Category Archives: Portuguese in Indian Ocean

Sinhalaness in the Middle Period and in Wars Against Colonial Intrusions

Chris Speldewinde, in the The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. r19, No. 1, 2008, reviewing  Michael Roberts. Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period 1590s to 1815. Colombo 4, Sri Lanka: Vijitha Yapa Publications. 2004. Pp.xx +274, bibliog., index. US$60.00 (He), ISBN 955-8095-31-1.

Having spent a considerable period during my undergraduate studies of anthropology concentrating on cultural aspects of Sri Lankan society, I was enthusiastic to have been given the opportunity to read and review this work by Michael Roberts. In this latest addition to his many volumes of work on his native Sri Lanka, Roberts, has provided a rich tapestry of the period pre-dating the formalisation of British colonial rule on the island of Sri Lanka. He examines the forms of reaction of a society affected by migrating Indians from the north and European colonial expansion, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in the mid-sixteenth century and later, the Dutch and the British. This book provides a considerable amount of both historiographical and ethnographic material, from a wide range of sources to keep the reader engrossed in the development of distinct ethnic identities on this island nation. The use of verbal history passed on through poems and songs from the period is used extensively to substantiate Roberts’ theories of the development of a definitive Sinhalese ethnic identity.

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The Royal We: Sinhala Identity in the Dynastic State of SĪHALĒ

alanAlan Strathern reviewing Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period 1590s to 1815. by Michael Roberts. (Vijitha Yapa Publications, Sri Lanka, 2004. pp.xx, 274) f or Colombo Telegraph  20 December 2012, where blog-comments can be located 

Michael Roberts’ writings have sometimes given the impression of a man who will write at the drop of a hat and at great speed: the subjects have been many and various; the approach as openly adversarial as many of the relationships he takes as his subject; the arguments occasionally advanced by death-defying conceptual leaps or obscure symbolic readings; the prose style quirky or impatient with the more conventional norms of academic prose. The latter is evident even in the present work, in fact the culmination of decades of reflection, where he refers openly to his own intellectual progress, to arguments with colleagues, even to his own ethnic category – Tuppahiyek, or ‘mongrel’ – and sees no cause for shame in routinely citing ‘personal communication’ or telephone conversations in is footnotes. Such considerations might induce the superficial reader to underestimate the importance of the arguments presented in this new monograph. In fact it deserves to be widely read by all those interested in the vigorous debates about ethnic sentiment, nationalism and the murky passage from one to the other.

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Analysing the Kashmir Imbroglio

Gerald H. Peiris, in an essay which is an abridged and up-dated version of Chapter 8 of G. H. Peiris: Political Conflict in South Asia (2013, a monograph published by the University of Peradeniya).

 Information on the Indo-Pakistan conflict pertaining to Kashmir being widely circulated in the context of the recent upsurge of their mutual hostilities has a distinct pro-India bias, mainly because the bulk of international news that reaches us tends to be filtered through the media of mass communication in the global ‘West’. The present crisis in Kashmir is, of course, the latest episode of a complex saga recorded from many perspectives, with no heroes and villains, an abundance of zealotry, and countless victims of circumstances. What is attempted in this paper is to present a brief but objective portrayal of this conflict in order to forestall the possibility of our views, here in Sri Lanka, being influenced by prejudice and ill-informed pronouncements on rights and wrongs. 

kashmir Kashmir — from internet kashmir-gerry Continue reading

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Celebrating Galle Fort and Its History in You Tube

I. Galle Fort – A Historical Living City … courtesy of  CCF Television … Published on Mar 26, 2014 … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHUbnsyQtHI …….with Sanchia Brown as spokesperson

ALSO SEE https://au.pinterest.com/ccftv/galle-fort-sri-lanka/

galle-fort-dd-1 Pic from Juliette Coombe

II. Galle Fort = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnlYrgDUdNU…

Galle Fort “ගාලු කොටුව” – Infinity Sri Lanka

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Challenging Ratnawalli’s Imperial Sinhala Position

Michael Roberts

In a recent article I took issue with Robert S. Perinpanayagam for his short sharp comment on one of my essays on the Elephant Pass debacle of the year 2000. Embittered Tamilness has appeared in Colombo Telegraph as well as Thuppahi. Darshanie Ratnawalli recently entered a long comment in CT in ways that seem to support my work. However, her reading confuses the concept of “nation” with “nation state,” while also providing a distilled historical interpretation that overweights the past record in ways that suggest a measure of Sinhala exclusivism that leans towards the chauvinist camp. My presentation of this set of criticisms here is intended to supersede the hurried memo I placed in CT in opposition to her claims.

2b-Chelva hustings  Chelvanayakam campaigning 13-Banda & masses for Sinhala OnlyBandaranaike on the SLFP Sinhala Only ‘road train’

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Benedict Anderson crosses Another Border

Jeet Heer, 14 December 2015, courtesy of https://newrepublic.com/article/125706/benedict-anderson-man-without-country?utm_content=buffer29b54&utm_medium=social&utm source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer, where the title is Benedict Anderson, Man Without a Country

BBEN ANDERSONBenedict Anderson, who died yesterday at age 79 in Malang, Indonesia, is internationally famous for his 1983 book Imagined Communities, far and away the most influential study of nationalism. Unlike earlier scholars who took a negative view of the subject, Anderson saw nationalism as an integrative imaginative process that allows us to feel solidarity for strangers. “In an age when it is so common for progressive, cosmopolitan intellectuals (particularly in Europe?) to insist on the near-pathological character of nationalism, its roots in fear and hatred of the Other, and its affinities with racism, it is useful to remind ourselves that nations inspire love, and often profoundly self-sacrificing love,” Anderson wrote in Imagined Communities. “The cultural products of nationalism—poetry, prose fiction, music, plastic arts—show this love very clearly in thousands of different forms and styles.” Continue reading

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Nationalism, the past and the present: The case of Sri Lanka

Michael Roberts

This review article was drafted in 1991 and should therefore be assessed in the light of the literature available then. In those days it took at least two years for an article to be refereed and published. The essay  discussesthe following three books: Jonathan Spencer, A Sinhala Village in a Time of Trouble.  Politics and Change in Rural Sri Lanka, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990, 285pp; Jonathan Spencer (ed.), Sri Lanka.  History and the Roots of Conflict, London: Routledge, 1990, 253pp; Manning NashThe Cauldron of Ethnicity in the Modern World, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989, 142pp. It was originally printed in Ethnic and Racial Studies, 1993, 16: 133-161. Emphasis has since been added in red.

spencer--www.sasnet.lu.se Spencer  leslie g- Gunawardana 

Benedict Anderson and Dr. Niall î Dochartaigh at NUI Galway Photograph by Aengus McMahon

Benedict Anderson and Dr. Niall î Dochartaigh at NUI Galway
Photograph by Aengus McMahon

The ongoing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has aroused interest in both the reasons for the breakdown of its polity and the roots of Tamil and Sinhala identities. The resurgence of nationalism in Eastern Europe will encourage studies in the broader implications of the Sri Lankan data for social science theory. As a result of the excesses of the Nazi upsurge, Western scholars have tended to regard nationalism as retrograde and potentially patho­logical (e.g. Kedourie 1960) or reprehensibly atavistic.  In South Asia, in contrast, ever since the decolonization process got under way, nationalism has been viewed positively—as long as its goals were framed in terms of the existing (colonial) political boundaries. The recent upsurge of violence has encouraged Asian scholars to question this perspective.  Such questioning is sometimes embodied in the term ‘chauvinism’ (e.g. Coomaraswamy 1987: 74-81). This term is not a novel addition to the Asian English lexicon. It was used in British Ceylon in the 1920s and 1930s to describe those who pressed for Tamil and Sinhalese sectional interests: these spokesmen were reviled as “communalists”, “chauvinists” and “tribalists” by both the moderates and radicals who espoused a Ceylonese nationalism.[1] Continue reading

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