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Placing Mobilities

Department of Geography and the Environment and Granta Magazine Literary Festival discussion

Date: Saturday 19 February 2011 
Time: 1-2.30pm 
Venue:  Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
Speakers: Brian Chikwava, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Olumide Popoola
Chair: Dr Ranka Primorac

This panel will consider a number of complementary and competing themes around the topic of diaspora and place. Particular places, and perhaps especially cities, consist of large diasporic populations often represented as indications of cosmopolitanism, multiculturalism and conviviality. Diasporas may be formed through forced or voluntary movements, leaving behind certain places but having often powerful relationships to them, and creating new senses of place elsewhere. Ideas of diaspora, as well as travel, movement, and exile, have become important subjects and tropes within contemporary literature. Notions of longing and belonging are perhaps most discreetly and passionately played out in the novel, that may be biographical to the life of the author as exile and/or ‘global cosmopolitan’. How we perceive London, New York or Johannesburg (as well as smaller towns) may be informed by the authorial gaze on the city by writers.

Brian Chikwava is among the exciting new generation of writers emerging from the African continent. His short story Seventh Street Alchemy was awarded the 2004 Caine Prize for African Writing, and he is author of Harare North.  He has been a Charles Pick fellow at the University of East Anglia, and lives in London.

Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 in Zanzibar and teaches literature at the University of Kent. He is the author of seven novels which include Paradise (shortlisted for both the Booker and the Whitbread Prizes), By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and awarded the RFI Temoin du monde prize) and Desertion (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize). The Last Gift, published by Bloomsbury in May 2011, is an astounding meditation on family, self and the meaning of home.

Olumide Popoola is a Nigerian German author, poet, performer and speaker. Her work has been published in magazines, newspapers, memoirs and anthologies since 1988 in Germany, Slovenia, South Africa, USA, Sri Lanka, UK and Nigeria. In 2004 she was awarded the May Ayim Award (Poetry), the first Black International Literature Award in Germany. Her novella This is not about sadness, published in 2010, is her first book-length work of fiction.

Granta is the magazine for new writing. Since its rebirth in 1979, it has published the world's best writers and is known as one of the finest literary magazines of our time. Since its first installement in 1983, the Best of Young Novelists series has consistently published the literary stars of the future. The Spring 2011 issue, themed on Aliens, explores the role of the outsider in fiction, reportage, poetry and nonfiction.


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