Yapahwua 2016: Resource Persons and History Students from the Universities of Colombo and Jaffna, at the second phase of the History and Community Project


The History and Community Project:

Background: The History and Community project was started with the support of the organisation FLICT (Facilitating Local Initiatives for Conflict Transformation) and runs to the seventh consecutive year with funding provided through EU as a partner with FLICT GIZ. The project was proposed against the backdrop of ‘History’, or the interpretation of the past that has become an integral part of the self- imaginations of communities and understanding of major socio-political crises in Sri Lanka. Therefore, this project is an academic endevour to capture social, political and ideological sensitive community specific aspects and interpretations of the past by various communities in Sri Lanka.

The aim of the project:
The aim is to expose History undergraduates from both Sinhala and Tamil speaking universities to make multiple historical interpretations about the past of Sri Lanka. The project gives an opportunity to undergraduate students from various communities to share and discuss interpretations of a common past under the guidance of experts in the field. The project also has the aims of capacity building through developing students interpersonal skills and creating a center to promote new historical research and exchange of scholars.
Participants of the project:
The main participants are students reading for a special degree in History at University of Colombo and University of Jaffna.
Medium : Tamil/Sinhala/English
Main activities:
Preliminary workshop for Colombo and Jaffna students:
• Students listen to two main lectures on what is the nexus between History and Archeology and the trends in Sri Lankan historiography and generate a discussion based on the main points
• Students engage in an activity to understand how historical symbols that are considered as national and cultural symbols of a particular community are in fact common and shared symbols of a wider geographical unit that consist of South/South east and East Asia.
• A documentary done on Historiography and its impact on community understandings of history will be shown to students
• Students are grouped and they are asked to reflect on what they have learnt throughout the day

Two-day residential programme for students from both universities:
• One day visit to a selected historical site as a preparatory trip to prepare for a major site visit in the third workshop. Students learn how to read a historical site and share each communities views of the past in order to understand mutually exclusive interpretations of the same event, objects and phenomena

• Cultural event at night

• Half day workshop to give students an understanding of theories/concepts that are related to understanding community views of history

• Students group activity and feedback
Four day visit to Pollonnaruwa , a major historical site with ‘hybrid’ cultural elements

• Students from each community will form into groups and visit the site to compile a profile with special attention to general/popular reading of the places in Polonnaruwa.

• Groups will present their observations and will have a discussion about their own observations with the main resource person (an archeologist) and rest of the resource persons.

• One-day workshop where the selected resource persons will share their own research work that will give an insight for to be critical on traditional approaches to history.

• Half-day activity and feedback session.