Promoting a culture of peace, non-violence and global citizenship: History and Community Project

Due to the ethnic crisis that lasted over decades Tamil and Sinhala communities drifted apart forgetting the common Indian subcontinent past that they both share. The Department of History of the University of Colombo is in the view that history writing, teaching and learning in Sri Lanka (as in many other settings) have indirectly contributed to the ethnic crisis in many forms. Thus, with the broad aim of promoting a culture of peace, non-violence and global citizenship the History Department of the University of Colombo initiated the History and Community project in 2009 with the Department of Social Sciences in the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka. The main objective of this project is to expose students to conflicting historical interpretations of the past and to share and experience various interpretations consumed by different ethnic communities.

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Further, this initiative enables to strengthen students’ critical thinking by engaging with the ‘other’ community. Over the years, the Department of History has extended the project to other state universities including the Eastern University of Sri Lanka and the University of Jaffna. Lately, the Department of history at the University of Jaffna has agreed to collaborate with us to make it an annual event.

Project entails:

  • Two one day orientation workshops at Colombo and Jaffna
  • Workshop cum historical site visit in Jaffna
  • Workshop cum historical site visit in Polonnaruwa

This has been an annual field visit cum community project of the two history departments since 2015. This project is funded by the GIZ Sri Lanka.

Way Forward:

  • From 2022 this project will be offered as a compulsory course unit (with 6 credits) in the second year of the history honors degree programme. This entails group work assignments where Colombo students have to engage intensely with Jaffna students in interpreting primary sources and historical sites.
  • In 2023 we plan to extend the same to the Department of History of University of Jaffna. In view of that, three lecturers of the Department of History together with three alumni of the History and Community Project undertook the responsibility of summarizing and translating the book Doing History (2011) into local languages (Sinhala and Tamil). The Sinhala translation will be published in December 2021 and the Tamil translation will be ready by July 2022.
  • Establishing a Centre – Since History and Community project was appreciated by a number of international scholars in the discipline of history, we are keen to broaden our network with other state universities. Going forward, we hope to institutionalize the History and Community project by reaching out to schools as we strongly feel the need to provide a non-nationalist lens to the discipline of history in view of producing future global citizens.
  • Environment and Sustainability Guidelines