Sri Lanka Chair
Research on and with Sri Lanka was institutionalized in the late 1990s when the SAI opened a branch office in Colombo. It started operation in 1999, had to be closed for security reasons in 2007, was re-opened in 2014, and since then has been led by branch office manager Dr. Darshi Thoradeniya. With the signing of a MoU between Heidelberg University and the Government of Sri Lanka for the establishment of a Guest Professorship in early 2016, our relations with Sri Lanka were put on an even more solid ground. On February 18, 2016 the Vice Chancellor of Heidelberg University, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Germany, Karunatilaka Amunugama, and on behalf of the South Asia Institute, Prof. William Sax, signed this agreement in Berlin. The German Foreign Minister Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his colleague Mangala Samaraweera also attended the signing of the MoU.
The Sri Lanka Chair is sponsored by the Sri Lankan government, Ministry of Education through the University Grants Commission. It is intended to foster research and teaching on Sri Lanka, and thereby to raise awareness about this ancient and fascinating country within Europe. The holder of the Sri Lanka Chair will stay one semester at the South Asia Institute to hold lectures, participate in meetings and to pursue research work. Chairholders are selected from various fields within social sciences, humanities or geography matching one of the professorships at the SAI (Anthropology, Development Economics, Geography, History, Cultural and Religious History of South Asia, Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures, Political Science) or one of the cooperating chairs at Heidelberg University (Global Art History, Visual and Media Anthropology, and Buddhist Studies).
The first Chairholder is Prof. Siri Hettige, who joined the SAI in Winter Term 2016/2017.
The second Chairholder is Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, who joined the SAI in Summer Term 2017. The third chairholder is Dr. Anton Piyarathne, Department of Social Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, The Open University of Sri Lanka.