Category Archives: patriotism

A Tale of Resistance: The Story of the Arrival of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka

Michael Roberts, a reprint of an article published in 1989 in Ethnos, vol. 55: 1-2, pp.69-82.

  This essay decodes a sixteenth century folktale which records the Sinhalese reaction to the arrival of the first Portuguese. Where the historiography has interpreted this tale as benign wonderment in the face of exotica, a piecemeal deconstruction of the allegorical clues in the ‘story is utilised to reveal how the Sinhalese linked the Portuguese with demons and with Vasavarti Mārayā, the arch enemy of the Buddha. In this fashion the Portuguese and the Christian sacrament of communion were represented as dangerous, disordering forces. The piecemeal reinterpretation of this short text, however, must be overlaid by a holistic perspective and the realisation that its rendering in oral form enabled its purveyors to lace the story with a satirical flavour: so that the Portuguese and Catholicism are, like demons, rendered both disordering and comic, dangerous and inferior—thus ultimately controllable. In contending in this manner that the folktale is an act of nationalist opposition, the article is designed as an attack on the positivist empiricism which pervades the island’s historiography and shuts out imaginative reconstructions which are worked out by penetrating the subjective world of the ancient texts.

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The Arya and Hela Schools of Sinhala Song

Garrett Field, abstract of   article entitled “Music for Inner Domains: Sinhala Song and the Arya and Hela Schools of Cultural Nationalism in Colonial Sri Lanka”inThe Journal of Asian Studies November 2014, vol. 73(4):1043-1058 ·

In this article, I juxtapose the ways the “father of modern Sinhala drama”, John De Silva, and the Sinhala language reformer, Munidasa Cumaratunga, utilized music for different nationalist projects. First, I explore how De Silva created musicals that articulated Arya-Sinhala nationalism to support the Buddhist Revival. Second, I investigate how Cumaratunga, who spearheaded the Hela-Sinhala movement, asserted that genuine Sinhala song…

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Ethnicity in Riposte at a Cricket Match: The Past for the Present 

 Michael Roberts,  a reprint of an article  published originally in Comparative Studies in Society and History 1985, vol. 27: 401-429.  which is also available in in M. Roberts, Exploring Confrontation, (Harwood Academic Publishers, 1994). **

      I. PRELUDE

Some recent essays on the relationship between history on the one hand and anthropology and/or sociology on the other concentrate on the differences in the material with which the typical practitioner deals and the types of issues likely to be addressed (Thompson 1972, 1976, 1977; Davis 1981). They have tended to compare the perspectives that anthropologists[1] and historians bring into their work. And both E. P. Thompson and Natalie Z. Davis advocate increasing mutual borrowing from each discipline: they wish the one discipline to deepen its sensitivity and to avoid the usual pitfalls by drawing on the strengths of the other. Thus, by way of illustration, one finds Thompson arguing that historians tend to be more attentive to the paradoxes and ambivalences of actual men, and that they are attuned to the discipline of context because of this attentiveness to heterogeneity, a strength which sociologists[2]—who, he says, tend to overgeneralize and to swallow heterogeneity through the manufacture of neat typologies—would be well advised to draw upon (1976: 387,394). Continue reading

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Mahinda Gunasekera challenges the President from Canada

Mahinda Gunasekera, 84 Tambrook Drive, Agincourt, Ontario, Canada  M1W 3L9
July 26, 2017

 President Sirisena–Pic from C’bo Telegraph

His Excellency, Maithripala Sirisena
President of Sri Lanka, Colombo 1, Sri Lanka

Copy to: Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe, Prime Minister

Your Excellency, Honourable Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and Elected MPs,

Confusion prevailing in respect of Reconciliation, Constitutional Changes and UNHRC Resolution

The messages coming from leading members of your government tend to be confusing as they often contradict each other, and usually lack any form of consultation with the general public who will be affected by such policies. If there has been any consultation at all, it is with select individuals representing foreign funded NGOs or other special interest groups closely linked to the ruling political hierarchy.

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The Collective Consciousness of the Sinhalese During the Kandyan Era: Manichean Images, Associational Logic

Michael Roberts, being a reprint of an article with the same title in Asian Ethnicity, Volume 3, Number 1, March 2002

ABSTRACT:  An analysis of the form of the dynastic state known today as the Kingdom of Kandy provides a backdrop for an exploration of the sentiments that directed its resistance to the imperial expansion of the Portuguese, Dutch and British in the period from the 1590s to 1818. Known in its day as Sinhalē, a concept that could embrace the whole island of Lanka, the state and its cakravārti king served as the focus for a Sinhala collective consciousness that was embodied in epic tales, war poems and onomastic folklore, while also being promoted by the sacred topography associated with pilgrimages. These sentiments embraced both the ruling elements and the ordinary people. Within this body of thought, two threads stand out: first, the demonisation of Threatening Others; and, secondly, an associational logic that merges present with past, old enemies with new. This logic is akin to the atidēsa function identified by Ranajit Guha. In its ethnographic specifics among the Sinhalese, it merged the ‘vile-cum-fierce Tamils’ with the disordering Portuguese, English, et al. All were para rupu, ‘alien enemies’. The imagery is Manichean.

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“Sacrificial Devotion” — How I Entered This Terrain

Michael Roberts

With the benefit of a Teen Murti Fellowship I was collecting data on communal violence in India in 1995 when my readings of news archives indicated that the death of Mrs Indira Gandhi by assassination in Delhi induced a handful of individuals in southern India to commit sympathetic suicide. Since news reports did not indicate similar reactions in other parts of India, I began to reflect on the cultural foundations that promoted such expressions – acting, of course, in contexts that also could provide political and economic inspirations. This eventually led to my first essay on this topic:  “Filial Devotion and the Tiger Cult of Suicide,” Contributions to Indian Sociology, 1996, 30: 245-72.

Dhanu waits to kill Rajiv Gandhi in suicide attack

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Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History in the Pre-Modern Past

Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History

Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History cover

Edited by Zoltan Biedermann and Alan Strathern | June 2017 Continue reading

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