Assembling Ethnicities in Neoliberal Times: Ethnographic Fictions and Sri Lanka’s War argues that the bloody war fought between the Sri Lankan state and the separatist Tamil Tigers from 1983 to 2009 should be understood as structured and animated by the forces of global capitalism. Using Aihwa Ong’s theorization of neoliberalism as a mobile technology and assemblage, this book explores how contemporary globalization has exacerbated forces of nationalism and racism.
Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham finds that ethnographic fictions have both internalized certain colonial Orientalist impulses and critically engaged with categories of objective gazing, empiricism, and temporal distancing. She demonstrates that such fictions take seriously the task of bearing witness and documenting the complex productions of ethnic identities and the devastations wrought by warfare. To this end, Assembling Ethnicities
explores colonial-era travel writing by Robert Knox (1681) and Leonard Woolf (1913); contemporary works by Michael Ondaatje, Romesh Gunesekera, Shobasakthi, Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, and Thamotharampillai Shanaathanan; and cultural festivals and theater, including vernacular performances of Euripides’s The Trojan Women and women workers’ theater.
The book interprets contemporary fictions to unpack neoliberalism’s entanglements with nationalism and racism, engaging current issues such as human rights, the pastoral, Tamil militancy, immigrant lives, feminism and nationalism, and postwar developmentalism.