Recipe for assimilation: national integration, the ethnic other and the evolution of Kandyan consciousness in Sri Lanka

  • Hasini Lecamwasam Social Scientists' Association

Abstract


The Kandyan Sinhalese of Sri Lanka (previously Ceylon) occupy the central highlands of the island, and are believed to have a disposition that is ‘culturally’ different from that of their counterparts in the lowlands. This difference, real or perceived, was most strongly emphasized during the colonial era when the low-country Sinhalese settled in Kandyan areas in large numbers, and started benefiting from the British-introduced plantation economy that thrived on Kandyan soil, thus creating a competition of sorts between the Kandyan and low-country Sinhalese. Such competition subsequently prompted a federal demand by the Kandyans. Interestingly, they currently seem to have harmonized perfectly with the unitary model of the state, their erstwhile demands apparently forgotten. This study explores the reasons behind this evolution of the Kandyan consciousness by studying the function of integrative forces in the nation-building process of post-colonial Ceylon that expedited the absorption of Kandyans into the larger Ceylonese nation. Specifically, it examines the context in which the Kandyan demand for federalism emerged, and how the ethnic conflict shaped the Sinhalese perception of power-sharing and how that in turn impacted the Kandyan understanding of same. Towards this end, the study has made use of the Integrated Threat Theory, National Identity Theory, Ethnic Nation Theory, and Typology of Integration. Surveys, focus group discussions, and in-depth interviews have been employed in building the analysis of this research. It contends that the rise of Tamil nationalism effectively paled all intra-Sinhalese divisions, synonymized the Ceylonese/Sri Lankan nation with the Sinhalese ethnicity, and thus provided a very potent incentive for the Kandyans to accept the project of the unitary state, their previous grievances and the resultant demand for federal autonomy notwithstanding. 

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Published
06-May-2017
How to Cite
Lecamwasam, H. (2017, May 6). Recipe for assimilation: national integration, the ethnic other and the evolution of Kandyan consciousness in Sri Lanka. The South Asianist, 5(1). Retrieved from http://www.southasianist.ed.ac.uk/article/view/1380
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