Assembling Ethnicities in Neoliberal Times: Cultural Festivals, Housing for the Poor, and Erasing Minorities in Sri Lanka

Presented by Nimanthi Rajasingham

Date: 
Monday, 12 August, 2019 - 15:00

The presentation is from Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham's forthcoming book, Assembling Ethnicities in Neoliberal Times: Ethnographic Fictions and Sri Lanka’s War (Northwestern University Press), in which she argues that the bloody war fought between the Sri Lankan state and the separatist Tamil Tigers from 1983 to 2009 should be understood as structured and animated by the forces of global capitalism. Using Aihwa Ong’s theorization of neoliberalism as a mobile technology and assemblage, this book explores how contemporary globalization, as an economic system and a governing rationality for the management of populations, has exacerbated forces of nationalism and racism. Her talk will demonstrate this through a focus on a near two-decade-long housing for the poor project called Gam Udawa, and its accompanying cultural festivals to track how neoliberalism was translated by political leaders as social provision, welfare, and the restoration of a rural Buddhist polity that had been lost because of colonialism. The paper also considers how aesthetic forms allow us to refuse the specific surrogations of history performed at the Gam Udawa that attempted to erase minorities in the country and justify war.

The readings are in two parts. I have attached a part of the Introduction for people who may want to know what my overall claims are, gain some knowledge of the history of conflict in Sri Lanka, and get some definitions of key terms. But Please focus on CHAPTER 1, which will be the focus of the talk. 
  • Seminars will be held in the WISER seminar room from 3:00 to 4:30pm.
  • Participants must read the paper prior to the seminar.
  • The paper will typically only be available on the Friday preceding the seminar.

  • Click here for the remainder of the seminar schedule for this semester.