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Title: Inherently hybrid : contestations and renegotiations of prescribed identities in contemporary Sri Lankan English writing
Author: Perry, Tasneem
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis “Inherently Hybrid: Contestations and Renegotiations of Prescribed Identities in Contemporary Sri Lankan English Writing” examines work by Nihal de Silva, David Blacker and Vivimarie VanderPoorten to analyse their negotiation of identity, belonging and citizenship within contemporary Sri Lankan English Writing. This negotiation of identity is then placed in relation to the Eelam Wars as well as hybridity and cosmopolitanism, which have become a part of Sri Lankan identity because of the nation’s postcolonial past. Genre and form are employed as ways into exploring the tensions within Sri Lankan English writing, especially because they prescribe on the texts selected a specific way of approaching and presenting the ethnic conflict that is a widespread theme in much of contemporary Sri Lankan writing. The first chapter looks at De Silva’s adventure romance The Road From Elephant Pass. It examines how the novel engenders a renegotiation of identities through the effects of the ethnic conflict upon the attitudes, behaviours and ideologies of the island’s populations, symbolically represented through the narrator, who is a Sinhalese Buddhist officer in the Sri Lankan Army and his eventual lover, who is a rebel fighting for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. I analyse the arguments presented in the text around identity, belonging and patriotism and focus on the representations of ethnic and racial identity that ultimately expose the constructedness of these various positions, revealing the unacknowledged but real hybridity of the Sri Lankan peoples. I look at markers of cultural capital and tease out how class identities rely on cosmopolitanism, characterised by a knowledge of English, and how that further reveals the performativity of identity. The second chapter examines Blacker’s political thriller A Cause Untrue. Here I explore how the use of detail and description provides an appearance of imparting a complete and realistic perspective on the war. I demonstrate how the novel, through the calculated use of what I will characterise as a ‘reality effect’, takes on the manifestation of being an authority on the war. Blacker’s use of recognisable historical events allows him to create an alternative narrative of history, one that has all the hallmarks of being a true retelling even as it is apparent that his text utilises the ‘reality effect’ to imagine Sri Lanka creatively. This demonstrates how the selection of the thriller genre provides Blacker with a specific way of representing the nation and its diasporas’ in relation to the Eelam Wars. The third chapter focuses on VanderPoorten’s collection of poetry nothing prepares you. Here I investigate how the concepts of hybridity and cosmopolitanism are located within the language used to construct her poetry. I explore how this hybridity and cosmopolitanism of language works together with the form and content of her poems to provide a disquieting of fixed notions of identity, citizenship and belonging. The conclusion to the study revisits the issues that my three chapters deal with, bringing together an overall account of hybridity, cosmopolitanism and identity. I look at the constructedness and performance of identity with the aim of providing a nuanced reading of the renegotiations of identity and citizenship that are taking place because of the ethnic conflict. By summing up the different manifestations of the various gendered, ethnic and class identities represented and presented in the texts that I explore, I illustrate the wider implications of the points of connection between identity and power on the one hand and nationalism, dogma and political rhetoric on the other. Identities within the Sri Lankan nation blur the distinctions between alien and citizen, between one who belongs and subscribes to set expectations, norms and practices and one who challenges these markers of identity.
Supervisor: Valassopoulos, Anastasia; Spencer, Robert Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Hybridity ; Sri Lanka ; Identity ; Postcolonial Literature ; Cosmopolitanism ; Resident