Recollections by Riggs || a panel about Riggs' work that Sathya organized || and other documents.
BY DAVID EDWARDS
T.V. SATHYAMURTHY, who taught politics at York University for 30 years, was a larger-than , life personality whose great abilities as a scholar and teacher were eclipsed by his skill as a facilitator and coordinator of inter-disciplinary studies in the social and human sciences.
He was the originator, sustainer and editor of the landmark series Socia Change and Political Discourse in India (1994-96) which refocussed understanding of the political culture of the subcontinent. Yet this concentration on the study of India came late in his life, was by no means exclusive even then, and it followed much journeying, both physical and intellectual. A compulsive writer (abstinence for any length led to withdrawal symptoms) Sathyamurthy was the author of several books and a long stream of articles. His intellectual span was remarkable; included in the range were developmental studies, international relations, political anthropology and extensive area studies. All these were seen in a rich interdisciplinary context.
He was born into a Brahmin and civil service family in Madras, in 1929; his life was a complex rejection and affirmation of its values. The anti-Imperial ethos of the late Raj endured with him for a lifetime, yet his 31 years in Britain acclimatised him in every respect (an English heatwave became something of a burden).
As a student at the Benares Hindu University, his quick intelligence distinguished him, and (more importantly) his abilities opened up prospects of greater personal freedom. His subsequent choice of an academic life was the embracing of his natural milieu and the key to liberation. Still, even in his sixties, in his (rare). moments of introspection there was a note of enforced self justification about the path of life he had chosen decades before. Nonetheless, the culture and rigour of his upbringing was the basis of his subsequent achievement.
Sathyamurthy' university education was in the sciences; his first postgraduate research was in Chemistry at Benares. In the 1950s he moved geographically to the American mid-West and intellectually to the study of politics, taking his doctorate in social sciences at the University of Illinois.
The wide humanism of his temperament and the exactness of his scientific training combined to make him critical of the pretensions of the dominant modes of thinking in American political science and, after a year lecturing at the University of Indiana, he left the States in 1963.
Flor the next few years Sathyamurthy worked at the University of Singapore and at Makerere University, Kampala. His work was broadening into the general field of developmental issues; his book, The Political Development of Uganda, 1900-1986 (1986) was the later fruit of his time at Kampala.
In 1967 came the move to Britain - after a year at Strathclyde University, he established his permanent base at York University. From that base he globe-trotted, keeping up his contacts in the mid-west, in India, establishing links in Norway, Paris, Hawaii among many other places. An indefatigable conference attender, his restless gregariousness, his inexhaustible energy and extroversion formed an extensive network of collaborators and acquaintances. He made a priority (totally congenial to his spirit) of keeping friendships in constant trim.
Sathyamurthy's intellectual and political affiliations were broadly Marxist. His sympathy for the down. trodden and his contempt for the shams of the self-satisfied were heartfelt and abiding. He was a well-versed connoisseur of the many and varied political and cultural environments in which he lived: among them was a year in Santiago, Chile (1970-71), when the Allende phase was turning sour.
Sathya's chief delight. was the human comedy. He had.an enormous sense humour and childlike capacity for fun. Academic life was oxygen to him -- his curiosity about his human habitat knew no bounds; filed in his capacious memory were countless anecdotes, tales of feuds, mishaps, indiscretions and entanglements (he candidly confessed to more than his fair share).
Even by academic standards his capacity for gossip was impressive. He could transmute this, by a higher art into a wonderfully funny cartoon-like narrative. He was best as he approached the edge of mere fantasy. Sarcasm was entirely foreign to his character.
He rated his teaching as highly important, and intensely personal. His many doctoral students were subjected (among other things) to Sturm und Drang ("I get nowhere with them until they've cried") All his teaching was extemporaneous, from a retentive memory and ready store of knowledge. He was impulsive, mercurial, expressed his feelings and had an ability rapidly to scan the feelings of others -- reserve was practically beyond his command.
. Sometimes prone to exasperate others, Sathya (as he was universally known) was also quick to mollify with his disarming openness. The hieroglyphic signature, the loud shirts, the mannerisms (thanking the photocopier), Thurberesque traits (the freezing office was because he insisted -- on hearing there was asbestos in a far part of the building -- that the central heating be shut off), the corridors ringing with his greetings and laughter; all these will be sorely missed.
Although Sathya gained widespread recognition in many parts of the world, his elevation to a
chair at York in 1996 took decades. His Inaugural Lecture was also a Valedictory Address. In
the last phase of his career he went from strength to strength. His sudden death was a shock to all
who knew him; he was genial, active and engaged with the world to the end.
Tennalur Vengara Sathyamurthy, political scientist; born Madras, India, 29 October 1929; Lecturer in Government, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, 1962-63; Lecturer in Political Science, University of Singapore, 1963-65; Senior Lecturer in Political Science, Makerere University, Kampala, 1965-67; Lecturer in International Relations, Department of Politics, Strathclyde University, 1967-68; Lecturer, Department of Politics, York University 1968-71; Senior Lecturer, 1971-96; Professor, 1996-1997 (Emeritus 1997); married 1963 Carole Methven (one daughter); died, York, 25 August 1998.
THE INDEPENDENT, 14 September 1998
It was only a few days after his sudden death that Philip Cerny told me, in Boston, during the American Political Science conference, about this unexpected and tragic event. I had known Sathya for a long time, ever since his year at Indiana University (1962-3) and, most recently, he had insisted on planning a panel at next year's conference of the International Studies Association to present a critical assessment of my own work. The plan has been accepted as a double session to be held next February. Cerny himself will replace Sathya as chair of that panel, opening with a tribute to his life and accomplishments.
Others have written more comprehensively than I can about his professional activities -- I can only say I hold them in highest regard. Instead, responding to a request from Emma and Carole Sathyamurthy, let me offer a few anecdotes about our personal relationships with him -- ours meaning Clara-Louise, my beloved wife, and myself. We enjoyed his company in Bloomington and were sorry to lose him, but delighted to have various opportunities for reunions in Hawaii and elsewhere.
One of the most memorable occasions was in Madrid during a congress of the International Sociological Association. We had arrived, exhausted, and were resting in our hotel when word came that Tanya, a Russian anthropologist and partner in efforts to clarify concepts relating to ethnicity, was due to arrive from Moscow at midnight and expected to be met. I was fearful of the trip to the airport when suddenly Sathya arrived, brimming with enthusiasm. He insisted on accompanying me, claiming that his limited knowledge of Spanish would be an asset. The expedition succeeded and we brought Tanya back to the hotel -- but then her real problems surfaced. She had no place to go because her reservation was not complete and we put her up overnight in our hotel room until we could go to the University the following morning where, after an exasperatingly long delay, she was able to get a dormitory room. During all of this, Sathya was our source of laughter and inspiration.
Later, following many conversations during the Congress, Sathya insisted we accompany him on a trip to Segovia. It was a real excursion with a train ride, much walking about, exotic lunching, and memorable sights and sounds. What made it so wonderful and what we remember most, however, was the wit and insight that informed Sathya's comments and made what could have been an ordinary touristic experience an exciting adventure for our minds and imaginations.
More recently Sathya came to Hawaii to take part in a small conference on ethnic nationalism that I had organized for our Committee on Viable Constitutionalism (COVICO). Sathya was an enthusiastic member and sought to hold a follow-up conference at York but, sadly, this dream will never be realized. In addition to our conference discussions, Sathya and I were able to hold more intimate conversations in his bedroom at the Tokai University center where we were meeting. As a commuter, I did not need a room for myself, but Ciel agreed that I should spend the night with Sathya so that we could extend our discussions late at night. We were joined by Bert Collins from Guyana, currently an Ambassador at the United Nations, whose brilliant comments amplified what Sathya and I were saying -- sadly, he has also since passed away. Both Bert and Sathya could talk learnedly and with empathy about the problems of living under British colonial rule, yet express love and admiration for the imperial homelands they had embraced as their own. I only wished that we could continue our conversation indefinitely as a kind of permanent seminar.
My most recent conversations with Sathya were in Minneapolis in March this year during the conference of the International Studies Association where we had continued our discourse on problems of ethnic nationalism and life in India as Sathya had reported in his voluminous recent publications. It was during these conversations that he insisted my own work should be memorialized at the next ISA conference, and I conspired with him to select panelists who could be counted on to speak with authority and impartiality. It was fun for me and made me appreciate Sathya even more as one of those who admired my own work -- so it was a kind of mutual admiration encounter that I will long appreciate. And now we can only mourn the premature passing of an old friend and valued colleague. May he rest in peace.
Fred W. Riggs: 20 October 1998
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