Reconciling what? History, Realism and the Problem of an Inclusive Sri Lankan identity

harshfrontforemailonly1-212x300This paper examines the lack of an inclusive pan-Sri Lankan identity in relation to literary representations and understandings of nation, looking specifically at the work of the English language writing of Yasmine Gooneratne and Ambalavaner Sivanandan and the Sinhala writing of Gunadasa Amarasekara. While Sri Lankan history may not yield much evidence of an inclusive national identity one needs to raise the question as to why literature, which might be seen as a discourse where the improbable and idealistic is often explored, has failed to yield such a conception of idealistic nationhood. The tentative answer to this complex and multifaceted question proposed here is that it is related to the dominance of historical consciousness within the Sri Lankan cultural imagination and the choice of realism as a mode of representation.

These papers explore the complex and the contested nature of building peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, taking into account the history of the conflict and the current socio-political and economic configurations. While the term reconciliation is easily and often invoked by politicians, civil society organisations, international community, the clergy etc, it clearly has a multiplicity of meanings. In this series we will de-construct these diverse understandings, whether dominant, alternative or subaltern in all its differing strands– whether as truth, justice and accountability, political reform, or economic reconstruction; the significance of substantive initiatives versus the purely symbolic, myth versus reality or psychological versus material; and the impact of factors such as political will, financial resources, time and moral imagination in reconciliation processes.

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