Kamalika Jayathilaka

Kamalika Jayathilaka

Profile

In 2005 I completed my undergraduate degree in Sociology with First Class Honours at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka and subsequently, in 2008 a Master’s Degree in Sociology with Merit at the University of Worcester, UK. In 2015, I was awarded the School of Sociology and Social Policy full fee bursary to follow the MA in Social Research at University of Leeds, which I completed with Distinction. During the course of the MA I applied and was successful in obtaining a place and funding (through the Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship-LARS) to undertake my PhD research at the same school and university.

During my professional career as a Sri Lankan travel and business writer I journeyed extensively around the country observing, writing and interacting with diverse groups of people; representing through words its culture, people and places. Later, also as a business writer in Leeds I wrote about many independent local business establishments, generating in the process interviews and discussions with various figures in the business world. 

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

My background in sociology induced me to question and ponder widely during my professional endeavours as a travel/business writer, encouraging me to return to academic research in search of answers. My experience as a travel writer in particular triggered various questions and broader sociological insights that in turn inspired me to explore and understand further the construction, perpetuation and/or challenge/transformation of tourism representation surrounding Sri Lanka. The PhD would provide me with the perfect opportunity to unpack some of the intricate social relations and realities underlying tourism representations of Sri Lanka. 

What makes me passionate about my subject?

Most our day-to-day actions revolve around stories, where we constantly delve in and out of imaginings, both ours as well as others. This awareness that the travel stories and countless representations we create and share help shape others’ notions about places and hence the world, makes me particularly passionate about understanding tourism’s myriad imaginaries and its powerful role as a worldmaking agency.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

Upon completion of the PhD I hope to gather experience as an academic through involvement in both teaching and social research. 

Research interests

Impelled by a retrospective understanding of the critical role played as a travel writer endorsing/marketing a particular preferred, ideological, socio-cultural ‘construct’ of Sri Lanka to a predominantly Western readership, my research project endeavours to examine the ‘construction’ of place in tourism. Academic literature reiterates that images of the non-western world created in tourism for western consumption, in the process of marketing the former to the latter, still reflect a western, white, male, colonial perspective. This study will attempt to investigate this through an examination of textual representations to understand whether historicised, exoticised colonial images are maintained/ reinforced or challenged and transformed through the use of national imaginaries, within 21st century (contemporary) projections of Sri Lanka. What’s more, the concept identified as ‘worldmaking’ in tourism studies, which is fairly recent claim that tourism does not simply mirror a world that’s out there, but plays a constructive role in recreating destinations, populations and pasts. It also highlights the dominant role played by the travel or content creators in this process. Therefore, a part of this study will also be to explore their role in the process.

The overarching aim of my PhD research project, therefore, is to empirically examine this inherently social process of travel writing, through an exploration of the critical ‘worldmaking’ role of travel writers within the context of Sri Lanka. In doing so, my research project addresses the following key questions: (1) Who are Sri Lankan travel writers? (2) How do they represent Sri Lanka through their writing? (3) What are the mechanisms underlying this production? (in terms of the broader social, cultural, political and economic contexts these descriptions attest to). Finally, (4) Why these constructions are created the way they are? Hence, I argue using a Bourdieusian stance, how these broad social spheres/settings/contexts that the writers work from have shaped their writing. This is combined with their more individual histories, experiences and habitus, which has significant implications for social class in Sri Lanka through an evaluation of the shared privileged upbringing and access to elite education of the entire cohort of writers.  

Qualifications

  • MA Social Research - Distinction
  • MA Sociology - Merit
  • BA (Hons) Sociology - First Class