Digital Tamil Studies Virtual Symposium January 21, 2023

Submitted by tamiladmin on Thu, 11/24/2022 - 18:23

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Digital Tamil Studies is a wide-ranging field of digital scholarship that engages interdisciplinary scholars, computing experts, and the public in the production of open research and resources in Tamil.

The Digital Tamil Studies community at UTSC is pleased to present a Digital Tamil Studies symposium Saturday January 21st,  8:00 AM -12:00 PM (Toronto time); 6:30 PM-10:30 PM (Chennai, Jaffna, Colombo time).

This virtual event brings together our research and collections development community to promote projects and discuss the intersection of Tamil language collections and digital research. Registration is free. The event will be held in a combination of Tamil and English on Zoom, with interpretation available.

Schedule of Events

Note: All times are in EST and event descriptions are beneath

Time Programming

Welcome notes from the organizational team, and technical notes on the event (B. Raman and K. Stapelfeldt)

Tamil Thai Song performers:

  • Harini Ragavan
  • Thamarai Subakaran

Emerging Public Digital Resources

Introducing the Digital Tamil Studies Hub (N. Ledchumykanthan and K. Stapelfeldt)

The Sri Lankan Muslim Ephemera Collection  (MI. Mohamed Saakir)

The Tamil Soviet Collection  (Shrinivasan T & Lenin Gurusamy)

Tamil Collections in the South Asian Canadian Digital Archive (T. Jothilingam)

10:15-10:30 Break

Research Frontiers in Digital Tamil Studies

Join our researchers as they present their current work and engage in questions about the future of the field

11:15-12:00 Workshop: Historical/Counter-Mapping in QGIS (Shanmugapriya)


Planned Talks

Introducing the Digital Tamil Studies hub

The UTSC Library Digital Tamil Studies hub presents a bilingual interface for collections and research work developed in partnership with scholars and the community. Learn more about what is available, and how to contribute.

The Sri Lankan Muslim Ephemera Collection

Sri Lankan Muslim Ephemera Collection documents, preserves and makes openly accessible ephemera distributed at the Mahallas in the Eastern Sri Lanka's Moors’ communities. The range of materials include celebratory/sympathy poems, general announcements and news, open letters, advertisements, political/election manifestos, and personal self explanatory letters. The content of these materials is multifaceted and covers a range of topics including history, sociology, literature, and politics, and thus reflects relatively comprehensive, representative, collective social memories and histories of Tamil Muslim communities. In particular, these materials can shed light into the linguistic continuities of the rich and long writing traditions of the Tamil Muslims and their diverse regional dialects and orthographical usage and practices. 

The Tamil Soviet Collection 

The Tamil Soviet Collection consists of works published in the Tamil language by the Soviet publishers such as Raduga Publishers and Progress Publishers on various subjects. These publications often pioneered many genres in Tamil, including illustrated children stories, scientific writing and Russian-Tamil translations. Once widely available and read, now they are difficult to find and access. The Tamil Soviet Collection aims to digitally preserve and make these works openly accessible. This collection will be of interest to the public as well as to scholars/educators interested in Scientific Tamil and the Soviet/Russian Tamil Studies.

Tamil Collections in the South Asian Canadian Digital Archive (SACDA)

The South Asian Canadian Digital Archive (SACDA), an initiative of the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley, is a pan-Canadian digital archive that documents the history and heritage of the South Asian diaspora in Canada. SACDA partners with memory institutions, individuals, and families to digitize, describe, and provide open access to heritage materials created by, or relevant to, the South Asian Canadian diaspora. With extensive community engagement and a focus on social and visual histories, cultures of orality, and tacit knowledges, SACDA seeks to transform existing knowledge infrastructures and foster knowledge diversity and equity. This presentation will introduce the goals and the collections in development to the Digital Tamil Studies community.

Workshop: Historical/Counter-Mapping in QGIS

Historical and Counter-Mapping are valuable tools for Digital Tamil Studies. This workshop will provide hands-on training in Quantum Geographical Information System (QGIS) software. It is useful to students and researchers whose study includes a geographical focus. The workshop will cover the basic features including importing, editing, exporting and analyzing geographical data in QGIS. Students and researchers from all backgrounds will be encouraged to participate in the workshop and no previous knowledge in GIS is required. The instruction of the workshop is Tamil. 

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Speaker Biographies

Bhavani Raman 

Bhavani Raman is an associate professor in the Department of History. Her interests include bureaucracy and education in early colonial India, Tamil textual practice, and scribal culture. 

Kirsta Stapelfeldt 

Kirsta Stapelfeldt is a librarian and the head of the UTSC Library’s Digital Scholarship Unit, which provides UTSC-specific support for digital scholarship in the areas of data, the digital humanities, digital collections building, digital preservation, and scholarly communications. 

Lenin Gurusamy

Lenin owns and operates the Sun Creations Desktop Publishing center at Karaikudi. He is one of the founders of Kaniyam Foundation and, and a notable contributor to open source and Tamil computing projects.  Kaniyam envisions an “environment where all virtual resources, tools and knowledge related to Tamil Language and ethnic groups, are accessible, free and open to all.” Lenin is an evangelist of GNU/Linux mission and projects in South Tamil Nadu, and conducts workshops regularly. 

Mark Balmforth

Mark Balmforth is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. His work analyses inherited inequality in histories of encounter between South Asians, Europeans, and Americans. Mark is currently working on a book project titled Panchamar: Slavery, Caste, and the Anthropocene in Sri Lankan Tamil History, which rethinks oppressed-caste agrarian history as part of the durable, post-emancipation career of slavery in South Asia. He is the convener of the Legacies of Tamil Slavery Working Group, a digital humanities collective that is building a public-facing and searchable version of a nineteenth-century slave registry from Ceylon. He is also the Principal Investigator for a British Library and Arcadia-funded Endangered Archives Programme grant that is collecting and digitizing evidence of caste, labor, and agrarian history in Sri Lanka.

MI. Mohamed Saakir 

MI. Mohamed Saakir is an author, researcher, and a medical laboratory scientist based in Sammanthurai, Sri Lanka. He is the co-lead for the Documentation of Sri Lankan Muslim Ephemera project. He serves as Governance Board Member at Noolaham Foundation and contributes to the Muslim Archive project, collections development, and office management of the Batticaloa chapter. He also served in the editorial board of Inqilaab at the University of Jaffna. His research interests are in local histories, folklore, toponymy, and poetry. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences from the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. 

Saakir authored a book titled, சம்மாந்துறை: பெயர் வரலாறு (Toponymy of Sammanthurai), a historical research study of the place name of his village, Sammanthurai in 2012. He is currently working on two manuscripts titled, சம்மாந்துறை வழக்குச் சொல் அகராதி (Dictionary of Regional Dialect of Sammanthurai) and சம்மாந்துறை நூல்விபரப்பட்டியல் (Bibliography of Sammanthurai). He has also written chapters about Traditional and Contemporary Medicine and Practitioners of Sammanthurai, History of Art and Literature of Sammanthurai, and Early History of Sammanthurai in சம்மாந்துறை: வரலாறும் வாழ்வியலும் (Sammanthurai: History and Legacy) edited by Rameez Abdullah in 2019. 

Natkeeran Ledchumykanthan

Natkeeran Ledchumykanthan is a software developer at the University of Toronto Scarborough Library’s Digital Scholarship Unit. He works in developing open source, multilingual digital repositories and digital scholarship infrastructure and applications.  Natkeeran contributes to community documentation and archival projects such as Noolaham, Kaniyam and Wikimedia to develop free and openly accessible resources. His focus is on developing tools and resources to represent and serve the missing voices in libraries and archives.  The projects he contributed to include, Sri Lankan Tamil Women Archive, Upcountry Archive, Tamil Audio Books, Multimedia Documentation of Traditional Trades and Crafts of Eastern, Northern and Up-Country Sri Lanka (Wikimedia), Open Access Archive of Early Tamil Works, Palm-Leaf Catalouging and Digitization (EAP1056, EAP1260), and Common Voice.

Thamilini Jothilingam

Thamilini Jothilingam is the Digital Asset Archivist for the South Asian Canadian Digital Archive at the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley. Thamilini’s research and archival interests centre at the confluence of art and anthropology, with a focus on gender, memory, cultural heritage, visual histories, and epistemic justice. Thamilini serves as a Board Member and Mentor at Noolaham Foundation and is currently the Project Lead of the Survey and Digital Preservation of Upcountry Tamil Archival Records, funded by the UCLA Library's Modern Endangered Archives Program, and the co-lead for the Documentation of Sri Lankan Muslim Ephemera project. Her past projects include the Digitization and Cataloguing of Sri Lankan Tamil Palm-Leaf Manuscripts (Endangered Archives Programme, British Library) and Multimedia Documentation of Traditional Trades and Crafts of Eastern, Northern and Upcountry Sri Lanka (Wikimedia Foundation).


Shanmu’s research and teaching interests include an interdisciplinary focus in the areas of digital humanities, digital environmental humanities and digital literature. She is particularly interested in building and applying digital tools and technologies for Humanities research. She completed her Ph.D. at Indian Institute of Technology Indore, India. Shanmu a SPARC Visiting Researcher at the Department of History, Lancaster University in 2019. She was an AHRC Postdoctoral Research Associate at Lancaster University, UK. She is currently working as a postdoctoral scholar at University of Toronto, Canada. She has published papers in national and international journals such as DSH, DHQ and EBR etc. She is one of interim executive committee members of DHARTI. She is curating the metadata of Brenda Beck’s archive at Digital Tamil Studies at University of Toronto Scarborough. 

Shrinivasan T

Shrinivasan T is a Senior Cloud Architect at Saama Technologies Pvt Ltd. He is one of the founders of Kaniyam Foundation and, and a notable contributor to open source and Tamil computing projects.  Kaniyam envisions an “environment where all virtual resources, tools and knowledge related to Tamil Language and ethnic groups, are accessible, free and open to all.” He contributes to Linux, Wikimedia, OpenStreetMaps, Mozilla projects among others. His contributions are recognized by several awards, including from the Tamil Literary Garden (Canada), The International Forum for Information Technology in Tamil and Vikatan Publications.

Siddharth Sridhar

Siddharth Sridhar is a 5ᵗʰ year PhD Candidate in the Department of History. His research studies the role of the rubber industry and its associated networks of commerce, labour, and authority in the reproduction of British Imperial space in the Bay of Bengal during the Great Depression and Second World War. Siddharth is a Graduate Fellow at the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative at UofT.

Siddharth’s dissertation examines the management of the labor market of the Bay of Bengal in the 1930s, in the context of regulated tea and rubber production and pressures to restrict migration flows across colonial jurisdictions. As a Graduate Fellow at the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative, Siddharth is working to digitize statistical data collected by colonial officials in British India, Ceylon and Malaya, with the goal of producing cartographic and statistical visualizations of migration flows in the context of policy changes and diplomatic interventions in the Bay of Bengal labour market. 

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