Riaz Hassan: Straddling the World …. An Ecumenical Scholar for All Ages

Michael Roberts

 I met Riaz Hassan for the first time as one of the keynote speakers at a conference organised by Neelan Tiruchelvam in Sri Lanka circa 1974 (details forgotten) when I was teaching in the History Department at Peradeniya University and Riaz was at an university in Singapore. It was the best of serendipity (a word deriving perhaps from Serendib aka Sri Lanka) that I found him attached to Flinders University when I moved to the Anthropology Department at University in 1977.

Not merely that. Riaz and Selva lived at the southern end of Fullarton Road just down the hill and a literal stone’s throw from Belair where our family settled down. The Hassans then moved to another spot up the hill in Belair. Since I also chose to play cricket, soccer and rugger for Flinders University, our range of mutual contacts also expanded. A few, such as Alex Hope, have also passed on. But Selva, Vivienne Hope, Lance Brennan, Michael Morley, Raj Huilgol, Ron Slee, Ralph Shlomowitz, Peter Mayer, Wilfred Prest and Shamsul Khan remain among the common friends who bat on. All of them were among those who assembled at Flinders University recently in a ceremony that commemorated Professor Riaz Hassan’s long service to that institution.

Riaz was a scholar for all ages and all ethnic streams. He remains one – ever pertinent through his research endeavours (see …………………………………. https://thuppahis.com/2022/09/15/in-appreciation-of-professor-riaz-hassan-two-accolades-as-vale/#more-65948). Among the topics he addressed, the tricky one of suicide stands out. Since I engaged in the study of suicide missions pursued by the Tamil Tigers, the Muslim jihadists and the Japanese kamikaze during World War I, some of our major research interests overlapped. This line of research also had to, perforce, address the acts of suicidal self-immolation in protest by such individuals as the Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc on 11th June 1963[1], Norman Morrison in Washington on 2 November 1965 in objection to USA’s programmes in Vietnam and the Czech student Jan Palach protesting the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on 19th January 1969 (see Note below on “Political Acts of Suicidal Protest”).[1]

My work in this field profited from conversations with Riaz in the late 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century.[2] Like myself, there will be a wide range of scholars and students who miss his grounded thoughts on many a topic. But, above, all, we will be missing his humane warmth and fellowship.

Abide comfortably RIAZ.



Thich Quang Duc: … amazon.com.au/Nbuddhist-Committing-Self-Immolation-Intersection-Anti-Buddhist/dp/B07DPLHR9G

Francis A.M. Manno: “Monk on fire: The meditative mind of a burning monk,” Cogent Psychology, 2019, Volume 6/1……. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23311908.2019.1678556


Steinbach, Alice (30 July 1995). “The Sacrifice of Norman Morrison – Thirty years ago a Baltimore Quaker set himself on fire to protest the war in Vietnam. Did it make a difference?”The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2021-04-05.

BBC: A life in flames: Anne Morrison Welch, 21 December, 2010.


B — REFERENCES: Essays by Roberts on the Self-Sacrificial Commitment of the Tamil Tigers

2005b “Tamil Tiger ‘Martyrs’: Regenerating Divine Potency?” Studies in Conflict  & Terrorism 28: 493-514.

2005c “Saivite Symbolism, Sacrifice and Tamil Tiger Rites”, Social Analysis 49: 67-93.

2006a “Pragmatic Action & Enchanted Worlds: A Black Tiger Rite Of Commemoration,” Social Analysis, 50: 73-102.

2006b “The Tamil Movement for Eelam,” E-Bulletin of the International Sociological Association No. 4, July 2006, pp. 12-24.

2006c “Understanding Zealotry and Questions for Post-Orientalism, I” Lines May-August 2006, vol.5, 1 & 2, in http://www.lines-magazine.org.

2007b “Suicide Missions as Witnessing: Expansions, Contrasts,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 30:  857-88.

2007c “Blunders in Tigerland: Pape’s Muddles on ‘Suicide Bombers’ in Sri Lanka,” Online publication within series known as Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics (HPSACP), ISSN: 1617-5069.

2008 “Tamil Tigers: Sacrificial Symbolism and ‘Dead Body Politics’,” Anthropology Today, June 2008, 24/3: 22-23.

2010b  “Killing Rajiv Gandhi: Dhanu’s Metamorphosis in Death?” South Asian History and Culture, Vol 1, No. 1, pp.25-41.

2010c “Self Annihilation for Political Cause: Cultural Premises in Tamil Tiger Selflessness,” in Roberts, Fire and Storm. Essays in Sri Lankan Politics. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, pp. 161-201.

Roberts: Fire and Storm. Essays in Sri Lankan Politics. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, pp. 161-201.

2012 “Encompassing Empowerment in Ritual, War & Assassination: Tantric Principles in Tamil Tiger Instrumentalities,” in Social Analysis, sp. issue on War Magic ed. by D. S. Farrer, pp. 88-106.

2020 “Kamikaze, Mujahid, Tamil Tiger: Sacrificial Devotion in Comparative Lens,” 12 November 2020,  https://thuppahis.com/2020/11/12/kamikaze-mujahid-tamil-tiger-sacrificial-devotion-in-comparative-lens/




[1] See Bibliographical List A.

[2] See Bibliographical List B.

Leave a comment

Filed under accountability, atrocities, authoritarian regimes, cultural transmission, ethnicity, female empowerment, foreign policy, heritage, historical interpretation, immolation, Islamic fundamentalism, landscape wondrous, life stories, martyrdom, military strategy, nationalism, patriotism, performance, politIcal discourse, power politics, religiosity, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, suicide bombing, Tamil Tiger fighters, terrorism, the imaginary and the real, truth as casualty of war, unusual people, vengeance, war reportage, world events & processes, zealotry

Leave a Reply