Sri Lanka: what’s left of the national question?
Discussions of Sri Lanka’s political futures — in international media, policy think tanks, human rights groups, and even in critical social sciences – have been for some time now, cast in terms of an uncompromising, militaristic, 'Sinhala dominated regime’ seen as a product of Sinhala ethnic chauvinism and a ‘marginalized Tamil minority’, once authoritatively represented by Tiger rebels, now routed militarily. Given this framework, a ‘political solution’ with ‘autonomous, regional self rule’ for the Tamils, is urged. Since the Sri Lankan polity is often conceptualized as comprising a Sinhala ethnic majority and a Tamil minority, this political mapping seems a matter of straightforward social justice. Yet I wish to argue in this short intervention that this idea of a 'political solution’, is based on a conception of politics which is both neo-colonial and elitist; problematizing its genealogy will reveal, I suggest, the erasure of strands of subaltern politics which point in a subterranean way to different political futures.
Pradeep Jeganathan (www.pjeganathan.org) is a Senior Consultant Social Anthropologistat the Consortium for Humanitarian Agencies in Colombo. He is co-editor of Unmaking the Nation (1995/2009), Subaltern Studies X1 (2000), and author of At the Water’s Edge (2004) and Living with Death (2007).