It was a pleasure to interview Janita Jayapiragas, an enthusiastic Tamil diaspora activist, on her collaboration with her peers to promote the achievements of Tamil academics around the world through her participation in projects like The Tamil Academic Journal (TAJ) and the podcast, Pon-Gal.

Just to start, what projects are you involved with and what are they about?

I am currently mainly working with the Tamil Academic Journal as their social media coordinator. This is a place where anyone can find research relating predominantly to Tamil people globally about all disciplines – it could be about culture, language, or even home lives. Our most recent issue was about how Tamil homelands are impacted by climate change. Every year, we select specific themes and hold panel discussions with key speakers from around the world with whom we collaborate with and discuss new research with to create a community in which Tamil academics around the world can converse. The journal as a whole provides a space for Tamils to publish their research.

I was also a part of a podcast called Pon-Gal which focused on topics like Tamil identity, the LGBTQIA+ community, and COVID-19. It’s an amazing platform that takes a more relaxed approach as topics are discussed amidst a conversation and can be found on Spotify.

What motivated you to engage with the projects you are a part of today?

For me, at the point in time in which I was introduced to TAJ, I was a student, and I was working on my dissertation which I centered around Tamil people. It included topics like the bicultural experiences of the Tamil diaspora. Whilst researching, I remember struggling to find detailed publications about the achievements of my ancestors. To my knowledge, there was no source with a wide range of information that I could use to find content for my topics, and this cultivated the initial fleeting thought that drew me to TAJ. When I was introduced to TAJ, I thought that it was such an amazing initiative in which I saw so much potential in. I was also learning more about the history of my country, Sri Lanka, and about the burning of the Jaffna Public Library in 1981. In this event, huge amounts of significant research and literature were destroyed which was devastating. To me, TAJ symbolized a fresh start where new documents could be stored, and I thought it would be a great place for future generations to find research for their own work.

What is your role in this project?

I currently handle social media content. I consider questions like, “How can we make the Tamil Academic Journal appealing to everyone?” “How can we keep our followers engaged?” We are largely active on Instagram and post mostly when we have events coming up. I think about how to supply as many people as I can with important information in an engaging way and target all age groups.

What are your goals in the Tamil Academic Journal?

From what I can contribute to the Tamil Academic Journal, I hope to build an advanced network that can branch out to other Tamil professionals. I hope to make the journal known to people outside of the Tamil community and see it flourish as a source of information to anyone. I want to raise awareness of the history of Sri-Lankan diaspora Tamils and develop a place for people to look back on the events that led up to today’s Tamil diaspora community. I also want to allow those from different backgrounds to intersect as one and share similarities. We also hope to provide a wide range of information because whilst there is lots of information out there about the politics and wars of Sri Lanka, other topics that are also significant like bicultural experiences are often swept away. Particularly after being raised in a Western country with Asian parents, I hope to bring light to topics like bicultural experiences. I hope to imply that Tamil people are more than just wars through this journal.

The team working on The Tamil Academic Journal expects to make their first publication in the very near future. Further information about this amazing project can be found on their website, Instagram or Twitter with the username @tamilacademicjournal. The podcast “Pon-Gal” is available on Spotify!