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Dr Shihan de Silva reports on the Global Portuguese symposium held at IMLR, Senate House, London in June 2018

On Monday 11 June 2018, the Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London, hosted a symposium on Global Portuguese in Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.

After opening remarks by Professor Catherine Davies (IMLR, School of Advanced Study), Dr Shihan de Silva (School of Advanced Study) set the scene for the afternoon in her introductory address.  The aim of the symposium was to explore the global expansion of the Portuguese language, literature and music. The event was hugely successful drawing 46 participants, a mixture of senior academics, researchers, postgraduate students and members of the public.  The symposium was timely given that the national day of Portugal was on 10th June and sentiments were high.

The papers moved from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.  A joint paper by Dr Toby Green (King’s College London) and Dr Jose Ligna Nafafe (Bristol University) on ‘Lusotopian or Lusophone Atlantics? The Relevance of Transnational African Diasporas to the Question of Language and Culture’ was based on several years of research and their forthcoming book.

A lively presentation by Nadia Kerecuk (Creator & Convenor of the Brazilian Bilingual Book Club at the Embassy of Brazil & Historian of Ideas in Language Sciences) reminded the delegates of the research potential of this massive land mass. Her paper “Exceptional cross-fertilization cycles of the Portuguese language in Brazil” revealed a myriad of sources for further research, the indigenous peoples of Brazil to LIngua Gerao, and the evolution of Brazilian Portuguese.

Brazilian Portuguese stood in contrast to the writings of Mozambicans, through “From Nation to Imagination: Mia Couto and Language” by Professor David Brookshaw (Bristol University) who is the authority on Mia Couto’s works and has translated many of his books into English.

Professor Stefan Halikowski-Smith (Swansea University) spoke on Thailand – “Creolization and Diaspora in the Portuguese Indies. The Social World of Ayutthaya, 1640-1720”, bringing to the fore a little known part of the unofficial Portuguese empire.   His presentation was well illustrated with pictures from his book on the topic.

This was complemented by Dr Shihan de Silva (School of Advanced Study) who spoke on “Hybridity in Postcolonial Music and Language in the Indian Ocean”. .  A musical performance by Dr Marilyn Herman, Dr Hemal Jayasuriya, Mr Johan de Silva and Dr Shihan de Silva with guitar, drum, voice and piano crowned the event, not simply by livening up the afternoon but also by demonstrating cultural spillovers and the intangible heritage left by the Portuguese encounter.

Finally, participants joined the speakers in a Roundtable Discussion.

The event attracted media attention both in the UK and in Portugal.   A Portuguese journalist reported on the forthcoming symposium and Dr Shihan de Silva was interviewed by a media consultant at Radio Televisao Portuguesa (RTP) who broadcast the interview on 11 June.

The contribution made by the Coffin Fund towards this Symposium is gratefully acknowledged.

Dr Shihan de Silva, School of Advanced Study

Dr Shihan de SIlva is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London and her research focuses on migration, commerce and cultural exchange in the Indian Ocean; the Malay and Portuguese diasporas; the history of African migration eastwards and the origins of Afro-Asians including ethnomusicological and linguistic research. She serves on the editorial boards of African Diaspora and Transnationalism (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers) and African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage (California: Left Coast Press).