Prof. Wimal Dissanayake conferred AMIC Asia Communication Award | Sunday Observer

Prof. Wimal Dissanayake conferred AMIC Asia Communication Award

2 January, 2022

On December 4, Prof. Wimal Dissanayake was awarded the Asian Communication Award for ‘Disruptive Inquiry’ by the AMIC Asian Media Information and Communication Center in the Philippines. He received this award at the culmination of the virtual 28th AMIC Annual Conference and 50th founding anniversary of the organization.

The award is given to the most outstanding communication scholars in Asia who have excelled in their chosen pursuits. Prof. Dissanayake qualified for it because of his immense service to the Asian theories of communication and Asian cinema. A Bhutan journalist and civic engagement advocate Dasho Kinley Dorji was also conferred at the event, and he received the 2020 AMIC Asia Communication Award for ‘Transformative Leadership’.

AMIC that gave awards to these communication scholars is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to Media development in Asia and the Pacific. Its members and affiliates have published the rich trove of research studies on journalism and communication in the region in the last 50 years.

According to AMIC analysts, Prof. Wimal Dissanayake has done pioneering work in the field of Asian theories of communication and opened up new and exciting pathways of inquiry. In the award citation it is said that Dissanayake’s scholarship embodies the pursuit of the road less traveller in communication inquiry.

The citation goes on to say that, Prof. Dissanayake is a true Asianist who does not discriminate between social sciences and humanities and between critical communication studies and other applications of Indigenous knowledge systems. He is a superb synthesizer and an excellent builder of thought, a prolific enunciator of complex theories. He is a scholar par excellence.

In recognizing scholarly service of Prof. Dissanayake, AMIC further says that he, as a critic of the wholesale adoption of Western-produced communication theory, research and methods, devoted his career not only to creative writing but also to finding and articulating the Asian perspective and sensibility in communication studies—in collaboration with other Asian scholars.

Becoming a scholar

Prof. Dissanayake comes from a village called Nikaveva, 35 kilometers off Kurunegala town. His parents were school teachers, and inspired him very much. He had his preliminary education from Nikaveva Vidyalaya, and then moved to Trinity College, Kandy which is a leading school in Sri Lanka.

After passing the Advanced Level examination (those days it was called HSC – Higher School Certificate – examination), he entered the University of Peradeniya – it was its golden era. After receiving B.A. degree from Peradeniya (University of Ceylon), he went to America and took M.A. degree from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by the Ph.D. from the Cambridge University, England.

Prof. Dissanayake is recognised for his great contribution in providing a conceptual link between Asian communication and culture. He accomplished this by studying classical Asian teachings, cultural traditions and belief systems, customs, oral and written texts – in order to understand their impact and influence on the communication culture of Asia – the patterns, ways and behaviour that go into both verbal and non-verbal expressions of Asian sensibility and social interaction.

Because of his academic qualifications, he received the Fulbright and Rockefeller Fellowships, and was invited to be the Wei Lun Distinguished Professor at the Chinese University, in Hong Kong. And also, has been invited as the keynote speaker at numerous academic conferences in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

For many years he was the Senior Fellow at the East-West Center, Hawaii, and the Head of its Film Program. He was also the professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Hong Kong, and has been associated with the Hawaii International Film Festival from its inception until 1995 who was in charge of the Film Symposium.

Currently he is an Honorary Professor at the University of Hong Kong and is on the Affiliate Faculty of the Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii. He has also served as an advisor to UNESCO, and as an Editorial Advisor to a large number of prestigious international academic journals dealing with cinema, communication, and cultural theory, as well as the International Encyclopedia of Communication.

Books in English

As a poet he has published 8 poetry books in Sinhala and the latest volume of poetry is ‘Kingfisher’ in English. There are more than fifty scholarly books on cinema, drama, cultural theory and literary theory that he wrote and edited in Sinhala and English.

Most of his English scholarly books were published by Oxford, Cambridge, Duke, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois University Presses and Routledge Publishers, and Penguin. His notable works in English include: ‘Ashes of Time’(2003), ‘Sholay, A Cultural Reading’(1992), ‘Self and Colonial Desire: Travel Writing of V.S. Naipal’ (1993), ‘Raj Kapoors Films: Harmony of Discourses’ (1988), ‘Melodrama and Asian cinema’, ‘New Chinese Cinema’, ‘Sinhala Novel and the Public Sphere’ (2009), ‘Enabling Traditions’ (2005). His edited volumes include such works as ‘Asian Perspective’ (1988), ‘Rethinking Third Cinema’, ‘From Aan To Lagaan and Beyond’, ‘Continuity and Change in Communication Systems’ (1984), ‘The Role of News Media in National and International Conflict’ (1984), ‘Literary History, Narrative and Culture’, ‘Colonialism, Nationalism in Asian Cinema’ and ‘Narratives of Agency’.

Apart from these books, he has written many literary columns for Sinhala and English newspapers which he subsequently published as books. Among them, one notable book is ‘Cross - Currents’ (2021) which is produced from a literary column with the same name he wrote for the Sunday Observer in Sri Lanka. It is his observations on literature, cinema and culture, and the book, which comprises 1,256 pages, includes 131 columns he wrote for the paper.

Another important book that he launched is an anthology titled ‘Penguin Book of Modern Indian Short Stories’ which is a joint work with Stephen Alter. It later became a bestselling book.

He has published English poetry in such journals as Hawaii Review’, ‘Kaimaana’, ‘Bamboo Ridge’, ‘Cambridge Review’ and ‘Pawn.’

Books in Sinhala

Prof. Dissanayake is the one who introduced postmodernism literary theory for Sinhala readers as a scholarly way. During 1990s he described this theory mainly through the Sinhala newspapers and later published more than three books from them in Sinhala. He did this when the Sinhala reading public was in a confused state on postmodernism, especially after a youth group named ‘X’ started to noise on the theory.

‘Nava Kavi Saraniya’ which he edited in 70s, is a collection of poetry by veteran Sinhala poets.

It was for many years a text for the Advanced Level examination, and became a literary manual for young writers and scholars on Sinhala poetry.

‘Arutha ha Viritha’ (Meter and Meaning) by him is a literary analysis on the meter in Sinhala poetry which is another noteworthy work of him (and Ganewattha), published in 2019. It is, in fact, the first critical analysis on meter in Sinhala poetry.


Prof. Dissanayake has got many prestigious awards. At the State literary festival in 2012 he received Sahitya Rathna award, the highest life time award in literary field in Sri Lanka.

He is also the recipient of the Lifetime Award conferred by the Sri Lanka Foundation in Los Angeles. Many times he won the State Literary award for his poetry and critical works. Sri Lanka Book Publishers Association’s prestigious award for best poetry once won by Prof. Dissanayake, and he was also awarded an honorary D.Litt. by Vidyalankara University.

As said earlier, Prof. Wimal Dissanayake is a bilingual writer, lecturer and accomplished speaker. In various literary events, especially in book launching ceremonies and literary festivals, he was the main speaker or the chair.

Prof. Dissanayake is a student of Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra, and because of that he turned to stage plays. There he entered with translating dramas, and the first play he translated was Bear by Chekov. He co-translated it as ‘Walahediya’ (the title was given by Sarachchandra). Then, he translated ‘A Man Who Married a Dumb Wife’ by Anatole Franz as ‘Golu Birinda’ which was later produced by Namel Weeramuni, a prominent playwright in Sinhala drama.

He entered into the field of poetry under the influence of Peradeniya school. At the time, he was closely associated with Prof. Siri Gunasinghe, a leading poet in free verse, and edited the ‘Piyawara’ poetry magazine in the University. When considering all these facts, an award as AMIC is a fitting tribute to Prof. Wimal Dissanayake.