17 January 2019

Birte Heidemann-Malreddy (Bremen):
Towards a Narrative of (Re)Conciliation? Post-War Sri Lankan Literature in English
 

18:00 c. t. - room IG 4.201
 

We are fast approaching the tenth anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s three decades long civil war between the army and the insurgents of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). And yet, since the war’s brutal ending in May 2009, the Sri Lankan governments – old and new – have not been engaged in any serious efforts to address the country’s longstanding political challenge of competing ethno-nationalisms, let alone to pursue the transitional justice policies promised to the UN Human Rights Council. The government’s very deferral of political actions in addressing its reconciliation agenda has opened up a niche for negotiation in the domains of art, literature and cultural politics. This holds particularly true for the burgeoning body of Sri Lankan literature in English – novels, poetry, autobiographies and narrative journalism – that has forged a counter-narrative to an increasingly institutionalised politics of truth, forgiveness and peace-building.

Given the island’s complex legacy of colonisation by three different empires, this talk contends that the very notion of reconciliation is inadequate, if not unattainable, in a Sri Lankan context. To reconcile suggests a return to a prior stage of conciliation which, for postcolonial societies, has never existed in the very first place (McGonegal 2009; Christie 2009). With this in mind, my talk sets out to explore the amorphous nature of the reconciliation discourse through three interrelated conceptual frames – suffering (Levinas), consolation (Simmel; Blumenberg; James) and disconsolation (Lazarus; Wright). The discussion draws attention to the ethical limits of reconciliation, something that has found a renewed expression in the emergent canon of post-war Sri Lankan literature. My reading of select texts – fiction and non-fiction – engages with how the various narrative strategies deployed are devised to confront us with daunting ethical questions about the country’s unresolved narrative of (re)conciliation.


Birte Heidemann-Malreddy is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Chair of Postcolonial Literary and Cultural Studies, University of Bremen, Germany. Her research interests are in postcolonial theory, literary and cultural expressions of post-conflict societies, particularly Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka, and post-9/11 fiction. She is the author of Post-Agreement Northern Irish Literature (Palgrave, 2016) and co-editor of From Popular Goethe to Global Pop (Rodopi, 2013), Reworking Postcolonialism (Palgrave, 2015) and two special editions of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing (vol. 47.5 and 48.3). She is currently working on a book-length study of post-war Sri Lankan Anglophone literature.


Past Events

 2018

  • 15 November 2018: The Return of the Admiral: Re-fashioning Swahili waters in the 'Dragonfly Sea'. AFRASO guest lecture by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Nairobi/Berlin). More information here ...

     
  • 1 November 2018: Soundtrack included: How Music Adds an Extra Layer of Storytelling to a Bildungsroman. Guest lecture by Campbell Jefferys. More information here ...

     
  • 24 October 2018: Bandhani, emankeeki and kanga – Three Sisters of an Asian-African Heritage. The Complexities of Gendered and Race Relations in the Work of Sultan Somjee. Guest lecture by Mala Pandurang (Mumbai). More information here ...

     
  • 7 June 2018: The negotiation of (im)mobility in Anglophone Maori short stories. Guest lecture by Leonie John. Download the flyer here ...
     

  • 17 May 2018: Transcultural competence and English literature classes. A reconstructive study on the use of fictions of migrations in the EFL classroom. Guest lecture by Annika Kreft. Download the flyer here ...
     

  • 3 May 2018: Ngũgĩ in India: A Transcultural Dialogue. Guest lecture by Venugopalrao Nellutla. More information here ...
     

  • 8 February 2018: Can the Slum-dweller Speak? Katherine Boo and the Postcolonial Politics of Literary Journalism. Guest lecture by Alex Tickell. More information here ...
     

  • 1 February 2017: Concepts of Development in Postcolonial Kenyan Writing. Guest lecture by Martina Kopf. More information here ...
     

2017

  • 7 December 2017: ‘Travelling Cultures’:  Reading Nineteenth-Century British Narratives about Movement and Mobility. Guest lecture by Nadia Butt (University of Giessen). More information here ...

     
  • 26 October 2017: In Transition: The Aesthetics and Politics of the ‘Across Factor’. In Transition lecture by Ranjan Ghosh (University of North Bengal). More information here ...
     

  • 4 - 6 October 2017: South Asian Diaspora International Reseacher’s Network (SADIRN) Graduate Academy 2017. More information here ...
     

  • 13 July 2017: Sovereignty On Camera: Documentary, Performance and War in Syria. Guest Lecture by Enrique Galvan-Alvarez. More information here ...

  • 6 July 2017: Towards Transcultural Ecology: Learning | Reading. Guest lecture by Roman Bartosch. More information here ...
     

  • 13 June 2017: Indian Ocean Memories and African Migrants. AFRASO Lecture and Film Screening by Shihan de Silva More information here ...

  • 4 May 2017: Sperm Count. The Scoresbys and the North. In Transition lecture by Graham Huggan. More information here ...
     

2016

Older

  • 1-7 December, 2014, Dakar (Senegal): Photographs of 19th and 20th century Africa: Changing perspectives and object histories in school textbooks and digital archives. More information here ...
     

  • 21-23 September, 2014: Postgraduate Forum Reading Across Cultures. New Comparative Approaches in a Globalized World.  More information here ...