First ever chair of Tamil studies to be established at a Canadian university

The project, launched by University of Toronto along with Canada-based Tamil groups in 2018, is now a reality with sufficient funds having been raised to endow the position that will be located at the university’s Scarborough campus
A performance during Tamil heritage celebrations at University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus in 2019. (UTSC)
A performance during Tamil heritage celebrations at University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus in 2019. (UTSC)
Published on May 23, 2021 11:17 AM IST
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By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Nadim Siraj

The Canadian city of Toronto will be the venue for the first ever chair in Tamil studies to be established at a university in the country.

The project, launched by University of Toronto along with Canada-based Tamil groups in 2018, is now a reality with sufficient funds having been raised to endow the position that will be located at the university’s Scarborough campus.

Canada has the largest Tamil population outside the Indian subcontinent, numbering over 300,000 and with roots in India, Sri Lanka, and other nations such as Singapore and Malaysia.

The chair will foster scholarship and research into the language and as well as its cultural aspects.

The groups that participated in the initiative included Canadian Tamil Congress and Tamil Chair Inc, and among its supporters was the government of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

A total of $3 million has been raised for the endowment to begin the process of formalising the programme.

Wisdom J Tettey, principal of University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus (UTSC) told HT that the university will now embark on a global search to appoint the chair.

He said they will seek an “outstanding reputation and who can undertake research and connect with the community in ways that ensure co-learning and reciprocal interaction”.

Among those who welcomed the move was accountant Sivan Ilangko, also president of Canadian Tamil Congress. “The worldwide Tamil community is interested in both ancient and modern Tamil literature. There are also expectations that the Tamil chair will include interdisciplinary studies, cultural studies, classics, sociology, political science, anthropology, geography, linguistics, literature and fine arts. We expect there will be teaching and research in these areas,” he said.

Ilangko pointed out that Tamil is among the oldest surviving classical languages with a tradition that is more than 2,000 years old. It is also a modern language spoken by over 80 million people in numerous countries.

UTSC principal Tettey felt that institutionalising Tamil studies will attract those even beyond the Tamil community. “Tamil studies have different components - from language studies, to history and culture. As an institution with a global remit and perspective, the interest will be from a wide range of people around the world with different motivations,” said Tettey.

“The chair’s work in the context of Toronto, which has a huge community of Tamil origin with global connections, will support our vision of inspiring inclusive academic excellence and enriching our multicultural society by studying, promoting, and sustaining Tamil culture and heritage around the world,” the UTSC principal said.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021