Rickel’s research and teaching focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century literature in English, postcolonial theory, human rights and posthumanism and gender studies.
She holds a B.A. in English from University of California Santa Barbara, where she graduated with honors, and a Ph.D. in English from Rice University, where she was awarded the Chair’s Best Dissertation Prize. Her work interrogates the way the discourse of human rights narrates political violence in contemporary literature concerned with Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent. She argues that, as human rights discourse frames literature as testimony in an effort to unite a cosmopolitan readership in a cathartic exchange with victims turned storytellers, it depoliticizes crises resulting from colonialism, failed development and the growth of multinational capital.
Her recent articles problematize the way the human rights paradigm equates narrative voice with agency and constructs the reader as a humanitarian.
Growing out of this work, her book project, currently titled Popular Humanitarianism, responds to the ethical turn in literature, political philosophy and popular culture by analyzing the intersection of postcoloniality and human rights discourse in contemporary literary and media representations of political violence. Her teaching interests include Caribbean, African and South Asian literatures, contemporary U.S. and British literatures and postcolonial and feminist theory.