International Seminar on Contemporary Sri Lankan Fiction in English 23 - 25 February, 2012

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Department of English, Gauhati University

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 โ€“ Nihal de Silva, Michael Ondaatje, Romesh Gunasekera, Shyam Selvadurai, A. Sivanandan, Jean Arasanayagam, Carl Muller, James Goonewardene and Punyakante Wijenaike โ€“ 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

Guwahati, the biggest city of Assam, is also the commercial capital of Northeast India. The city within its boundary also includes Dispur, the political capital of Assam. It is well connected by air, rail and road. With the majestic Brahmaputra River flowing through it and picturesque mountains and hills flanking it, Guwahati is not merely a commercial but a cultural hub as well. Places to visit within Guwahati include the famous Kamakhya Temple (dedicated to the Mother Goddess Kamakhya), one of the 108 Shakti Peethas of Goddess Durga; the Assam State Zoo, the largest zoo in North East India and the largest natural zoo in India; Vashistha Ashram, said to have been established by the great sage Vashistha himself on the picturesque Sandhyachal Hill; the Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra at Panjabari; and the Assam State Museum. Apart from these places, visitors can also enjoy the splendor of the Brahmaputra on river cruises. The region boasts a rich biodiversity that can be experienced to a great extent in the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries (for instance the Manas National Park, the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Kaziranga National Park) all of which are well connected by road with Guwahati, the closest being the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. Winter in Assam stretches from late October to late February. February should thus be still somewhat chilly and participants should bring light woollens with them.


The registration fee for the participants will take care of seminar kit and hospitality. The last date for registration is 20 January 2012. Participants are requested to confirm their participation and arrival early so as to enable the organizers to arrange for transportation and hospitality accordingly.

Registration fee with accommodation: Rs. 3000/-
Registration fee without accommodation: Rs. 2000/-

Participants may send their Registration Fees after the acceptance of abstracts by Crossed Demand Draft payable at State Bank of India, Guwahati University Branch to Department of English, Gauhati University, International Seminar on "Contemporary Sri Lankan Fiction in English". .

Gauhati University, Guwahati-781014, Assam, India
Don Bosco Institute, Guwahati-781004, Assam, India

About the Organisers

Gauhati University came into being through the Gauhati University Act 1947, of the Government of Assam in the year 1948. The University is the oldest and largest educational institution of higher studies in the entire North East. The University is funded by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Government of Assam.

The Department of English, established in 1955, seeks to expand the parameters of English Studies by fostering a meaningful dialogue between various disciplines and by giving an impetus to the concept of Cultural Studies without totally breaking away from the canon or traditional ways of teaching/reading literature. The present seminar is also an exercise towards this end, in continuation of the adoption of Contemporary South Asian Literature as a course in the syllabus two years ago.

The Institute of Distance and Open Learning, Gauhati University, is the pioneer institute in the field of open and distance learning not only in Assam but in the entire north-east region. It offers graduate and post graduate programs in various streams and they are considered equivalent to regular programs of any other university and approved from regulatory bodies like Distance Education Council (DEC) and the University Grants Commission (UGC). The IDOL programs are extremely beneficial to those students who live in far-flung areas and cannot attend regular university lectures, as well as those students who cannot enroll in regular courses for various reasons.

For further details contact:

Anjali Daimari (+91-9435084461)
Dolikajyoti Sharma (+91-9864111289)
Department of English,
Gauhati University,
Guwahati โ€“ 781014
Assam, India.