If, on the other hand, we [in universities] are producing people who write without reflection and vision, if we train people in these disciplines only in the very basics, and not with wisdom, as warned by King Thamus, maybe it is time that we asked some hard questions of ourselves. Rather than labeling such training ‘wisdom’ in our diminished intellectual and political climates, and contributing further to the already burdened society, we should ask ourselves if we are prepared to put in the resources, both human and material, to ensure standards of education that are associated with universities in their ideal sense in any civilized place. Or, are we more comfortable transitioning into technical colleges, polytechnics and other types of higher education institutions that are mass producing workers for the market? Our politicians have already made the decision. My invitation to you today is to reflect further on this question.
Sasanka Perera (From lecture delivered at Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, 26 August 2010.
As we all know quite well, South Asia, is an area that has been perpetually in a state of flux from mythic times right up to the more chaotic present, where most countries share overlapping histories and experiences of culture, coloniality, grappling with post colonial pains and political chaos and are constantly negotiating the global economic and cultural agendas within their own national perspectives. Unfortunately however, and despite the emergence of political structures such as SAARC, we do not have regular and serious forums for South Asian scholarship to showcase our own research and our own thinking. Even now, nearly half a century after the process of official decolonization began in the region, much of the analyses and pontifications on our problems, situations, histories and dynamics emanate from Euro American academia; this is certainly the case when it comes conceptual formulations and theoretical approaches from the Euro‐American zone that are being employed in exploring the region’s social and cultural complexities often without much self reflection.
Sasanka Perera (from Lecture delivered at Goethe Institut, Karachi at the launch of the ‘South Asia Journal for Culture’, 23rd October 2008)
I spend a considerable amount of time with a camera, not so much to capture reality as it exists, but often to capture images out of context so that reality itself becomes at best blurred or something to be interpreted. As a practice, this is not too dissimilar to the partial truths we are in the business of constructing. Nevertheless, not too long ago a friend of mine pointed out that my images almost never included people as the main focus. If at all, they were in the backdrop, almost devoid of consequence. And she was right. In that sense, the placement of people in my photos reminded me of how Hitler had located people in the context of the massive buildings with gothic pillars and other pompous features that he had painted as a failed art student early in his life. The thought gave me more than a few shudders. Nevertheless, for a long time, I had consciously avoided photographing people because I could not be sure if I was violating their personal space or not, every time I clicked; it was also too tedious to ask if it was OK to photograph them all the time. My dilemma with regard to photography was also a dilemma I often faced in research, particularly in fieldwork where as a self-conscious outsider I was nevertheless always present. Naturally, my dilemma and anxieties would always be more pronounced when I am working in areas of contestation.
Sasanka Perera (excerpt from lecture delivered at ‘Doing Research; Doing Ethnography: Workshop for Young Sociologists’ organized by the Indian Sociological Society and XXXVII All India Sociological Conference at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, 9th December 2011).
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