Anjuli Gunaratne

Anjuli Gunaratne grew up in Colombo, Sri Lanka and received her Ph.D. in English and the Interdisciplinary Humanities at Princeton University. In 2017-2018, she was the Carol G. Lederer Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University’s Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. Her work has appeared in PMLA (Publication of the Modern Language Association) and is forthcoming in the CLR James Journal.

Interested broadly in the literatures of the former British and French colonies, Anjuli will use her time at the Society of Follows to complete her book, Forensic Diaspora: Law, Science, Literature. The book studies literary genres that emerged out of the decolonization of South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. When decolonization is mentioned, one usually imagines euphoric celebrations of independence. But in the works of James Baldwin, Aimé Césaire, Assia Djebar, C. L. R. James, Michael Ondaatje, and Sylvia Wynter, Forensic Diaspora unearths a surprisingly mournful representation of these events. In some cases, even before the outbreak of violence that followed decolonization, these diasporic writers had already imagined this controversial legal and political process as a tragedy.

Revealing Western tragedy as the forensic process the genre implicitly entailed, these writers of an emergent cultural diaspora, conduct unofficial investigations into disappeared figures and forms of anticolonial resistance. Investigating, excavating, and surveying scenes of cultural loss, these tragedies of decolonization mimic, Anjuli argues, the gestures of forensic archeology, but with a critical difference: they displace the latter’s prioritization of gathering verifiable evidence by seeking instead to establish counter-historical relationships with human ruins and remains.

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