Sujatha Arundathi MeegamaReturn to the Blog

By Justin Nadir on September 4th, 2013

Sujatha Arundathi Meegama completed her dissertation at the University of California Berkeley in May 2011.  Her current book project, tentatively titled as Constructing the Canon: Patrons and Artisans of Buddhist and Hindu Temples in Sri Lanka, questions the ethno-religious construction of the Sri Lankan art historical canon and argues for an alternative narrative, one in which religious, cultural, and visual boundaries are negotiated by diverse patrons and artisan workshops.  Rather than simply arguing that Theravada Buddhism is irrelevant or plays a minor part in the larger narrative about Sri Lankan art, this project, in addition to studying the roles of various sponsors of temples, specifically examines the role of Buddhist monks as patrons of temples and literary works, which are devoted to local and pan-Indic deities.  Popularly portrayed as a conservative and hence a static-unchanging tradition, this study problematizes this idea of Theravada Buddhism by locating the significant roles played by Buddhist monks in the changes that took place in Sri Lankan Buddhism in medieval and early-modern Sri Lanka.  It moreover, points to the futility in nineteenth-century attempts to categorize religions, ethnic groups, and visual traditions in Sri Lanka along the binary lines of Sinhalese-Buddhist versus Tami-Hindu.

After teaching at UC Berkeley for one year as a James R. Gray Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, Sujatha is currently an Assistant Professor of art history at the School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.  This summer, she will be presenting one of her book chapters at the “Historical Interpretation” workshop organized by the American Institute of Sri Lankan Studies in Colombo.  While in Sri Lanka, she will also be conducting some new research on roadside shrines to the Hindu god Ganesha in the war-torn northern regions of Sri Lanka for a second book project on seeing the divine in contemporary Sri Lankan religious culture.  She hopes to share some of her early findings at the 41st Annual Conference on South Asia at Wisconsin-Madison for which she has organized the dual panel, “War and Visual Culture in Sri Lanka.”  Anyone interested in Sri Lankan art may contact her at:  [email protected]

Leave a Comment