Kuppi in Sinhala and Tamil refers to a small oil lamp, a vial. On university campuses in Sri Lanka, kuppi is the figurative term for a student-led informal study group led by a “smarter” or senior student. Informed by the complexities of university life, kuppi signifies a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall. It parodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies. Drawing upon this conceit, a group of academics and activists, found the Kuppi Collective in 2020, as an inquiry of the location of the university, academia, the intellectual and of their imbrication in the state and the global, in all its complexity.
In “Conversations in a Time of Crisis,” five of the collective’s members enter into a conversation reflecting on its actions, expectations, and the political, remarking on what the future may hold. The conversation takes on an ever more insistent urgency as Sri Lanka catapults into an economic and political debacle, slowly shutting down, even as we speak. Participants in the conversation are Hasini Lecamwasam (HL), Sivamohan Sumathy (SS), Shamala Kumar (SK), Ahilan Kadirgamar (AK), and Nicola Perera (NP).