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Postcolonial Insecurities

India, Sri Lanka, and the Question of Nationhood

1999
Author:

Sankaran Krishna

Postcolonial Insecurities

An exploration of the connections between ethnicity and nation-building.

This ambitious work explores the vexed connections among nation building, ethnic identity, and regional conflict by focusing on a specific event: Indian political and military intervention in the ethnic conflict between the Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka. Postcolonial Insecurities counters the perception of “ethnicity” as an inferior and subversive principle compared with the progressive ideal of the “nation.” Krishna, in fact, shows ethnicity to be indispensable to the production and reproduction of the nation itself.

This is a well-written, passionately argued, meticulously reasoned book. The research that has gone into this study would make a sleuthhound envious. And yet, the question of ethics—of research, of scholarly responsibility, and of the significant outcome for not only Sri Lanka but postcolonial societies everywhere—is never lost sight of. For anyone who wishes to understand the forms and formation of postcolonial anxiety in its depth and breadth, this book is a must. Policy makers in particular cannot afford not to read this learned, provocative, and original book.

E. Valentine Daniel, author of Charred Lullabies: Chapters in an Anthropography of Violence

This ambitious work explores the vexed connections among nation-building, ethnic identity, and regional conflict by focusing on a specific event: Indian political and military intervention in the ethnic conflict between the Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Drawing on interviews with leading players in the Indian–Sri Lankan debacle, Sankaran Krishna offers a persuasive analysis of this episode. The intervention serves as a springboard to a broader inquiry into the interworkings of nation building, ethnicity, and “foreign” policy. Krishna argues that the modernist effort to construct nation-states on the basis of singular notions of sovereignty and identity has reached a violent dead end in the postcolonial world of South Asia. Showing how the nationalist agenda that seeks to align territory with identity has unleashed a spiral of regional, statist, and insurgent violence, he makes an eloquent case for reimagining South Asia along postnational lines—as a “confederal” space.

Postcolonial Insecurities counters the perception of “ethnicity” as an inferior and subversive principle compared with the progressive ideal of the “nation.” Krishna, in fact, shows ethnicity to be indispensable to the production and reproduction of the nation itself.

Postcolonial Insecurities

Sankaran Krishna is associate professor of political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies.

Postcolonial Insecurities

This is a well-written, passionately argued, meticulously reasoned book. The research that has gone into this study would make a sleuthhound envious. And yet, the question of ethics—of research, of scholarly responsibility, and of the significant outcome for not only Sri Lanka but postcolonial societies everywhere—is never lost sight of. For anyone who wishes to understand the forms and formation of postcolonial anxiety in its depth and breadth, this book is a must. Policy makers in particular cannot afford not to read this learned, provocative, and original book.

E. Valentine Daniel, author of Charred Lullabies: Chapters in an Anthropography of Violence

Fresh in its approach, valuable in its conclusions, and ethical in its vision of the future.

Economic and Political Weekly

Postcolonial Insecurities

Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Introduction

PARTI Narratives in Contention: Indian, Sinhalese, and Tamil Nationalisms

1. Mimetic Histories: Foreign Policy and the Narration of India
2. Producing Sri Lanka from Ceylon: J. R. Jayewardene and Sinhala Identity
3. Essentially Tamil: The Divergent Narratives of Eelam and Dravidinadu

PARTII Delusions of Grandeur: India, Tamil Nadu, and Sri Lanka

4. Modulating Bangladesh: India and Sri Lanka, 1980–84
5. Hegemony as Spectacle: The Theater of Postcolonial Politics
6. Narratives in Contention: Interpreting the Agreement of July 1987
7. Postcolonial Aporias: Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Violence
8. Decolonizing the Future in South Asia

Appendix1: List of Interviewees
Appendix2: Text of the Indo–Sri Lanka Agreement of July29,1987
Notes
Bibliography
Index