Assembling Ethnicities in Neoliberal Times
Ethnographic Fictions and Sri Lanka’s War
Imprint: Northwestern University Press
Assembling Ethnicities in Neoliberal Times: Ethnographic Fictions and Sri Lanka’s War argues that the bloody war fought between the Sri Lankan state and the separatist Tamil Tigers from 1983 to 2009 should be understood as structured and animated by the forces of global capitalism. Using Aihwa Ong’s theorization of neoliberalism as a mobile technology and assemblage, this book explores how contemporary globalization has exacerbated forces of nationalism and racism.
Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham finds that ethnographic fictions have both internalized certain colonial Orientalist impulses and critically engaged with categories of objective gazing, empiricism, and temporal distancing. She demonstrates that such fictions take seriously the task of bearing witness and documenting the complex productions of ethnic identities and the devastations wrought by warfare. To this end, Assembling Ethnicities
explores colonial-era travel writing by Robert Knox (1681) and Leonard Woolf (1913); contemporary works by Michael Ondaatje, Romesh Gunesekera, Shobasakthi, Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, and Thamotharampillai Shanaathanan; and cultural festivals and theater, including vernacular performances of Euripides’s The Trojan Women and women workers’ theater.
The book interprets contemporary fictions to unpack neoliberalism’s entanglements with nationalism and racism, engaging current issues such as human rights, the pastoral, Tamil militancy, immigrant lives, feminism and nationalism, and postwar developmentalism.
“Assembling Ethnicities in Neoliberal Times makes urgent and central the ways in which Sri Lanka’s bellicose, colonial past intersects with a vexed neoliberal present.” —Cathy Schlund-Vials, author of War, Genocide, and Justice: Cambodian American Memory Work
"Situated at the intersection of capitalism and (post)-colonial racialisation in the context of globalisation and neoliberalism, and opening lines of inquiry otherwise occluded or uncaptured by a single-axis framework, Perera-Rajasingham’s book is an outstanding contribution to studies of Sri Lanka, South Asia, postcolonialism, race, ethnicity and globalisation. A significant achievement, Assembling Ethnicities is theoretically profound, methodologically innovative and elegantly written — with a political commitment alert to the potentials and tenuousness of restorative justice. This book will be especially useful for upper-level undergraduates and scholars interested in politics, literature, anthropology, economics, race and ethnicity, in both colonial and postcolonial contexts." —Manav Ratti, Wasafiri
"Perera-Rajasingham’s work is a necessary recontextualization of the Sri Lankan civil war within structures of colonialism and global capitalism . . . the book brilliantly analyzes various ethnographic fictions and state-produced narratives to show how the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE, through neoliberal policies and internationally funded and oriented structures, created and maintained ethnic divisions between Sinhalese and Tamil people to justify war. Because this book brings together various interdisciplinary subjects like global economic policy, literature, and human rights studies, it could be useful to scholars studying such varying topics as South Asian politics, postcolonial capitalism, South Asian literature, and ethnographic methodology." —Sinduja Sathiyaseelan, ariel: A Review of International English Literature
"This book makes a significant contribution to recent scholarship on the Sri Lankan conflict since it enables readers to become aware of the intersections between neoliberalism and nationalism before, during, and after the war in Sri Lanka through a careful analysis of a wide range of texts, performances, monuments, and cultural festivals. The book is well argued, and the literary analyses of the works of both well-known Anglophone diasporic writers (such as Ondaatje and Gunesekera) as well as vernacular writers whose work has not received as much scholarly attention (such as Shobasakthi and Bandaranayake) are perceptive and illuminating." —Maryse Jayasuriya, South Asian Review