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Islanded: Britain, Sri Lanka, and the Bound of an Indian Ocean Colony by Sujit Sivasundaram

Islanded: Britain, Sri Lanka, and the Bound of an Indian Ocean Colony by Sujit Sivasundaram

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How did the modern nation of Sri Lanka come to be? In search of an answer to this question, Islanded returns us to the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries and to the advance of the British on the kingdom of Kandy, which saw the fall of the last foothold of kingly rule on the island.

This moment saw the British undertake a process of 'islanding' and 'partitioning', which cast the island, its nature and geography, its supposedly religious and ethnic character, and its historical traditions and its maritime culture, as separate from British domains in mainland India and elsewhere. Kings had seen themselves as rightful rulers of the whole of the territory of the island. Now, this right was violently extended by British colonists, through the application of a model of Crown rule and modern bureaucracy that tied ethnicity to language and religion, in essentialized but not fully realized patterns, that would continue to trouble the modern nation. Ten years have passed since Islanded was first published: it is even more open to response and critique.

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