Sudharshan Seneviratne, whose interest in the use of archaeology in building national and ethnic identities has led to innovative programs in conflict resolution and peace studies, is this year’s Cornell Visiting Professor. Currently a professor and chair of archaeology at the University of Peradeniya, Seneviratnes is also director general of the Central Cultural Fund of Sri Lanka, the custodian organization of the country’s UNESCO-declared World Heritage sites.
“My research work is directed towards utilizing history and archaeology for human rights activity, conflict resolution, and peace studies, with special reference to school children and village communities,” he says. “In addition, my current work also involves environmental protection, especially UNESCO-prescribed intangible heritage, sustainable management of the environment through heritage initiatives, and revitalizing traditional craft communities.”
Hosted in the Department of Religion, this fall Seneviratne will teach Buddhist Ideology and Social Response, an examination of the functional role of Buddhism in response to urbanism and empire systems in North India, mercantilism in central and south India, monastic feudalism in Sri Lanka, and colonialism and post-colonial nationalism of South Asia. Next semester, he will teach Politics of the Past, a study of the sophisticated and widespread contemporary political use of cultural material from historical and archaeological sources.
For more than 30 years, Seneviratne has explored Sri Lankan and Indian archaeological sites and developed research methodologies in interpretative and theoretical archaeology. In 2002, he received the Distinguished Leadership Award from the American Bibliographic Institute for his contributions to archaeology and history and was inducted as a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences in Sri Lanka. He is the first Sri Lankan to receive both an M.A. and Ph.D from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.