The Past is a Foreign Country: Minoli Salgado and Seni Seneviratne in Conversation

Minoli SalgadoSeminar Room 3

This paper explores the recuperative role of the imagination in the troubled space of border witnessing in Cambodian refugee tales. Drawing on the notion of ‘the witness traveller’ (Felman and Laub), it shows how witnessing at the limit experience of death compels an engagement with fictive registers and various realisms – figural, traumatic and magical – to mediate the traumas of genocidal survival and cultural displacement. It draws together Loung Ung’ autobiography First They Killed My Father, Madeleine Thien’s novel Dogs at the Perimeter and Vaddey Ratner’s fictionalised memoir In the Shadow of the Banyan to show how these writers use a variety of fictive registers to ‘unnarrate’ the past.

Minoli Salgado is a writer and Reader in English at the University of Sussex who from January 2020 will be the new Professor of International Writing at MMU. She is the author of the critical monograph, Writing Sri Lanka: Literature, Resistance and the Politics of Place (Routledge, 2007), the novel, A Little Dust on the Eyes (Peepal Tree, 2014), which won the first SI Leeds Literary Prize and was longlisted for the DSC Prize in South Asian Literature and a collection of short stories, Broken Jaw (87 Press, 2019). She is currently on a Leverhulme Fellowship exploring the way testimonial narratives from global sites of exceptional violence offer literary landscapes for the mediation of justice.

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Fri 11:00 am - 12:15 pm