The Politics of Displacement: a research paper by Prof Neluka Silva

Thu Oct 05 2023 at 04:30 pm to 06:00 pm

Lecture Theatre 3 Geoffrey Manton Building, ground floor | Manchester

Emma Liggins and Sonja Lawrenson (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Publisher/HostEmma Liggins and Sonja Lawrenson (Manchester Metropolitan University)
The Politics of Displacement: a research paper by Prof Neluka Silva
Leading postcolonial scholar Neluka Silva explores the politics of displacement and refugee identities in contemporary Sri Lankan fiction.
About this Event

This hybrid international event showcases the world-leading research of Prof Neluka Silva in postcolonial studies. It is organised by the Centre for Migration and Postcolonial Studies (MAPS) at Manchester Metropolitan University. All are welcome - students, staff, anyone with an interest in learning more about migrancy and marginalisation.

The schedule for the event is:

4.30 - 4.45 refreshments (Geoffrey Manton ground floor atrium, outside LT3)

4.45 - 5.30 research paper, introduced by Dr Emma Liggins (Manchester Metropolitan University)

5.30 - 6.00 Q and A, and general discussion

You can also join us online on Zoom. Please click on the following link:

Meeting ID: 975 1560 6753

Passcode: 232613

The Politics of Displacement: “Othering” of Refugees in the work of Jean Arasanayagam

“Shouldn't the existence of even one single refugee be a cause for alarm throughout the world?” (Alakbarov: 2009)

This poignant question is at the core of the work of the 2018 Sri Lankan Gratiaen Prize winner, Jean Arasanayagam. Her experience as a “refugee” (internally displaced person - IDP) during the 1983 ethnic riots, impelled her to interrogate the politics of displacement which have become even more critical now as refugees are made the targets of global intolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities.

According to Hydman, “Refugees and other displaced persons are most often constructed as “Others” and increasingly their identities are territorialized” (xxii). An analysis of Arasanayagam’s short story “The Journey” (from the collection All is Burning 1995) offers an understanding of the process of “othering” that is foisted upon the “refugee”. Recounting experiences of alienation, displacement, interwoven with the everyday realities of hunger and miserable living conditions, Arasanayagam’s work becomes a conduit to unveil the psychological, emotional and physical burden of being regarded as “other”.

Messo Piquel observes that “… by breathing life into fictional characters, literature turns the anonymous, the global statistics of horror into individualized, personal case studies, mixing the private and the public and, even if very often fiction can only helplessly record oppression, it can also denounce it” (150). The individual’s predicament of exclusion, captured in Arasanayagam’s work, enables an interrogation of political and social marginalization that is symptomatic of displacement. Her work foregrounds the compelling search for identity and belonging that migrancy provokes and requires scholarly and literary attention.

Neluka Silva is Senior Professor in English at the University of Colombo and immediate past President of the Oxford Society of Sri Lanka. She was educated at the Universities of Colombo, Leeds, Oxford and Cambridge. She was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Health Policy, Sri Lanka (2005–2015). Her teaching and research are in the areas of Postcolonial Literature, Modern Drama, Cultural Studies, South Asian Literature, Applied Linguistics and Bilingualism. Among her academic publications are The Gendered Nation: Contemporary Writing from South Asia (Sage 2004).

Her novel The Iron Fence (2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize and was longlisted for the Commonwealth First Book Prize 2012 and the Dublin IMPAC prize 2012. In addition, Our Neighbours and other stories (2009 — short Stories) is published by Vijitha Yapa Publications. “Our Neighbours” was one of the 20 stories placed in the Highly Commended Winner category in the 2008 Commonwealth Short Story Competition. Her other creative works are: The Rolled Back Beach (2008 — short stories co-authored with Simon Harris) and My Elephant Secret and Other Stories (2019 — short stories for children).

Neluka was an invited author and moderator at the Galle Literary Festivals and conducted Writing Workshops for the GLF Children’s Programmes. She conducted workshops for young adults at the American Centre’s Writers’ Lab programme. Following her Creative Writing Workshops for children, her young authors published Eagle Eyes and Other Stories in 2018.

The Centre for Migration and Postcolonial Studies (MAPS) is a research centre for the exploration of migration and postcolonial studies from literary and creative practice-based perspectives. The primary aim of MAPS is to expand literary and cultural research in an evolving area of study at the intersection of multiple evolving fields. Founded in 2021, MAPS embraces the research activities of a large team of scholars working in the fields of postcolonial, migration and diaspora studies, literary and cultural geography, and global testimony studies. Uniquely, it also incorporates and engages with the work of award-winning writers who explore diasporic experience, all of whom are from the Manchester Writing School, one of the largest postgraduate English and Creative Writing communities in the UK.


Event Venue & Nearby Stays

Lecture Theatre 3 Geoffrey Manton Building, ground floor, Rosamond Street West, Manchester, United Kingdom


GBP 0.00

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