Mark Whitaker

Grant Type

Conference Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Kentucky, U. of

Grant number

Gr. CONF-754

Approve Date

March 2, 2017

Project Title

Whitaker, Dr. Mark, U. of Kentucky, Lexington, KY - To aid workshop on 'Innovative Religiosity in Postwar Sri Lanka,' 2017, Open U., Colombo, Sri Lanka

Preliminary abstract: This is a proposal to gather 15 scholars, local and foreign, at the campus of the Open University in Colombo, Sri Lanka for a three-day ethnographic workshop. The workshop’s purpose is to ask why innovative religious practices and institutions in Sri Lanka and its diaspora have achieved a new prominence since the end of its inter-ethnic civil war in 2009. By ‘innovative’ here is meant religious practices and institutions that are occurring at the borders of the so-called world religions. Since Sri Lanka is both religiously and ethnically plural, with a history of religiously inflected, violent, ethnic nationalism, the scholars at this workshop work on all of Sri Lanka’s officially recognized ‘world’ religions — Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity — as well as on associated ‘New Religious Movements’ and institutions. It is the hypothesis of this workshop that these developments in ‘innovative religiosity’ are associated by their similar liminal positioning and practical ambitions. That is, because these developments lie just outside pre-war conventional practical and institutional forms of Sri Lankan religion, and thus at a somewhat oblique angle to public scrutiny (or, at least, understanding), their positioning allows Sri Lankan people who feel in need of dealing innovatively with the complex pressures and alterations of the post-conflict world new locations and tools to do so — though not without sometimes arousing contestation and reversal. In the wake of the workshop participants will publish a summary journal article and, then, a special journal issue or scholarly anthology, as prolegomena to further, collaborative research this workshop will plan.