Before I give you the laundry list of what I'm doing today, here's something far more interesting and amusing -- Bruce Sterling's Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackout. The man is funny and educational at the same time. I wanna be able to do that. Oh well -- I can at least link to those who can.
Here's today's plans:
- read history
- send Q's to Patrick Hayden
- send Shmuel AE
- send various presents
- contact Trina/James re: call for papers (interdisciplinary and grad student conferences) -- draft due 1/30, final due 2/15
- do grad matching funds application for ICFA
- write recommendation for Shmuel and mail to Humanities Division, Dean of Students Office
- clear desk (so deceptively short a note!)
- send out SH updated guidelines
- SH bookmarks, mugs, t-shirt - get design specs to Lucy; find printer, print, distribute
- read Heir to Govandhara
7:00. Well, we're progressing, slowly. I just finished a very interesting essay on how historians have been reading ancient Sri Lankan texts. This sounds dry as dust, doesn't it? Until you realize that an awful lot of the current ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is based on some of these ancient texts, and on the way they've been used as justifications for a particular sort of belief in the importance of early Buddhism in Sri Lanka. There's a lot of rhetoric in this conflict about ancient Sinhalese Buddhism (supposedly 'pure'), and the invading Tamils from South India, and much of it is based on these ancient texts that have been taken as 'true' and 'historical' by academics.
The author of the essay proves (pretty conclusively in my opinion) that in fact, these texts were very much constructed at the time with particular religious and other ideological/political purposes -- that it's not at all safe to pick one of them and call it 'history'. And he does a really good job of explaining (in a footnote to his conclusion) why it's critically important for academics to seriously rethink what they've been doing. If there are words you're not familiar with here, just skim over them; I think you should be able to get the gist without them:
"Obviously, scholarship alone cannot solve the problems in Sri Lanka. But just as the mass media have been employed in order to reinforce the communalist program that has torn Sri Lanka asunder, so they can be employed in order to undermine that program. There are hopeful signs at the time of this writing that steps in this direction are now being taken, as the Sri Lankan press begins to focus upon the needs and goals common to all ethnic groups in the country, and as Lankika ("Sri Lankan") begins to displace "Sinhala" and "Tamil" as terms of national identity. But undoing the damage done by scholarly constructs requires redressing the construct of Sri Lankan history as well as the construct of modern social divisions. It is incumbent upon the Sinhala press, broadcasting corporations, textbook designers, and especially politicians to make use of scholarly reexaminations of the complex manner in which the traditional Sri Lankan polities, both before and after the Okkaka dynasty, worked to forge union rather than disunion among different linguistic and religious social groups, on the basis of subtle grammatical and theological epistemologies which, hierarchical though they surely were, constituted all Sri Lankans as parts of a larger whole, and moreover understood Sri Lanka itself to be part of a still larger whole. It is especially incumbent upon scholars to start making those reexaminations." ("Buddhist History", _Querying the Medieval_, Jonathan S. Walters, 149)
That all sounds very calm and academic, doesn't it? But it's really a strong demand for academics to a) realize that they've been interpreting things wrongly, b) realize that those interpretations have contributed to the conflict -- and to many many deaths and other tragedies, and c) start doing something to make amends for that damage -- or at least to stop contributing to it. I'm going to meet with my professor tomorrow and ask him what effect, if any, this essay has had on current scholarship (it's very recent). Hopefully some.
11:00 p.m. 100 pages to go. And a poem.
one of the ways in which you amaze me even though it has been so
what amazes me
that one might think that I would have gotten used to everything by
when I am not
it is not
and even better
that you wait
to figure it out
and even better
that you simply
Image NotebookIt starts with a rustling, barely perceptible through solid glass. And when you look up, the branches are still -- but the leaves are shivering, everywhere. A large piece of battered paper skips across the neighbor's roof, dancing. You know that if you open the window, your hair will lift and tangle. And as the rustling grows louder, for no good reason at all, you are happier than you were a few moments ago.