Beyond Exoticism: The Gunesekera Complex in Sri Lankan Migrant Fiction.
The article draws on a dubious cultural practice by a group of Sri Lankan migrant/diasporic writers in naming local characters using unrealistic and unlikely names. Through representational examples drawn from the fiction of Su Dharmapala (Saree), Romesh Gunasekera (Reef, Heaven’s Edge and Suncatcher), Michael Ondaatje (Anil’s Ghost), and Roma Tearne (Mosquito) the article establishes this malpractice to be a failure in cultural representation within the migrant/diasporic tradition. In responding to such authorship the article calls for a rigorous discussion that extends beyond the “exoticism debate”: a conversation that, among others, has been developed by Graham Huggan, Elleke Boehmer, Benita Parry. In the course, the paper examines the position of migrant/diasporic writers within the global capitalist market of transnational publication and the place of the global and local (Sri Lankan) academy to collaboratively develop a critique that challenges dubious cultural representation. The discussion concludes that cultural representation comes with a responsibility and that conscious mis-directions need to be academically critiqued; and that the global and local knowledge centres need to think anew in working towards such an end.
Key Words: Sri Lankan Literature, Global South Writing, Literary Exoticism, Gunesekera Complex