Inaugural Chair in Tamil Studies looks to establish U of T Scarborough as a global hub for Tamil scholarship

 Sidharthan Maunaguru
Professor Sidharthan Maunaguru appointed Chair in Tamil Studies at U of T Scarborough (Submitted Photo)

Don Campbell

The newly appointed Chair of Tamil Studies says he is looking forward to making U of T Scarborough a global hub for Tamil research and scholarship. 

“I'm honoured to be appointed as the inaugural Chair of Tamil Studies,” says Sidharthan Maunaguru, who will start the role in May 2024.

“Scholars at U of T have already set a solid foundation for Tamil studies. As chair I will be building on these foundations while looking forward to expanding scholarship and research by bringing an interdisciplinary approach.”

The Chair in Tamil Studies will not only support academic programming and research in Tamil language and history, it will also help preserve its rich culture for future generations. 

Maunaguru is currently an associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology, and South Asian studies at National University of Singapore. He is a renowned expert on global Tamil communities whose research intersects with anthropology, history and philosophy. His 2019 book Marrying for a Future: Transnational Sri Lankan Tamil Marriages in the Shadow of War explored how marriage emerged as an important means of building alliances between dispersed segments of Tamil communities dispersed across the globe.  

My vision is to ground, create and promote thriving Tamil scholarships and research on the ethos of inclusiveness and diversity

He hopes to foster Tamil scholarship, teaching and research by taking a collective approach.

“My vision is to ground, create and promote thriving Tamil scholarships and research on the ethos of inclusiveness and diversity that will connect and bring together Tamil scholarships from communities across the world into Canada,” he says.

“I believe U of T Scarborough will emerge as a global hub for collaborating, experimenting and creating discussions on new directions for Tamil studies.”

Tamil is among the world’s seven classical languages, with a linguistic and literary history stretching back more than 2,000 years. With 80 million plus speakers, it’s one of the most frequently spoken languages in the world.

The chair was made possible through a landmark $3 million philanthropic effort that started in 2018 and was spearheaded by the Canadian Tamil Congress and Tamil Chair Inc.

“We are thrilled that Professor Maunaguru has been hired as the inaugural Chair in Tamil Studies,” says Sivan Ilangko, who was committee chair for the Chair in Tamil Studies and is an advisor to and former president of the Canadian Tamil Congress.

“When we envisioned having a chair who could lead Tamil Studies we knew U of T Scarborough would be an ideal location because U of T is Canada’s most prestigious university and Scarborough is home to a large Tamil population. It is exciting to think about all of the world-class research and scholarship that will be created in the years to come.”

Legend of Ponnivala
A performance of the Legend of Ponnivala held at U of T Scarborough during Tamil Heritage Month. The performance was in support of the Chair in Tamil Studies (photo by Joseph Burrell) 

Canada is home to the largest Tamil diaspora outside of South Asia, with a large portion living in the Greater Toronto Area. Lisa Lemon, U of T Scarborough’s executive director of development and alumni relations, says the campaign was a grassroots effort involving more than 3,800 donors, including many from Scarborough and the Greater Toronto Area.

“This is a momentous occasion for our campus. We are so excited to celebrate this announcement with our large Tamil-heritage student and alum population,” says Lemon.

“While most of the donors were from Canada and the United States, it was also exciting to see support coming from France, Australia and Malaysia. It just goes to show how much support there is internationally for Tamil studies.”