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Radical Languages: Writers Behrouz Boochani & Vana Manasiadis On Challenging Monolingualism

How does the language we speak shape us? Define us? Empower us? Limit us? What kinds of privilege and domination does it possess? Does our own language suppress or marginalise other languages, other voices?

The two 2021 University of Canterbury (UC) Ursula Bethell writers-in-residence come at these questions from very different perspectives that are in some ways comparable. Both writers will share their experience at a free Tauhere UC Connect public talk on the radical use of language, on the evening of Wednesday 30 June at the University of Canterbury’s Ilam campus and livestreamed.

Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish Iranian who, during his lifetime, has witnessed his native dialect taken over by Farsi in ways that embody the cultural marginalisation of his people. During his time as an Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at UC, Behrouz seeks to resist this imaginative and literary colonisation by writing fiction in his people’s language. Greek-New Zealand poet and translator Vana Manasiadis is dedicating her Ursula Bethell Writer’s Residency to the project of ‘translanguage’; the creation of literary works that explore and celebrate the experience of movement between languages and so between minority and dominant cultural spaces.

In 2021 Aotearoa New Zealand, as we seek to embrace a future beyond the limits of monolingualism, these two exceptional writers have much to teach us. Please join them, and moderator Professor Philip Armstrong from UC’s English Department, for a stimulating, transgressive and boundary-pushing conversation about the relationship between language, power, literature, imagination, home and exile.

Vana Manasiadis is a Greek-New Zealand poet and translator who has been moving between Aotearoa and Kirihi Greece the last 20 years. Her most recent book The Grief Almanac: A Sequel, followed her earlier Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima in experimenting with hybridity, pluralism and code-switching, and is being translated into Greek for forthcoming publication in Greece.

Behrouz Boochani is an internationally acclaimed author and journalist who for six years was incarcerated as a political prisoner by the Australian government on Manus Island and then held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. In November 2019 he was invited to Christchurch, New Zealand where, after being recognised as a refugee under the UN Convention on Refugee Status, he was been granted asylum. He became a Senior Adjunct Research Fellow at the University of Canterbury’s Ngāi Tahu Research Centre. His book No Friend but the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison (Picador 2018) has won numerous awards including the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature.

The Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing, jointly funded by UC’s College of Arts and Creative New Zealand, was established in 1979 to provide support for New Zealand writers and foster New Zealand writing. The UC residency allows authors of proven merit in all areas of literary and creative activity an opportunity to work on an approved project within an academic environment. Since the inception of the Writers Residency, UC has been home to dozens of fiction-writers, poets and dramatists, many of whom have made valuable contributions to the development of young writers studying at the university. Since 1979, UC has hosted many renowned writers, including Keri Hulme, Kevin Ireland, David Eggleton, Eleanor Catton, Owen Marshall, Fiona Farrell, Tusiata Avia, and Victor Rodger.

UC Connect public lecture – Radical languages: Writers Behrouz Boochani & Vana Manasiadis challenge monolingualism, Presented by UC Arts writers-in-residence Behrouz Boochani and Vana Manasiadis, moderated by Professor Philip Armstrong, University of Canterbury, from 7pm-8pm, Wednesday 30 June 2021 – C1 lecture theatre in C-Block, Ilam campus, University of Canterbury. Register free to attend:

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