Dr Tom Penfold

Tom Penfold is an Associate Lecturer in African History. His research focuses on contemporary South African history, with a particular interest in the history of publishing and performance culture in the country. Tom’s first monograph, Black Consciousness and South Africa’s National Literature (2017), explored how Black Consciousness poets shaped the direction of South African politics during a fifty-year period.  He has also been influential in introducing the Poets of No Sure Place to the African literary canon. This collective is the focus of his second monograph project.

Tom is currently conducting research into the politics of performance in the #FeesMustFall and #RhodesMustFall student protests. He is also co-editing two edited volumes. The first traces the history of independent publishers in Africa and highlights their importance to decolonisation projects. The second investigates the life of graffiti and street art across the Global South. 

Before joining UCL, Tom held teaching positions at the University of Birmingham. He is also a Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg. 

Major publications

  • T. Penfold (2023), ‘Reading Emotion, Reading Joy: South Africa’s Literary (Non)Scenes’, African Identities.
  • T. Penfold (2020), ‘Angifi Dladla and the Bleakness of Freedom’, Research in African Literature, 51, 3: 145-163.
  • T. Penfold (2019), ‘Exploring Brasilidade through the Postcolonial Crime Fiction Tradition’, Critique: Journal of Contemporary Literature, 60.5: 527-537.
  • T. Penfold (2019), ‘National Identity and Sporting Mega-Events in Brazil’, Sport in Society, 22. 3: 384-398.
  • T. Penfold (2017), ‘A Specific Kind of Violence: Insanity and Identity in Contemporary Brazilian and South African Literature’, Journal of Southern African Studies [SI], 43.5: 1049-1067.
  • T. Penfold (2017), Black Consciousness and South Africa’s National Literature, Palgrave.

For a full list of publications, see Tom’s Iris profile.


Media Appearances/Public Engagement

Tom is passionate about external engagement and widening participation. He is currently reviews editor of Africa in Words. He is also working with Dolla Sapeta to promote the New Brighton Art School and has published related pieces in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper.