Introduction by Sharika Thiranagama, Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University
This graduate conference aims to enhance intellectual exchange on Sri Lanka, emphasize the production of empirical and non sectarian knowledge, focus attention on recent potential transformation of key concepts, and strengthen and build a new cohort of researchers (and research) across disciplines and institutions as well as strengthen relationships between American graduate students and local intellectual circles in Sri Lanka. Accordingly, in 2012 our theme is “In- tersections”. To intersect is both to cut across and also to create new meeting points. As with previous conferences, our focus is thus wide-ranging and we welcome panel and paper proposals on Sri Lanka that cross disciplines and bring new or old themes and concepts together in unusual ways.
The workshop takes place over 2 days. On November the 8th, the first session will be a small closed pre-disserta- tion development seminar for selected participants (see below for details). In the afternoon, the Sri Lanka Graduate Conference and the Center for South Asia will present a jointly hosted public event on literature and war with new young South Asian novelists. On November 9th, we will host three student panels.
Mark Balmforth, Columbia University
Christian David’s Boarding School and the Origins of Education in Ceylon
This paper discusses one such form of missionary that David brought to the Jaffna Peninsula: the utility of education and specifically the boarding-school model as a tool for evangelism and the development of literacy. Dominant historiography of Jaffna in this period cites the contribution of British and American Protestant missionaries as largely responsible for building educational institutions critical for the peninsula’s precociously high literacy rates and reception of the English language. This paper, however, argues that previously developed educational models from the Danish-Halle mission at Tranquebar deeply informed the British and American missionary efforts. Drawing largely on original sources unknown in the secondary literature, as well as on recent scholarship by Robert Frykenberg, D. Dennis Hudson, and Daniel Jayaraj, this essay demonstrates how David’s efforts to build a cohort of English-speaking catechists years before the major arrival of western missionaries formed a crucial foundation on which later evangelical groups so significantly built.
Alexander McKinley, Duke University
Village Life and City Living: Catholic Interreligious Dialogue, Cultural Crossings, and Different Inhabitations of Modernity in Sri Lanka
This paper examines some of the myriad ways in which Sri Lankan Catholics intersect with the material and conceptual spaces of modernity. Working with the concept of interreligious dialogue and drawing from the theoretical framework of Dipesh Chakrabarty’s contributions to subaltern studies, this paper will assert that modern values are assimilated differently depending on whether the setting is urban or rural.
Sasikumar Balasundaram, University of Kentucky
The Plantation System through Religious Practices and Rituals in the Up-country of Sri Lanka
Religious practices and the ritualistic traditions among the Up-country Tamils are unique as the Malaiyaha culture is tied into the plantation economy in Sri Lanka. This paper discusses how the plantation economy influenced in the emergence of new gods/goddesses, rituals and forms of worships that reflect the everyday life of the Up-country Tamils in Sri Lankan plantations.
Devaka Gunawardena, UCLA
Left perspectives of the Sri Lankan conflict
My paper sketches a contrast between two concepts of ethnicity in the Sri Lankan governments of the United Front (1970-77) and the People's Alliance (1994-2001). In particular, it examines the way in which the category of ethnicity was redeployed by Left theorists associated with these specific regimes. The paper looks at several key texts of each period in order to identify the major positions. It finds that whereas in the United Front ethnicity was reduced to class, in the People's Alliance ethnicity was operationalized as an autonomous variable of research and policy making. The overall goal of this paper is to understand the underlying debate among Leftists as part of the constitution of a local Sri Lankan archive of political thought. This archive is linked as well to global discussions of Marxism and the national question.
Ben Pasquale, NYU
The Social Legacies of Civil War in Eastern Sri Lanka
What are the social legacies of exposure to war-time violence on civilians in eastern Sri Lanka? While much research has focused on the causes of participation in armed groups or conflict exposure, relative little systematic evidence has analyzed post-war trajectories, particularly in areas exposed to high levels of war-time violence. To measure the impact of exposure to violence on local social cohesion, I pair villages that were exposed to violence between the LTTE and Colonel Karuna's TMVP using an original newspaper dataset of conflict events from 2004 to 2008. In approximately 40 villages affected by such events as well as a comparable set of 40 villages that were not affected in this period I will complete a household-survey and an embedded behavioral experiment in order to measure social cooperation. I plan to complete a pilot of the described survey and embedded experiment in January 2013 with the help of Social Indicators, the survey wing of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (based in Colombo).
Nalika Gajaweera, UC Irvine
Buddhism without Borders?: Dana, Humanitarianism and NGO work in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka
Generations of social scientists have assumed that the modern city was the primary locus of secularization of social life. In the city ‘all that is solid melts into air’ as Marx asserted and traditional beliefs and ties were irrevocably changed by the exposure to capitalism, commodities and new social hierarchies defined by class and property. The conspicuous presence of public religion in South Asian cities have always pushed against such assumptions: religious processions, shrines, temples and mosques were from the outset defining features of the urban landscape; religious community was one of the strongest and most distinct features that defined spatial limits of neighborhoods, structured the labor force and defined urban conflicts. It was the urban environment that saw the articulation of longstanding and bloody communal conflicts in South Asia from the late nineteenth century until the present. Here, communities divided by caste, custom and language were forged into aggregated communities of ‘Hindus’, ‘Muslims’, ‘Sikhs’ and other groupings, clashing in the streets during tense times of larger political and cultural conflicts.
Religious life manifests itself in many other and more mundane ways in South Asian cities: the roadside shrines for local deities and saints, makeshift temples in slums, shining new temples marking the prosperity of upmarket neighborhoods, conflicts over building, removal or renovation of older religious structures, emergence of housing colonies defined as ‘vegetarian’ and Hindu. Examples abound. Yet the idea of urban space as also potentially sacred space only rarely make any appearances in urban studies in South Asia, or elsewhere.
This seminar aims at (1) exploring how ideas of the sacred, religious practices, and religious boundary making continuously has structured social life in South Asian cities; (2) exploring how these dynamics may be incorporated into how space and social practices can be theoretically framed and understood.
Welcome and Introductions by Thomas Blom Hansen
9:45 am-12:30 pm
Laura Bear, London School of Economics
This is Our Body: Viswakarma Puja, the Social Debts of Kinship, and Theologies of Maternity in a Neo-Liberal Shipyard
Naveeda Khan, Johns Hopkins University
The Martyrdom of Mosques: Imagery and Iconoclasm in Urban Pakistan
Radhika Gupta, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Fixed, Fluid and Invisible: Twelver Shi‘ite Religiosity in Contemporary Mumbai
2:00 pm-3:45 pm
Rupa Viswanath, University of Goettingen, Center for Modern Indian Studies
Translating the Apocalypse: Polyglot Pentecostalism and Interlinguistic Intimacy in Dharavi, Mumbai
Megan Moodie, UC Santa Cruz
Religion and the Subaltern Civil Servant: Scheduled Tribe followers of Radhasoami in Jaipur
4:15 pm-6:00 pm
William Elison, Dartmouth College
The Prayer-o-Mat Project: Towards a Retheorization of Urban Darshan
Madhura Lohokare, Department of Anthropology, Syracuse University
Boyz II Men: Ganesh Mandals in Pune as a Site of Masculine Identity