Category Archives: Abstracts

Papers abstracts

Darkness in the City: A Comparative Study of Life, Society and Politics in Dublin, Chicago, and Moscow

Senanayake, H.


The paper discusses the political and social life of the citizens of Dublin, Chicago, and Moscow based on three classics: Dubliners by James Joyce, Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser and Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. The novels describe the cities in the early World War period and how they changed due to a variety of external factors and social forces. These changes influenced the life and political behaviour of the people. Thus, the researcher analyzes the political and economic changes of the cities based on the concepts of voice, loyalty and exit. The social context of each city is analysed in light of international relations and the Hobbesian nature of humans. Comparative analytical tools are used to study these three cities and their common social behaviour. The study identifies major social transformations and the external and internal forces that caused them. Capital and social classification are identified as the major influencers of social reformation. In addition, religious institutions also influenced the social life in these three cities. Capital and financial waves of the early war era drastically changed the social life of the cities. The conclusion discusses these two major factors and five additional reasons for the changes in Dublin, Chicago, and Moscow.  

Keywords: Comparative analysis, Hobbesian Nature, Power, Religion, Social Classification

Three ‘Endangered Species’ in Theravada Buddhist Studies

Tilakratne A.


This paper proposes to study the current situation of an ancient field of study which dates back almost to the time of the Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Although the traditional Buddhist studies go to the antiquity, the modern western Buddhist studies started in the middle of the 19th century, a milestone of which is the start of the Pali Text Society in England in 1880s by Rhys Davids who studied Pali language in (then) Ceylon where he was an officer in the Colonial civil service. According to the tradition, Theravada was considered the most authentic Buddhist tradition which traced its origin to the immediate disciples of the Buddha, and Pali language in which the Theravada canon was written is considered the language spoken by the Buddha. The concept of ‘early Buddhism’ was used by the pioneering scholars such as Rhys Davids to refer to the form of Buddhism found in the Pali canon. The traditional belief about Theravada as the most authentic Buddhism and Pali language as the one spoken by the Buddha were questioned by the modern scholars from the beginning. With more recent discoveries of many different versions of the Buddhist scripture, the concept of early Buddhism is no longer applied exclusively to what is contained in the Theravada canon. This paper assesses the arguments for and against the validity and antiquity of these three phenomena; Theravada, Pali and early Buddhism, and shows that the debate is far from being conclusively over.

Keywords: Theravada, Pali, early Buddhism, relativism, skepticism

Childhood, disability and the social responsibility of storytelling: Reading Lal Medawattegedara’s Playing Pillow Politics at MGK

Shravika D. Amarasekara



Contemporary theorists in the field of childhood studies have highlighted the functions of children and childhood in cultural productions, emphasising how, rather than being an essentialist idea with an underlying ‘reality,’ childhood is differently constructed within various cultures, historical periods, and political ideologies. Analysing how concepts of childhood operate within literary and cultural productions is significant to an understanding of the specific investments made in children within that particular sociohistorical context. Examples can be drawn from the field of postcolonial writing where the child is often seen functioning as a national allegory or a trope for the postcolonial condition. From a disability studies perspective, the focus on the function of the ‘disabled child’ within literature is even more recent. Recent interdisciplinary research drawing on disability studies and postcolonial literary studies establishes that the nexus between disability and childhood in literary productions can produce a powerful aesthetic impact. Within the above theoretical framework, this paper seeks to examine the textual investment in the role of the disabled child in Lal Medawattegedara’s novel Playing Pillow Politics at MGK (2013). The narrative is unravelled by Deshan, the child narrator who is marked by his disability even before birth, as a “defect embryo.” Despite his inability to “utter meaningful words,” the child narrator is textually framed as a ‘gifted child’/storyteller who has the uncanny ability to read the minds of the people around him and recount the stories of the community inhabiting ‘MahaGeeni Kanda.’ This paper examines the representation of the social responsibility of the artist through the lens of disability and childhood and argues that Medawattegedara’s novel draws on the notion of the “exceptional child” in mapping out the social responsibility of the storyteller within a contemporary Sri Lankan setting.

Keywords: childhood, disability, postcolonial studies, storytelling

Jathika Chinthanaya: History and Political Significance

Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri




This essay reviews the history of the intellectual discourse known as Jathika Chinthanaya in Sri Lanka. This discourse emerged in the Sinhala-Buddhist south of Sri Lanka as a left-oriented intellectual movement and soon transformed into the intellectual front of extreme Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism. The central problem addressed in this essay is how the movement shifted away from its initial promise to overcome the limits of Marxism and propose an alternative vision to the existing capitalist economic and social order to become instead the intellectual front of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. This problem is investigated through a historical analysis of the evolution of the Jathika Chinthanaya discourse in its first two decades. The essay argues that the key to understanding the history of the movement, particularly the deviation from its left leanings towards an extreme form of ethno-nationalism, is to look at the problem in terms of the way in which it responded to the broader political and ideological circumstances in the Sinhala-Buddhist south in the period under review. Initially, the movement responded to the political vacuum created by the decline of the Left. This response took shape in a context where Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism was looking for new stimulus to face the challenge that came from growing militant Tamil nationalism. Jathika Chinthanaya successfully performed that task, especially by mobilising politically-conscious educated youth in the Sinhala-Buddhist south. Continuing to engage with the task of constructing an effective counter-discourse to the one that legitimised the Tamil political demands, the movement shifted further away from its initial left orientation and became an integral part of Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism as its most effective intellectual front.


Keywords: Gunadasa Amarasekera, Jathika Chinthanaya, Nalin De Silva, Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism, Sinhala-Buddhist South

Multifarious Replicas in Phenomenology: Metacognition and Mindfulness

W. M. P. Y. B. Rathnayake




Pedagogy has been seminally influenced by the studies on cognitive psychology in recent decades, leading research towards metacognitive approaches. Metacognition and mindfulness have been concepts used in cognitive pedagogical approaches with identical interpretations. Metacognition, a concept aligned with western scientific approach received grander recognition, while mindfulness being a Buddhist philosophical approach to mind that interacts less in research. This conceptual paper attempts to materialize a taxonomy for the Buddhist philosophical concept known as mindfulness and to contrast it with the taxonomy of metacognition thereby investigating the replicas of the two.

Taxonomy of metacognition is constructed upon two categories:  metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive skills. Metacognitive knowledge is a construct of three super categories: declarative, procedural, and conditional metacognitive knowledge. Metacognitive skills category consists of: regulation of cognition and executive functioning/metacognitive experiences. Mindfulness in contrast condenses three category levels: remembering and recollecting (sati), alertness (sampajañña), and ardency/compunction (atappa/ottappa). Remembering and recollecting category consists frames of references: body, feelings, mind and mental qualities at super-category level. Alertness category lies between the mind and the physical conduct of the body which has three super-categories. Ardency/compunction includes the desire/perseverance of mind to avoid unbeneficial coupled with desire to stimulate beneficial. These taxonomies at category, super-category and subcategory levels remain the material for the semantic analysis. 

The quintessence of both taxonomies remains identical thus paving category level replicas in reflection or remembering. The sub-category, super-category and category levels remain sensibly identical with distinctly agreed semantics. The semantics of two taxonomies display replicas in sub-category, super-category and category levels. Studies oriented towards calibration of such combined taxonomy for applied concerns in to the fields such as education, learning, cognitive psychology, pedagogy, psychopathology are prescribed. 

Keywords: Metacognition, Mindfulness, Phenomenology, Replicas, Taxonomy

Change and Continuity among the Batombu since 1900

Emmanuel Oladipo Ojo, Sabi Joshua Bio



Like elsewhere in Nigeria and Africa, the ‘pacification’ and imposition of colonial rule on Batombuland and the incursion of western ideas produced profound sociocultural, economic,and political changes in Batombu society. However, unlike several Nigerian and African peoples whose histories have received extensive scholarly attention, the history of the Batombu has attracted very little such attention. Thus virtually neglected, the Batombu occupies a mere footnotein the extant historiography of Nigeria. This is the gap this article seeks to fill. It examines the impact of colonialism and western civilisation on Batombu’s political, social, economic,and cultural institutions and concludes that, as profound and far-reaching as these changes were,some important aspects of the indigenous institutions and traditional practices of the people survived.

Keywords: Batombu, Nigeria, Africa, colonialism, institutions, change, continuity

Decolonial Thinking, Southern Theory, and the Search for Alternative Epistemologies in the Social Sciences

Jayadeva Uyangoda



A new discussion among Indian scholars has begun to initiate a critical dialogue between the postcolonial and decolonial approaches to historical and social analysis with radical traditions of social and political thought in India. Akash Singh Rathore’s book Indian Political Theory: Laying the Groundwork for Swaraj (2017) is an important intervention that raises important questions of the politics of theory, philosophy and epistemology while also suggesting that decolonial scholarship should be aware of the dangers of ‘hyper nationalism.’ Taking a clue from this book, this essay critically surveys the major scholarly strands that have attempted at producing ‘non-Western’ epistemologies and social –historical analysis and calls for an agenda that is broader than those proposed by Indian subaltern, postcolonial, and decolonial projects.


Keywords: Decolonial thinking, Southern theory, Subaltern approach, decolonization, western epistemology, alternative epistemologies

An Inventory of Arabic Learners’ Writing Strategies: A Sri Lankan Case Study

N. Gafoordeen


Studies on writing in Arabic language are still in the early stages. This study investigated the writing strategies used by Sri Lankan learners of Arabic as a foreign language. The purposes of this study were to identify the writing strategies employed by these learners in composing Arabic essays and to propose an inventory of writing strategies for Arabic writing. This research employed a qualitative method. Participants were instructed to write an essay in Arabic, and data were elicited using a think-aloud protocol, observation, and retrospective interview. Eighteen pre-university Arabic language learners from the Fathih Institute of Sri Lanka participated in this investigation. They represent proficient, average, and less proficient writers and were selected based on a preliminary writing test and recommendation of the instructor. Data were then coded and rated by three experts. The Cohen’s Kappa inter-rater agreement value was 0.86. Findings showed that the learners used all five rhetorical, metacognitive, cognitive, communicative, and social/affective writing strategies. In using these strategies, the learners differed in how and why they used particular strategies. This study acknowledged thirty-six writing strategies used by persons learning Arabic as a foreign language in composing essays: an Arabic as a Foreign Language-Writing Strategies (AFL-WS) inventory. The findings suggest that Arabic writing instructors need to train learners in using these strategies effectively and productively. Then the learners would know their true ability to manage the language task.

Keywords: Arabic language, Sri Lanka, cognitive, metacognitive, writing strategies 

Caste in Popular Buddhism in Sri Lanka

U.G.L.B. Jayasooriya


Buddhism is among major religious beliefs worldwide and is considered a philosophy rather than a religion. It is the doctrine preached by the Buddha. One of the most important teachings of Buddhism is equality; the Buddha rejected discrimination based on caste, colour, and so on and taught his followers to do the same. However, some current Buddhist practices clearly adhere to the caste discrimination prevailing in society. Hence the study was carried out to evaluate attitudes and perceptions of monks and laypersons about the prevailing caste related Buddhist practices against Buddha’s doctrine. A qualitative study was conducted on 20 subjects selected through purposive sampling. The sample was a mixture of laymen/women and Buddhist monks. In-depth interviews were conducted for approximately one hour per individual. The results revealed that the divisions of nikaya or monastic order/fraternity in Buddhism is primarily formed and continues based on caste differences. Further the study revealed the awareness of the general public regarding the caste-based practices in the Temple of Tooth. But none of there spondents could justify any of the findings in relation to Buddhist doctrine, and a majority believed caste-based practices as a tradition transferred from generation to generation. It was also explained by a few that casteism has become a tradition which the public accept blindly without questioning it in relation to Buddhist teachings. The results of the study recommend that Sinhala Buddhists who appreciate equality should contribute to a social discourse attempting to change caste-based discrimination. The study also suggests that people should get rid of conservative ideas to reject unacceptable practices prevailing in popular Buddhism so as to promote and protect pure Buddhism.

Keywords: Buddhism, caste, discrimination, nikaya (monastic order/fraternity)

“I am the only one propagating true Dharma”: Li Hongzhi’s Self-Presentation as Buddha and Greater

James R. Lewis



Li Hongzhi, founder-leader of Falun Gong, was a controversial figure even before his movement was banned in China in 1999. We find conflicting images of Master Li (as Falun Gong members refer to him) as a revered spiritual teacher among his followers and as just another a cult leader to his detractors. From early on, Li Hongzhi presented himself as a high-level spiritual teacher who had studied under a series of exalted spiritual masters in what should be referred to as his hagiography.  Perhaps surprisingly, we also often find instances of practitioners and other friends of the movement blatantly ignoring, downplaying, or whitewashing the more controversial of Li Hongzhi’s teachings.  As his following grew, Li Hongzi’s claims to spiritual greatness grew as well, until he began viewing himself as a bodhisattva who had come to earth to save humanity from an impending apocalypse.  However, as his self-conception continued to expand, even the status of bodhisattva seemed insufficient to capture his increasing sense of his own specialness. Eventually, he not only claimed to be a transcendent god, situated well beyond all earthly and spiritual realms, but also claimed that all other spiritual teachers, including Jesus and the historical Buddha, were his disciples. This paper provides a brief backdrop to Li Hongzhi and the Falun Gong movement, then traces the development of Master Li’s evolving self-perception.

Keywords: Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong, new religion