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Matthew Allen


My doctoral research, supervised by Prof. Pierre-Philippe Fraiture, concerns the Haitian statesman and writer Anténor Firmin (1850-1911). With the provisional subtitle ‘Haiti, race and epistemological legacies’, this project considers the ways Firmin adapted a number of scholarly paradigms of his day to his particular discursive concerns as manifest in his writings on Haitian society, history and foreign relations. While still relatively obscure, Firmin is known to scholarship through his De l’égalité des races humaines (1884), which has generally though not always accurately been received as a subaltern rebuttal of the work of Arthur de Gobineau, a famous theorizer of racial inequality. My project will take the form of an intellectual biography of Firmin which aims to contextualize his wider body of work within the circles in which he moved; in Haiti, the wider Caribbean and Europe. I treat Firmin as a case study for the transatlantic circulation of knowledge, and in so doing intend to complicate the centre/periphery terms in which diffusionism is frequently understood.

My interest in Firmin has grown out of other research on non canonical thinkers, chiefly the renowned and reviled scholar of language Nikolai Marr (1864-1934). Marr’s output as a scholars was monumental in scope, ranging from the comparative study of the languages of the Caucasus to an overarching theory of the global evolution of language. Nonetheless, he has generally been written off as a charlatan, madman and ideological opportunist, whose theories could only have flourished in the USSR of Stalin. By returning the sources, both in the form of Marr’s writing and the texts he read, I have attempted to rehabilitate Marr’s theoretical and philosophical contribution. My article ‘Japhetic Grammatology: Marr, Derrida and archi-writing’ will appear in Interventions, in a special issue dedicated to Marr, coeditied by myself and Robert J.C. Young.


In 2012 I was awarded a First Class BA in English and Modern Languages (French) from Wadham College, Oxford. This was followed by a stint living and working in Berlin, during which time I studied at the Humboldt University, obtaining an MA in Zentralasien-Studien (Central Asian Studies) in 2016. Since 2017 I have been a PhD student at Warwick, funded by a CADRE scholarship.

Research interests

-Global intellectual history
-History of linguistics
-History of evolutionary and genetic theories
-Comparative literature


FR121:The Story of Modern France (Term 2/ Spring 2019)

Conferences and Papers


‘Education, culture and emancipatory thought in the Caribbean’ (CSA 43rd annual conference), Havana, June 4th-8th: paper entitled ‘Anténor Firmin: networks of opposition and the hemispheric tradition’

‘Questioning the disappearance of disciplinary boundaries’ (SMLC Postgraduate Symposium), University of Warwick, May 23rd: panel chair.

Scholarships and Awards

04/2018: Gad Heuman Travel Bursary from the Centre for Caribbean Studies, University of Warwick, for an upcoming research trip to Haiti
02/2018: Warwick Humanities Research Fund travel grant for conference and research trip to Havana, Cuba in June 2018
10/2017: Warwick CADRE Scholarship for maintenance and fees of 3.5 years’ full-time study
10/2012-07/2013: DAAD one-year-grant for postgraduate study in Germany
2011-12: College Scholarship (awarded for academic merit), Wadham College, Oxford
2009-10: College Scholarship (as above), Wadham College, Oxford
2008-09: Claude Massart Prize, Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Oxford


CSA - Caribbean Studies Association


Matthew Allen

m dot allen dot 3 at warwick dot ac dot uk