Postcolonial Insecurities: India, Sri Lanka, and the Question of Nationhood

Postcolonial Insecurities: India, Sri Lanka, and the Question of Nationhood

Postcolonial Insecurities: India, Sri Lanka, and the Question of Nationhood

Postcolonial Insecurities: India, Sri Lanka, and the Question of Nationhood

Synopsis

This ambitious work explores the vexed connections among nation-building, ethnic identity, and regional conflict by focusing on a specific event: Indian political and military intervention in the ethnic conflict between the sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Drawing on interviews with leading players in the Indian-Sri Lankan debacle, Sankaran Krishna offers a persuasive analysis of this episode. The intervention serves as a springboard to a broader inquiry into the interworking of nation-building, ethnicity, and "foreign" policy. Krishna argues that the modernist effort to construct nation-states on the basis of singular notions of sovereignty and identity has reached a violent dead end in the postcolonial world of South Asia. Showing how the nationalist agenda that seeks to align territory with identity has unleashed a spiral of regional, statist, and insurgent violence, he makes an eloquent case for reimagining South Asia along postnational lines -- as a "confederal" space.

Postcolonial Insecurities counters the perception of "ethnicity" as an inferior and subversive principle compared with the progressive ideal of the "nation." Krishna, in fact shows ethnicity to be indispensable to the production and reproduction of the nation itself.

Excerpt

… it is important to articulate the ideal to which your strategies of critical detachment are attaching you.

—william connolly, the ethos of pluralization

Thematic concerns

This book is about the troubled and violent journey of postcolonial nationalism in South Asia. It examines the interaction between the modern enterprise of nation building and the emergence of ethnic conflict in this area by focusing on a specific event: Indian political and military involvement in the struggle between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka. It argues that the attempt to construct nation-states on the basis of exclusionary narratives of the past and univocal visions for the future has reached an impasse. the fixation with producing a pulverized and uniform sense of national identity (usually along majoritarian lines) has unleashed a spiral of regional, state, and societal violence that appears endless. the disciplines of history and international relations have rendered the narrative of the nation that undergirds the political imaginaire in South Asia as rational, realist, inevitable, and progressive. One finds the contemporary violences, both physical and epistemic, that accompany nation building repeatedly justified by the claim that the history of world politics has demonstrated such violence to be both inescapable and, indeed . . .

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