Guest lecture by Birte Heidemann-Malreddy

Towards a Narrative of (Re)Conciliation? Post-War Sri Lankan Literature in English

17.017.2019, 18:00 c.t., 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.

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Silvia Dapía im Argentinischen Generalkonsulat und Juan Gabriel Vásquez am Institut für Romanische Sprachen und Literaturen

  • 22.11.2018, 13:30, PEG 1G 131
    Juan Gabriel Vásquez liest aus seinem großen Erinnerungsroman „La forma de las ruinas“
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  • 27.11.2018, 18:30, Argentinisches Generalkonsulat, Eschersheimer Landstraße 19-21
    Prof. Dr. Silvia Dapía: “El Etnógrafo” de Jorge Luis Borges: ¿Una Incusión en la Teoría de la Traducción

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Guest lecture by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

The Return of the Admiral: Re-fashioning Swahili waters in the ‘Dragonfly Sea’

15.11.0218, 18:00 c. t., IG 411

What does China’s creeping return to Eastern Africa, by way of the seas, portend for intimate and personal histories of a people whose far and deep life stories are embedded in these waters? What future might the ‚Swahili Seas‘ imagine for themselves in an ongoing (yet subtle) confrontation with the tremendous weight of China’s ambitions that encompasses a mutually remembered past? Yvonne Owuor’s forthcoming novel, The Dragonfly Sea (to be published in early 2019), is a micro-story of the vast Western Indian Ocean (Swahili Seas) narratives and focuses on a young woman’s coming-of-age on Pate Island, Lamu Archipelago, Kenya, a mostly ‘unnoticed’ space, yet one of tremendous import to significant ‘Indian’ Ocean happenings, including and in particular, China’s East African return. The lecture is a creative exploration of the themes in The Dragonfly Sea which also highlights aspects of the intimacies that bind a small, time-warped Kenyan Island with a giant China that has stepped out with quiet but potent force into the world.

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is a writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She studied English and History at Kenyatta University, earned a Master of Arts degree at the University of Reading, UK and later received an MPhil (Creative Writing) from the University of Queensland, Brisbane. Her story “The Weight of Whispers” won her the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003.  Her debut novel, Dust, published in 2014 was the winner of the 2015 Jomo Kenyatta Literature prize. Her second book, The Dragonfly Sea (Knopf) will be available from March 2019. She is at present at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, working on her third novel with the working title The Long Decay.

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Guest lecture by Campbell Jefferys

Soundtrack included:
How music adds an extra layer of storytelling to a Bildungsroman

Do. 1.11.2018, 18:00 c. t. – room IG 411

Award-winning Australian author Campbell Jefferys talks about his latest book, Rowan and Eris, a coming-of-age novel about redheads, musicians, pranksters and parents, and which includes an original soundtrack, One Hand Clapping. Campbell will talk about the genesis of the idea, how the story took shape, the creative decisions made along the way, and why it became imperative for the music to be written and recorded. But how does the music accompany the story? Is the soundtrack an epilogue, heard once the book is finished? Or is it an interlude, with each song listened to at the point it’s mentioned in the book? As the talk delves deeper into the power of music, it should open the door to a lively discussion about the role, if any, soundtracks can play in literature.

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Guest lecture by Mala Pandurang

Bandhani, emankeeki and kanga – Three Sisters of an Asian-African Heritage. The Complexities of Gendered and Race Relations in the Work of Sultan Somjee

Mi. 24.10.2018, 18:00 c. t. – IG 454

My talk will focus on two novels by Sultan Somjee, a fourth generation Asian African born and raised in Kenya, now located in Canada. Somjee’s first novel Bead Bai (2012) engages with the emankeeki, a beaded ornament worn by married Maasai women. He reinserts into Eastern African history the forgotten life narratives of a group of Indian women known as ‘Bead Bais’ who enabled the flow of coloured beads between the dukawallahs and the indigenous tribes that impacted the expressions of African aesthetics. Continue reading →

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Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform: Writer’s Talk mit Verena Boos

Ein Werkstattgespräch über die Schichten der Erinnerung in der urbanen Topografie Barcelonas

Di 26.06.2018, 12:00 c.t. – IG 1.414

Die katalanisch-spanische Aktualität ist ohne die Geschichte nicht zu verstehen. Im Konflikt um Katalonien wird weniger das katalonische Steuerdefizit als vielmehr Erinnerung verhandelt und aus einem spezifischen Geschichtsbewusstsein heraus Zukunft zu gestalten versucht. Ein historisch aufgeladener Ort ist der Montjuïc, Barcelonas Hausberg. Im Fossar de la Pedrera im stadtabgewandten Teil des Montjuïc liegen unter anderem Tausende Opfer der Franco-Diktatur und auch der 1940 hingerichtete katalanische Präsident Lluis Companys begraben. Im Werkstattgespräch folgt die Schriftstellerin Verena Boos den Spuren der Geschichte und lotet anhand dieser Fallstudie aus, wie Erinnerung Gegenwart mitgestaltet.

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Guest lecture by Venugopalrao Nellutla

Ngũgĩ in India: A Transcultural Dialogue

Do. 03.05.2018, 18:00 c. t. – IG 4.201

The talk will explore the dynamics of transcultural dialogue between Telugu-speaking areas of India and the legendary Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Though separated by more than 5,000 km distance and without any common bonding in political, social, cultural and economic relations, how this Gikuyu author got a familiar treatment as one of their own authors and commanded highest respect, goes beyond literary appreciation. It has to do with a collective memory of oppression and struggle. It is a kind of discovery of one’s own self in a literature from afar. It is an attempt to draw inspiration for one’s own continuing struggles. In this transcultural dialogue, cultural differences become secondary to political unity. I would also like to give a personal touch to this line of argument by referencing the interactions many Telugu people and I had with Ngũgĩ in the course of last two decades and more.

Continue reading →

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Guest lecture by Alex Tickell

Can the Slum-dweller Speak? Katherine Boo and the Postcolonial Politics of Literary Journalism

Do. 08.02.108, 18:00 c. t. – IG 4.201

My paper examines the rise of forms of narrative reportage and creative non-fiction in representations of the city and urban subaltern communities in India. Drawing on my recent research on citizenship, infrastructure and writings on the city, I will discuss the postcolonial ethics and politics of literary journalism with special reference to Katherine Boo’s celebrated account of Mumbai’s Annawadi settlement, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum (2012). My aim is to theorise Boo’s use of first-person narrative voices in this text, and contrast this fictionalising technique with Aman Sethi’s ‘involved’ narrative reportage in his work of the same year: A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi (2012). Continue reading →

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