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'Deeper hegemony': the politics of Sinhala nationalist authenticity and the failures of power-sharing in Sri Lanka

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Through a case study of Sinhala nationalism and its impact on ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, this article explores the idea that the study of ethno-national conflict management as well as the wider field of nationalism studies tends to render nationalism as epiphenomenal and explicable through other underlying political and socio-economic dynamics. The article contends that nationalism studies need to take on board lessons learnt in the social sciences from ontological, post-Gramscian and Foucaultian studies of power that do not disqualify nationalism as a channel for political mobilisation. In the case of the literature on Sinhala nationalism in Sri Lanka, the predominant tendency has been to explain these dynamics as a consequence of elite instrumentality. In contrast, what is contended here is that it is the 'deep hegemony' of Sinhala nationalism, demonstrated in the mobilisation of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, that has impacted profoundly on the recurrence of ethnic conflict and the consistent failure of attempts to broker peace.
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Keywords: JVP; Sri Lanka; biopolitics; hegemony; nationalism; power

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Development Studies Department and Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, UK

Publication date: 2011-04-01

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