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Kamran Asdar Ali, Director WCH 4.132, Mailcode G9300, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-3550

Spring 2011 South Asia Seminar Series

Thu, February 17, 2011 • 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM • WCH 4.118

Neloufer de Mel, University of Colombo

Neloufer de Mel, University of Colombo

"Post-War ‘Settlements’: Locating Cultural Interventions in Sri Lanka"

The paper focuses on Sri Lanka’s transition from war to a period of post-war political, economic and cultural settlements aimed at bringing the ethnic conflict to an end. Within this context it analyzes a body of Sri Lankan cultural work in English to locate its voices vis a vis the war and post-war futures. Does this body of work keep step with state-led initiatives for conflict transformation and reconciliation or offer a radically different vision of Sri Lanka’s post-war future? What new kinds of work can be included to make us think differently about Sri Lankan literature itself, its ability to represent the affects of war and reflect post-war state-social relations? In taking these questions into account the paper highlights important issues about post-conflict societies, conflict transformation, and the work of culture in periods of transition.

About the Series

At the end of the twentieth century, debates about South Asian literature still circulated around two main themes: the problematic "authenticity" of globally marketed Anglophone writing and the putative "provinciality" of writing in the bhasha (or vernacular) languages. But in the last decade, there have been a number of new trends which add new textures to this simplified problematic: the rise of an Anglophone reading public specific to the subcontinent with its own popularly recognized figures, the marketing of bhasha styles in popular western cultural forms, the growing popularity of south Asian writing from outside of India (especially Pakistan and Bangladesh), new opportunities for collaboration between artists in various languages in the subcontinent, the growth of vernacular literary traditions in electronic media, and the new global crisis in publishing which has also contracted certain reading publics. This seminar series will explore the changing social contexts in south Asia and the world that affected reading publics and their relationship to new trends in South Asian writing in many languages. Regular seminars occur on Thursdays at 3:30 pm, preceded by a reception at 3:00 pm, in the Meyerson Conference Room (WCH 4.118).

About the Speaker

Neloufer de Mel is Professor in English at the Dept. of English, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.  She is the author of Militarizing Sri Lanka: Popular Culture, Memory and Narrative in the Armed Conflict (Sage, 2007), and Women and the Nation’s Narrative: Gender and Nationalism in 20th Century Sri Lanka (Rowman & Littlefield; Kali for Women, 2001). She is co-editor of After the Waves: The Impact of the Tsunami on Women in Sri Lanka (SSA, 2009); At the Cutting Edge: Essays in Honour of Kumari Jayawardena (Women Unlimited, 2007); and Writing an Inheritance: Women’s Writing in Sri Lanka 1860-1948. (WERC, 2002).

Prof de Mel whose PhD degree is from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK, has been a Fellow of the Yale University Women, Religion and Globalization program (2009), and the recipient of many distinguished research awards including a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship at Yale University (2006), a Ford Associate in Global Women’s Studies Fellowship at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, U.S.A (2006) and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur fellowship (2001). She has also been a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University (2004), and the Women’s Research Center at Rutgers University (1998). Her current research interests include cultural and developmental approaches to conflict transformation, and gender and cultural studies.

Sponsored by: South Asia Institute


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