Islanded - Britain, Sri Lanka and the Bounds of an Indian Ocean Colony by Sujit Sivasundaram
How did the modern nation of Sri Lanka come to be? In search of an answer to this question, ISLANDED returns us to the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries and to the advance of the British on the Kingdom of Kandy, which saw the fall of the last foothold of kingly rule on the island. This moment saw the British undertake a process of ‘islanding’ and ‘partitioning’, which cast the island, its nature and geography, its supposedly religious and ethnic character, and its historical traditions and its maritime culture, as separate from British domains in mainland India and elsewhere. Kings had seen themselves as rightful rulers of the whole of the territory of the island. Now, this right was violently extended by British colonists, through the application of a model of crown rule and modern bureaucracy that tied ethnicity to language and religion, in essentialised but not fully realized patterns, that would continue to trouble the modern nation.
Sujit Sivasundaram’s ISLANDED is one of the most important historical studies on Sri Lanka on the early colonial period. It deals with the British advent to Sri Lanka in the context of the country’s recent past and its strategic location in the Indian Ocean. ISLANDED is an imperative read for those of us interested in the colonial period in Sri Lanka and South Asian in general. (Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere, Princeton University).
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