By Suren Rāghavan –
The Greeks had no single term to express what we imply by the word ‘life.’ They used two terms that, despite the fact that traceable to a widespread etymological root, are semantically and morphologically distinct: zoē, which expressed the straightforward reality of living typical to all living beings (animals, guys, or gods), and bios, which indicated the type or way of living proper to an person or a group” – (Gerogoi Agamban 1998)
The news that a section of the faculty of University of Colombo had decided to stop their academic engagements to bring an end to the on-going rather inhuman ragging inside their university (and other greater education institutions) is disturbing and welcoming.
Disturbing since ragging of such cruel nature should nonetheless exist, welcoming as the faculty members have decided to address this seriously.
Universities are not only about earning a degree or helping towards that. They are centers of societal citations and (re)type procedure within the context of information gaining and transferring. Passing exams and achieving a degree is deemed a core element of that method aimed at the discipline of systemic thought evaluation. But the complete objective of university education is severely undermined if the advancement of vital nonacademic person building sphere is non-current or deliberately dismantled. In such definitions, Sri Lanka universities have a checked history of person and collective violence. I am not certain if a thorough going research has been ever undertaken to examine the culture of (physical, sexual and social) violence inside the universities of Sri Lanka. If not, it seems an urgent necessity.
The nexus of violence
When we discover the concern of university violence, it robotically gravitates about the query as if the epicenter of such phenomena is correlated to the waves of political power struggles outside of these universities. As all universities in Lanka are nevertheless state funded and operate below the political sub structure, such cross fertilization of state power politics and normativity of violence can not be separated. Lanka’s postcolonial history is fractured with junctures of direct body politics of violence. 1971 JVP armed struggle showed that by then Lankan universities had turn into the ideological cradle of legitimization of collective violence. Such process and their historical weight crushes the thin layer of social fabric inside universities. In a Foucauldian sense, Lankan university politics quintessentially submerges with the biopolitcal dynamics outdoors. For Foucault (1997) “biopolitics is a new technologies of power for violence [that] exists at a diverse level, on a diverse scale, and has various bearing places, and tends to make use of extremely diverse instruments inside the state governing structure”. In Lanka, certainly such biopolitics and sovereign exceptionalism usually constructs the primary filed of politics. Beneath biopolitics, life, society and energy grow to be indistinct. Violence against the new comers by the seniors -who ironically were ragged by their seniors when entering university, then becomes the recurrent dynamic connected to the nature of politics at big.
The thought of positions – ascribed or accomplished – as an instrument of oppressive energy- is an intrinsic feature of Lankan politics. More than 4 centuries of colonial oppression and the historical feudal and monastic control more than the peasant citizenry that is romantically memorialized as ‘ideal’ type of governance in the well-liked discourse have moralized a energy game of violence. The struggle for control is deeply dichotomized and sharply projected as elitist versus non-elites or the peripheral rural versus the urban center. On the foundation of such mindset, a violence political culture is normalized by structural political operation. Such illiberal undemocratic behave had turn out to be the norm of elected politicians in the current history. When the state concretizes such patterns as privilege of rule, while a wider civic society became prepared spectators, violence for energy and particular display of energy over the layer quickly under is inevitable. It is a truth the J R Jawawardane , Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickramasinghe are representative of such elitist energy circles in Lanka. For the very same reason in a comparative sense, the level personal corruption of the above three are marginal as witnessed in Premadasa and Rajapakse eras. Each Premadasa and Rajapaksa are nevertheless deemed as representatives of the oppressed class, who in my analyses in turn became super oppressors. What operates inside the universities also travels on a parallel trajectory. It is secure to suspect that the culture of violence on campus attracts students from rural background. It is for this purpose from Daya Pathirana to Sanjeewa Bandara are either victims and/or part of that violent political approach. It appears that all university of Lanka from Jaffna to Ruhuna has an equal level of potentiality to make such violence. Demographical, socioeconomic and pre university expertise of violence of the leaders of this ragging culture may shed some valuable sociological keys to unlock this paradigmatic process of internal /external violence.
A challenged academia
As I have argued elsewhere it will be an crucial moral example when the academia can initial lead the campaign against such ill democracies within them. This will then earn the correct to be heard when they moralize their demands just before the wider society and then lastly with the state. Lankan academics are a unique group of individuals working below completely difficult situations. Lack of reward or recognition, lack of physical and monitory resources for desired researches, constant party politicization, and the looming fear of really unionized students who carry an immediate capacity for violence are some continual reality they are called to deal with. Nevertheless academic integrity does not cease at ethics of paper marking and moral partnership with students. That is the minimum currency. In truth the by-laws. Constant instance of individual development for intellectual assentation and to play the part of an agent provocateur for positive modifications within the campus are a portion of the ‘internal social contract’ that faculty members of universities can aspire to. While most surely such practices might prevail, they are mainly based on individual worldviews. What is needed now is to make such a portion of the overarching academic faculty culture.
Three decade of LTTE terror politics and equally or deeper state terror have only legitimized the acceptance of direct biopolitics on campuses as typical. Ragging that humiliates and seeks to manage the newcomers is homophobic and stems from a subterranean heteronormativity mindset. Ragging also displays deep crisis of understanding of individual and collective energy and the politics behind them. The majority of the present regime – have turn out to be the monopoly of such oppressive power mobilization. Such has become the well-known culture. The thought of militarizing the universities has only future deepen the crisis.
We all want Lanka achieves its complete academic potentiality which is no doubt world class. We can demand the state to make greater education an independent but interdependent zone of democracy and intellectual free of charge considering. For this end, continual vigilant to secure guard the free of charge education program and its democratic influence on the wider society is basic and not negotiable. Nevertheless, what is a pure summation of such freedom and democracy if the 1st population of the university- the students do not not appreciate and conduct themselves as representatives of such aspirations. Humiliating ragging and physical violence against the newcomers diminishes all such ethos. Ragging of all forms should be stopped. Quickly and with out apology. The collective action of the faculty members is a good first step in that direction
Agamben, Giorgio (1998) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford University Press pp 1
Foucault, Michel (1997). Society Need to Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. p. 242
*Dr. Suren Rāghavan is a Sri Lankan academic- at present visiting professor at University of St Paul – Ottawa and a Senior Study Fellow at the Centre for Buddhist Studies – University of Oxford. [email protected]