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Since times immemorial, people have experienced the divine spiritual through art and architecture. In Shared Sanctities, museuologist and writer Hasini Haputhanthri explores some of the historically sacred spaces in Sri Lanka together with photographer and film maker Sujeewa de Silva, producing five visual narratives on religious confluence.
Hasini and Sujeewa situate Sri Lanka as an island of encounters, where people, ideas and traditions from all over the world arrived via sail boats and ships and then took root, adapted and grew into new forms. By exploring heritage sites of Polonnaruwa, Nalanda, Kandy, Galle and Colombo they document how temples and kovils, churches and mosques have all borrowed, shared and evolved through time, making the island, as Marco Polo says 'undoubtedly the finest island of its size in the world'.
'How lucky we are to have had Mala — taking on the big concerns of our time examining them with love and care. She concludes her essay on the Sigiriya frescoes by conjuring the uncontainable power of these painted women - their "smile lingers' , as she says. We hope the reader of these essays will see- as we do- that Mala's vast humanity and Mala's irrepressible smile, lingers."
'Her Smile Lingers’ : a collection of selected essays by Malathi de Alwis, edited by Kanchana N Ruwanpura, Caryll Tozer, Chulani Kodikara, Sonali Deraniyagala and Vraie Cally Balthazar
This study is based on an analysis of people's perceptions of the 'religious other'. The data was collected at the end of 2019 by interviewing 1,000 respondents in four multi-religious districts: Ampara, Colombo, Galle and Mannar. The sample consisted of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Roman Catholics in equal proportions.
The study generates some preliminary findings on how different communities perceive religious tolerance and coexistence. By presenting different life scenarios and talking to 1,000 men and women of different age groups from four areas reflecting the diverse religious composition in Sri Lanka, the study seeks to enhance our understanding of inter-group and intra-group relations in Sri Lanka, as the country struggles to build social harmony and religious cohesion. The study seeks to influence law, policy and social interventions, that can eliminate or least reduce, religiously motivated violence, and promote respect for and tolerance of `the other'.
This article draws from personal interviews with individuals from the Muslim community and secondary sources and outlines the devotional, cultural, and popular music and song traditions of the Muslims of Sri Lanka. It discusses local, regional, and international influences on Muslim music trends and reasons for the decline in musical engagement around the turn of the century. The article calls for wider discussion on and cross-sharing of the different music traditions of the Muslims of Sri Lanka.
As the separation between those who lived through Sri Lanka's civil war and those who come to learn about the war grows, future generations' understanding of the war becomes the war itself - all factual truth diminishes and makes room for one generation's perception to be passed down to the next. What is key here is that there is no singular perception of an event, but rather competing perceptions - and these perceptions compete in the space of history production.
The teaching of history education is made up of a complex web of barriers that have caused history reforms to fall short. While much research has been done on why and how history education should be used as a tool for peace education, few have explored why after such research, Sri Lankan history education continues to exclude marginalized histories and silo communities over ethno-religious divides. The structure of reform efforts has a way of siloing academics, organizers, policy makers, and educators and because of this siloing, we lack a full picture of who is working on what and how we can work together, to strategize in shared efforts and in solidarity. This paper serves to map the multiple facets of Sri Lanka's history education structure, explore why tried reforms have and have not gained momentum, and theorize as to how multiple stakeholders can strategize together based on lessons learned.
The revival of economic activity in those areas most affected by the civil conflict were given priority after the war ended in 2009. The development of infrastructure, the resettlement of communities and rebuilding livelihoods were key areas of focus for the state, humanitarian actors, the diaspora and the private sector.
This research sets out to understand how these initiatives have changed the economic landscape for women in the North of Sri Lanka. More specifically, it explores the economic opportunities that have been created for women's advancement and empowerment in the North since the end of the war. By employing a multi-disciplinary approach, the different studies in this book have been able to uncover not just economic factors, but also cultural, social and psycho-social reasons associated with women's decisions to work, their livelihood outcomes and their state of economic empowerment.
The research shows that while the conflict has unquestionably created a strong regressive impact on the overall well-being of women, long-term structural challenges stemming from deep-rooted gender norms, and flaws in post-conflict livelihood intervention initiatives also stand in the way of women's economic empowerment in the North.
The research is based on field work undertaken in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka during 2015 and 2016.
Since their ancestors' arrival on the island in the nineteenth century, Up-country Tamils have lived at the margins of Sri Lankan society and politics, while being an integral part of the country's import-export economy. This book focuses on the ways in which Up-country Tamils continue to be marginalised, how far they have entered the mainstream, and the difficulties that they have faced along the way. The present moment provides an opportune time for considering the role of the Up-country Tamils, and the interactions between majority and minority, and between margin and mainstream in contemporary Sri Lanka. For ten years after the end of the war in May 2009, most political and academic debate and discussion about ethnic reconciliation have centred on a simplistic Sinhala-Tamil binary, ignoring other ethnic groups and the multiplicity of Tamil identities on the island.
The end of the war brought some relief concerning the most pressing issues the country faced in the past three decades in ending the brutal violence that caused the deaths, debilitation and displacement of thousands of Sri Lankans. Yet, it has not resolved many issues relating to majority-minority relations and power sharing in the post-colonial Sri Lankan state. Despite numerous political proclamations and a major change in government, limited progress has been made in regard to post-war ethnic reconciliation in the country.
This book addresses the many problems that Up-country Tamils face in contemporary Sri Lanka, politically, economically and socially, as well as the historical origins and structural determinants of their current predicament. The individual chapter authors pay particular attention to the changes that have taken place for Up-country Tamils since 2009, and their implications for the future of the community. After the April 2019 Easter attacks, reconciliation seems like an ever more distant dream. Yet, the analyses in this book, focused on Up-country Tamils' precarious position in twenty-first century Sri Lanka, are still salient as Sri Lankans come to terms with a new social and political reality.
Lanka, Ceylon, Sarandib: merely three disparate names for a single island? Perhaps. Yet the three diverge in the historical echoes, literary cultures, maps and memories they evoke. Names that have intersected and overlapped – in a treatise, a poem, a document – only to go their own ways. But despite different trajectories, all three are tied to narratives of banishment and exile. Ronit Ricci suggests that the island served as a concrete exilic site as well as a metaphor for imagining exile across religions, languages, space and time: Sarandib, where Adam was banished from Paradise; Lanka, where Sita languished in captivity; and Ceylon, faraway island of exile for Indonesian royalty under colonialism. Utilizing Malay manuscripts and documents from Sri Lanka, Javanese chronicles, and Dutch and British sources, Ricci explores histories and imaginings of displacement related to the island through a study of the Sri Lankan Malays and their connections to an exilic past.
"Challenging the boundaries that too often divide area studies, Ronit Ricci's linguistic skills and path-breaking research historicize the Malay presence in contemporary Sri Lanka. Banishment and Belonging is a true tour de force" ~ Barbara Watson Andaya, University of Hawai'i
"Ronit Ricci has had to work, in her own words, with 'fragments', 'echoes', and 'imagination' to compose this fascinating history of longing and belonging in colonial Asia. It is a story based in formidable scholarship, yet told with grace and empathy." ~ Jonathan Spencer, University of Edinburgh
"An excellent read on the modern manifestations of stigma, discrimination, and violence against Muslims. It not only explores the various intersections of the experiences of Muslims but delves into the root causes of anti-Muslim sentiments and incidents in a nuanced manner" ~ Rehab Mahamoor