Category Archives: teaching profession

Jane Russell on Sri Lankan Political History in Debate with Kumarasingham’s Readings

From London the historian and scholar  Jane Russell has entered an extensive set of comments on Harshan Kumarasingham’s Heidelberg essay of 2013 –reprinted in Thuppahi in 2014. Given its length and Russell’s background (see below) it deserves wider exposure in the hope that debate will be promoted. I am therefore deleting its original location and posting it as a separate item.

 Russell  Kumarasingham

  1. HARSHAN kUMARASINGHAM”s “The Deceptive Tranquillity surrounding Sri Lankan Independence: ‘The Jewel of the East yet has its Flaws’,”  is an interesting paper with which I broadly agree, despite a tendency by the author to sacrifice judgement in favour of rhetoric. However, Dr. Harshan Kumarasingham has gone for the elegant historical narrative rather than seeking to explore and analyse some of the more nuanced, underlying factors that may help to understand the spiralling of Ceylon, cited by the British as ‘ the Premier Crown Colony” at independence in 1947, into Sri Lanka, characterised by the west at the turn of the 21st century as a terrorist-riven semi-failed state. I hope the following will help to redress this.

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Revisiting the Sins of Leslie Gunawardana (Part lll)

 

 Darshanie Ratnawalli. Q & A from  Saturday, 21 March 2015 … with emphasis by highlighting being  impositions by the Editor, Thuppahi

Professor KNO Dharmadasa, the present Editor in Chief of the Sinhala Encyclopedia goes down in history as mounting to date, the only direct, authoritative academic challenge to Professor Leslie Gunawardana, an ancient period historian of Sri Lanka who became a darling of certain social anthropological circuits through his “The People of the Lion: The Sinhala Identity and Ideology in History and Historiography”– (1979) and “Historiography In a Time of Ethnic Conflict, Construction of the Past in Contemporary Sri Lanka”– (1995). This is the third and last installment of Prof. K.N.O’s conversation with Darshanie Ratnawalli continued from 08 March, 2015.    

 

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The Historian’s Craft via Lakshman Perera’s Deciphering of Lanka’s Ancient Inscriptions

Sudharshan Seneviratne, reviewing Lakshman S. Perera: The Institutions of Ancient Ceylon from Inscriptions, (from 3rd Century BC to 830 AD) Volume I ….. with Introduction and supplementary notes by Sirima Kiribamunne and Piyatissa Senanayake, ICES, Kandy 2001, … 322 pages … reviewed in http://www.infolanka.com/org/srilanka/cult/45.htm

 

The Antecedents: My first encounter with the historian was in 1974 when I visited the University library at Peradeniya as a postgraduate student. It was never a formal introduction – not even a personal meeting. Yet, it was close enough for me to admire the man and his work. The silent space afforded by the Ceylon Room at Peradeniya was ideally suited for a dialogue with the past. I reached out to the past through the volumes of a doctoral thesis – so immaculately completed a year before I was born! Page after page three volumes of information unfolded a dimension hitherto less known in the history of Sri Lanka. This study I thought, will always remain as a testimony to the ‘historian’s craft’ (apologies to Marc Bloch) so purposefully executed by a scholar with a sober perception to the study of history. Continue reading

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Vale Jim Gair, Sinhala Enthusiast, Linguist Extraordinary

A Valedictory in American Academia

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James Wells Gair, Ph.D. ’63, professor emeritus of linguistics who throughout a long and distinguished career produced groundbreaking work on South Asian languages and their relation to other languages, died Dec. 10 in Ithaca. He was 88.“Jim Gair was in many ways the paradigmatic Cornell linguist,” said John Whitman, chair and professor of linguistics. “He had a language passion for Sinhala, the language of Sri Lanka, and he threw himself entirely into it, teaching the language, writing textbooks for its learners, and analyzing both the colloquial language and its classical texts.

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The Rajasingams and Their Profound Legacies

Rajan Hoole, being the text of speech delivered at Trimmer Hall, Jaffna, 22 September 2016… and reproduced in the Daily News with the title “The Rajasingam Legacy: A Quest for Quality”

  rajasinghamsin1990parentsofdrrajani aaa-rajasingambavinck-rajasingham

After nightfall on 21st September 1989, Rajasingam Master called on his bicycle at my mother’s home quite unexpectedly and delivered his pithy message, “Rajini has been shot.” His voice showed no evident emotion. After a brief exchange of words, he turned back. He was stoic, incorruptible, who lived by his strong sense of duty. Master, his wife MahilaAcca, and their daughters, Nirmala, Rajini, Sumathy and Vasuki were familiar to us from childhood days in the St. James’ Church choir. Had Master been more ambitious during his university days, he would have left his mark as an outstanding mathematician in our university. What he did as a school master at Hartley and Jaffna College was no less important. His zeal for catching hold of students who seemed to be in need of inspiration and getting them to work Mathematics problems remained a passion with him to the end of his life.  rajani-t Rajani Thiranagama nee Rajasingam

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Ethnic Tensions and Cruelties …. and the Month of July

Rajan Philips, in The Sunday Island, 24 July 2016, with the title “July and its Cruelties”

It was not Sri Lanka that I was thinking of last week when I alluded to the months of April and July vying for mention in a universal cruelty context. But news after that from the Jaffna University that a gang of Tamil university students and outside thugs beat up on the Sinhalese students on campus, came as a rude reminder of the cruelties that July has come to be associated with in Sri Lanka. July 1983 has become a huge blot of blood in our history. Eerily, it was to this day 33 years ago that a pre-meditated ambush of Sinhalese soldiers in Jaffna by the LTTE provided the pre-text for the unleashing of no-less pre-meditated retaliatory violence in Colombo that quickly went out of control to become a massive pogrom against all Tamils. It was a UNP government that orchestrated the retaliation then until it blew in its face at home and abroad. The same government sent the Opposition TULF packing to India, and handed over the destinies of Tamil politics to the dictates of the LTTE.

injured uni studentNorthern Province Governor Reginald Cooray visited H. A. T. Maduranga, an undergraduate wounded in last week’s attack now warded at the National Hospital (pic courtesy by Governor’s Office) Continue reading

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A Tribute to GC Mendis: Pioneering Tertiary Education in History for Lanka

Michael Roberts

 The teaching of history at a tertiary level began with University College in Colombo in the 1920s, where students were prepared for an external degree at the University of London. Professor SA Pakeham taught medieval and modern European history to those who enrolled for such courses. Pakeham’s place in the history of history-teaching yet awaits its researcher.[1] One contribution stands out: Pakeman seems to have discerned the talents of Garrett Champness Mendis, then a Lecturer at the Government Teacher Training College. An opening was secured for his postgraduate training under Professor Rhys-Davids at London University and GC Mendis proceeded to UK to work under that renowned Pali scholar.

GC MENDISThis period of study encompassed extended sojourns in Munchen (?) in Germany[2] under the tutelage of Wilhelm Geiger (1856-1943). This spell in England and Germany resulted in his command of Pali and his dissertation A Historical Criticism of the Mahavamsa (1930, unpubd). Amazing as it may seem, he could not be slotted into history teaching at University College when he returned and he was appointed initially as a Visiting Lecturer in Pali.[3] Continue reading

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