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Towards An Inclusivist Discourse

Mahendra P. Lama

Edited by H.S. Hasbullah and Barrie M. Morrison
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2004, pp. 296, Rs. 560.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 12 December 2005

This volume with contributions from a range of scholars with varied backgrounds comes out of the morass of the stereotyped literature that has been published mainly focused on LTTE led violence and ‘liberation war’. With interestingly topical  articles on ‘religious ideology among the Tamils’ (Dagmar Hellmann-Rajanayagam),  ‘bonded tea  estate workers’ (M. Sinnathamby), ‘the cultural production of Tamil Women’ (Sumathy Sivamohan) and  internally displaced minorities (S.H. Hasbullah) this volume tries to  present the socio-political dimensions of  Sri Lanka in the larger context of globalization. It seeks to locate some of the struggles that are going on to create ‘a new social order’ in the island country.      It approaches the entire dynamics of globalization and the likely social changes in the Sri Lankan society from three processes of  ‘societal reconstructions’ that include problems, principles and procedures. Problems are galore both in nature and content. These emanate from the very construction of the Sri Lankan state based on non-inclusive principles and the policies that are followed by the state both exclusively and in coordination with non-state actors. Matthews emphatically notes that “the challenge here is to bring to life an inclusivist nationalist discourse, which acknowledges the significance of the Sinhala Buddhist past but allows Lanka’s substantial minorities, with their many skill and talents, to have a place in society, economy and polity.”      In contrast to the subdued and  to a large extent submissive role of women under patriarchal conditions in Sri Lanka, Sumathy highlights ‘martial feminism’ that is so vividly captured in gendering of the military discourse propounded by the LTTE. At the same time, the chastity and virginity factors so widely publicized by the LTTE about its women cadres and fighters, cannot be analysed bereft of more realistic and rather permanent social contexts like dowry and other severe form of  gender discriminations. Is recalling and replicating the virtues of  Kannaki, a mythical female figure of Tamil culture,  done to achieve deeper mobilization of  Tamil women as the suicide bombers and fighters ?  Why should the discourse be confined to ‘resistance culture’ and not be brought to ‘discourse of independence-nationalism’? Or is it a reformist trend that is gaining ground in the basic structure of Tamil nationalism ?  This debate is both ongoing and lively amidst what Sangari wrote in  Sollatha Sethigal (untold messages) a volume of 24 poems by 10 women published by Jaffna Women’s Study Circle in 1986.      I have no  face heart  ...

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