European Research Council Starting Grant for Julia Borst

Over a period of five years, the Romance scholar Dr. Julia Borst will investigate how Afro-European communities present themselves in the digital space. She has been awarded a prestigious ERC Starting Grant for this work.

In Europe, people from Africa or with African origins are becoming increasingly present in the digital space. Activists are expressing themselves on their own websites, social media accounts, and blogs, among other places. What stories do they tell about themselves there and how do they deal with racist classifications? How do they network with the African diaspora in other European countries and beyond? Over a period of five years, the Romance scholar Julia Borst will explore these questions. For her project "Afroeurope and Cyberspace: Imaginations of Diasporic Communities, Digital Agency and Poetic Strategies – Unravelling the Textures" she has received an ERC Starting Grant of 1.5 million euros from the European Research Council. The grant will also fund one postdoctoral position and one doctoral position. As a Romance Studies scholar, Julia Borst analyzes digital sources from countries that speak Romance languages, such as Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal. "In the European discourse on migration and people of African descent, we often talk about, but far too rarely with, these people," she explains. In her research, she wants to enter into a dialogue on an equal footing with authors and activists.

University President Professor Jutta Günther congratulated Julia Borst on behalf of the entire University Executive Board. "In her project, Ms. Borst establishes novel connections between different disciplines and creates awareness for topics and people that have received little attention so far. Her research sets new impulses – not only at the University of Bremen, but also in the national and international research landscape."

ERC Starting Grants are awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) and serve to establish a research group. They are geared towards excellent researchers from all over the world. The prerequisite is that their doctorate must have been completed within a period of between two and seven years ago. The award procedure is highly selective and extremely competitive: only between ten and fifteen percent of applications are approved.

Approaches from Literary and Cultural Studies, Digital Media Studies, and Postcolonial Studies

In her project, the Romance studies scholar combines approaches from the fields of literary and cultural studies, digital media studies, and postcolonial studies, among others, in order to investigate the diverse meanings of narratives on the internet. In doing so, she analyzes not only the content but also the form of expressions - for example, shared symbols and storytelling strategies. Julia Borst not only examines how those affected deal with racism and sometimes subversively undermine discrimination, but also takes a look at multiple discriminations, for example on the basis of gender and gender-specific role attributions. To this end, she analyzes Afrofeminist websites, for example. Furthermore, she is concerned with the interplay between digital and analog activism. "Many people who express themselves online also write theoretical texts, autobiographies, fiction, or poetry," she explains. "I want to find out to what extent activism and writing online and analog self-positioning, for example in activist and literary texts, are interwoven and influence each other.” It is also important to her to place the Afro-European case studies in an international context and to explore the question of how narratives and imagined worlds on the net also circulate globally and change in the process. Therefore, she investigates how Afro-European actors network with the African diaspora in Latin America or the Caribbean.

Julia Borst

Dr. Julia Borst studied Romance Philology and Economic Policy in Freiburg im Breisgau and received her doctorate in Romance Philology/Literature from the University of Hamburg. Since 2015, she has been a research assistant at the University of Bremen, where she has been working since 2018 on the DFG project "The Spanish Black Diaspora: Afro-Spanish literature of the 20th and 21st centuries,” which she created. In the summer semester of 2021, she held the W3 professorship in French Romance Studies: Literary studies at the University of Bremen on an interim basis. Julia Borst has received numerous awards, including the Sibylle Kalkhof-Rose Academy Prize for the Humanities, the Abioseh Porter Best Essay Award from the African Literature Association, and the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, the most prestigious award for early-career researchers in Germany.


Further Information:



Dr. Julia Borst
Faculty of Linguistics and Literary Studies
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-68424
Email: borstprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de


Romance studies scholar Julia Borst
In her research, Julia Borst wants to enter into a dialogue on an equal footing with authors and activists.