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
Filed under accountability, British imperialism, caste issues, centre-periphery relations, communal relations, cultural transmission, disparagement, education, historical interpretation, language policies, Left politics, life stories, literary achievements, nationalism, parliamentary elections, politIcal discourse, power politics, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, teaching profession, unusual people
THE VAVUNIYA DIARIES (recollecting the first JVP uprising 5th April 1971 – 19th August 1971)
by Neville Jayaweera, Government Agent Vavuniya Administrative District 1970-1973
Filed under accountability, atrocities, caste issues, conspiracies, economic processes, female empowerment, governance, historical interpretation, insurrections, island economy, JVP, landscape wondrous, legal issues, life stories, military strategy, politIcal discourse, power politics, security, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, terrorism, the imaginary and the real, trauma, unusual people, vengeance, war reportage, world events & processes
In the academic circuit most books are sent to reviewers by journals in the field of study encompassed by the book. My work on Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karāva Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931 published by the Cambridge University Press in 1982 was sent to Frank Conlon, a historian at the University of Washington by the Journal of Asian Studies. His review appeared in 1985. It was, and remains, a serious reading that is not informed by any personal animus, while being obviously guided by his own work on caste interaction in India.
Filed under British colonialism, caste issues, commoditification, cultural transmission, discrimination, economic processes, education, governance, historical interpretation, island economy, land policies, landscape wondrous, life stories, modernity & modernization, sri lankan society, transport and communications, unusual people, working class conditions, world events & processes
Haris de Silva
The four volume Documents of the Ceylon National Congress produced by the Department of National Archives in 1977 runs into 3208 pages. In keeping with bureaucratic rigidity, the four volumes are still sold at some Rs 250. The give-away price has not enabled it to reach the public. The treasure trove of documentary data within these four volumes – encompassing LSSP and Communist Party meetings in their early days — remain unknown and unseen. How many scholars, let alone armchair historians, know that FC “Derek” de Saram, Oxford Blue and Ceylonese cricketer of note, was among the ginger group (identified as “Young Turks” by me as the editor of the documents) who attempted to rejuvenate the CNC in 1938/39 by converting it into a party that could contest elections? Continue reading
Filed under British colonialism, caste issues, constitutional amendments, cultural transmission, economic processes, education, electoral structures, ethnicity, governance, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, island economy, land policies, landscape wondrous, language policies, Left politics, life stories, modernity & modernization, nationalism, politIcal discourse, power politics, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, unusual people, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes
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
Filed under British colonialism, Buddhism, caste issues, communal relations, cultural transmission, discrimination, disparagement, economic processes, education, historical interpretation, immigration, Indian religions, Indian traditions, island economy, landscape wondrous, life stories, politIcal discourse, power politics, sri lankan society, transport and communications, world events & processes