Reorienting the Study of Citizenship in Sri Lanka

Nira Wickramasinghe(1*)

(1) University of Colombo
(*) Corresponding Author


In Sri Lankan scholarship the second component, namely 'citizenship' is virtually absent from the public discourse. The obvious reason for the elusive presence of citizenship is, as previously mentioned, the inevitable invasion in every sphere of peoples lives of issues of nationalism, subnationalism and conflict in the past thirty years owing to the Tamil insurrection in the North and East of the island. In the 1980s and 1990s while the world was embroiled in debates over cosmopolitan and multicultural citizenship Sri Lankan studies were concerned with issues of power and democracy and remained locked in outdated analytical frameworks of nation, ethnicity, and community. For historical reasons citizenship has not had in the Sri Lankan scholarly field the seminal and near obsessive presence that nation and state have occupied. Another reason may be that liberal and radical scholars - defenders of minority rights - have been suspicious of majoritarian appeals to some ideal of 'good citizenship' where minorities will eventually be expected to play by majority rules.


Although by the 1990s the terms had become a buzzword amongst thinkers in the North, citizenship remained in fact one of the least theorized notions in Sri Lankan studies where a generally instrumental understanding of the term that includes common defense of personal freedom, establishment of basic conditions of social justice and maintenance of civil peace prevails. In Sri Lanka, the tie between citizenship and nationhood, however, can never be wholly deconstructed or ignored. In this light, this paper will proposes future possible areas of study.

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