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The Politics and Poetics of Authenticity

A Cultural Genealogy of Sinhala Nationalism

Harshana Rambukwella

£35.00
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ISBN: 9781787351301

Publication: July 02, 2018

What is the role of cultural authenticity in the making of nations? Much scholarly and popular commentary on nationalism dismisses authenticity as a romantic fantasy or, worse, a deliberately constructed mythology used for political manipulation. The Politics and Poetics of Authenticity places authenticity at the heart of Sinhala nationalism in late nineteenth and twentieth-century Sri Lanka. It argues that the passion for the ‘real’ or the ‘authentic’ has played a significant role in shaping nationalist thinking and argues for an empathetic yet critical engagement with the idea of authenticity.

Through a series of fine-grained and historically grounded analyses of the writings of individual figures central to the making of Sinhala nationalist ideology the book demonstrates authenticity’s rich and varied presence in Sri Lankan public life and its key role in understanding postcolonial nationalism in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in South Asia and the world. It also explores how notions of authenticity shape certain strands of postcolonial criticism and offers a way of questioning the taken-for-granted nature of the nation as a unit of analysis but at the same time critically explore the deep imprint of nations and nationalisms on people's lives.

Praise for The Politics and Poetics of Authenticity
'This is a refreshing contribution to the growing body of scholarly literature on Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese nationalism, its politics and intellectual strands. Its value is
enhanced by the marshalling of sources available in the Sinhalese language that are usually ignored in scholarly work on contemporary Sri Lanka.'
Jayadeva Uyangoda

'This is an impressive work that guides the reader with compassion through the cultural and political whirlwind of colonial and postcolonial Sri Lanka. Rambukwella breathes fresh air into old debates, probing the ironies of authenticity and inauthenticity through the lives and works of three leading nationalist thinkers. Timely and inspiring.'
Nira Wickramasinghe. Professor of Modern South Asian Studies, Leiden University

'The strength of [Politics and Poetics of Authenticity] lies squarely in the rereading of history through the lens of authenticity and the self-fashioning process of protagonists. Authenticity is not a disinterested discursive trope; it shapes people’s careers, and also helps shape history as an agential force'
The Island

'To a long list of works that engage with Sinhala nationalism, Dr. Harshana Rambukwella’s The Politics and Poetics of Authenticity: A Cultural Genealogy of Sinhala Nationalism is an important addition. '
Daily FT (Sri Lanka)

Harshana Rambukwella is Director, Postgraduate Institute of English, Open University of Sri Lanka. He received his PhD from the University of Hong Kong, where he is Honorary Assistant Professor at the School of English. Harshana’s research interests are in literary history, postcolonial theory and sociolinguistics. He is a trustee of the Gratiaen Trust of Sri Lanka and has served on a number of Sinhala and English literary panels in the country.

1. Authentic problems
2. The protean life of authenticity: history, nation, Buddhism and identity
3. Anagarika Dharmapala: the nation and its place in the world
4. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike: the paradox of authenticity
5. Gunadasa Amarasekara: the life and death of authentic things 
6. Conclusion: the postcolonial afterlife of authenticity 

'Any study of the nation is a study of history and a study of historiography, and Rambukwella does that, but does more, for he welds together critical cultural studies analytic of texts, drawing upon novels, stories, popular culture... The strength of the book lies squarely in the rereading of history through the lens of authenticity and the self-fashioning process of protagonists. Authenticity is not a disinterested discursive trope; it shapes people’s careers, and also helps shape history as an agential force.'
  Sri Lanka Guardian
'The strength of [Politics and Poetics of Authenticity] lies squarely in the rereading of history through the lens of authenticity and the self-fashioning process of protagonists. Authenticity is not a disinterested discursive trope; it shapes people’s careers, and also helps shape history as an agential force'

  The Island
'To a long list of works that engage with Sinhala nationalism, Dr. Harshana Rambukwella’s The Politics and Poetics of Authenticity: A Cultural Genealogy of Sinhala Nationalism is an important addition. '

  Daily Financial Times (Sri Lanka)
This is an impressive work that guides the reader with compassion through the cultural and political whirlwind of colonial and postcolonial Sri Lanka. Rambukwella breathes fresh air into old debates, probing the ironies of authenticity and inauthenticity through the lives and works of three leading nationalist thinkers. Timely and inspiring.
Nira Wickramasinghe  
This is a refreshing contribution to the growing body of scholarly literature on Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese nationalism, its politics and intellectual strands. Its value is enhanced by the marshalling of sources available in the Sinhalese language that are usually ignored in scholarly work on contemporary Sri Lanka.
Jayadeva Uyangoda  

Format: Hardback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

176 Pages

ISBN: 9781787351301

Publication: July 02, 2018

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