The lack of peace in Sri Lanka is commonly portrayed as a consequence of a violent, ethnonationalist conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Viewed in this light, resolution could be attained through conflict management. But, as Qadri Ismail reveals, this is too simplistic an understanding and cannot produce lasting peace.
Abiding by Sri Lanka examines how the disciplines of anthropology, history, and literature treat the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Anthropology, Ismail contends, approaches Sri Lanka as an object from an “outside” and western point of view. History, addressing the conflict from the “inside,” abides by the place and so promotes change that is nationalist and exclusive. Neither of these fields imagines an inclusive community. Literature, Ismail argues, can.
With close readings of texts that “abide” by Sri Lanka, texts that have a commitment to it, Ismail demonstrates that the problems in Sri Lanka raise fundamental concerns for us all regarding the relationship between democracies and minorities. Recognizing the structural as well as political tendencies of representative democracies to suppress minorities, Ismail rethinks democracy by redefining the concept of the minority perspective, not as a subject-position of numerical insignificance, but as a conceptual space that opens up the possibility for distinction without domination and, ultimately, peace.
Qadri Ismail is associate professor of English at the University of Minnesota. He has also been a journalist in Sri Lanka.
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.
John S. Strong unravels the storm of influences shaping the received narratives of two iconic sacred objects.
Bodily relics such as hairs, teeth, fingernails, pieces of bone—supposedly from the Buddha himself—have long served as objects of veneration for many Buddhists. Unsurprisingly, when Western colonial powers subjugated populations in South Asia, they used, manipulated, redefined, and even destroyed these objects to exert control.
In The Buddha’s Tooth, John S. Strong examines Western stories, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, surrounding two significant Sri Lankan sacred objects to illuminate and concretize colonial attitudes toward Asian religions. First, he analyzes a tale about the Portuguese capture and public destruction, in the mid-sixteenth century, of a tooth later identified as a relic of the Buddha. Second, he switches gears to look at the nineteenth-century saga of British dealings with another tooth relic of the Buddha—the famous Daḷadā enshrined in a temple in Kandy—from 1815, when it was taken over by English forces, to 1954, when it was visited by Queen Elizabeth II. As Strong reveals, the stories of both the Portuguese tooth and the Kandyan tooth reflect nascent and developing Western understandings of Buddhism, realizations of the cosmopolitan nature of the tooth, and tensions between secular and religious interests.
This volume seeks to answer the question of how the Buddhist monks in today's Sri Lanka—given Buddhism's traditionally nonviolent philosophy—are able to participate in the fierce political violence of the Sinhalese against the Tamils.
Advertising is a central part of the global system of commerce and culture. Every day it exposes consumers around the world to practices associated with the West, urban life, prosperity, and modernity. One consequence of this exposure is that it frees people's imaginations from time and place, and imposes a new and foreign reality. In this book Steven Kemper looks at a parallel trend, arguing that advertising firms in Nairobi, Caracas, and Colombo also domesticate the imagination, insinuating images into people's minds of the traditional as well as the modern, the local as much as the global.
Drawing upon fieldwork conducted over thirty years, Kemper examines the Sri Lankan advertising industry to show how executives draw on their skills as folk ethnographers to "Sri Lankanize" commodities and practices to make them locally desirable, essentially producing new forms of Sri Lankan culture. Addressing many of the most pressing agendas of contemporary anthropology, Buying and Becoming breaks new ground in studies of culture and globalization.
This book focuses on the practical challenges of managing a World Heritage listed historic city in a South Asian context. The focal point of the author’s research is Sri Lanka’s Galle Fort, a walled town, identified as the best-preserved colonial fort in South Asia. The costs and benefits of the fort’s World Heritage recognition to its local urban community, and to the colonial fort itself, are analyzed. Shown is how thirty years of the World Heritage project at Galle Fort changed a once small seaside walled town with dilapidated colonial buildings into a tourist hot-spot and prime real estate, thereby changing the lives of its inhabitants. It argues that the best practices of participatory and people-centered approaches of managing urban heritage at the global level are slow to progress at a local level.
Like toddlers all over the world, Sri Lankan children go through a period that in the U.S. is referred to as the “terrible twos.” Yet once they reach elementary school age, they appear uncannily passive, compliant, and undemanding compared to their Western counterparts. Clearly, these children have undergone some process of socialization, but what?
Over ten years ago, anthropologist Bambi Chapin traveled to a rural Sri Lankan village to begin answering this question, getting to know the toddlers in the village, then returning to track their development over the course of the following decade. Childhood in a Sri Lankan Village offers an intimate look at how these children, raised on the tenets of Buddhism, are trained to set aside selfish desires for the good of their families and the community. Chapin reveals how this cultural conditioning is carried out through small everyday practices, including eating and sleeping arrangements, yet she also explores how the village’s attitudes and customs continue to evolve with each new generation.
Combining penetrating psychological insights with a rigorous observation of larger social structures, Chapin enables us to see the world through the eyes of Sri Lankan children searching for a place within their families and communities. Childhood in a Sri Lankan Village offers a fresh, global perspective on child development and the transmission of culture.
The man whom Indian nationalists perceived as the “George Washington of India” and who was President of the Indian National Congress in 1938–1939 is a legendary figure. Called Netaji (“leader”) by his countrymen, Subhas Chandra Bose struggled all his life to liberate his people from British rule and, in pursuit of that goal, raised and led the Indian National Army against Allied Forces during World War II. His patriotism, as Gandhi asserted, was second to none, but his actions aroused controversy in India and condemnation in the West.
Now, in a definitive biography of the revered Indian nationalist, Sugata Bose deftly explores a charismatic personality whose public and private life encapsulated the contradictions of world history in the first half of the twentieth century. He brilliantly evokes Netaji’s formation in the intellectual milieu of Calcutta and Cambridge, probes his thoughts and relations during years of exile, and analyzes his ascent to the peak of nationalist politics. Amidst riveting accounts of imprisonment and travels, we glimpse the profundity of his struggle: to unite Hindu and Muslim, men and women, and diverse linguistic groups within a single independent Indian nation. Finally, an authoritative account of his untimely death in a plane crash will put to rest rumors about the fate of this “deathless hero.”
This epic of a life larger than its legend is both intimate, based on family archives, and global in significance. His Majesty’s Opponent establishes Bose among the giants of Indian and world history.
Crucible of Conflict is an ethnographic and historical study of Hindu castes, matrilineal family structure, popular religious traditions, and ethnic conflict. It is also the first full-length ethnography of Sri Lanka’s east coast, an area that suffered heavily in the 2004 tsunami and that is of vital significance to the political future of the island nation. Since the bitter guerrilla war for an independent Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka broke out in 1983, the easternmost region of the island has emerged as a strategic site of conflict. Dennis B. McGilvray argues that any long-term resolution of the ethnic conflict must accommodate this region, in which Sinhalese Buddhists, Tamil Hindus, and Tamil-speaking Muslims are each a significant share of the population.
McGilvray explores the densely populated farming and fishing settlements in this coastal zone, focusing on the Tamil and Muslim inhabitants of an agricultural town in the Ampara District. Drawing on fieldwork conducted over more than thirty years as well as on Tamil and Dutch historical sources, he describes the regional dominance of a non-Brahmin matrilineal caste of thirteenth-century Kerala origin. The Muslims, who acquired dowry lands and matrilineal family patterns through local intermarriages, have in the twentieth century emerged from Hindu caste domination and are now the Tamil Hindus’ political and economic equals. Crucible of Conflict offers a uniquely detailed account of Muslim kinship and community organization in eastern Sri Lanka, as well as a comparison of Tamil and Muslim practices and institutions. McGilvray concludes with an analysis of the interethnic tensions and communal violence that have intensified in recent years.
Around the globe, dances that originate in village, temple, and court rituals have been adapted and transformed to carry secular meanings and serve new national purposes. In stage performances, dance competitions, and festivals worldwide, dance has become an emblem of ethnicity and an index of national identity. But what are the “backstage” stories of those dances chosen to bear such meanings, and what have been the consequences for their communities of origin? In Dance and the Nation, Susan A. Reed brings to light the complexities of aesthetic politics in a multi-faceted exploration and analysis of Kandyan dance in Sri Lanka.
As the national dance of Sri Lanka, Kandyan dance is identified with the majority Sinhala ethnic group and heavily supported by the state. Derived from the kohomba kankariya—an elaborate village ritual performed by men of the hereditary drummer caste—the dance was adopted by the state as a symbol of traditional Sinhala culture in the post-independence period. When state officials introduced the dance into the school curriculum, it was opened to individuals of all castes, and high-caste women have emerged as prominent teachers and performers. Reed’s evocative account traces the history and consequences of this transition from ritual to stage, situating the dance in relation to postcolonial nationalism and ethnic politics and emphasizing the voices and perspectives of the hereditary dancers and of women performers.
Although Kandyan dance is related to other south Asian dance forms, it is unique, distinguished by an elegant, energetic style, and lively displays of acrobatics and agility. The companion DVD includes unparalleled footage of this vibrant dance in ritual, stage, and training contexts, and features the most esteemed performers of the Kandyan region.
Special Citation book award, Society for Dance History Scholars
Winner, Outstanding Publication Award, Congress on Research in Dance
In contemporary Sri Lanka, long-established modes of rural life are being disrupted in the name of progress. As this occurs, instances of "demonic possession" have been known to take place—incidents that may both express the conflicts that result and attempt to resolve them. When residents of the village of Kukulewa were promised sixty new houses, a factional rift arose between those who benefited from the project and those who did not. The breach between what became in effect two separate villages resulted in both divisive accusations of sorcery and spirit-inspired appeals for cooperation.
James Brow witnessed these possession trances and sorcery accusations as they occurred, enabling him to convey this richly textured story interweaving political factionalism and troubled spirits. Official projects of development have proceeded apace in Sri Lanka, but until now there have been few accounts of their tendency to tear apart the fabric of rural society. Demons and Development combines an engaging narrative of how development was experienced in one particular village with an original contribution to theories of hegemony, the social anthropology of South Asia, the ethnography of nationalism, and the sociology of development.
Sorcery has long been associated with the "dark side" of human development. Along with magic and witchcraft, it is assumed to be irrational and antithetical to modern thought. But in The Feast of the Sorcerer, Bruce Kapferer argues that sorcery practices reveal critical insights into how consciousness is formed and how human beings constitute their social and political realities.
Kapferer focuses on sorcery among Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka to explore how the art of sorcery is in fact deeply connected to social practices and lived experiences such as birth, death, sickness, and war. He describes in great detail the central ritual of exorcism, a study which opens up new avenues of thought that challenge anthropological approaches to such topics as the psychological forces of emotion and the dynamics of power. Overcoming both "orientalist" bias and postmodern permissiveness, Kapferer compellingly reframes sorcery as a pragmatic, conscious practice which, through its dynamic of destruction and creation, makes it possible for humans to reconstruct repeatedly their relation to the world.
Formations of Ritual was first published in 1994. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
Yaktovil is an elaborate healing ceremony employed by Sinhalas in Sri Lanka to dispel the effects of the eyesight of a pantheon of malevolent supernatural figures known as yakku. Anthropology, traditionally, has articulated this ceremony with the concept metaphor of "demonism." Yet, as David Scott demonstrates in this provocative book, this use of "demonism" reveals more about the discourse of anthropology than it does about the ritual itself. His investigation of yaktovil and yakku within the Sinhala cosmology is also an inquiry into the ways in which anthropology, by ignoring the discursive history of the rituals, religions, and relationships it seeks to describe, tends to reproduce ideological-often, specifically colonial-objects.
To do this, Scott describes the discursive apparatus through which yakku are positioned in the moral universe of Sinhala, traces the appearance of yakku and yaktovil in Western discourse, evaluates the contribution of these figures and this ceremony in anthropology, and attempts to show how the larger anthropology of Buddhism, in which the anthropology of yaktovil is embedded, might be reconfigured. Finally, he offers a rereading of the ritual in terms of the historically selfconscious approach he proposes.The result points to a major rethinking of the historical nature not only of the objects, but also of the concepts through which they are constructed in anthropological discourse.
David Scott teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago.
How did the British come to conquer South Asia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? Answers to this question usually start in northern India, neglecting the dramatic events that marked Britain’s contemporaneous subjugation of the island of Sri Lanka. In Islanded, Sujit Sivasundaram reconsiders the arrival of British rule in South Asia as a dynamic and unfinished process of territorialization and state building, revealing that the British colonial project was framed by the island’s traditions and maritime placement and built in part on the model they provided.
Using palm-leaf manuscripts from Sri Lanka to read the official colonial archive, Sivasundaram tells the story of two sets of islanders in combat and collaboration. He explores how the British organized the process of “islanding”: they aimed to create a separable unit of colonial governance and trade in keeping with conceptions of ethnology, culture, and geography. But rather than serving as a radical rupture, he reveals, islanding recycled traditions the British learned from Kandy, a kingdom in the Sri Lankan highlands whose customs—from strategies of war to views of nature—fascinated the British. Picking up a range of unusual themes, from migration, orientalism, and ethnography to botany, medicine, and education, Islanded is an engaging retelling of the advent of British rule.
Kinship and History in South Asia presents four papers given at a small conference of kinship studies scholars, “Kinship and History in South Asia,” at the University of Toronto in 1973. They draw upon one another and show several common concerns, particularly the theoretical importance of Dravidian systems. Yey they remain specialist studies, each within its own raison d’être.
Brendra E. F. Beck contributes a study of the “kinship nucleus” in Tamil folklore, Levi-Straussian both in its treatment of kinship and of mythology.
George L. Hart’s study of woman and the sacred in the ancient Tamil literature of the Sangam attempts to elucidate this literature in its own terms, and also to relate it to Beck’s “kinship nucleus.”
Thomas R. Trautmann presents a critical examination of the evidence for cross-cousin marriage in early North India, attempting to determine historical fact from literary materials.
Narendra K. Wagle offers a survey of the kinship categories to be found in the Pali Jatakas.
This is the story of the life and impact of the political activist, journalist, and freedom fighter Sivaram Dharmeratnam. Sivaram dedicated his life to helping the Tamil people. He started out as an active participant in the war against the Sri Lankan government—in the eyes of some, a "terrorist." Yet he eventually renounced the violence it involved. Instead, he became a journalist and used his position to fearlessly critique the government—despite repeated threats on his life and the murders of other journalists. Finally, in 2005, Sivaram himself was assassinated.
This remarkable book is both an intimate portrait of the man and a fascinating account of the political dilemmas that he faced—and that still face us today. It explains how an educated man adopts a position of supporting violence. And while his position softens, Sivaram remains critical of the liberal principles that govern Western policy. Written by a close friend, this unique account highlights some of the most difficult political questions facing us today.
When youth shake off their rural roots and middle-aged people migrate for economic opportunities, what happens to the grandparents left at home? Linked Lives provides readers with intimate glimpses into homes in a Sri Lankan Buddhist village, where elders wisely use their moral authority and their control over valuable property to assure that they receive both physical and spiritual care when they need it. The care work that grandparents do for grandchildren allows labor migration and contributes to the overall well-being of the extended family. The book considers the efforts migrant workers make to build and buy houses and the ways those rooms and walls constrain social activities. It outlines the strategies elders employ to age in place, and the alternatives they face in local old folks’ homes. Based on ethnographic work done over a decade, Michele Gamburd shows how elders face the challenges of a rapidly globalizing world.
Modernizing and colonizing forces brought nineteenth-century Sri Lankan Buddhists both challenges and opportunities. How did Buddhists deal with social and economic change; new forms of political, religious, and educational discourse; and Christianity? And how did Sri Lankan Buddhists, collaborating with other Asian Buddhists, respond to colonial rule? To answer these questions, Anne M. Blackburn focuses on the life of leading monk and educator Hikkaduve Sumangala (1827–1911) to examine more broadly Buddhist life under foreign rule.
In Locations of Buddhism, Blackburn reveals that during Sri Lanka’s crucial decades of deepening colonial control and modernization, there was a surprising stability in the central religious activities of Hikkaduve and the Buddhists among whom he worked. At the same time, they developed new institutions and forms of association, drawing on pre-colonial intellectual heritage as well as colonial-period technologies and discourse. Advocating a new way of studying the impact of colonialism on colonized societies, Blackburn is particularly attuned here to human experience, paying attention to the habits of thought and modes of affiliation that characterized individuals and smaller scale groups. Locations of Buddhism is a wholly original contribution to the study of Sri Lanka and the history of Buddhism more generally.
Making the Right Choice unravels the entangled relationship between marriage, morality, and the desire for modernity as it plays out in the context of middle-class status concerns and aspirations for upward social mobility within the Sinhala-Buddhist community in urban Sri Lanka. By focusing on individual life-histories spanning three generations, the book illuminates how narratives about a gendered self and narratives about modernity are mutually constituted and intrinsically tied to notions of agency. The book uncovers how "becoming modern" in urban Sri Lanka, rather than causing inter-generational conflict, is a collective aspiration realized through the efforts of bringing up educated and independent women capable of making "right" choices. The consequence of this collective investment is a feminist conundrum: agency does not denote the right to choose, but the duty to make the "right" choice; hence agency is experienced not as a sense of "freedom," but rather as a burden of responsibility.
The Other One: Stories
Hasanthika Sirisena University of Massachusetts Press, 2016 Library of Congress PS3619.I752A6 2016 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
Set in Sri Lanka and America, the ten short stories in this debut collection feature characters struggling to contend with the brutality of a decades-long civil war while also seeking security, love, and hope. The characters are students, accountants, soldiers, servants. They are immigrants and strivers. They are each forced to make sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, choices. What they share, despite what they've endured, is the sustaining power of human connection.
An excerpt from the book:
"All I want to know is when you are coming? When are you bringing my sons, my family?"
She watched as a gecko, tinier than normal, skittered across the far wall. It disappeared into a small crack. The room was very hot, and she hadn't turned on the ceiling fan so that the family could save a little money. She took a handkerchief from her nightstand and wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead and the back of her neck.
"I can't leave malli alone here. He's making progress but—"
"It will be for two years only. Then you can sponsor him."
"The lawyer says it's not so easy."
"He's a grown man. Let the government take him. The government did this to malli. Let the government pay the price for his care."
Even though there was no chance that her brother Ranjith could hear her, Anoja dropped her voice. "Malli is all alone here. He has nobody but aiya and me."
Anagarika Dharmapala is one of the most galvanizing figures in Sri Lanka’s recent turbulent history. He is widely regarded as the nationalist hero who saved the Sinhala people from cultural collapse and whose “protestant” reformation of Buddhism drove monks toward increased political involvement and ethnic confrontation. Yet as tied to Sri Lankan nationalism as Dharmapala is in popular memory, he spent the vast majority of his life abroad, engaging other concerns. In Rescued from the Nation, Steven Kemper reevaluates this important figure in the light of an unprecedented number of his writings, ones that paint a picture not of a nationalist zealot but of a spiritual seeker earnest in his pursuit of salvation.
Drawing on huge stores of source materials—nearly one hundred diaries and notebooks—Kemper reconfigures Dharmapala as a world-renouncer first and a political activist second. Following Dharmapala on his travels between East Asia, South Asia, Europe, and the United States, he traces his lifelong project of creating a unified Buddhist world, recovering the place of the Buddha’s Enlightenment, and imitating the Buddha’s life course. The result is a needed corrective to Dharmapala’s embattled legacy, one that resituates Sri Lanka’s political awakening within the religious one that was Dharmapala’s life project.
Rewriting Buddhism is the first intellectual history of premodern Sri Lanka’s most culturally productive period. This era of reform shaped the nature of Theravada Buddhism both in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, and even today continues to define monastic intellectual life in the region. Alastair Gornall argues that the long century’s literary productivity was not born of political stability, as is often thought, but rather of the social, economic and political chaos brought about by invasions and civil wars.
The Sri Lanka Reader is a sweeping introduction to the epic history of the island nation located just off the southern tip of India. The island’s recorded history of more than two and a half millennia encompasses waves of immigration from the South Asian subcontinent, the formation of Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Hindu civilizations, the arrival of Arab Muslim traders, and European colonization by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British. Selected texts depict perceptions of the country’s multiple linguistic and religious communities, as well as its political travails after independence in 1948, especially the ethnic violence that recurred from the 1950s until 2009, when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were defeated by the Sri Lankan government’s armed forces. This wide-ranging anthology covers the aboriginal Veddhas, the earliest known inhabitants of the island; the Kings of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s last indigenous dynasty; twenty-first-century women who leave the island to work as housemaids in the Middle East; the forty thousand Sri Lankans killed by the tsunami in December 2004; and, through cutting-edge journalism and heart-wrenching poetry, the protracted violence that has scarred the country’s contemporary political history. Along with fifty-four images of paintings, sculptures, and architecture, The Sri Lanka Reader includes more than ninety classic and contemporary texts written by Sri Lankans and foreigners.
Focusing on the historical events of post-independence Sri Lanka, S. J. Tambiah analyzes the causes of the violent conflict between the majority Sinhalese Buddhists and the minority Tamils. He demonstrates that the crisis is primarily a result of recent societal stresses—educational expansions, linguistic policy, unemployment, uneven income distribution, population movements, contemporary uses of the past as religious and national ideology, and trends toward authoritarianism—rather than age-old racial and religious differences.
"In this concise, informative, lucidly written book, scrupulously documented and well indexed, [Tambiah] trains his dispassionate anthropologist's eye on the tangled roots of an urgent, present-day problem in the passionate hope that enlightenment, understanding, and a generous spirit of compromise may yet be able to prevail."—Merle Rubin, Christian Science Monitor
"An incredibly rich and balanced analysis of the crisis. It is exemplary in highlighting the general complexities of ethnic crises in long-lived societies carrying a burden of historical memories."—Amita Shastri, Journal of Asian Studies
"Tambiah makes an eloquent case for pluralist democracy in a country abundantly endowed with excuses to abandon such an approach to politics."—Donald L. Horowitz, New Republic "An excellent and thought-provoking book, for anyone who cares about Sri Lanka."—Paul Sieghart, Los Angeles Times Book Review
In 1800, the highlands of Sri Lanka had some of the most biologically diverse primary tropical rainforest ecosystems in the world. By 1900, only a few craggy corners and mountain caps had been spared the fire stick. Highland villagers, through the extension of slash-and-burn agriculture, and British managers, through the creation of plantations—first of coffee, then cinchona, and finally tea—had removed virtually the entire primary forest cover.
Tropical Pioneers documents the conversion of a tropical rainforest biome and the collision between what previously had been more discrete ecological zones within South Asia. The ecological impacts were transformational. Author James L. A. Webb, Jr., demonstrates that profound ecological disruption occurred in the central highlands of Sri Lanka during the nineteenth century and suggests that the theme of ecological crisis brought about by the integration of tropical ecological zones during precolonial and colonial periods alike is an important one for historians to investigate elsewhere.
Tropical Pioneers is based on extensive research in the National Archives of Sri Lanka, the National Agricultural Library at Gannaruwa, the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society-Ceylon Branch, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Public Record Office of the United Kingdom, and the British Library.
"The Work of Culture is the product of two decades of field research by Sri Lanka's most distinguished anthropological interpreter, and its combination of textual analysis, ethnographic sensitivity, and methodological catholicity makes it something of a blockbuster."—Arjun Appadurai, Journal of Asian Studies
The Work of Kings
H. L. Seneviratne University of Chicago Press, 2000 Library of Congress BQ376.S46 1999 | Dewey Decimal 294.30954930904
The Work of Kings is a stunning new look at the turbulent modern history and sociology of the Sri Lankan Buddhist Monkhood and its effects upon contemporary society. Using never-before translated Sinhalese documents and extensive interviews with monks, Sri Lankan anthropologist H.L. Seneviratne unravels the inner workings of this New Buddhism and the ideology on which it is based.
Beginning with Anagarika Dharmapala's "rationalization" of Buddhism in the early twentieth century, which called for monks to take on a more activist role in the community, Seneviratne shows how the monks have gradually revised their role to include involvement in political and economic spheres. The altruistic, morally pure monks of Dharamapala's dreams have become, Seneviratne trenchantly argues, self-centered and arrogant, concealing self-aggrandizement behind a façade of "social service."
A compelling call for reform and a forceful analysis, The Work of Kings is essential to anthropologists, historians of religion, and those interested in colonialism, nationalism, and postcolonial politics.