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Professor David Johnson

David Johnson photo

Profile summary

Professional biography

I joined The Open University in 1999. In the 1980s, I completed a law degree and MA in English at the University of Cape Town, and then in 1992 a PhD at Sussex University. Before joining The Open University, I taught for five years in South Africa at the University of Kwazulu-Natal (Durban).

Research interests

My research interests include Post-colonial Literature and Theory, Shakespeare Studies, Southern African Studies, Law and Literature, and Eighteenth-Century Travel Writing. I have written three monographs, Shakespeare and South Africa (Oxford University Press, 1996), Imagining the Cape Colony. History, Literature and the South African Nation (Edinburgh University Press/ UCT Press, 2012), and Dreaming of Freedom in South Africa. Literature between Critique and Utopia (Edinburgh Univeristy Press/ UCT Press, 2020); was the principal author with Steve Pete and Max du Plessis of Jurisprudence: A South African Perspective (Butterworths, 2001); and was the co-editor with Prem Poddar of A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures in English (Edinburgh/ Columbia University Press, 2005) and with Caroline Davis of The Book in Africa: Critical Debates (Palgrave, 2015). I was series editor with Ania Loomba of the Edinburgh University Press series Postcolonial Literary Studies, and am series editor of the ongoing Edinburgh University Press series Key Texts in Anti-colonial Thought. I was also a co-investigator on the AHRC-funded project ‘The Indian Ocean: Narratives of Literature and Law’.

Teaching interests

My teaching interests lie principally in Postcolonial Literature, and especially Southern African literature and history. However, during the last decade, I have written Open University teaching material on a variety of writers, and across a range of periods and genres (Shakespeare, Swift, Goethe, Byron, Cugoano, Bushman Folklore, Grassic Gibbon, post-apartheid poetry, Calvino, Salih and Le Guin). Some of this teaching material has been co-published: with Richard Danson Brown Shakespeare 1609: ‘Cymbeline’ and the ‘Sonnets’ (Macmillan, 2000); edited with Richard Danson Brown A Shakespeare Reader: Sources and Criticism (Macmillan, 2000); edited The Popular and the Canonical. Debating Twentieth-Century Literature 1940-2000 (Routledge, 2005); edited with Suman Gupta A Twentieth-Century Literature Reader: Texts and Debates (Routledge, 2005); and edited with Anita Pacheco The Renaissance and Long Eighteenth Century (Bloomsbury, 2012).

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Postcolonial Literatures Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Romantic Period Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts


An Interview with Ania Loomba and Suvir Kaul (2019-03)
Johnson, David
Wasafiri, 34(1) (pp. 52-57)

Clements Kadalie, the ICU, and the Language of Freedom (2015-12)
Johnson, David
English in Africa, 42(3) (pp. 43-69)

Fanon’s travels in postcolonial theory and post-apartheid politics (2013-04)
Johnson, David
College Literature, 40(2) (pp. 52-80)

Representations of Cape Slavery in South African Literature (2012)
Johnson, David
History Compass, 10(8) (pp. 549-561)

Introduction to Samuel Eusebius Hudson's The Virtuoso (c. 1790) (2011-05)
Johnson, David
English in Africa, 38(1) (pp. 9-15)

Representing Cape slavery: Literature, law, and history (2010-12)
Johnson, David
Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 46(5) (pp. 504-516)

British models of colonial governance: Adam Smith and John Bruce on the Cape Colony (2010)
Johnson, David
The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 51(1-2) (pp. 103-127)

Historical and literary re-iterations of Dutch settler Republicanism (2010)
Johnson, David
South African Historical Journal, 62(3) (pp. 463-486)

Remembering the Khoikhoi victory over Dom Francisco Almeida at the Cape in 1510 (2009-03)
Johnson, David
Postcolonial Studies, 12(1) (pp. 107-130)

Representing the Cape 'Hottentots', from the French Enlightenment to post-apartheid South Africa (2007-07)
Johnson, David
Eighteenth-Century Studies, 40(4) (pp. 525-552)

Literatures of nation and migration: Charles Mungoshi, Nadine Gordimer, and the postcolonial (2001)
Johnson, David
Alternation, 8(2) (pp. 36-54)

Editorial: Travellers' tales: alternative traditions (2001)
Johnson, David
Wasafiri(34) (pp. 1-2)

De Mist, Race and Nation (1998)
Johnson, David
Alternation, 5(1) (pp. 85-97)

Literature for the rainbow nation: The case of sol Plaatje's Mhudi (1994)
Johnson, David
Journal of Literary Studies, 10(3-4) (pp. 345-358)

Importing metropolitan Post-colonials (1994)
Johnson, David
Current Writing, 6(1) (pp. 73-85)

Starting Positions: the Social Function of Literature in the Cape (1993-12)
Johnson, David
Journal of Southern African Studies, 19(4) (pp. 615-633)

Aspects of a Liberal Education: Late Nineteenth-Century Attitudes to Race, from Cambridge to the Cape Colony (1993)
Johnson, David
History Workshop Journal, 36(1) (pp. 162-182)

Dreaming of Freedom in South Africa: Literature between Critique and Utopia (2019-12-31)
Johnson, David
ISBN : 9781474430210 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh

Imagining the Cape Colony. History, Literature and the South African Nation (2011-12)
Johnson, David
ISBN : 9780748643080 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh

Jurisprudence: a South African perspective (2001)
Johnson, David; Pete, Steve and Du Plessis, Max
ISBN : 409034126 | Publisher : Butterworths | Published : Durban, South Africa

Shakespeare and South Africa (1996)
Johnson, David
ISBN : 978-0198183150 | Publisher : Clarendon Press | Published : Oxford

The limits of African nationalism: from anti-apartheid resistance to postcolonial critique (2018-06-30)
Johnson, David
In: Deckard, Sharae and Varma, Rashmi eds. Marxism, Postcolonial Theory and the Future of Critique: Critical Engagements with Benita Parry. Routledge Research in Postcolonial Literatures (pp. 191-212)
ISBN : 9781138186118 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : New York

Anti-apartheid people's histories and post-apartheid nationalist biographies (2017-12-12)
Johnson, David
In: Choudry, Aziz and Vally, Salim eds. Reflections on Knowledge, Learning and Social Movements: History's Schools (pp. 88-103)
ISBN : 9781138059108 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London and New York

Coriolanus in South Africa (2015-08-31)
Johnson, David
In: Smith, Bruce R. ed. The World's Shakespeare, 1660-Present. The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare (pp. 1235-1241)
ISBN : 9780521113946 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge, UK

Print culture and imagining the Union of South Africa (2015-03)
Johnson, David
In: Davis, Caroline and Johnson, David eds. The Book in Africa: Critical Debates. New Direction in Book History (pp. 105-127)
ISBN : 9781137401618 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

Literary and Cultural Criticism in South Africa (2012)
Johnson, David
In: Attwell, David and Attridge, Derek eds. The Cambridge History of South African Literature (pp. 818-837)
ISBN : 9780521199285 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press | Published : Cambridge

Migrancy and Thabo Mbeki's African Renaissance (2007)
Johnson, David
In: Gupta, Suman and Omoniyi, Tope eds. The cultures of economic migration: international perspectives. Studies in migration and diaspora (pp. 127-140)
ISBN : 978 0 7546 7070 4 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Aldershot

African land for the American empire: the proto-imperialism of Benjamin Stout (2005-04)
Johnson, David
In: Hooper, Glenn ed. Landscape and empire, 1770-2000 (pp. 45-64)
ISBN : 754606872 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Aldershot, UK

Theorizing the Loss of Land: Griqua Land Claims in Southern Africa, 1874-1998 (2003-12)
Johnson, David
In: Eng, David L. and Kazanjian, David eds. Loss: the politics of mourning (pp. 278-299)
ISBN : 520232356 | Publisher : University of California Press | Published : Berkeley, US

Land, identity and social conflict: the World Bank and South Africa's post-apartheid land reform (2003)
Johnson, David
In: Gupta, Suman; Basu, Tapan and Chattarji, Subarno eds. India in the age of globalization : contemporary discourses and texts (pp. 275-298)
ISBN : 8187614129 | Publisher : Nehru Memorial Museum and Library | Published : New Delhi, India

Talking about Revolution: Lady Anne Barnard in France, Ireland and the Cape Colony (2002-10-04)
Johnson, David
In: Hooper, Glenn and Graham, Colin eds. Irish and Postcolonial Writing: History, Theory, Practice (pp. 157-177)
ISBN : 0 3339 2966 7 | Publisher : Macmillan/Palgrave | Published : Basingstoke, UK

Violence and philosophy: Nathaniel Merriman, A. W. Schlegel and Jack Cade (2000-03-23)
Johnson, David
In: Joughin, John J. ed. Philosophical Shakespeares (pp. 68-85)
ISBN : 9780415173889 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

'The first rainbow nation? The Griqua in Post-apartheid South Africa' (2000-03-20)
Johnson, David
In: Poddar, Prem ed. Translating Nations. Dolphin (30) (pp. 115-128)
ISBN : 87-7288-381-2 | Publisher : Aarhus University Press | Published : Aarhus

From the colonial to the post-colonial: Shakespeare and education in Africa (1998-09-03)
Johnson, David
In: Loomba, Ania and Orkin, Martin eds. Post-colonial Shakespeares (pp. 218-234)
ISBN : 9780415173865 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

South African Criticism (1994)
Johnson, David
In: Benson, Eugene and Conolly, L. W. eds. The Routledge Encyclopaedia of Post-colonial Literatures in English (pp. 306-309)
Publisher : Routledge

Stuart Hood: Twentieth-Century Partisan (2020)
Hutchison, David and Johnson, David eds.
ISBN : 978-1-5275-5447-4 | Publisher : Cambridge Scholars | Published : Newcastle

The Book in Africa: Critical Debates (2015)
Davis, Caroline and Johnson, David eds.
New Directions in Book History
ISBN : 9781137401618 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures in English (2005)
Poddar, Prem and Johnson, David eds.
ISBN : 748618554 | Publisher : Edinburgh University Press | Published : Edinburgh, UK