Michael Roberts: with original title being “From Empiricist Conflation to Distortion: Caste in South Asia” – reproduced from Modern Asian Studies, 1983, vol 17/3, pp. 519 -27.**
Susan Bayly has done me the honour of reviewing the book on Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karava Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931 at considerable length. Her essay is appropriately entitled ‘The History of Caste in South Asia’. This title provides a clue to the interpretative pathways which have led her systematically to misunderstand the arguments within the book. No less problematical is her implicit belief in the possibility of constructing a composite picture of the caste system qua system on the basis of empirical data drawn from different regions, regions as widely different as Sri Lanka, southern India and western India. Let me elaborate this charge, and in doing so reiterate the arguments which I presented.
Contemporary migration patterns of fishermen derived from Fritz Bartz: “Fischer auf Ceylon,” Bonner Geographisische Abhnadlungen Heft 27 (1959)
Susan Bayly in 1983, reviewing Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karava Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931 by Michael Roberts Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1982.
The literature on the south Asian caste system is vast and contentious and the current war of words shows no sign of abating. This book conforms to current trends both in focusing on the experience of a single caste group under colonial rule, and also in adopting a polemical tone towards other historians. Roberts’ subject is the Karava population of Sri Lanka and his first aim is to explain why this group of poor fishermen and artisans managed to throw up a disproportionately large elite of businessmen, lawyers and other western-educated professional men by the end of the nineteenth-century. The discussion is set against the background of works on comparable Asian business communities such as the Marwaris and Parsis. An important theme, then, is the relationship between individual enterprise and the corporate structure of caste: did the Karava magnate class emerge because of, or in spite of, their roots in a hierarchical caste order? Continue reading
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Nan, in Island, 4 November 2017 where the title reads as “The Portuguese Burghers and Kaffirs”
Ethnic groups are disappearing and thus the research interest on these endangered human groups, their language and culture. One such research that is on-going is on the Portuguese Burghers by the Universidade de Lisboa with funding from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme of SOAS, University of London. The International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) which is collaborating with the research, facilitated a discussion on the Sri Lankan Portuguese Burghers and their heritage with those on the research project: Hugo Cordosa, Patricia Costa, Rui Pereira, Mahesha Radakrishna – all of the University of Lisbon; Dinali Fernando of the University of Kelaniya and Earle Barthelot, representative of the Portuguese Burgher Community and former secretary of the Burgher Union of Batticaloa.. This was on Tuesday 31 October.
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Fortunately the priest was walking by the ward. He wore a black hat like a gentleman of my father’s vintage, when they wore such hats as a style when the British ruled us. He was also quite dark skinned like my father and had well chisselled features, a round chin, a proportionate nose and mouth—what my mother said about my father in spite of him being quite dark skinned that he was a handsome man. And this priest was well dressed in his white cassock and black waist band and he had a cross with Christ tucked in it. “Father,” I asked, “are you a Catholic priest? Can you come and see my friend? He is very ill. In this ward.” I pointed to the interior where the 12 o’ clock crowd had already filled the spaces between the beds.
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S. N. Arseculeratne
The Karāva people of Ceylon claim to be descended from the Kuru refugees, who scattered after their defeat in the Great War between the Pandavas and the Kauravas1 or Kurus, related in the Mahabharata. The Kauravas settled in many parts of India, Bengal and in Ceylon. In Ceylon, the recorded descriptions of the Kauravas have been few, but mention has been made from around the 11th century to the 15th century due mainly to the military involvements of the Kauravas (now called the Karavas).
A flag which belonged to Don Pedro Arsecularatna of Maggona, depicting the arrival of a group of Karāva chiefs and retainers …. The square towards the bottom has the peacock with 3 people on it. (a) King Rajasinghe II; (b) The Dutch ship’s captain [off Negombo]; (c) Mudaliyar Arseculeratne of Negombo
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Asiff Hussein, courtesy of Roar Life, 25 April 2017, where the chosen title is “Three Strange Sri Lankan Customs And The Stories Behind Them”
Sri Lankans had, and still have, some strange traditions that are thought of as indigenous. However, much of these have their origins in other parts of the world, especially in India, and, to a lesser extent, in the Middle East. Here are three such local beliefs and customs with exotic origins.
Dola-Duka (Pregnancy Craving)
Sri Lankans, and especially the Sinhalese, believe that mothers-to-be experience a longing to eat certain kinds of foods, and that if these cravings are not satisfied, it would harm her health or the child she is carrying. This is known as dola-duka. Continue reading
Filed under caste issues, cultural transmission, female empowerment, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian traditions, landscape wondrous, life stories, politIcal discourse, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, tolerance, unusual people