Juliet Coombe, in Daily News, 1 December 2017,where the title runs “Fragments of the past”
“New things you can replace. Old things are irreplaceable.” Such is the mentality that has underpinned the empire that is now the Historical Mansion, right through from the inventor of the museum, Hussain senior, who has passed the museum onto his eldest son Kamal who now runs it, along with the arcade, gem making workshop in the central courtyard and the fabulous antiques gallery with filigree jewellery that is hundreds of years old. Newness is not important to Kamal, he simply wants to preserve what his father collected so that future generations can understand and appreciate the lives that were lived without electricity hence the notches in the walls for candles and if you wanted water you had to draw it from the central courtyard well.
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Ravi Velloor’s article in THUPPAHI drew a private comment from Stephen Labrooy in Sri Lanka which is food for thought in itself, but carries particular value because it comes from Sri Lankan Burgher of some seniority who has travelled abroad and presently serves as President of the Dutch Burgher Union. I have queries on several points and raised just two hurriedly (see below); but the “memorandum” has useful ethnographic information, while running several inter-related arguments. Hence its airing here.
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Juliet Coombe, in Daily News, 29 September 2017, where the title is “The Rich Heritage of Galle Fort”
Juliet Coombe takes a look at this very special UNESCO World Heritage Site and its magnificent rampart walls and fascinating back streets.
Enter the old fortress built out of breathing corals as the main black tunnel gate by the cricket grounds opens up into a gash of bellowing air, with distended creepers riding pillion on giant Banyan trees hobnobbing with an ancient merchant caste. A strange choreography can always be detected here, with the musical call to prayer emanating from the mosque or the temple’s sound system merging with the toots of ice cream vendors’ bicycle horns and other hot and spicy snacks and pickle vendors plying the sonorities of their trade as the Indian Ocean thunders and whooshes by, barfing on the black rocks its named aft. Continue reading
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Michael Buerk, in the The Telegraph, 5 September 2017, where the title is “The war is history: Michael Buerk returns to Sri Lanka” ** Note Editorial Comment at End
The Tigers’ lair was deep in the jungle. It was difficult to find and tough to get to; two hours jolting, semi-prone, in a trailer dragged by a tractor, watching for mines. This was a war zone for decades. The paddy fields were abandoned long ago to the peacocks and their perpetual courtship, dozens of them everywhere, each male made fabulous by desire. The man-made lake that once fed the fields was covered in lotus flowers. A crocodile basked on a rock in the shallows, jaws gaping as if in wonder at the lonely beauty of it all. Well into the thicker brush, down a maze of paths and tunnels through the thorn trees, we came first to what was left of the Tigers’ guard post. Just rubble now where 30 fighters held part of the perimeter of what was, in effect, a separate state. Their latrine, the only recognisable structure left, was now home to a 15ft Indian rock python.
Buerk was in Sri Lanka for the BBC at the beginning of the war, in the Eighties
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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). **
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 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—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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