STAFFAN LINDBERG IN MEMORIAM
It came as a shock, when it was announced that my best friend Professor Emeritus Staffan Lindberg had passed away on Monday, January 7, 2019. Staffan, who has been one of the foremost India experts in Sweden and also a well-known name among social science researchers in South Asia, had recently returned from a conference in Bangalore along with his wife Karin.
For some time he was somewhat sickly, so he was hospitalized in the home town of Lund for observation. There he suffered from cardiac arrest and attempts to resuscitate failed. An appalling ending to Staffan's life, which for over 50 years was characterized by India-related studies, research and teaching. He died far too early, 75 years old.
Student of Tamil in 1966
Staffan's first meeting with India was in the fall of 1966 when he as a student in sociology and comparative religion at Lund University went to Tamil Nadu in southern India to study the Tamil language at Annamalai University. He continued in the spring of 1967 to study rural development at the P S G Arts College in the city of Coimbatore, where, as a field work, he made a study of life among 415 low-pitched, for example, untouchable families. These were employed as agricultural workers but lived a miserable existence as a result of the then-ongoing mechanization of agriculture.
Major research project on prodution condtions in Indian agriculture
They then continued with a large Sida-funded research project on production conditions in Indian agriculture, a project conducted in 1979-1986 and included a study of 400 farmers in six villages in the Tiruchilappali district in central Tamil Nadu. The villages were located in two very different ecological environments, one with access to irrigation and thus providing several crops per year, and the second so-called "dry" villages totally dependent on rainfall. The results were summarized in a monograph titled Barriers Broken – Production Relations and Agrarian Change in South India, published in 1990. In addition to Venkatesh Athreya, the project included Indian research colleagues Dr R Vidyasagar from Madras Institute of Development Studies and Dr A Rajagopal from SaciWATERs in Hyderabad.
Launched the SYDASIEN magazine
The magazine SYDASIEN, the first years named Sydasienbulletinen, was a heart project for Staffan. The magazine started in 1977, but Staffan already participated in the planning stage in the summer before, and Staffan used to jokingly mention that his mother marveled that on June 19, 1976, he considered it more important to embark on a journal meeting instead of as the majority of countrymen and women fascinated view of TV's broadcast from the royal wedding between Carl Gustaf and Silvia. Read Staffan's own account of how it was possible to start the newspaper in an article titled 25 years with South Asia in SYDASIEN 3/2002 - http://larseklund.in/SYDASIEN/0203lindberg.html
An important reason for launching the magazine was the state of emergency in India by Indira Gandhi in June 1975, imprisoning opposition politicians and launching a campaign of forced sterilization of the country's poor population, but also the political situation in neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka engaged many Swedish journalists, researchers and development assistance workers. For many years, the newspaper was produced by three partially independent editorial committees in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Skåne, which were about to make a magazine in turns. Staffan was a leading member of the Skåne board while I was part of the Gothenburg editorial board, while I also had an overall editorial responsibility for the newspaper for 25 years.
SASNET a unique national Swedish research and information network
When it became clear in 2000 that Lund University was commissioned by the Swedish government through Sida to launch a network for South Asia studies in Sweden, what became SASNET, it was entirely Staffan's merit. It was his thoughts not to let the network mainly consist of a physical center formation in Lund, but instead to build on and develop the overall South Asian competence that already existed at the Swedish universities that won hearing. It turned out to be an excellent idea, which Sida expanded into more similar academic networks in the following years.
SASNET started in January 2001 and during the following years Staffan and I diligently went to the Swedish universities, met with researchers and administrators and thus built up an impressive database of in-depth information on South Asia-related research in all disciplines from medicine and technology to the humanities. and social sciences at all Swedish universities. And the possibility of applying for planning grants meant that SASNET became a popular institution throughout the country.
Internationally recognized newsletters
Our ambition to let the network reflect the country's overall South Asia-related research and in our newsletters informing about interesting research at all Swedish universities was unique. In other countries, a university does not tell about news at competing universities, but in Sweden we did just that. Our newsletters were internationally recognized and many got the illusion of believing that Lund University must be a leader in European South Asia research. This false image – Lund has very few researchers working with South Asia compared to the major centers in Europe such as Heidelberg, Leiden, Paris and London – however, put Lund on the map and led to Lund University being accepted as a partner of the major universities in organizing research seminars and in 2004, Lund University was given the prestigious assignment to organize the 18th European South Asia Research Conference ECSAS with 400 participants from all over the world. Staffan was the given conference general.
Many new activities as a retired person/India book project
Of course, after his retirement in 2007, Staffan continued to take an interest in South Asia, but he devoted more time to his family - his wife Karin, his sons Mattias, David and Mikael and grandchildren, as well as his many friends. He also developed other areas of interest, sang with the choir Svart på Vitt, learned to play accordion, served as a church attendant in Allhelgonakyrkan, led for a number of years study circles about the city of Malmö, and as the extremely kind-hearted person that Staffan he engaged himself strongly in assisting newly arrived refugees from the war in Syria.
Last two years we worked again with an India project. Stig Palmkron, book publisher in Lund, contacted Staffan and said that he lacked a modern Swedish language popular scientific book about India that addresses both positive and negative phenomena. Of course, many good books have been published in Swedish about India in recent years, but it is mainly report books and travel books. The most recent general book releases were in the 1980s. The excellent anthology of Indien - en Handbok was published in 1985 and two years later, in connection with the Indian festival in Sweden came the equally readable anthology Möt Indien.
Hedgården and the yearly potluck parties
Finally something about Hedgården, Staffan's beloved house in Österlen. A fantastic house that once stood in the village of Knäbäck 20 km further north, but which was moved when Ravlunda's shooting field despite violent protests was built in the mid-1950s. The entire village Knäbäck was wiped out, but a large part of the picturesque houses were moved to what is today Knäbäckshusen near Rörum. Staffan's father who was a priest bought Hedgården and eventually the house was taken over by Staffan and one of his brothers.
In 1968, a tradition of so-called potluck parties began when Staffan invited all his friends every year and those who could come were generously welcome to show up for a program that for many years included initial fireball tournament, then potluck dinner, campfire on the beach, overnight stay in house or in tents and finally a walk to Stenshuvud the following day. Knäbäck parties happened every year on the first weekend of June, and the original friends were eventually supplemented or replaced by children and grandchildren.
Terrible that you are no more, we grieve you so much, all your friends.
Kolkata January 17, 2019
Translated and revised version of an article in SYDASIEN, http://sydasien.se/kronika/staffan-lindberg-in-memoriam/
REPORT FROM THE CHENNAI MEMORIAL MEET