Imminent Disasters? Exploiting Sri Lanka’s Mineral Resources

Ashley de Vos, in The Island, 16 August 2017, where the heading runs thus: “The exploitation of minerals of Sri Lanka”

If there is an asset, should it be exploited to the fullest in the shortest period of time? The traditional view would be based on very careful and controlled use. Today, in the global market place an asset is viewed very differently. As most investors in a business are interested in an ever increasing the bottom line question of eventual sustainability raises questions that need answers. Unfortunately, all exploitation has limits and if profit is the only criteria, whatever the pontification, it cannot and is not sustainable in the long term. It will always be a short term solution, to what could be a long term disaster.

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A Tale of Resistance: The Story of the Arrival of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka

Michael Roberts, a reprint of an article published in 1989 in Ethnos, vol. 55: 1-2, pp.69-82.

  This essay decodes a sixteenth century folktale which records the Sinhalese reaction to the arrival of the first Portuguese. Where the historiography has interpreted this tale as benign wonderment in the face of exotica, a piecemeal deconstruction of the allegorical clues in the ‘story is utilised to reveal how the Sinhalese linked the Portuguese with demons and with Vasavarti Mārayā, the arch enemy of the Buddha. In this fashion the Portuguese and the Christian sacrament of communion were represented as dangerous, disordering forces. The piecemeal reinterpretation of this short text, however, must be overlaid by a holistic perspective and the realisation that its rendering in oral form enabled its purveyors to lace the story with a satirical flavour: so that the Portuguese and Catholicism are, like demons, rendered both disordering and comic, dangerous and inferior—thus ultimately controllable. In contending in this manner that the folktale is an act of nationalist opposition, the article is designed as an attack on the positivist empiricism which pervades the island’s historiography and shuts out imaginative reconstructions which are worked out by penetrating the subjective world of the ancient texts.

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The Arya and Hela Schools of Sinhala Song

Garrett Field, abstract of   article entitled “Music for Inner Domains: Sinhala Song and the Arya and Hela Schools of Cultural Nationalism in Colonial Sri Lanka”inThe Journal of Asian Studies November 2014, vol. 73(4):1043-1058 ·

In this article, I juxtapose the ways the “father of modern Sinhala drama”, John De Silva, and the Sinhala language reformer, Munidasa Cumaratunga, utilized music for different nationalist projects. First, I explore how De Silva created musicals that articulated Arya-Sinhala nationalism to support the Buddhist Revival. Second, I investigate how Cumaratunga, who spearheaded the Hela-Sinhala movement, asserted that genuine Sinhala song…

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Honouring Sarath Amunugama through Essays in Home and The World”

Dhammika Amarasinghe, in The Island,  5 February 2011

The book mirrors the man. The man is Dr. Sarath Amunugama, eminent public servant of yester year, sociologist, scholar, writer, orator, poet, dramatist, connoisseur (of many things – including the fine arts) and at the end of his career, perhaps unfortunately – politician. The volume has been brought out by his ever-loyal daughters Ramanika and Varuni to celebrate their hero’s 70 years of ‘a full life’ (the title of another of their filial tributes in a different genre). The book is a festschrift in honour of Sarath Amunugama. The list of contributors reads almost like a Roll of Honour of contemporary Sri Lankan intellectual life, ranging as it does from Gananath Obeyesekere and Stanley J Tambiah through Siri Gunasinghe, J. B. Dissanayake and Carlo Fonseka to Jayantha Dhanapala, H. L. Seneviratne and Saman Kelegama (and many more of the same vintage). The standing of the contributors, almost all of whom are incidentally long-time friends and associates of Amunugama, and the wealth of high quality material encapsulated in this volume of 400 pages, makes the writing of a ‘review’ almost a daunting task. Therefore, what can be done is only to give some flavour of a selection of the contributions. The range of contributors mirrors not only the standing of the man being honoured but also the wide spectrum of his interests and accomplishments. Continue reading

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Kataragama, Yala and Festive All That

Juliet Coombe in Daily News, 12 August 2017, where the title runs Hidden Rituals

Juliet Coombe joined the exciting procession of regal elephants dressed in silk drapes, dancing girls and fire jugglers at the Kataragama Temple, where she learns about some of the mysteries that lie within these ancient temple walls.

As scented flower petals were thrown in the air, and incense smoke billowed in all directions, baskets of food were being loaded up to be taken inside as offerings to be given at the Kataragama Temple. I took off my shoes, out of respect, at the entrance step, which was already so covered in a sea of footwear that it had become totally hidden, and yet the colourful array of left-behind flip-flops and shoes was a clear demarcation that we were about to enter sacred grounds on a very auspicious day. I had come with a team from EKHO Tissa Safari who has created an exciting portfolio of curated experiences ranging from the deeply spiritual to hands-on plot-to-plate foodie safaris.

After the main ritual the big tusker covered in garlands of flowers makes his way back through the temple grounds

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Ethnicity in Riposte at a Cricket Match: The Past for the Present 

 Michael Roberts,  a reprint of an article  published originally in Comparative Studies in Society and History 1985, vol. 27: 401-429.  which is also available in in M. Roberts, Exploring Confrontation, (Harwood Academic Publishers, 1994). **

      I. PRELUDE

Some recent essays on the relationship between history on the one hand and anthropology and/or sociology on the other concentrate on the differences in the material with which the typical practitioner deals and the types of issues likely to be addressed (Thompson 1972, 1976, 1977; Davis 1981). They have tended to compare the perspectives that anthropologists[1] and historians bring into their work. And both E. P. Thompson and Natalie Z. Davis advocate increasing mutual borrowing from each discipline: they wish the one discipline to deepen its sensitivity and to avoid the usual pitfalls by drawing on the strengths of the other. Thus, by way of illustration, one finds Thompson arguing that historians tend to be more attentive to the paradoxes and ambivalences of actual men, and that they are attuned to the discipline of context because of this attentiveness to heterogeneity, a strength which sociologists[2]—who, he says, tend to overgeneralize and to swallow heterogeneity through the manufacture of neat typologies—would be well advised to draw upon (1976: 387,394). Continue reading

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Religious Zealots: Mashal Khan killed by Fellow-Uni Students for Blasphemy

Reuters,  14 April 2017 with the title Pakistani student beaten to death by peers in latest ‘blasphemy killing’

The ransacked university hostel room of slain Pakistani student Mashal Khan has posters of Karl Marx and Che Guevara still hanging on the walls, along with scribbled quotes including one that reads: “Be curious, crazy and mad.” The day before, a heated debate over religion with fellow students broke out at the dorm and led to people accusing Khan of blasphemy against Islam. That attracted a crowd that grew to several hundred people, according to witnesses. The mob kicked in the door, dragged Khan from his room and beat him to death, witnesses and police said. The death in the northwestern city of Mardan is the latest violence linked to accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan.

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