A question of belonging: Reading Jean Arasanayagam through nationalist discourse

Elaine Y.L. Ho, Harshana Rambukwella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jean Arasanayagam's writing, arising from a unique confluence of what can be considered minoritized identities in Sri Lanka (Burgher and Tamil), provides critical insights into the ways in which a marginalized consciousness seeks to carve a niche for itself within an exclusive, majoritarian nationalist discourse. Such minority self-fashioning is often seen in terms of a paradigm of resistance that deconstructs the dominant or hegemonic national discourse and renders identity mobile and fluid. However, we argue that Arasanayagam's writing, rather than being "post-national", is heavily invested in the idea of national belonging. Through close readings of a selection of poems, drawn from her earliest published work to recent writing, we explore the ambiguities and contradictions arising out of Arasanayagam's desire for a self-identity in what can be loosely termed a Sri Lankan national imaginary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-81
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Commonwealth Literature
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006


  • Arasanayagam
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Minority
  • Nationalism
  • Sri Lanka

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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