The Department of English, Gauhati University, in collaboration with the Institute of Distance and Open Learning, Gauhati University, will be organizing a series of International Seminars on Contemporary South Asian Fiction, considering the fact that this is an emerging area in English Studies today. In the first of the series the focus will be on Sri Lanka, while subsequent seminars will focus on Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and so on. There is a huge body of work coming from this place with writers concerned with myriad issues that confront the island nation. Sri Lankan fiction has been much affected by the tensions within the country among its linguistic groups (chiefly Sinhala and Tamil), its religious and racial communities as well as the divergent cultural affiliations among them. Since its independence in 1948 questions of which community or linguistic group most authentically represents the ‘nation’ of Sri Lanka has dominated the political fabric of the nation which has, in turn, dictated policy-making. Writings emerging from the island nation engage with questions of cultural nationalism, political upheavals, ethnic conflict, multiple identities and histories, issues which have dominated the country for so many decades now. Questions about the impact of a modernised lifestyle contending against the tradition of the nation have also been at the forefront of political and cultural debate. These issues therefore have come to capture the literary imagination of Sri Lankan writers. The beginnings of insurgency in 1971 drove the rift between ethnic communities in the nation deeper and the literature from this period onwards registered its acute perceptions of the psychological scars and trauma of the people.
The Seminar seeks to define a more nuanced and sensitive critical framework that actively reclaims marginalized voices and draws upon recent studies in migration and the diaspora to reconfigure the Sri Lankan critical terrain. Some of the leading Sri Lankan writers – Nihal de Silva, Michael Ondaatje, Romesh Gunasekera, Shyam Selvadurai, A. Sivanandan, Jean Arasanayagam, Carl Muller, James Goonewardene and Punyakante Wijenaike – rigorously challenge the theoretical, cultural and political assumptions that pit ‘insider’ against ‘outsider’, ‘resident’ against ‘migrant’ and the ‘authentic’ against the ‘alien’. Many of their works focus on particular aspects of twentieth century Sri Lanka: religious change, communalism, Sinhala nationalism, Tamil separatism, etc.
The writers address the problem of negotiating the relationship between historical events, historiography and literary fiction. Literature in English from Sri Lanka is shaped in large measure by the country's recent political history. Contemporary Sri Lankan writing, drawing as it does on recent history does lend itself to political readings, regardless of the fact that the past has also been the subject of open debate.
Papers are invited on the following sub-themes:
Home and Homeland
Diaspora and Identity
The Language Question
Gender, Sexuality and the Body
Violence and the Nation
Literature and Politics
Cricket and Nationalism
Dialogue between Fiction and Popular Culture
Memory in Sri Lankan Fiction
Re-reading the Bildungsroman
Paper presenters are requested to write their papers keeping in mind that they will be allocated a maximum reading time of 15 minutes each to be followed by 5 minutes interaction time. However, they should carry the longer version of the paper, if ready, and submit to the organizers for consideration for publication. The paper presenters must follow the MLA handbook format and are to submit the abstracts of their papers along with short bio-data by 31 December 2011.
A 300-word abstract should be sent by email to
Anjali Daimari (+91-9435084461)
Dolikajyoti Sharma (+91-9864111289)
Department of English,
Guwahati – 781014
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