Tamil Studies Symposium reflects on Tamil identity, gender and violence

Tamil Studies Symposium partial poster

The 2015 Tamil Studies Symposium, Beyond Refuge: Shaping Tamil Studies in the Present, will explore the possibilities for Tamil studies in the international context by examining the ways in which Tamil identity is constructed from the outside and the inside.

Tamil Studies Symposium posterThis is the first time that the event is being held at York University. The day-long symposium on Friday, May 1, will feature academic panels and the N. Sivalingam Memorial Lecture on Tamil Studies, and will conclude with a bilingual poetry event. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The event will begin with a youth roundtable at 10am at 280A York Lanes and continue at 12:30pm at 519 Kaneff Tower. Panellists at the symposium will reflect on: Tamil identity as constructed by state practices that continually marginalize it with the taint of terrorism; the practical impacts of host state laws and policies; and internal cultural practices that marginalize vulnerable members through biases based on caste, race, religion, gender and mental health. Organizers hope the discussion will stimulate questions of whether Tamil studies can be a site for a more inclusive discourse, and how such inclusive discourse may be framed.

The second part of the symposium will begin with the presentation of the first N. Sivalingam Award in Tamil Studies followed by the N. Sivalingam Memorial Lecture on Tamil Studies. Professor Nimmi Gowrinathan of City College New York will present the inaugural lecture. Both the award and the lecture will honour Nagaratnam Sivalingam, a pioneer and leader of the Tamil community in Canada, who dedicated his life to promoting both Tamil culture and issues of concern to the community.

Gowrinathan’s lecture, “The Female Fight: Gender & Violence in Sri Lanka,” will explore issues of gender and violence in the conflict zone. She is an expert on gender and violence, and the creator of deviarchy.com. She is currently a visiting research professor at the Colin Powell Center for Global and Civic Leadership at City College New York, directing the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative. She is also the executive producer developing the Vice News “Women in/at War” series. She has recently been the gender expert for the United Nations Human Development Report on Afghanistan and a policy consultant and analyst for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the International Crisis Group, researching and analyzing gender inclusion in peace-building and women’s insecurities in conflict zones.

The lecture will be followed by Kannamma Kavithai (Kannamma’s poetry), a bilingual poetry event featuring Zulfika Ismael, Geetha Sukumaran, Avvai Vickneasweran and Gowri Koneswaran.

The 2015 Tamil Studies Symposium at York University is supported by: the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies; the Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation; the Centre for Refugee Studies; the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode Hall Law School; the Department of Humanities; the Centre for Feminist Research; and the York Centre for Asian Research; with special thanks to the Sivalingam family.

For more information or to view the program, visit York Centre for Asian Research’s Tamil Studies web page or email tamil@yorku.ca.