Professor Shihan de Silva

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Contact details

Name:
Professor Shihan de Silva
Qualifications:
DipLCM, BSc (Econ)(London), MSc(Finance)(London), PhD (Linguistics) (Westminster)
Position/Fellowship type:
Senior Research Fellow
Institute:
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Phone:
020 7862 8844
Email address:
shihan.desilva@sas.ac.uk
Website:
http://commonwealth.sas.ac.uk/index.php?id=171

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Communities, Classes, Races, Cultural memory, Culture, Globalization & Development, History, Human rights, International Relations, Social Sciences
Regions:
Africa, Asia, Europe
Summary of research interests and expertise:
  • migration, commerce and cultural exchange in the Indian Ocean; the Malay and Portuguese diasporas; African diaspora in the East; legacies of colonialism and the slave trade; theoretical linguistics and ethnomusicology


Shihan serves on the editorial boards of Cambridge Scholars Publishing (UK), African Diaspora and Transnationalism (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers) and African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage (California: Left Coast Press).

She is an UN expert on Afrodescendants in Asia, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland. She served as a Member and Rapporteur of the International Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project (Paris, France).

She is also a member of ICOMOS Sri Lanka.

Shihan is a Visiting Professor in the College of International Relations, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan.

She was awarded the Rama Watumull Collaborative Lecture Series award from the Center for South Asian Studies & Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity Award, University of Hawaii, USA, March 2020.

http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/south-asias-africans/

Across South Asia, there are isolated communities of African origin – often disadvantaged and with only tenuous links to the continent of their forbears. Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya, a London-based researcher, explains how her interest in these communities was first aroused, and how diverse patterns of migration still shape the situation of people widely known today as ‘Sidis’:

Project summary relevant to Fellowship:

Recently Shihan convened conferences at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies on the"Legacies of Trade and Empire" and on "Intangangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development".  A selection of papers will be published in "Sustaining Support for Intangible Cultural Heritage" (co-edited by Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya, Mariana Leitao Pereira and Gregory Hansen) and "Legacies of Trade and Empire:  Breaking Silences" (co-edited by Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya and Beheroze Shroff), both by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 

Shihan is the Producer/Director of Ethnographic Films which have been screened in several international venues:

·         -  A Lost African Diaspora (2019).  12 minutes.

·         - Creole Cultures in the Indian Ocean (2018).  20 minutes.

·         - Voices of Afro-Sri Lankans (2014).  70 minutes.

·         - Indian Ocean Memories:  African Migrations (2014).  40 minutes.

Shihan co-authored a book with Professor Beatrice Nicolini:

·         Land and Maritime Empires in the Western Indian Ocean.   Milan:   Educatt  (2017).

 Shihan's book - The African Diaspora in Asian Trade Routes and Cultural Memories (UK: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010) concerns the global movement of Africans, the routes of migration and cultural survivals.

http://www.mellenpress.com/mellenpress.cfm?bookid=8062&pc=9

http://www.historyandpolicy.org/research/new-books/newbook_2.html

http://www.royalafricansociety.org/events/details/1057-the-african-diaspora-in-asian-trade-routes-and-cultural-memories.html

With increase of migration, diaspora studies have become a more significant part of global history. The African Diaspora in Asian Trade Routes and Cultural Memories by Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya (Published by Edwin Mellen Press, UK) contributes to building a more comprehensive narrative of the global African movement. Concerned with Africans who migrated beyond the Indian Ocean, even to China and Japan, the book aims to stimulate scholarship on African movement to Asia and also to increase awareness of the history of Afro-Asian communities who still live in isolated pockets of Asia.

Uncovering a slave route from Madagascar to Sumatra, the author identifies points of origin of slaves - Mozambique, Madagascar, Angola. Dr de Silva Jayasuriya argues that Africans played a vital role as interpreters, musicians and facilitators of cultural transformation and theorises on how Africans themselves were affected by the process of migration.

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/the_african_diaspora_in_asia_trade_routes_and_cultural_memories/

Among her six monographs are:

- African Identity in Asia:  Cultural Effects of Forced Migration.  Princeton, New Jersey:  Markus Wiener Publishers.  pp. 164 (2009).

The Portuguese in the East: A Cultural History of a Maritime Trading Empire.  London: I B Tauris Academic Publishers. pp. 212 (2008).

Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
30-Jun-2021 African diaspora in South Asia: A Theoretical Perspective

Chapters

UNESCO General History of Africa. Paris.

25-Nov-2020 Os Portugueses no Este

Articles

Revista Oriente Ocidente. Lisbon: International Institute of Macau

07-Oct-2020 Africa in South Asia: Hybridity in Sri Lankan Kaffrinha

Journal articles

South Asian History and Culture

01-Sep-2020 Sociocultural Plurality in Sri Lanka:  Interculturality and New Knowledge Systems.

Chapters

  • In: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: the Context of Being, Interculturality and New Knowledge Systems. Eds:  Dr Margaret Kumar and Dr Thushari Welikala.  UK: Emerald Publishing (2020).

01-Jul-2020 Unfree Labour and the Abolition of Slavery in Sri Lanka.

Journal articles

Ningen Bunka Kenkyu (Studies in Humanities and Cultures) No.34. Nagoya City University, Japan.

01-Feb-2020 Remembering Indian Ocean Slavery through Film: Afro-Sri Lankans

Journal articles

Journal of Global Slavery (Leiden)

01-Feb-2020 Impact of Multilingualism on Sri Lanka Portuguese

Journal articles

Ceylankan pp.10-11

22-Jan-2020 African Roots of South Asians

Chapters

In: Slavery, Resistance and Abolitions: A Pluralist Perspective. Eds: Ali Moussa Iye, Nelly Schmidt & Paul Lovejoy. New Jersey: Africa World Press.

01-Jan-2020 Recognising the Intangible Heritage of Afro-diasporic Communities in South Asia

Chapters

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Ethiopia and East African Studies Project and Ahmedabad Sidi Heritage and Educational Center

01-Oct-2019 O portugues do Seri Lanca: situacao atual

Articles

A Folha No.60 Verao de 2019, pp. 7-10.

01-Feb-2019 A Hybrid Performance: East African Spirit Possession and Sri Lankan Manhas.

Journal articles

 Journal of Africana Religions

11-Jul-2017 Lost Narratives and Hybrid Identities: Afro-Asians

Chapters

 Barcelona: Indialogs

01-May-2017 Land and Maritime Empires in the Indian Ocean

Monographs

 Beatrice Nicolini & Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya, Educatt, Milan, Isbn: 9788893351867, PP. 288.

31-Jan-2017 Unexpected Outcomes of the Portuguese Encounter in Sri Lanka: Innovation and Hybridity

Chapters

 Bielefeld: Transcript

10-Jan-2015 Afro-Sri Lankans and their emergence from invisibility

09-Jun-2014 A South Asian Community of African Descent

Journal articles

SAARC Culture Vol. 5: 46-73.

01-Jan-2012 India's Hidden Affican Communities

Global October 2012

01-Jan-2012 Musing on Kaffrinha and Baila

Journal articles

Ceylankan Journal 60, Vol.XV, Number 4, November 2012 (Australia) 

01-Jan-2012 Survival Against All Odds: Longevity of Sri Lanka Portuguese Creole.

Edited Book

In:  Language Contact:  A Multidimensional Perspective.  Ed:  K Ihemere.  Newcastle:  Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2012). 

01-Jan-2011 African Migration: Understanding Trends and Traditons (Special Guest Editor)

African and Asian Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers)

01-Jan-2011 Recruiting Africans to the British Regiments in Ceylon: Spillover Effects of Abolition in the Atlantic

African and Asian Studies 10 (2011): 15-31

This paper focuses on the displacement of Africans, spurred by the tradition of recruiting soldiers to serve in both Asian and European armies. It considers the pressure to recruit Africans to the British regiments in Ceylon (called Sri Lanka since 1971) as documented in historical records in the National Archives and how this process was affected by Abolition in the Atlantic. It highlights the spillover effects, of abolishing the transatlantic slave trade, into other oceans.

01-Jan-2011 Language Maintenance and Loss among Afro-Asians in South Asia.

In: Language Contact and Language Shift: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Ed: K Ihemere. Munich: Lincom Academic Publishers.

01-Jan-2011 South Asia’s Africans: A Forgotten People

Journal articles

History Workshop Online: UK

Across South Asia, there are isolated communities of African origin – often disadvantaged and with only tenuous links to the continent of their forbears. Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya, a London-based researcher, explains how her interest in these communities was first aroused, and how diverse patterns of migration still shape the situation of people widely known today as ‘Sidis’:

01-Jan-2010 Persisting Portuguese Linguistic Imprints in India and Sri Lanka

In: Portuguese in the Orient (Kandy: International Centre for Ethnic Studies)

01-Jan-2010 The African diaspora in Asian trade routes and cultural memories

Monographs

Edwin Mellen Press, UK/USA

01-Jan-2010 The African Diaspora in Asian Trade Routes and Cultural Memories

UK: Edwin Mellen Press

With increase of migration, diaspora studies have become a more significant part of global history. The African Diaspora in Asian Trade Routes and Cultural Memories by Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya (Published by Edwin Mellen Press, UK) contributes to building a more comprehensive narrative of the global African movement. Concerned with Africans who migrated beyond the Indian Ocean, even to China and Japan, the book aims to stimulate scholarship on African movement to Asia and also to increase awareness of the history of Afro-Asian communities who still live in isolated pockets of Asia.

Uncovering a slave route from Madagascar to Sumatra, the author identifies points of origin of slaves - Mozambique, Madagascar, Angola. Dr de Silva Jayasuriya argues that Africans played a vital role as interpreters, musicians and facilitators of cultural transformation and theorises on how Africans themselves were affected by the process of migration.

02-Jun-2008 Crossing Boundaries: Africans in South Asia

Afrika Spectrum

01-Apr-2008 The Portuguese in the East: A Cultural History of a Maritime Trading Empire

Monographs

London: I B Tauris.

01-Jan-2008 Uncovering the History of Africans in Asia

Edited Book

Brill Academic Publishers: Leiden, Netherlands.

The presence of Africans in Asia has been overshadowed by the tragedy of Atlantic slavery. Identifying Africans in Asia therefore challenges contemporary scholarship. Within this context, the processes of assimilation and marginalisation hinder identification of African migrants. This book demonstrates the multiplicity of roles performed by Africans and the heights that a few of them reached, even in a single generation. Drawing on a variety of sources, both oral and documented, this book reveals the extent of the African presence in Asia.

01-Jan-2008 Portuguese in the East: Cultural History of a Maritime Trading Empire

Monographs

London: IB Tauris Academic Publishers

Vasco da Gama's voyage to India in the late 15th Century opened up new economic and cultural horizons for the Portuguese. At the height of Portugal's maritime influence, it had created an oceanic state ranging from the Cape of Good Hope to China. While Portugal's direct political influence in Asia was comparatively short-lived, its linguistic influence remains. Here Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya charts the influences of the Portuguese in more than fifty Asian tongues, illustrating the extent of Lusitanian links. Luso-Asian influence became engrained in eastern cultures in more subtle ways than other European empires which followed, such as the Portuguese oral traditions in folk literature, now embedded in postcolonial Asian music and song. These Portuguese cultural legacies are a lasting reminder of an unexpected outcome of seaborne commerce.

01-Jan-2008 African Identity in Asia: Cultural Effects of Forced Migration

New Jersey: Markus Wiener Publishers

In contrast to the dispersion of slaves across the Atlantic, African movement to Asia has received scant attention, because forced migrations across the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, which endured for centuries, were not part of a significant economic network.

However, Britain’s commemoration in 2007 of the bicentennial of its abolishing the trans-Atlantic slave trade has now stimulated interest in other African migrations.

In a book that encompasses the strong military impact made by even first-generation African migrants in Asia, as well as the descendants of the royal Africans who governed Sachin and Janjira (India), Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya further demonstrates that African music and dance have not only survived the brutalities of forced migration but have also contributed to the local Middle Eastern and South Asian arts scene. Even though spirit possession ceremonies have been preserved as a form of cultural identity, new, blended forms of music that evolved in Asia have now become indigenized in the host countries. Forced African migrants have become inadvertent cultural brokers between two continents.

Combining historical accounts, both documented and oral, this groundbreaking work explores—through case studies, and through the processes of assimilation, social mobility, and marginalization—the silent history and conflicting identity of Asia’s Africans.

01-Jan-2008 African migrants as cultural brokers in South Asia

Paris: UNESCO.

African migrants found themselves in Asia, largely due to the slave trade. This paper explores cultural flows between Africa and Asia, highlighting the role of music. The lyrics of the Afro-Asian songs are a database exposing African linguistic links with Asia. The musical talents of the Afro-Asians need to be nurtured. Their music is internationally marketable but needs a market-maker.

01-Jan-2008 India and the African Diaspora

In: Encyclopedia of African Diaspora. Ed: Carole Boyce-Davies.

03-Oct-2007 Portugal and Sri Lanka: Sociocultural Interactions and Language Contact.

Articles

01-Jan-2006 Trading on a thalassic network: African migrations across the Indian Ocean

Articles


International Social Science Journal
Volume 58, Issue 188, pages 215–225, June 2006


African migration eastwards has received far less academic attention than that across the Atlantic. While westwards migration was concentrated over a few centuries, migration across the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean has been continuing for over a millennium. Migration eastwards was both free and forced. Nevertheless, slavery and the slave trade were a major force in this phenomenon. Displaced Africans found themselves amongst people who had diverse cultural values and who spoke different languages. Within this context, the ethnicity of the slaves was not important to the slavers. Often slaves were separated from their kith and kin. This situation gave rise to cultural transformations but music and dance are among the striking cultural retentions. Creolisation resulted in some instances, while contemporary Afro-Asian communities are marginalised. This article considers the plight of the descendants of African migrants to the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka.

01-Jan-2003 The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean

Edited Book

Although much has been written about the African Diaspora in the Atlantic Ocean, the Diaspora in the Indian Ocean is virtually unrecognized. Concerned with Africans, who lived south of the Sahara and were dispersed by free will or forcefully to the non-African lands in the Indian Ocean region, this books deals with a topic that has long been overlooked.


Eight scholars, researching the African Diaspora in distinct geographical locations in the Indian Ocean region and with expertise in the areas of history, anthropology, linguistics, international relations, politics and sociology, have contributed papers to this book.

01-Mar-2000 The Portuguese Cultural Imprint on Sri Lanka

Journal articles

Paris: Lusotopie

Portuguese Identity of Afro-Sri Lankans

Journal articles

Paris: Lusotopie

African migrants in South Asia

Articles

 UNESCO

Afro-descendants in Asia

Articles

Minority Rights Group International

Afro-Sri Lankans and their emergence from Invisibility

Articles

Minority Rights Group International

Publications available on SAS-space

Additional Publications

Publications available in Senate House Libraries

Consultancy reports:

Date Details
2019 Identifying and Empowering Afrodescendants in South Asia and the Gulf Region.

UN Conference on Data for Racial Justice. 24th Session of the Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent. 25-29 March 2019, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

2009 Slave Route Project: Meeting of the International Committee

Report to the Executive Council UNESCO (Paris)

Research Projects & Supervisions

Current PhD topics supervised:

Dates Details
From: 11-Mar-2020
Until: 18-Sep-2021
The Trade Network of the Western Indian Ocean World between the Late Medieval Era and the Eighteenth Century: assessing environmental adaptability

MRes in Historical Research, Institute of Historical Research, University of London.

Available for doctoral supervision: Yes

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