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Dr. Olivia Durand

Olivia Durand


Olivia Durand is a historian of the nineteenth century and global history, working in the field of comparative settler studies. Her previous research partakes in the wider history of settler colonialism and diaspora studies in the long nineteenth century, by setting New Orleans and Odessa in the context of the wider historiography on booming settler cities. Durand is a recipient of the joint fellowship programme between FU Berlin and St Petersburg State University. She has joined Freie Universität as a researcher in October 2021, working with Prof. Sebastian Conrad. Durand has a DPhil in Global and Imperial History from the University of Oxford (Pembroke College), where she remains a postdoctoral associate.

She is the co-founder and director of Uncomfortable Oxford, a public engagement with research organization, which has been running public lectures, walking tours, workshops, and publishing podcasts and articles since 2018, with international partnerships in New York and Kolkata.

Durand is also on the steering committee of the ‘Colonial Ports and Global History’ (CPAGH) interdisciplinary research network, as well as a researcher for the Institute of Historical Justice and Reconciliation (Contested Histories), and a convener of the Oxford-based Transnational and Global History Seminar. She is an alumna of the Fulbright Program (2015-2016).

“Comparing two southern frontiers: the role of diasporic communities in ‘New Russia’ and Louisiana.”

This project stems from my doctoral research to expand my study of Odessa and New Orleans as port cities and integrate them into their respective maritime realms. By shifting the focus to a regional rather than an urban approach, I aim to retrace more clearly the networks of people and ideas that circulated across the Black Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. This further research will underpin the transformations of both cities and areas from unusual maritime enclaves to centres of imperialism.

The violence of the late nineteenth century in southern Louisiana and Ukraine was framed by the transformation of their own interactions with their respective maritime regions. In the case of the Black Sea, the conclusion of the conquest of the Caucasus gave a stronger impetus to the development of the southern maritime coast, while the opening of the Suez Canal (1868) reframed mobilities and interactions. In the Gulf of Mexico, from the Mississippi Delta to the Caribbean and Mexico itself, the immigration currents and intellectual exchanges across the seascape offered a contrasting dynamic to the Anglo-American, Transatlantic paradigm. In the Gulf as on the Black Sea, the creation of region-specific migration networks prompted the emergence and circulation of new discourses and ideas. I am particularly interested in researching how these alternative mobilities supported the development of radical ideas on the periphery, and especially how nationalism was challenged in these sub-imperial areas.

This research will feed into the development of a book proposal based on my original doctoral thesis and journal articles focusing on specific aspects of this comparative approach (performance, literacy, representations).


"‘New Russia’ and the Legacies of Settler Colonialism in Southern Ukraine", Journal of Applied History 4, 1-2 (2022): 58-75.

“Challenging settler narratives in southern Ukraine: Odesa’s Monument to the Founders / to Catherine II.” Contested Histories in Public Spaces, Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation Occasional Papers, 2021.

“The Maps We Inhabit: Story-telling, Memory, and Uncomfortable Oxford.” Living Maps Review, n.7, 2019.

Book Chapters

“Of flood and drought: water narratives and the shaping of Odessa and New Orleans.” Peer-reviewed edited volume ‘Water Logics’. Co-editors: yasser elhariry (Dartmouth) and Edwige Tamalet Talbayev (Tulane). [forthcoming]


Global Bodies; Global Lives, eds. Olivia Durand, Callum Kelly, Sean Phillips - Transnational and Global History Seminar [forthcoming 2022]

Public History

“Mardi-Gras is a critical American tradition - even without parades.” The Washington Post, ‘Made By History”, February 2021.

 “Quarantine used to be a normal part of life - and wasn’t much liked either.” The Conversation, April 2020.

Podcast series: ‘A Very Brief Introduction to the British Empire’ [2019 – ongoing]

Reaching the People