Professor Chelva Kanaganayakam’s contribution to the growth and fulfillment of the Tamil Canadian community may not be known for generations
As a professor of English and the Director of South Asian Studies at the University of Toronto, Professor Kanaganayakam has risen to the top ranks of Canadian Academia. He is highly respected by his peers, and students alike, and his scholarly work has been published in numerous world renowned publications. After completing his graduate studies at the University of British Columbia, he began his career at the University of Toronto in 1989 and was promoted to full professor in 2003. He has presented extensively at conferences, and has authored several books, including Counterrealism and Indo-Anglian Fiction 2002 , Dark Antonyms and Paradise: The Poetry of Rienzi Crusz 1997, Configurations of Exile: South Asian Writers and Their World 1995, and Structures of Negation: The Writings of Zulfikar Ghose 1993. He has also edited and translated several books with his colleagues. Most recently, he published the translations of three Tamil poets in the book entitled “Wilting Laughter: Three Tamil Poets.”
In business, it is often easier to discern the outcome of one’s labour. However, in the field of academia, the likes of Professor Kanaganayakam may not see the fruits of their labour for decades or even in their life time. Complementing his rigorous academic pursuits, Professor Kanaganayakam, along with his colleagues, Professor Cheran and Dr. Ambalavanar founded the International Tamil Studies Conference which will host its fifth annual conference in May of this year at the University of Toronto. This conference marks the formation of a body of scholarly work that critically analyses the “Tamil” from an interdisciplinary perspective. More importantly, this conference is the catalyst for the growth of Tamil studies in many parts of North America and around the world. The Conference is the biggest of its kind in North America.
Professor Kanaganayakam’s vision for his community and his school is to establish a Tamil Studies program at the University of Toronto. Once created, this program will be the first in Canada, and amongst a handful in North America. He has spent the better part of the past decade on fine tuning this project and has worked tirelessly to get the community to rally around it. Going forward, his vision for a Tamil Studies Program will materialize and will be an integral part of the growth and development of the Tamil Canadian Community.
Professor Chelva has been recognized for his commitment to teaching excellence with the Senior Alumni Teaching Innovation Award (1993) and the Faculty of Arts and Science, Outstanding Teaching Awarding (1998-1999). He is the founding member of the Tamil Literary Garden, and the Editor of Nethra, a journal published by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo. Currently he supervises more than ten Ph.D students in the Department of English and is working on a book-length manuscript that traces intersection between classical religious traditions and contemporary South Asian writing in English.