Announcing the 2024 Fryer Fellow

We are pleased to announce Dr Zhila Gholami has been awarded the Fryer Library Fellowship for 2024. Zhila will work with archived correspondence from refugees detained on Nauru, housed within the Fryer Library.

About the Fryer Fellowship project

Dr Gholami will use several collections housed within the Fryer Library at The University of Queensland. 

  • Letters and photographs in Collection item F3731 provide firsthand accounts of the conditions and challenges faced by asylum seekers during their detention.
  • The Julian Burnside and Kate Durham Papers in Collection UQFL430 feature correspondence from asylum seekers detained in Nauru and files containing reports, newspaper cuttings, photographs, and sewing projects and artworks created by detainees. 
  • The Elaine Smith Papers in Collection UQFL446 encompasses correspondence and photographs from asylum seekers detained on Nauru, including letters exchanged between asylum seekers, supporters, politicians, and government agencies. The collection also features newspaper cuttings, media commentary, and reports illuminating the broader context of asylum seeker detention, and embroidery, publications, ephemera, and artworks created by asylum seekers.

Dr Gholami's research project will address the complexities of multilingualism and trauma traces in the Nauru letters. She will explore the concept of 'legal, linguistic, and cultural limbo', a term encompassing the complex intersection of legal uncertainties, linguistic barriers, and cultural dislocation experienced by asylum seekers detained on Nauru. 

Project outcomes

With this project, Zhila aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of the challenges asylum seekers face in articulating their narratives within the confines of their predicament.

Upon completion of the fellowship, the research outcomes are expected to yield valuable insights into the multifaceted experiences of asylum seekers detained on Nauru, as evidenced by their correspondence and artworks archived in the Fryer Library.

Through the fellowship, Zhila will produce two scholarly articles, the first focusing on multilingualism and trauma and the second on the artistic expressions of the asylum seekers in these collections, which will contribute to the fields of refugee studies, heritage studies and cultural studies by developing new insights into the transformative power of artistic expression in contexts of displacement and confinement.

Zhila will also present her research findings in a public lecture at The University of Queensland.

About Dr Zhila Gholami

Dr Zhila Gholami

Dr Zhila Gholami has an extensive background and expertise in literary and artistic critique, particularly within the realm of refugee studies. 

With a keen interest in exploring narratives of displacement and resilience, Zhila brings a nuanced understanding of the socio-cultural contexts shaping the experiences of asylum seekers in Nauru, particularly those from Iran and the surrounding region.

Her proficiency in languages such as Farsi, Dari, Kurdish, and English enhances her ability to engage deeply with the multilingual correspondence archived in the Fryer Library.

Dr Gholami has researched Kurdish diaspora literature and art, Middle Eastern literature, literatures of witness, art activism, postcolonial studies, memory studies, migration studies, and refugee studies.

Her doctoral thesis was entitled ‘Routes and Roots: Kurdish Literature as World Literature’, and her publications include:

  • journal articles in Continuum, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, Critical Literary Studies, Journal of Middle Eastern Women’s Studies)
  • a book chapter In Performance, Resistance and Refugees, edited by Suzanne Little, Samid Suliman, and Caroline Wake. 

Zhila has also presented her research findings at international conferences and has successfully secured grant funding to support her research.

Since the conferral of her PhD, Zhila has been focused on the publication of her dissertation research as a scholarly monograph and has secured a book contract with Palgrave Macmillan. She is also collaborating on a manuscript with one of her PhD supervisors, Dr Samid Suliman. 


Last updated:
9 May 2024