Following the dramatic and violent conclusion of the 26-year old civil war in May 2009, Sri Lanka faces a new ‘ground-zero’ moment. The defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the weakening of the Tamil nationalist project has meant that attention is now switching firmly back towards its counterpart, Sinhala nationalism, and on the ways in which it is likely to influence the evolution of the post-war, post-Prabhakaran future.
The most pressing challenges for this new post-war future are ethnic reconciliation and economic reconstruction. This book explores the complex and contradictory relationship between these two trajectories in post-colonial Sri Lanka with a view to understanding how they will come to affect the contours of an uncertain future. In doing so, it poses some very fundamental questions: why has the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict been so protracted, and so resistant to solution? What explains the enduring political resilience of Sinhala nationalism, and how is it related to socioeconomic mobility, leftist politics, and market reform policies? How will Sinhala nationalist politics and the role of military employment interact with future generations of market reform and economic growth?
Based on over a decade of research, and drawing on a wide range of qualitative and quantitative evidence from colonial administration reports and household economic surveys to in-depth interviews with contemporary political figures, it asks how Sinhala nationalism has related to the social democratic state in the period of its rise and decline since the mid-1950s. In doing so, this book is informed by and engages closely with recent debates in nationalism, critical development theory, and peacebuilding, and reflects an interdisciplinary reach across history, comparative politics, development economics, conflict theory, human geography, and social anthropology.