Tag Archives: Tamil-Sinhala conflict

A Set of Four Book Reviews

Michael Roberts

In a separate section of this web site accessed by clicking on the section title on the menu bar on the home page, readers can access some book reviews reprinted from academic journals courtesy of the reviewers. Apart from gaining information about the books, this series provides lay people with some sense of the academic circuit. The books reviewed initially by Bastin, Clough, Rogers, Neloufer de Mel and Speldewinde respectively – the items will be changed from time to time – are:

Mark P. Whitaker: Learning Politics from Sivaram: The Life and Death of a Revolutionary Tamil Journalist in Sri Lanka. Continue reading

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Homegrown Solution to the Ethnic Problem

Somapala Gunadheera

Courtesy of the Sunday Island, 28 March 2010


“For forms of government let fools contest; Whate’er is best administer’d is best,” Alexander Pope

I stand between Jolly Somasundaram, my colleague in Trincomalee and Devanessan Nesiah, my colleague in the RRAN, as they cross swords in the Island on the issue of “Turnaround Challenge to NE Tamils”. The bone of contention appears to be the choice of the TNA for support at the last Presidential Election (PE). Jolly thinks that they ought to have sided Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) while Deva stands by their choice of Sarath Fonseka (SF). Obviously the choice could not have been motivated by emotional attachment. It was a preference for the better of the two options. Jolly sent me a draft of his article before publication. I asked him, “Why MR?” and he replied, “The known devil is safer than the unknown. At least we know his weaknesses. Who knows whether the unknown devil would throw us into the fire from the frying pan?”

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Hitler, Nationalism, Sacrifice: Koenigsberg and Beyond … Towards the Tamil Tigers

Michael Roberts

Review Article: Richard A  Koenigsberg: Nations have the Right to Kill. Hitler, the Holocaust and War, New York: Library of Social Science¸ 2009, ISBN 978-0-915042-23-4. This essay was drafted in 2008. It did not pass muster when submitted to a Journal in UK in 2009. As I am no longer constrained by the academic circuit, I venture bold and present the unrevised article warts and all. Taking such a course has a benefit for readers: illuminating photographs embellish the section on the LTTE in ways that would rarely be accommodated in a standard journal. The Referees’ criticisms will be presented here for the benefit of readers within a week or so. Note too that I have not adjusted the text in the light of the LTTE”s defeat as a conventional force within Sri Lanka in 2009 because that development does not bear on the focus, viz., their dedication to cause or their practices of homage.

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Ever since he wrote Hitler’s Ideology: A Study in Psychoanalytic Sociology in 1975 (New York: Library of Social Science), Richard A. Koenigsberg has deployed his very own institutional base in New York to expose specific themes in the Nazi ideology with evangelical zeal. In this new monograph one theme focuses on the manner in which Hitler’s experiences in the trenches of the First World War entrenched his support for Germany’s goals in that war[1] and the principle that the individual must sacrifice self for national cause. Rather than decry the horrors of wartime bloodshed, Hitler was elevated by the community of the trenches and venerated those comrades who died in the fight. Modris Eksteins has told us that this bohemian loner of the pre-1914 years “came to regard his war experience as … his training in life,” so that his subsequent retellings bubble with exuberance (1989: 307-08). Koenigsberg argues that on this foundation Hitler directed his fury towards the weak Germans who were deemed to have shirked their duty, specifically the German Jews. Thus, the logic of war in Hitler’s reasoning eventually led to the logic of genocide (pp. 14, 1, 00). Parenthetically it can be added that Mark Mazower’s work reveals that the campaigns pursued by the Nazi German armies seeking to create an empire “cost the lives of as many other Europeans as Jews who perished in the Holocaust” and that roughly “8.2 million civilians … perished under Nazi occupation in Europe as a whole.” This outcome derived in part because they “wanted empty spaces in Eastern Europe” in order “to create their new Germanized Utopia” (Hastings 2008: 46, 47-48).

Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

Courtesy of  http://history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust/blhitler37.htm


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Understanding Zealotry

Michael Roberts

Anthropology, University of Adelaide

PREAMBLE One

The first part of this article was written when I was a Senior Visiting Fellow at the International Centre for Asian Studies, University of Leiden, Netherlands from September to December 1995; and was published in one of their Newsletters under the heading “Understanding Zealotry & Questions for Post-Orientalism.” The emphasis then was informed by my interest in the embodied emotions that have spurred assaults during pogroms and riots. This section, now designated Part I under the sub-title “From 1991-95,” has been modified in minor ways for this publication, while citations and footnotes have been added. Its arguments have then been elaborated in a second part that also reflects upon my journeys in the interim. In thus underlining the temporal ‘progression’ of my thinking, this article underlines the continuities in position within the shifting context of academic production, while yet marking new developments in my experiential understandings. A bibliography has also been added. Obviously, this list has been cast in 2006.

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Encountering Extremism: Biographical Tracks and Twists

Michael Roberts, 6 March 2010

One’s academic trajectories and journeys are invariably subject to vagaries and contingencies. The events and researches leading to my interest in “communal violence” and “zealotry” in the 1990s, and thereafter to what I have called ‘sacrificial devotion” (embracing the topics of “terrorism,” suicide bombers and Tamil Tigers),[1] were shaped by such contingencies. Since my web site will present some short essays on both these topics in the course of this month, let me detail some moments during my research work that resulted in the journeys that produced such outcomes.

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Caste in Modern Sri Lanka Politics

Michael Roberts

This essay first appeared in http://www.transcurrents.com on 24 February 2010 and readers will see blog comments therein.

 

In a recent intervention in the web-site http://www.transcurrents.com (10 Feb. 2010), Lakruwan de Silva has conjectured that caste rivalry between the Govigama and Karāva contributed in a secondary manner towards the rift between the Rajapakse clan and General Fonseka.[1] In his broad survey of caste undercurrents in the history of the Sinhalese, he also refers to the Kara-Govi rivalry that surfaced during the contest for the “Educated Ceylonese Seat” in the Legislative Council in British times in December 1911. In serendipitous coincidence a gentleman named Nadesan recently alluded to this famous occasion when the Govigama elite of that day is said to have backed Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan’s candidature and helped him defeat Dr. Marcus Fernando for this coveted post.[2]

Let me begin by clarifying the background to this contest. A coalition of Ceylonese activists from the Burgher, SL Tamil and Sinhalese communities had begun to exert pressure on the British rulers from circa 1906 seeking devolution of power. The British authorities responded in miserly fashion in 1910 with the Crewe-Macullum reforms conceding a modicum of expansion in the advisory Legislative Council and introducing the electoral principle for the “Burgher Seat” and the newly-created “Educated Ceylonese Seat;” while still maintaining the existing nominated seats.

Members of the Orient Club, circa 1907 Amadoris Mendis & the Senanayakes in relaxed mood, latter photo courtesy of Kumari Jayawardena

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Of Traitors and Patriots

Anura Gunasekera

Courtesy of the Island, 8 February 2010

PREAMBLE from Michael Roberts: Anura Gunasekera’s essay is truly important and is inserted here because some threads mesh with contentions I have presented earlier. When in Sri Lanka in May 2009 I penned an article “Some pillars for Lanka’s future” in response to a request from an Indian periodical which addressed the import of President Rajapakse’s version of patriotism. I repeat it here as Preamble to Gunasekera’s intervention largely because it also represents a questioning of the position adopted by the head of state albeit in a less direct manner than Gunasekera. This questioning, and for that matter Gunasekera’s telling commentary, is in line with my opening essay SINHALA MIND SET which stands as frontispiece to my web-site.

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