Thesis Abstracts

Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Alex Hellens

‘No Man is an Island: Dethinking Island Methodologies’

By Dr Alex Hellens

Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Alex Hellens

CIRCL PhD student Alex Hellens passed his PhD on 25-06-2024 with his PhD thesis on ‘No Man is an Island: Dethinking Island Methodologies’. Supervisor: Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein; External Examiner: Professor Wendy O’Shea-Meddour of the University of Exeter; Internal Examiner: Dr Sue Walsh.

Abstract of thesis

This thesis provides readings of identity and/as islands in a range of disciplines from the perspective of Jacques Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign (2010) in which he states repeatedly: ‘What is an island?’, to consider how perspective matters in the formation of identifications. I begin by reading a key work in critical psychology, Changing the Subject (Henriques, et al., 1984), on educational pedagogies, to illustrate a parallel issue between the analysis of certain problems in education, which are still current, and the rethinking that has taken place with relation to island studies. For me, in spite of the copious amounts of ‘rethinking’ that have taken place in various related discourses, ‘dethinking’ is very much about a deconstruction of the claim to ‘rethink’ what island studies are. ‘(Not) In the Land of Israel’ is a play on the title of the first chapter in Jacqueline Rose’s States of Fantasy (1994), in which I read the claims to various states: ‘belonging’, ‘travelling’ and ‘returning’ and the politics of representation(s). ‘Little petri dishes floating in a saltwater medium’ is a reading of how ‘islands’, ‘brain’, and the ‘antipodes’ are constructed with respect to a number of texts, including a mappamundi from a twelfth-century encyclopaedia. Following this, ‘The desert of the real’ addresses maps. I read the construction of maps in relation to J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (1911) and the mapping of authority in two iterations of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour journals.