The ‘Literature and South Asian Communities of East Africa’ conference was co-sponsored by the Graduate Studies Department of The Institute of Ismaili Studies in conjunction with The Arts and Humanities Research Board Centre for Asian and African Literatures’ Centre of South Asian Studies. The conference which addressed the literature of and about the South Asian communities of East Africa, concentrated on the following questions:


  • Is it useful to think of South Asian East African literature as a distinct body of work, or does this elide more important identities and modes of identification?
  • How does the writing of family and community history into fictional form stretch our definitions of literary genres and our ideas of history?
  • How might theories of ‘diaspora’ open up approaches to texts from and about these communities which related terminologies of migration, exile and travel do not?
  • How are South Asian East Africans portrayed within texts by writers ‘outside’ or at the margins of these communities?
  • How do literary works variously negotiate the politics of ‘community’ within East Africa as well as within locations of ‘double-diaspora’, particularly in Britain?

It is anticipated that the proceedings of the seminar will be published at a later date.


Opening RemarksStephanie Jones AHRB Centre for Asian and African Literatures, SOAS/UCLRachel Dwyer Centre for South Asian Studies, SOAS

‘The Perception of the Asian in Swahili Literature’ Farouk TopanSOAS

‘The Literary Community of Transition: East Africa 1961-1972’Stephanie JonesAHRB Centre for Asian and African Literatures, SOAS/UCL

‘Dangerous Memories: Ugandan Asians and their Stories’Yasmin Allibhai-BrownWriter, journalist, broadcaster

‘Memory or Nostalgia? The Crisis of Identity in M. G. Vassanji’s The Gunny Sack and AmriikaNisha JonesUniversity of Sussex

‘Discourses of Difference in M. G. Vassanji’s The Book of Secrets’Martin GeneschTrier University

Journey to the West: The Creation of an Epic for the Stage’Jatinder VermaTara Arts

Final Discussion

Keynote ReadingAbdulrazak Gurnah Lecturer in English, University of Canterbury and author

Chaired by Faisal Devji.