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).
Preamble: Journals use Abstracts in order to provide readers with a distillation of the argument in an article. Where theoretical concepts are deployed, this presupposes that readers have some familiarity with the literature. Faced with the summary below, some readers of transcurrents may rush to the conclusion that this essay is featured by abstruse and esoteric nonsense.
After all, what does “transvaluation” connote? I derived the concept from SJ Tambiah’s Levelling Crowds. I understand it to refer to the re-working and transformation of pre-existing ideas and/or practices in meaningful ways that carry weight; and thereby sustain both continuity and change within the specified cultural/political arena. This is my interpretation of the term and it may well be challenged or refined by other scholars versed in the anthropological literature.
Having identified a problem area via one illustration, let me stress that this article is not replete with such academic terminology. It is mostly filled with empirical detail about the LTTE’s killing operation. This attention to detail encompasses cultural specifics.
Many of these particulars will be meaningful to those familiar with the Hindu faith and its devotional activity. Those nominally “Hindu” and all those from other faiths who are adamantly secular and/or materialist in orientation may be puzzled by the weight I attach to these specifics. Hopefully, this emphasis will pose a challenge to their mode of thinking.
Finally, let me stress that my essay expressly notes that it is presenting “a speculative argument that cannot be empirically substantiated” (p. 29 of full article). This may come as a shock to those readers, such as the blogger “Belle” commenting on one of my articles in http://www.groundviews.org recently, who seem to think that the social sciences should not indulge in surmise. Such a perception seems to believe that the world of scholarship should only deal with “facts” and definitive conclusions of the sort demonstrated in laboratories. This is a rigid schoolmaster’s view of the humanities or what, in academic jargon, will be read as a “positivist” form of thinking.
Dhanu & Sivarasan wait with Kokilavani on right Kokilavani reads poem, while Dhanu –head in foreground–awaits her moment
Set within the context of the Sri Lankan Tamils’ liberation war dominated by the LTTE, this article clarifies the motivations behind Pirapāharan’s decision to eliminate Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 in order to pre-empt his election as Prime Minister. The details on the LTTE’s intricate killing operation under operational commander Sivarāsan sets the scene for a focus on facets of the attire adopted by suicide bomber Dhanu. Saffron-green outfit, kanagambaram in hair and sandalwood-pellet garland may have been directed by pragmatic reasoning. But circumstantial contentions also point towards cosmic reasoning. Taken together with the kill team’s preceding supplications to the god Ganapathi at a temple in Chennai, these indications suggest that Dhanu’s explosive transformation into ash was geared towards a transvaluation of self in the cycle of rebirth. Information on Hindu practices taken from the researches of Mines, Fuller and Tanaka amplify the significance of the details deployed during this operation as supplements to plastic explosives, ball-bearings and suicide vest.
transvaluation; enchantment; assassins; Hindu substances; Tantric encirclement
Courtesy of http://www.transcurrents.com. This essay was first drafted on 23 Dec. 2009, as a sequel to the short note on “The Eelam Struggle,Tamil Tigers and Their Commemoration of Māvīrar (Great Heroes)”under the thuppahi cover.
The photographic images that have been deployed on web in my essay on “The Tamil Tigers and Their Practices of Homage” (httt://thuppahiwordpress.com) as well as a host of less accessible academic articles convey the importance placed on the commemoration of the fallen by Pirapāharan and the Tiger leadership. The institutionalisation of mortuary rites of burial for their fallen from circa 1989 – in a radical move away from the cremation for those of Saivite faith[i] – was a way of sustaining meaningful bonding between Tiger personnel and those who had sacrificed their lives for the cause of Eelam.[ii]
Michael Robertson the Eelam Struggle, Tamil Tigers and Their Commemoration of Maaveerar (Great Heroes)
In response to a request from two friends I post a list of my academic writings on this subject for the benefit of those with the capacity to access such resources and the patience to read long essays.
Photo kindly provided by Ravindiran Vaitheespara of Canada.
Bodies that Fight On
This icon was built in 2004 and commemorates the Tigers who fell in recapturing the Kilinochchi locality from the Sri Lankan army a few years previously. The title is my invention and is intended to capture the sense of empowerment and defiance embodied by its signs, notably the black power symbol with gun. Note however that, in a fusion of ‘tradition’ with modernity, this icon is encircled by the karthigapoo or glory lily (the LTTE’s emblematic flower) in the manner of a Hindu rite of ārati. Vaitheespara remarked that it conveyed the idea of a ‘resurrection,’ a perceptive reading that is supported by one of the themes – that of renewal and regeneration — coursing thorough LTTE poetry studied by Dagmar Hellmann-Rajanayagam (South Asia 2005).
PRUDENT TWO-POINT PROGRAM FOR PRAGMATIC TAMIL POLITICS
by Dayan Jayatilleka
Courtesy of http://www.transcurrents.com, where it appeared first on 13 Dec. 2009 and continues to excite comments. It is repeated here because it is as cogent as pertinent and serves as a means of reflection.
“For their part, Tamil leaders have not yet made anticipated conciliatory gestures that might ease government concerns and foster a genuine dialogue”- Sri Lanka: Re-charting US Strategy after the War, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Dec 7, 2009
Sri Lanka is a work in progress, a jigsaw puzzle that we have never been able to complete because the pieces haven’t been fitted together correctly.
CRUDE REASONING, FALSE IMAGES: SRI LANKA’S REFUGEE CAMPS
This article was presented under a shortened title in ABC UNLEASHED on 7 November 2009 and is reproduced here with acknowledgement of this privilege. There were 36 COMMENTS entered in response to this article and I myself responded to four.I append a selection of these comments at theend of the article, dividing them into twosegments, those deemed Dinkum Australians and those deemed Migratnt Australians.
Ever since the war in Sri Lanka moved towards a devastating climax early this year the propaganda war hotted up. With many arms all over the world the pro-Tiger elements have easily bested the government of Sri Lanka in this rhetorical game. If one spins lies, it is wise to take up half-truths, and then embellish and mix them with a couple of enormous fabrications. Then repeat these tales ad nauseam. Reiteration is the modus vivendi of sharp advertisement.
REVIEW of CONFRONTATIONS in SRI LANKA: SINHALESE, LTTE & OTHERS
Amended and abbreviated version or article in Frontline, Vol. 26, No. 20, 26 Sept 2009
Michael Roberts’s latest book assembles thirteen of his recent academic essays on the cultural and ideological roots of the majority Sinhala and minority Tamil nationalisms in Sri Lanka. It includes a study of the pogrom against the Muslims in 1915 and a remarkably detailed analysis of the projects of Anagārika Dharmapāla (1864-1933), a staunch Sinhala Buddhist who launched a full-throated campaign against British rule and Christian missionaries.
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.