Keynote Address I
‘The Humanities in the University of Jaffna: The First Decade (1974-1984)
K. Indrapala (Former Professor of History, University of Jaffna)
This short talk will deal with the development of the Humanities Faculty (later Arts Faculty) in the newly established university campus in Jaffna from 1974 to 1984. It will focus on the main weaknesses and strengths of the Faculty and the opportunities that were open to it, far removed as it was from the other campuses of the University of Sri Lanka. It was established as the result of a sudden decision by the government, and the lack of a serious and comprehensive plan was its major weakness. Its greatest strength came from the young and dynamic Head of the Campus who was a humanist, well recognized as a brilliant literary scholar. The political environment was not conducive to the healthy development of the Faculty. Faced with financial problems, the government was not in a position to provide the necessary funds for the smooth development of the Faculty. Under very difficult circumstances, however, the firm foundations for a good Faculty were laid during the first ten years. This talk is not a critical assessment of the achievements and failures of the first decade. Rather, it is a personal narrative of the course of developments in the first ten years of the Faculty.
Prof. K. Indrapala obtained his first degree from the University of Ceylon (now known as University of Peradeniya) in 1960 and from that time till 1975, lectured in History at that University. He obtained his PhD from the University of London in 1966. In 1975, he was appointed Foundation Professor of History in the new Jaffna Campus of the University of Sri Lanka, which later became the University of Jaffna. In 1977/78, he was a Japan Foundation Fellow and Visiting Professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo. In 1984, he was appointed Foundation Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the Tamil University, Thanjavur. His publications include The Evolution of an Ethnic Identity: The Tamils of Sri Lanka C. 300 BCE to C. 1200 CE (2007) and Ancient Tamil Nadu: Glimpses of the Past (2021). He also edited The Collapse of the Rajarata Civilization in Ceylon and the Drift to the South-West (Peradeniya 1971), Epigraphia Tamilica, Vol.1 (Jaffna 1971) (along with P.L. Prematilleke and Van Lohuizen de Leew), Senarat Paranavitana Commemoration Volume (E.J.Brill, Leiden 1978) and Early Historic Tamil Nadu (Chennai 2009). A Tamil version of this last work was published in Chennai early this year (Mun Varalaarru Kaala Tamilnaadu). He now lives in Australia.
Keynote Address II
‘Humans and Environments in Lanka’
Sujit Sivasundaram (University of Cambridge, UK)
This lecture brings together my work across a series of projects by thinking with the nature of the island of Lanka. In ‘Islanded’ I argued that the British tied the island together, in an unfinished way, as a centralised and unified colonial state and that this had implications for how the territory was conceptualised as a natural entity. Notions of belonging, indigeneity and ethnicity flowed from such an articulation. In this lecture, I place this argument in relation to traditions of mapping, collecting and studying the environment over the long term. I argue that attention to the ground of the island, which has experienced so much deforestation, intervention and conflict, is vital if Sri Lankan studies scholars are to respond to the age of the so-called Anthropocene, the pandemic and geopolitical tussles over the island’s resources and geographical placement.
Sujit Sivasundaram is Professor of World History and Fellow in History at Gonville and Caius College at the University of Cambridge. His work is in the field of world history, especially of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His latest book is, ‘Waves Across the South: A New History of Revolution and Empire’ (2020), which won the British Academy’s Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding. He has also authored, ‘Islanded: Britain, Sri Lanka and the Bounds of an Indian Ocean Colony (2013) and many other publications in the histories of oceans, environments, empires, cultural encounter and race.
He has served as a Visiting Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris and as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at both the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore and the University of Sydney. He was the Sackler Caird Fellow, 2015-7, at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. In 2022-3, he will be a Visiting Professor at the Käte Hamburger Centre for Global History at LMU, Germany. In 2012 he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for History, awarded to early career scholars in the UK for contributions to research.
He gave the Royal Historical Society’s Prothero Lecture in 2019 and the University of Edinburgh’s Fennell Lecture in 2018. He regularly speaks to public audiences and school audiences and has spoken, for instance, at the Hay Festival, the Jaipur Literary Festival and the Cheltenham Festival. In 2022, he will be giving a lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society, London and a Lady Margaret Lecture at Christ’s College, Cambridge.