In this Book
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 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.
Launched on MUSE