What is the role of cultural authenticity in the making of nations? Much scholarly and popular commentary on nationalism dismisses authenticity as a romantic fantasy or, worse, a deliberately constructed mythology used for political manipulation. The Politics and Poetics of Authenticity: A Cultural Genealogy of Sinhala Nationalism (UCL Press, 2018) places authenticity at the heart of Sinhala nationalism in late nineteenth and twentieth-century Sri Lanka.
It argues that the passion for the ‘real’ or the ‘authentic’ has played a significant role in shaping nationalist thinking and argues for an empathetic yet critical engagement with the idea of authenticity.
Through a series of fine-grained and historically grounded analyses of the writings of individual figures central to the making of Sinhala nationalist ideology the book demonstrates authenticity’s rich and varied presence in Sri Lankan public life and its key role in understanding postcolonial nationalism in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in South Asia and the world.
It also explores how notions of authenticity shape certain strands of postcolonial criticism and offers a way of questioning the taken-for-granted nature of the nation as a unit of analysis but at the same time critically explore the deep imprint of nations and nationalisms on people's lives.
Dr. Harshana Rambukwella is a Professor at the Postgraduate Institute of English at the Open University of Sri Lanka. He also serves as the director of the Institute.
Samee Siddiqui is a former journalist who is currently a PhD Candidate at the Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His dissertation explores discussions relating to religion, race, and empire between South Asian and Japanese figures in Tokyo from 1905 until 1945. You can find him on twitter @ssiddiqui83
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