Faculty Spotlight: Nalin Jayasena

photo of Nalin Jayasena

  • associate professor of English Literature
  • from Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • teaches courses in both the Department of English and the Department of Global & Intercultural Studies
  • currently working on a book project on cinema of the Sri Lankan armed conflict
  • enjoyed watching the NBA finals in Sri Lanka as the Cleveland Cavaliers broke the 52-year curse and became champions


"I studied at the University of California Riverside, where I received a PhD in English literature. My dissertation examined 20th century British colonial literature and culture, including film and popular culture.

"I believe most of us are drawn to subjects that reflect our life experiences or cultural values. Growing up in postcolonial Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), it was impossible to ignore the historical, cultural, and political legacy of British colonialism. As such, we were raised on a daily diet consisting of both 'Eastern' and 'Western' cultural practices. Whether in the field of play or in the classroom, it was impossible to separate the 'local' from 'global'.

"I take some pride in the two film festivals I organized since joining Miami in 2004. The first was in 2009, and it featured critically acclaimed films from Sri Lanka. The second series was held in fall 2013, which focused on Asian and Asian American cinema. Each of the two events lasted four days and drew significant interest from the university community."


"Since I was hired at Miami in 2004, I have taught a range of courses on literature and film. Last fall, however, I began teaching Asia and Globalization (AAA 207), which was the first time I taught a course not cross-listed with English. In this course, I combined my training in the humanities with the empirical approach of the social sciences and so far, teaching it has been an extremely rewarding experience.

"Turning on a light in the minds of students is what I enjoy most about teaching. We are all thinkers and I try to encourage them to think for themselves, rather than parrot what others say.

"In a nutshell, I feel that my job is to complicate and problematize the assumptions that students bring to the classroom — to teach them that difference is both overdetermined and ubiquitous. What I love about the course on Asia and Globalization is that I get to explore this very paradox at the heart of the contemporary world."


"I am currently working on a book project focused on cinema of the Sri Lankan armed conflict, tentatively titled The Bounty of War. Earlier this year, I also completed an essay about online media and e-democracy in Sri Lanka.

"Although I have not yet been able to involve undergraduate students in my research, I have supervised several undergraduate research projects. Moreover, I am currently working with several graduate students in literature and creative writing whose research on Sri Lanka/South Asia intersect with mine. In addition, on two occasions, I have taken graduate students with me to national conferences and presented research papers with them on the same panel; I am very pleased with the high degree of research collaboration I have with them."

Outside the Classroom

"My mother is perhaps my single biggest motivation. At 57, she retired from her job as a beloved high school teacher in Colombo, Sri Lanka to bring me to the United States on an immigrant visa (green card). Like most immigrants, she had to start at the bottom of the ladder, as a preschool teacher. Thinking of the sacrifices she made keeps me on the straight and narrow.

"I am a big fan of the NBA. I was watching the finals live in Sri Lanka as the Cleveland Cavaliers broke the 52-year curse and emerged victorious. What was equally remarkable was the post-game commentary, which was presented by an Indian network. Watching the NBA finals in Sri Lanka followed by a post-game show produced in India is the very definition of our globalized world!"

[July 2016]