Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja 1929-

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TAMBIAH, Stanley Jeyaraja 1929-

(S. J. Tambiah; Stanley J. Tambiah)

PERSONAL: Born January 16, 1929, in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka); immigrated to the United States, 1973; son of Charles Rajakone (a lawyer) and Eliza Moothathamby Chellamma Tambiah; married Mary Wynne Huber (a finance research analyst), March 15, 1969; children: Jonathan Anand, Matthew Arjun. Education: University of Ceylon (now University of Sri Lanka), Peradeniya Campus, B.A., 1951; Cornell University, Ph.D., 1954.

ADDRESSES: Home—33 Arlington St., Cambridge, MA 02140. Office—Harvard University, William James 420, 33 Kirkland St., Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Lecturer at University of Ceylon (now University of Sri Lanka), 1955-60; UNESCO, Thailand, technical assistance expert, 1960-63; Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, Smuts fellow, 1963-64, Commonwealth fellow, St. John's College, 1963-64, lecturer, 1964-72, fellow, Clare Hall, 1965-70, fellow, tutor of graduate students, and director of studies in social anthropology, King's College, 1970-72; Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, CA, fellow, 1968-69; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, professor of anthropology, 1973-76; professor at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and curator of South Asian ethnology at Harvard's Peabody Museum, 1976—. Malinowski memorial lecturer, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England, 1968; Radcliffe-Brown memorial lecturer, British Academy, London, 1979; Radhakrishnan memorial lecturer, Oxford University, Oxford, England, 1982; Kingsley Martin memorial lecturer, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, 1982; Lewis Henry Morgan lecturer, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, 1984; American Ethnological Society distinguished lecturer, 1988; Daryll Forde memorial lecturer, University College, London, 1991; Hilldale lecturer, University of Wisconsin, 1996; Japanese Association Ethnology distinguished lecturer, 1997.

MEMBER: International Association of Buddhist Studies, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (fellow), American Anthropological Association, American Academy for the Study of Religion, Association for Asian Studies, Royal Anthropological Institute, National Research Council's Committee for International Conflict Resolution, British Academy (corresponding foreign fellow).

AWARDS, HONORS: Curl Bequest prize from Royal Anthropological Institute, 1964; Social Science Research Council of Great Britain grant, 1971; Rivers Memorial Medal from Royal Anthropological Institute, 1973; National Science Foundation grant, 1978; D.Litt. from Jaffna University, Sri Lanka, 1981; Guggenheim fellowship, 1982; honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Chicago, 1991; Balzan Prize, 1997; Huxley Memorial Medal, Royal Anthropological Institute, 1997; Fukuoka International Academic Prize, 1998.

WRITINGS:

UNDER NAME S. J. TAMBIAH, EXCEPT AS NOTED

Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in Northeast Thailand, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1970.

(With Jack Goody) Bridewealth and Dowry, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1973.

World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1976.

A Performative Approach to Ritual, British Academy (London, England), 1981.

(As Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah) The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets: A Study in Charisma, Hagiography, Sectarianism, and Millennial Buddhism, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1984.

(As Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah) Culture, Thought, and Social Action: An Anthropological Perspective, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1985.

Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1986.

(As Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah) Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

(As Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah) Buddhism Betrayed?: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.

(As Stanley J. Tambiah) Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1996.

(As Stanley J. Tambiah) Edmund Leach: An Anthropological Life, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Anthropologist Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah is well known for his books on Thai Buddhism, Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in Northeast Thailand, World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background, and The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets: A Study in Charisma, Hagiography, Sectarianism, and Millennial Buddhism. His later writings, however, explore different territory. Tambiah visited his native Sri Lanka in 1983, interested in learning more about the growing conflict between the Tamil and the Sinhalese minority groups; this trip was to have a great influence on his writing. "It was very traumatic for me. I felt that it was necessary for my own therapy to come to terms with what was happening there by writing something about it," Tambiah told Ken Gewertz of the Harvard University Gazette.

In the collection of essays Culture, Thought, and Social Action: An Anthropological Perspective, Tambiah examines "such seemingly arcane matters as the intricacies of Trobriand canoe building, the logic of Thai food prohibitions, and the nature of the Indian caste system," explained Roderick Stirrat of the Times Literary Supplement. Stirrat observed that the essays revolve around two themes: first, that rituals and symbolic activities, "universal features of human culture," must be judged not in terms of Western scientific thought but as "performative acts" that "achieve their goal through [their] imperative nature"; and second, that in a similar way all political formations must be viewed holistically, as "total phenomena." The reviewer found implicit in Tambiah's essays a rejection of much traditional Western thought, and though Stirrat noted that certain passages make for "very difficult reading," he nevertheless described the collection as "an important volume representing one of the ways in which modern anthropologists attempt to understand cultures, societies, and forms of life."

In his next book, Tambiah turned directly to the ethnic violence emerging in his native land. Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy addresses the "sporadic—and ominously increasing—outbursts of racist pogroms" that plague that country, wrote Paul Sieghart of the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Sri Lanka's Tamil minority, of which Tambiah himself is a member, is the target of violence perpetrated by a majority that "still believes that there really is such a thing as the 'Aryan race,'" the reviewer explained, "and that belonging to it is something to be proud of." Tambiah explores the problem from a variety of perspectives and proposes some solutions, making his book, in the reviewer's estimation, "excellent and thought-provoking."

Tambiah's Buddhism Betrayed?: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka continues with the discussion of ethnic violence, this time in a book aimed to educate the general reader. Some Buddhist groups took offense, and the book was banned in Sri Lanka. "Tambiah realizes that his own ethnic identity forces him to walk a fine line between objectivity and engagement, but he is willing to face this risk," noted Gewertz. Indeed, Tambiah feels that this "fine line" should be embraced as political and intellectual thought become globalized; "I must take a position both as an anthropologist and as a minority member," he told Gewertz. "This is a challenge today for Third World intellectuals."

Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia encompasses a broader topic: Tambiah "attempts to synthesize the nature of the problem of collective violence in South Asia," summarized Australian Journal of Anthropology reviewer Rohan Bastin. Comparing the Sri Lankan violence with other ethnic conflicts in the broader area—namely, the Hindu/Sikh clashes in India and the Muhajir/Sindhi conflicts in Pakistan—Tambiah argues that South Asian nation-states have politicized ethnicity to the point where violence erupts far too frequently. "Particularly effective in discussing violence in Sri Lanka (he includes a personal first-hand account of the 1956 riots) and the anti-Sikh pogrom in India, Tambiah is less at ease in dealing with Pakistan and the Karachi imbroglio," commented James Chiriyankandath in the Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics. Other critics, such as Neena Samota of the Review of Politics, found Tambiah's objectiveyet-engaged stance to be provocatively effective. "The book is multidimensional," noted Samota. "Tambiah engages in an objective analysis of ethnonationalist conflict and proceeds to a subjective analysis of crowd psychology."

Tambiah has been the recipient of many awards, including the 1997 Balzan Prize "for his penetrating social-anthropological analysis of the contemporary central problems of ethnic violence manifested in South East Asia, as well as for his original studies on the dynamics of Buddhist society," according to the prize committee's citation.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Anthropologist, June, 1991, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 494; March, 1994, review of Buddhism Betrayed?: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka, p. 172.

American Ethnologist, May, 1994, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 431; November, 1996, review of Buddhism Betrayed?, p. 905; February, 1999, review of Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia, p. 248.

American Journal of Sociology, September, 1993, review of Buddhism Betrayed?, p. 531.

Australian Journal of Anthropology, December, 1997, Rohan Bastin, review of Leveling Crowds, pp. 359-361.

Choice, February, 1991, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 970; February, 1995, review of Buddhism Betrayed?, p. 901; May, 1997, review of Leveling Crowds, p. 1585.

Come-All-Ye, spring, 1996, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 13.

Contemporary Sociology, March, 1994, review of Buddhism Betrayed?, p. 261.

Current History, December, 1997, William W. Firam, Jr., review of Leveling Crowds, p. 443.

Isis, December, 1991, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 728.

Journal of Asian Studies, May, 1991, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 372.

Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, November, 1997, James Chiriyankandath, review of Leveling Crowds, pp. 127-129.

Journal of Religion, July, 1988, review of Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy, p. 491; January, 1992, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 161.

Journal of the American Academy of Religion, August, 1993, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 619.

London Review of Books, May 23, 2002, Adam Kuper, "Clever, or Even Clever-Clever," review of Edmund Leach: An Anthropological Life, pp. 11-12.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 1, 1986; June 8, 1986.

Review of Politics, summer, 1997, Neena Samota, review of Leveling Crowds, pp. 618-620.

Reviews in Anthropology, January, 1991, review of Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy, p. 297.

Sociology of Religion, spring, 1998, Joseph B. Tamney, review of Leveling Crowds, p. 98.

Times Literary Supplement, January 24, 1986; September 7, 1990, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 951.

University Press Book News, September, 1990, review of Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, p. 13; September, 1992, review of Buddhism Betrayed?, p. 6.

ONLINE

Harvard Anthropology Department Web site,http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/anthro/ (February 27, 2003), biography of Stanley J. Tambiah.

Harvard University Gazette Online,http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/ (October 23, 1997), Ken Gewertz, "Stanley Tambiah to Be Awarded Balzan Prize for Groundbreaking Work on Ethnic Violence"; (November 9, 2000), "British Academy Elects Tambiah."

National Academies Web site,http://www.nationalacademies.org/ (February 27, 2003), membership listing for Stanley J. Tambiah.

Tamil Tigers Web site,http://www.tamiltigers.net/eelambooks/ (February 27, 2003), Sachi Sri Kantha, review of Buddhism Betrayed.

University of California Press Web site,http://www.ucpress.edu/ (February 27, 2003), description and reviews of Leveling Crowds.*