Research scholar gets honorary fellowship

Posted on March 6, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |


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courtesy: The Hindu

The Head of the Department of Kannada, Mangalore University, B.A. Viveka Rai, conferring the honorary fellowship of the Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy on the folk scholar, Peter J. Claus, in Mangalore on Wednesday.

MANGALORE JAN. 7. The Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy on Wednesday conferred its first honorary fellowship here on Peter J. Claus, lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of California, U.S.

The association of Dr. Claus with the erstwhile undivided Dakshina Kannada district and his pioneering research in Tulu folklore dates back to the Sixties when the research scholar was in his early Twenties.

B.A. Viveka Rai, scholar, who honoured Dr. Claus, said it was important to have a “foreign eye” to recognise the inherent beauty and intricacies in one’s culture. One learnt about his/ her culture through constant study over a period of time, he said and added that the perspective given by people such as Dr. Claus served as a reference point.

Dr. Rai said indigenous people often took their culture for granted and noted that the infusion of thoughts and ideas into a study often helped bring out newer elements to the fore. The study undertaken by Dr. Claus in the Sixties represented a paradigm shift in the manner in which one viewed and understood the unique diversities of Tulu culture.

He said there was a tendency to appreciate any detailed study of local culture by “foreigners” and another which viewed the same task with a sense of suspicion. This stemmed from doubts about the purpose of such a study by an “outsider” and if the person had any intention of indulging in “academic post-colonial invasion” of local culture through the exercise.

Referring to the recent parleys between India and Pakistan, Dr. Rai said culture had the inherent power to overcome narrow political considerations and chart a new course for itself.

He said it was politics which often passed value judgements on whether a particular culture was inferior or superior, and added that creative people such as Dr. Claus transcended such a tendency. He said such people were devoid of biases when studying other cultures in all its diversities and added that such a study often highlighted the diversities in the thought process of the rulers and the subjects.

He hailed the contribution of Dr. Claus in giving Tulu culture a fresh perspective, especially to its folklore of “Siri” and “Paddanas” through his work.

Replying to the honour conferred on him, Dr. Claus recollected his association with the district and dedicated the award to the Tulu people and their generosity in allowing him to study their culture.

He said his only contribution to Tulu and its culture was to translate what he had learnt from the indigenous people (the Tuluvas) into English.

Dr. Claus recalled the help extended to him by many people including the then District Collector, Premanth Alva Kariangala Guthu, to more recent contemporaries such as Dr. Rai and his colleague at Mangalore University, K. Chinnappa Gowda, C.N. Ramachandra, and Umesh Malli. He said the study would not have been possible without their help.

Dr. Gowda, who delivered the felicitation address, said Dr. Claus had given a new framework for the study of Tulu folklore and referred to his thesis, “Kinship system in Bunt Society”.

Dr. Claus’s study of the “Siri” practice along with the folk scholar, Lauri Honko of Finland, was a path-breaking effort to understand the deep-rooted Tulu culture, he said.

The President of the Academy, Vaman Nandavar, presided over the function. Palthady Ramakrishna Achar, a member of the academy, welcomed the gathering and compered the programme.

Muddu Mudubelle introduced Dr. Claus. L.C. Soans of Soans Farm, Moodbidri, and a confidant of Dr. Claus, was the chief guest. V.G. Pal, a member of the academy, proposed a vote of thanks.

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