Bound by the Sea: Transnational Sri Lankan Writings and Reconciliation with the Homeland

Jeslyn Amarasekera, Shanthini Pillai


For most transnational Sri Lankans, the ethnic conflict that has submerged the island is often positioned as a significant aspect of their lives. Many transnational writers tend to focus on the ethnic conflict as well as the aftermath of leaving the homeland. Despite leaving, the homeland and the memories of the island tend to travel with the transnationals as they move to a new home. One crucial aspect of the memory of the homeland is the sea which surrounds the island. The sea is often perceived as an image that binds them to their homeland. The sights and sounds of the sea often offer both pleasant and traumatic memories, especially for those who have left the homeland. With this in mind, this paper seeks to discuss the ways in which selected transnational writers of Sri Lanka present their memories of the homeland as expressed through the image of the sea. This paper will probe into two novels by transnational Sri Lankan writers; Nayomi Munaweera’s Island of A Thousand Mirrors and Randy Boyagoda’s Beggar’s Feast. The discussion will be framed by Avtar Brah’s notion of home, as being found within the “lived experiences of a locality”. The images of the sea as presented by these writers will then be used to determine the possibility of reconciliation with the homeland or the perpetuation of trauma.


Keywords: home; Sri Lanka; transnational memory; Sinhalese writings; sea


Full Text:



Banerjee, N. (2015) Blood at the Root. Guernica. Retrieved April 2, 2015 from

Bell, D. (2006). Memory, Trauma and World Politics: Reflections on the Relationship Between Past and Present. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Boyagoda, R. (2012). Beggar’s Feast. Colombo: Perera Hussein

Brah, A. (1996). Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting identities. London: Routledge.

De Silva, K.M.. (2005). A History of Sri Lanka. New Delhi: Penguin Books.

Eyerman, R. (2003). Cultural Trauma Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Feith, D. (2010). Tamil and Sinhala relations in Sri Lanka: A historical and contemporary perspective. Global Change, Peace & Security. 22(3). Retrieved October 1, 2012 from

Kanaganayakam, C. (1998). Dancing in the rarefied air: Reading contemporary Sri Lankan literature. A Review of International English Literature, 29,52-65.

Munaweera, N. (2012). Island of a Thousand Mirrors. Colombo: Perera Hussein Publishing House.

Vengadasamy, R.. (2011) Metaphors as ideological constructs for identity in Malaysian short stories. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 17 (Special Issue), 99-107.

Salgado, M. (2004). Writing Sri Lanka, reading resistance: Shyam Selvadurai's funny boy and A. Sivanandan's when memory dies. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 39(5), 1-12.

Shanthini Pillai. (2010). Essentialism and the diasporic Native informant: Malaysia in Hsu Ming Teo’s Love and Vertigo. GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies, 10(1). 3-15.

Vertovec, S. (2009). Transnationalism. New York: Routledge.

Wickremeratne, A. (2006). Historiography in conflict and violence. In. Deegalle. M. (Ed). Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (pp. 114-133). New York: Routledge.


  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2247

ISSN : 0128-5157