Neelika Jayawardane

Associate Professor


307 Marano Campus Center

Office hours

On research leave for the spring semester

Neelika Jayawardane

M. Neelika Jayawardane is Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York-Oswego, and a Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD), University of Johannesburg (South Africa). She is currently on research leave as a writing fellow at The Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS) at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Jayawardane is a recipient of the 2018 Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for a book project on Afrapix, a South African photographers’ agency that operated during the last decade of apartheid. She completed a critical writing residency at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in 2021, and received support from the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for an interdisciplinary project examining photography from Sri Lanka’s civil war period, titled, “This is not the correct history.” 

Jayawardane was born in Sri Lanka, raised in Zambia, and completed her university education in the US, where she currently works. Her research is centred on South Africa, and her scholarly publications focus on the nexus between written texts, visual art, photography, and the transnational/transhistorical implications of colonialism, ongoing forms of discrimination, displacement, and migration on individuals and communities. Along with academic publications, and catalogue essays for exhibitions and artists’ books, her critical writing is featured in ApertureArt ReviewAl Jazeera EnglishTransition, and other venues. 

At SUNY-Oswego, she regularly teaches Literature in a Global Context (ENG 360), Junior Seminar (ENG 365) and Senior Seminar (ENG 465). Her specialisation is in contemporary African literature – particularly South African literature – and literature that addresses diaspora and migration. 


Select projects/publications: 

Monographs/Book Projects: 

  • “This is not the correct history”: Lacunae, Contested Narratives, and Evidentiary Images from Sri Lanka’s Civil WarAndy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. November 2022. 
  • In progress: Contentious Images, Contentious Remembering: The Afrapix photographers’ collective & the ecosystem of the anti-apartheid movement during last decade of apartheid

Peer-Reviewed Articles (in development/pending publication): 

  •  “Durban’s Afrapix photographers: Forging ‘brown’ relational politics in the  detritus of Natal’s plantation culture.” Solicited for special issue of Verge: Studies in Global Asias, edited by Neelofer Qadir, Naveen Minai, and Tina Chen (under revision). 
  • “Informed by conscience: Gille De Vlieg’s photography documenting land expropriation and forced removals in South Africa” (in development)
  • “Queering the Nation, Querying the History of Black Portraiture: Zanele Muholi’s Somnyama Ngonyama as a Healing Ritual”. Art Journal of the National Gallery of Victoria (publication pending in December 2022).

Book Chapters:

Criticism, Essays, Reviews:


  • March 2018: “Revealing Self-Portraits: Reactions and Resistance to Zanele Muholi’s ‘Visual Activism’ in South Africa”. PANEL: “Portraits and Power: The Aesthetics of Resistance”. Black Portraitures ConferenceHarvard University. March 23-24.
  • August 2017Art Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA) Triennial. “Photography as Travel Memoir: Itinerancy, Movement, and Subjectivity Formation in Contemporary African Photography.” Panel: “Africa’s Photographic Futures.” The University of Ghana, Legon (Accra). 
  • Moderated panel, What is the value of attention? With artist, Ahmet Öğüt, and curator, Magdalena Malm. 12 July, 2023. UP Projects. The conversation focused on whether public art can offer a platform to channel our attention and affect change. (UP Projects is the UK’s leading public art organisation specialising in socially engaged public art commissioning.) 


Invited Lecturer, Speaker, Panelist

  • Mentor/Workshop Leader: Art Writing Work: New Engagements for Artists in East Africa. A collaborative project and a part of the ‘Networking Artists in East Africa’ programme. Partners include Nairobi Contemporary, British Council in East Africa, 32 Degrees East, Ugandan Arts Trust, Makerere University, and British Council. Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council and Global Challenges Research Fund (UK). 25th-April—1stMay; Nairobi, Kenya; Kampala, Uganda.
  • Panel discussion organised:“South African artists Gabrielle Goliath & Simon Gush, in discussion with Neelika Jayawardane.” State University of New York-Oswego (SUNY-Oswego). 1stMarch, 2019.
  • “Gabrielle Goliath, Simon Gush, Jaleel Campbell, in discussion with Neelika Jayawardane”. Syracuse University, Newhouse Centre for Global Engagement. “‘No Innocence This Side of the Womb’: Confronting Issues of Equality, Privilege, and Justice, From Syracuse and South Africa”. ( 2019.
  • Invited speaker at symposium:“‘Inside the artery of political consciousness’: Khotso House, the Afrapix Photographers’ Collective, and the Synergies and Confluences that provided ‘a small and embattled community’ with a Practical Political Education”. Photography and Resistance Research symposium. 29th– 30thJanuary 2019. University of Brighton.
  • Invited speaker at symposium:“‘The famous and the obscure were there, waitingfor freedom’: Jeeva Rajgopaul’s photographs of South African Exiles in New York, 1991”. Conference: “Curatorial Care, Humanising Practices – Past Presences as Present Encounters”.VIAD, University of Johannesburg, 11-13 April, 2018.
  • Public talk: in conversation with Paul Weinberg: On Common Ground: David Goldblatt & Peter MagubaneGoodman Gallery, Cape Town. 27 October 2019. 
  • Invited speaker at opening of exhibition:“The Body as a ‘Homing Device’: South African Artists and Performance”. Exhibition opening of Cairns Art Gallery, Queensland, Australia. Continental Drift: Black / Blak Art From South Africa and North Australia. Cairns Art Gallery, Cairns, Queensland, Australia. 10 July 2018.
  • Invited speaker at symposium/workshop: “Rafiq Mayet’s images of factory workers, union meetings, and jazz clubs in Natal: a politically conscientized photographic practice in apartheid South Africa.” Cosmopolitan Visions, Imperial Projects: Prospects for a Global Technoscience. Leibniz University, Hannover, Germany. August 8-9, 2023. 

Other speaking engagements:

    Performances and exhibitions

    Invited Reviewer/ Arts Critic & Writer

    • 2017 Venice Biennale. Venice, Italy. May 2017.
    • Johannesburg Art Fair. Johannesburg, South Africa. September 2016.
    • Rencontres de Bamako (Bamako Encounters), 10th Edition: “Telling Time”. Invited Arts Writer – Guest of curator Olabisi Silva. November 1-5, 2015.
    • Sharjah Biennale. May 10-16, 2015. Invited Writer – Guest of Hoor Al-Qasimi, President of The Sharjah Art Foundation.

    Workshop Leader:

    • Critical Writing Workshop for Arts Writers. Sponsored by Contemporary And, a site for writing about contemporary art from Africa. Harare, Zimbabwe. Lecturer/Workshop Leader. Sept. 2017.
    • Goethe-Institut Johannesburg’s Centres of Learning for Photography in Africa (CLPA) at Lagos Photo Festival. Critical skills workshop for photographers. Lagos, Nigeria. Workshop leader/lecturer. October 2016.

    External Grants, Fellowships, Residencies (recent):

    • Writer-in-Residence. Woodstock Artist/Writer-in-Residence programme, Woodstock Centre for Photography (CPW). Woodstock, NY. 2020.
    • Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Special Grant. Dec. 2020-ongoing in 2021.
      The long-form essay I wrote, “‘This is not the correct history’: Lacunae, Contested Narratives, and Evidentiary Images from Sri Lanka’s Civil War,” interweaves scholarship on visual work, critical analysis of photography, personal narrative, and photographs.
    • Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for a book project (Jan. 2018 – Dec. 2018).