Language, Religion, and Ethnic Assertiveness: The Growth of Sinhalese Nationalism in Sri Lanka

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For nearly four decades, Sri Lanka has been the scene of an escalating ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamils, who form the largest minority. Language, Religion, and Ethnic Assertiveness traces the development of Sinhalese nationalism by paying particular attention to the Sinhala language and how it relates to Sinhalese national identity. After Sri Lanka became independent from Great Britain in 1948, an official national language had to be chosen - either "Sinhala only" or "parity of status for Sinhala and Tamil." The victory of the "Sinhala only" proposition that won in the general election of 1956 started the antagonism between the Sinhalese and the Tamils that persists to this day. Using hitherto untapped primary sources, K. N. O. Dharmadasa delineates some of the peculiar features of the linkage between state, religion, and ethnicity in traditional Sinhalese society, providing insight into a tragic conflict that has a long and turbulent history. The book has much to offer historians, political scientists, anthropologists, and sociologists of language and religion, as well as students and scholars of South Asia, postcolonialism, ethnicity, cultural identity, and conflict.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472102884
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1993
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384

Table of Contents

Transliteration and Pronunciation of Sinhala words
Introduction 1
1 Sinhalese National Consciousness: Early Nineteenth-Century Manifestations 5
2 The Triumph of English and the Emergence of Sinhala Language Loyalty 27
3 The Sinhala Language as a Nationalist Cause 47
4 The Nineteenth-Century Buddhist Revival 87
5 Revivalism, Social Mobilization, and the Sinhala Language 115
6 Identity, Language, and Modernization 155
7 Political Developments and the Position of the Vernacular 189
8 The Politicization of Language Loyalty: A Bid to Make Sinhala the Official Language 239
9 The Aftermath, 1943-90 307
Appendix: Biographical Notes on Important Personalities Mentioned in the Text 321
Abbreviations 337
Glossary 339
Bibliography 343
Index 363
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