Ethnomusicology professor Garrett Field presents keynote address in the Maldives
Ohio University Ethnomusicology and Musicology Professor Garrett Field was chosen to present a keynote address at the 2023 International Conference on Intellectual Advancement at Islamic University of the Maldives, which took place May 6-7.
The annual conference, organized by the Center for Research and Publication of the Islamic University of the Maldives, aims to share knowledge and build learning communities on a local and international level by bringing together scholars, researchers, students, practitioners, and policy makers from all over the world for open, critical, and constructive discussions.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Field said. “It was exciting to have the opportunity to participate in a multilingual conference. There were sessions in Dhivehi, Arabic, and English. It was also a special experience to spend time with scholars from many places in the world like Maldives, as well as China, India, Iraq, Italy, Malaysia, Palestine, and Sri Lanka.”
Field’s speech, “Language and Societal Development in the Dhivehi Writings of Hussain Salahudden,” is part of the research he is conducting for his new book entitled, “Cultivating Erudition: Dhivehi Aesthetic Forms in the Maldives.” The speech focused on the ideas of Hussain Salahuddeen (1881-1948), an influential Maldivian statesman and prolific writer who authored Dhivehi-language novels, short stories, poems, literary history, and historical accounts. Salahuddeen also translated Arabic sīra (prophetic biography) into Dhivehi.
In the keynote address, Field examined three of Salahuddeen's writings to reflect on Salahuddeen’s ideas regarding language and societal development. Field first discussed how Salahuddeen wrote in 1928 that it was important for Maldivians to formally study the Dhivehi language. Salahuddeen wrote this idea at a time when the first official school had not even been established in the country. Second, in 1937 Salahuddeen published a Dhivehi translation of Arabic-language prophetic biography. The manuscript was 1645 pages, and in 1945 it was gifted to the National Library of the Maldives. In the introduction, Salahuddeen wrote that it is important for Maldivians to study Arabic Islamic texts translated carefully into Dhivehi. And third, Field explored scenes in Salahuddeen’s 1934 novel Riwāyatu Nu'mān wa Maryam (Nooman and Maryam: A Novel) in which Salahuddeen celebrated linguistic pluralism as well as multilingualism.
Other topics presented at the conference included Arabic literature, education in the Maldives, Islamic studies, tourism in the Maldives, and a panel discussion about sustainable economic development in the Maldives.
Following the conference, Field also had the opportunity to discuss his research with the Director General of the National Institute of Education (NIE) of Maldives Ahmed Shakeeb and the professional staff at NIE.
Field specializes in the history of Sinhala-language song and poetry in twentieth-century Sri Lanka. As an ethnomusicologist, he examines music as a social process to understand not only what music is but what it means to its practitioners and audiences in social and cultural contexts. He is the author of “Modernizing Composition: Sinhala Song, Poetry, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Sri Lanka” (University of California Press, 2017) which was published in the series, "South Asia Across the Disciplines.” Field has received support for his research from the Fulbright-Hays Award, Ohio University’s Baker Fund Award, and two Sinhala Language Instruction Grants from the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies. In addition to this research, Field also performs South Indian classical music and leads the Ohio University Indian Music Ensemble.