Xavier Centre of Historical Research
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The Xavier Centre of Historical Research is a Jesuit-run history research centre located in Alto Porvorim, Goa in India. It was founded in the late ‘seventies and its first director was Dr Teotonio R. de Souza. Its current director is Delio Mendonca sj. It is one of the prominent institutions in Asia focussing on Indo-Portuguese issues, and besides organising seminars and talks, it has also published a number of books related to the Portuguese in India and Asia, Goa, the Jesuits and other historical themes. It has set up an art gallery.
Background and current position
According to an article by Cajetan Coelho sj, the Xavier Centre of Historical Research [XCHR] was set up by the Jesuits of Goa in 1977. It is located alongside the Thomas Stephens Konkkni Kendr. Its current director is Delio Mendonca, sj.
XCHR activities were inaugurated on November 4, 1979. At that time, the institution was provisionally situated at Miramar, in Goa. Present for the inauguration were Professor P.M. Joshi, the retired director of the Maharashtra Archives, and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation of Lisbon then administrator Dr Jose Blanco.
XCHR’s founding came at a time when relations between India and Portugal, which had soured because of the manner in which colonial rule ended in Goa in 1961, were just becoming to thaw, following the 1974 Revolution in Portugal.
Cajetan Coelho, a historian himself connected with this institution till recently, argues that the XCHR “has helped this process at the cultural level by its involvement in the organization of the series of International Seminars on Indo-Portuguese History ISIPH, initiated by Rev. John Correia-Afonso former director of the Heras Institute in Bombay in December 1978.”
Other seminars and workshops
The XCHR has been organizing local and national history seminars since 1980 to facilitate an interchange among professional historians and students of history. The XCHR says its aims and objectives include promoting research in history and related disciplines by providing inter-disciplinary methodology, sharing its perspectives where the “voiceless and subalterns find a privileged place”.
The Centre builds “consciousness among the local talent” through lectures, seminars, publications, exhibitions and, of late, through an art museum and audio-visuals; by providing research facilities such as guidance, scholarships, books, documents and language tools; by preserving records and objects of interest related to local history and culture.
These writings and seminars have focussed on themes of religion in Goa, the Church in Goa and Goan history and society including the freedom struggle. Overall, the focus is on the challenges facing Goa.
Links and visits
The Xavier Centre has close links with Jesuit Historical Institute in Rome, Heras Institute in Mumbai, the Goa University and other institutions. It says that several eminent personalities visit the XCHR and avail of its research facilities. There are facilities for small group conferences and seminars. The Centre also has accommodation facilities for scholars.
Some recent publications of the Centre are: Conversions and Citizenry: Goa under Portugal 1510 -!610, by Délio de Mendonça (2002) and Jesuits in India, ed. Délio de Mendonça (2003). African Fables a collection of about 100 unpublished stories is being prepared in English and Portuguese languages. The proceeding of the seminar The Church in the Evolving Society of Goa held in Old Goa in 2003 and consisting of about 15 papers has also been published. A book on the Jesuits in Goa is being prepared. An International Seminar titled In Honour of St. Francis Xavier: Jesuit History, Culture and Identity will be held in Goa by the XCHR and others in December 2006 in collaboration with the Jesuit Historical Institute, Rome, to commemorate the fifth birth centenary of St Francis Xavier.
Support for this institution came from Rev. Dr Josef Ubelmesser of Nuremberg and his friends at the Sussen Parish in what then was the Federal Republic of Germany. The Alto Porvorim premises were inaugurated on January 27, 1983, when the Xavier Centre of Historical Research organized the third ISIPH. In that meet, some 60 scholars studying Indo-Portuguese issues from 12 different countries took part. The Xavier Centre of Historical Research is located at Alto Porvorim Goa and can be contacted via phone 0091.832.2414971 or 2417772 (office).
An article says: “On one of the well-maintained shelves, one can page through original copies of the first newspaper to be published from Goa. Gazeta de Goa was brought out in 1821, and lists political and other “news” across its now-fragile pages. One brief item reports on the war between Russia and Turkey, giving a hint of what readers in Goa got to read in those days.”
It adds: “On other shelves of this library, one can learn a whole vast amount of interesting tid-bits about Goa…. XCHR’s book collection has been steadily growing. From 1993 to 1995, for instance, it grew from 13,000 to 16,000…. Computer printouts of the indexes of XCHR are available, while there is also a microfilm reader on hand. In keeping with the wealth of information this centre contains, even the prestigious US Library of Congress has evinced interest in its information.”
Xavier Centre of Historical Research currently (2006) holds a series of programmes called the History Hour that feature historians and others, talk about fairly contemporary issues of relevance to Goan society. Recent programmes also presented various, if conflicting, viewpoints related to language and script debates in Goa.
XCHR regularly invites speakers to deliver a talk or join in a discussion during its History Hour series. History Hour is “a forum to present facts and views on the history, culture, society of Goa in relation to broader national and international contexts.” XCHR says the History Hour “has become a meeting point for all those interested in Goan history and culture and its impact on present day questions and challenges.” It is open to all.
The XCHR currently (2006) has also a museum, which offers visitors “a glimpse of Goan art as well”. It houses several representative artefacts of Indo-Portuguese Christian art, Indian Christian and other modern paintings.
The goal of the museum, according to the XCHR, is the “appreciation, preservation, enhancement and dissemination of Goan heritage which has been harmonious and peaceful, through awareness and education”.
This is planned to be built into an interactive museum supported by a series of multimedia and audio-visual presentations which are in preparation.
Portuguese language courses
The XCHR organizes basic courses in Portuguese. These courses are of short and long duration. The courses aim to provide the required tool for those who have to do research in documentation in Portuguese language.
- Teotonio R. de Souza, Xavier Centre of Historical Research, in Handbook of Libraries, Archives & Information Centres in India, Vol. 9, Humanities, Part 2, ed. B.M. Gupta, Delhi, Aditya Prakashan, 1991, pp. 239-242
- The Goa Jesuit Province of the Society of Jesus – The Jesuits in Goa
- Article on Goan Archives,incl. XCHR (1987) by Teotonio R. de Souza
- Article on XCHR (1991) by Teotonio R. de Souza
- Article on XCHR by Cajetan Coelho sj
- Article on XCHR’s library
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