The Hybrid Island: Culture Crossings and the Invention of Identity in Sri Lanka

This collection of essays constitutes a tribute to the hybrid and multicultural nature of Sri Lanka`s society and cultures, composed of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslims and Burghers and including the major faiths - Buddhism, Hindu, Islam and Christianity. The volume challenges assumptions of ethnic purity (based on myths of origin - Aryan, Dravidian, Semitic, European) by attempting to recover a hidden history of hybridity, and critiques facile celebrations of hybridity by assessing when hybridity is empowering and when it is not. The essays in this book cover a range of topics from the personal effects of hybridity to its political ramifications. They examine the Veddas and the Sinhalese, common kinship patterns of the Sinhalese and Tamils, the demonization of the Burghers of mixed ancestry, hybrid music forms and the Kandyans and hybrid `things`. The essays engage with different notions of hybridity - identity, race and culture - and their manifestations by exploring the class, caste, gender, ethnic and religious constituents that determine the forms of intermixing apparent in the Sri Lankan context. Part of the agenda of the writers is devoted to deriving a theoretical discourse that enables them to locate the real contexts they grapple with. They render a meaning for the term hybridity, which reflects the complexities within the Sri Lankan context. The contributors, who include distinguished scholars and researchers, make a significant intervention in the Sri Lankan public sphere, and considering the present crisis of the nation, this volume can pave the way for future research, multicultural education and policy-making as well as conflict resolution. It can also open up other issues pertaining to the conflict which have been hitherto marginalized, and refigure the ongoing debates on Sri Lanka`s future.