"Biocolonialism and the Paradoxes of Access to Knowledge:'. In: “Indigeneity and the Promise of Inclusion”. Westminster Forum, United Kingdom.

Sheikh, Shela. 2015. '“‘Take This Instant’: Sacrifice, Testimony, and the Gift of my Death”'. In: Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture Forum. Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture, Westminster University, United Kingdom.

Sheikh, Shela. 2015. '“Performing the Politics of Memory: Grupa Spomenik, the Bosnian Genocide and the Articulation of Justice”'. In: Possibility Matters. Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICI), Berlin, Germany.

Sheikh, Shela. 2015. '“Fanon, Prevent, and That which we Cannot Not Want”'. In: Fanon and Philosophy workshop. Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, United Kingdom.

Sheikh, Shela. 2015. 'Introduction, "Photography, Colonialism and the Politics of Planting"'. In: "Photography, Colonialism and the Politics of Planting". The Mosaic Rooms, London, United Kingdom.

Sheikh, Shela. 2011. '‘Politics of Fiction and Post Civil-war Memory Culture in Lebanon’'. In: INIVA (Institute of International Visual Arts). London, United Kingdom.


Sheikh, Shela and Gray, Ros. 2020. The Coloniality of Planting.


Sheikh, Shela. 2013. ‘I am the martyr (x)’ philosophical reflections of testimony and martyrdom. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London