The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka

By John Clifford Holt | Go to book overview
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6
Postscript: Ethnic Identity and Alienation

A second theoretical issue raised by this book, this one more implied than direct (so I have decided to write about it in this postscript), is pertinent for understanding the nature of conflicts between various communities in multiethnic societies. It has to do with the question of what exactly has constituted ethnicity within the variegated culture of Sri Lanka, and how, if at all, these elements or forces are linked (or not) to the outbreaks of communal violence that plague Sri Lanka and other multiethnic countries today. Can this study of an eighteenth-century king and his social, religious, and political context contribute to an understanding of the contemporary scene?

When I first began research for this book, I was intrigued by Kīrti Śrī's predicament and by the question of how a king of Tamil Śaivite Hindu origins could become so highly regarded by Sinhala Theravāda Buddhists. From the beginning and throughout my research, I hoped that I might learn something important about the relationship between religion and ethnicity, so that I might be able to better understand the nature of Sri Lanka's contemporary ethnic conflict, especially since I had seen (and consequently been affected by), on several occasions, some brutal acts of violence and had experienced some of the fears that had

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