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 →
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 warand 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).
with Anne Abayasekera’s response in the spirit of the essay also reproduced below.
This article was first presented in that pulsating site on current affairs, http://www.groundviews.org, in late April 2008. Major transformations have taken place since then, not least the defeat of the LTTE and the dismantling of its de facto state. Nevertheless, the impasse in the political relations between the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Sinhala-dominated state, as well as the affiliated issue of the Muslim community and these other two communities, remains unresolved. Note, too, that there are Tamil moderates who have been directing criticism at the hardline stance adopted by the Tamil National Alliance at the present moment.
Clearly, then, political engagements of this sort are central to the processes that reproduce ethnic consciousness. But, here, I wish to move readers towards developing reflective self-consciousness about the mundane processes of upbringing that instil communitarian sentiments within one’s hearts and minds. It is towards this end that I re-insert this old essay together with another by Anne Abayasekara that took up the baton on her own initiative in an essay published in the Island on 30th June 2008. I am grateful to Anne for such a perceptive response on the basis of her own biography. We should all be grateful to her.Continue reading →
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.
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), 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.
The following short essays have been posted within this site. It is feasible for readers to pen comments, though this site lacks the vibrancy of such media outlets as transcurrents and groundviews.
Lanka without Vijaya by Michael Roberts
Writing History and Myth by Shanie’s Notebook of A Nobody
Sinhalaness and Sinhala Nationalism by Michael Roberts
Primordialist Strands in Contemporary Sinhala Nationalism in Sri Lanka: Urumaya as Ur by Michael Roberts
Burden of History: Obstacles to Power Sharing In Sri Lanka by Michael Roberts
These pieces were penned several years back and did not have the benefit of a thoughtful article by ALAN STRATHERN entitled “The Vijaya Origin Myth and the Strangeness of Kingship,” Past & Present, 2009, No. 203(1): 3-28.
We hope to present a summary version of this article for the benefit of readers who do not have access to the journal on web at some point in the near-future.
A renovated stupa at Dakkshina Vehera a few miles south of Sigiriya — also dating from the latter part of the first millennium AD.
This article was printed initially in the Lanka Monthly Digest, Special Millennium Issue, 27 January 2000.
In sending a letter to John D’Oyly as the British representative on 29 June 1812 on behalf of the King of Trisinhalaya (the Kingdom of Kandy) Pusvälla Rālahāmy began thus: “From the great King Vijaya born of noble exceeding pure race of the sun.” This was a conventional feature in several Kandyan letters of the time. That is several letters began with a reference to Vijaya. Conscious as he was of history, it was Junius Richard Jayewardene’s practice to refer to himself as the umpteenth head of state, the count including Vijaya as Number One in the line and, in effect, founding father. This was part of a manipulation of supposed history towards Jayewardene’s own ends. But such usages also raised the honour of the Sri Lankan state in general and the Sinhala people in particular. It placed a premium on antiquity. When Chandrika Kumaratunga, speaking in South Africa referred to the Sinhala people as “the original inhabitants” of the island she was also placing a value on time and emphasizing the strengths of the Sinhala claims to the island in, say, roughly similar ways to the value that Jews place on Palestine.
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. 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.
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
When I visited Jaffna recently, like all those returning home after years away I too sensed feelings of nostalgia welling up inside. This was my first visit in six years, and almost 25 since I had last lived in Jaffna, as an 11-year-old. The opening lines are by A E Manoharan, the Tamil pop star and baila singer who took Jaffna by storm in the 1970s – a time when, in my mind, Manoharan was more popular than the youthful leaders of the militant movements who would emerge soon enough. I have vague memories of going to an open-air Manoharan concert, sitting on the bicycle bar as one of my relatives rode us to where we could hear the loudspeakers. Incidentally, Manoharan composed “Ilangai enpathu”, with its reference to the palmyra fruit, two decades before rights activist Rajani Thiranagama and her colleagues would write The Broken Palmyra, for which she would be murdered.
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.
Thuppahi's Blog · This web site presents the interventions of MICHAEL ROBERTS in the public realm with reference to Sri Lankan political affairs. It will embrace the politics of cricket as well. ROBERTS was educated at St. Aloysius College in Galle and the universities of Peradeniya and Oxford. He taught History at Peradeniya University and Anthropology at Adelaide university. He is now retired and lives in Adelaide.