Nikolas Y. Oktaba portrait
2018-2019 Luce Scholar

Growing up in Brooklyn, Nikolas Oktaba frequented the local public library searching for books to read when he accompanied his mother at her job as a cleaning lady. At the library, Nikolas had his first visceral encounters with the power of literature as testimonial that disrupts and intervenes in our sense of the world. He studied Classics at Fordham University and was awarded Beinecke and Gates Cambridge Scholarships for his master’s degree at the University of Cambridge. Integrating literature and the humanities as a whole into discussion of identity, sexuality, and trauma, Nikolas has presented his research, concerning trauma and intersecting topics ranging from Dionysiac cult practices to Weimar nightlife, in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Nikolas has in the past two years taught courses at Oxford and Cambridge Universities about military history and espionage, and is translating ancient Greek magic scrolls for his book about pharmaco-religious beliefs of Late Antiquity and their continuing contemporary resonance. Nikolas believes that narrative is necessary for understanding and narratives of trauma across literary and cultural contexts provide the tools with which one can potentially treat the symptoms of trauma. In Asia, Nikolas hopes to deepen his understanding of trauma from a global perspective, using storytelling to investigate various forms of witnessing in post-traumatic survival, and exploring new ways to bridge academic and public discussions on trauma and its symptoms.