Category Archives: caste issues

Deciphering Chauvinism through Incidents of Confrontation

Michael Roberts

In recently facing up to internet challenges and clarifying the term “chauvinism,” I proceeded at a general level and presented definitions within a comparative framework that brought the concepts of “racism” and “tribalism” into our framework of analysis.[1] I now provide instances of ethno-religious confrontation from Sri Lankan history that illustrate this phenomenon.

Pics from Gerald Peiris 2017

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Victor Ivan’s Contentions on the Present Crisis: Two Essays

 ONE: “The present crisis is likely to end up in a serious disaster,” in

Of the Executive Presidents who ruled the country prior to Maithripala Sirisena, J.R. Jayewardene and Mahinda Rajapaksa can be described as those who mostly and increasingly exhibited the majesty and the prowess of the post. Both had adequate powers to do so. In fact, J.R. Jayewardene boasted that the only thing he could not do was to make a man a woman and vice versa.

 President Maithripala Sirisena is not equipped with powers to do what  he is doing at the moment

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Rivetting Data on the Jaffna Peninsula and Tamil Politics, 1929-1970s

Handy Perinbanayagam 

This is a reproduction of COMMENTS  in a previous Thuppahi Item from 2012 — which presented an article by Rajan Philips in the Sunday Island of 26 February 2012. This unusual step is taken because the information therein: (1) about caste oppression in the Jaffna Peninsula even in the 1970s; (2) data on the politics of the Jaffna Youth congress and its boycott campaign against the Donoughmore Reforms and the 1931 elections in  the north; (#) a reading of GG Ponnambalam (4) the contributions to the discussion from R, Sid Perinbanayagam and Nalliah Thayabharan — with Thayabharan’s slashing criticisms of the LTTE and Tamil diasporic supporters evincing a remarkable courage.  

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An Ode in the Face of The Terrorist Liberation-Fighter

  Jane Russell

“[This poem was presented] a small pamphlet called “Ganga” published in Colombo in 1978: it was aimed at the boasting men of violence everywhere – the Warriors of Terror whom in the guise of Freedom Fighters were inflicting further violence on already violated communities:

To Aloysius-Ludovico (The Terrorist)

I am tired of hearing you sing
the anthems of Freedom and War…
How joyously you crack the whip
and bellow out the tune above the drums!
But the faces of my friends haunt me
in the mornings when I see Death’s Armada
With its pirate’s flag of torture trailing….
what does it matter, your Freedom?
They are dying, my friends and their children…

Nalliah Thayabharan, thank you for reminding me of this poem written in despair in Colombo 30+ years ago. A whole generation has grown up since then but the same (better) poem is probably being written today in Syria by some unknown idealist… the song goes “When will we ever learn?”

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Sorcery, Premeditated Murder, and the Canalization of Aggression in Sri Lanka

Gananath Obeyesekere, being an academic article [1] published initially in 1975 in the American Ethnologist, Vol. 14,  pp.1-23 …. and is also available in pamphlet form as No. 11 in the Studies in Society and Culture Series organised by the late Ananda Chittambalam and Michael Roberts … ISBN 955-9195-10-7 … while the illustrative snaps are impositions by the Editor, Thuppahi  and are intended to suggest the atmosphere called into being by the supplicants seeking support and/rt vengeance at the shrines

It is my intention in this paper to deal with a series of interrelated problems. First, we will consider the following specific questions and propositions: (a) How far can we make inferences about personality and social structure from official statistics computed by government agencies, in this case statistics on homicide and crimes of violence ?

Criminology as a discipline is especially concerned with this problem, and recent criminological studies in Sri Lanka have made social structural, cultural, and personality inferences from the statistical data (Wood 1961; Bloch 1960; Jayewardene and Ranasinghe 1963). At the outset, let me emphasize that I am not concerned with the conventional debate about the accuracy of governmental statistics. I agree with the criminologists who have worked on this problem that Sri Lanka’s official statistics on homicide and violent crimes are reasonably accurate, and on the face of it there is perfect justification for using these data for social analysis (see Wood 1961). Continue reading

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Nationalist Studies and the Ceylon Studies Seminar at Peradeniya, 1968-1970s

Michael Roberts

The years 1966 to 1975 were heady days in Ceylon. Especially so for some of us in Peradeniya Univeristy where the CEYLON STUDIES SEMINAR was launched in November 1968 by a few members of the Arts Faculty assisted by the facilities provided by Professor Gananath Obeyesekera at the Sociology Department – located then on Lower Hantane Road away from the centre of teaching. Not least among these facilities was the service provided by the Sociology Department peon Sathiah[i] who cyclostyled the written seminar papers beforehand for circulation so that those who were keen could read any presentation beforehand if they so wished – a procedure that also maximized discussion time. This background service was seconded by the typing services of Mrs Hettiarachchi in the History Department and Mr Kumaraswamy in the Sociology Department.

A . Jeyaratnam Wilson  Gananath Obeyesekera

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Revelations: Oppression of the Dalits in India via A Family History

Tariq  Ali’s essay entitled THE UNSEEABLES  in the London Review of Books Vol. 40 No. 16 · 30 August 2018   …. reviewing  Ants among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India by Sujatha Gidla Daunt, 341 pp, £14.99, May, ISBN 978 1 911547 20 4


This is a family biography that encompasses a history rarely told: despite its longevity, caste, and caste oppression, is not a popular theme in India. Sujatha Gidla writes of poisoned lives, of disillusionment, betrayed hopes, unrequited loves, attempted escapes through alcohol and sex. What distinguishes her book is its rich mix of sociology, anthropology, history, literature and politics.

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