UCL Press


The Poetics and Politics of Authenticity 

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Harshana Rambukwella | July 2018

Format: 234x156mm 
Open Access PDF
ISBN: 978‑1‑78735‑128‑8
ISBN: 978‑1‑78735‑130‑1
ISBN: 978‑1‑78735‑129‑5
Pages: 177

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About the 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 post-colonial 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.

About the author

Harshana Rambukwella is Director, Postgraduate Institute of English, Open University of Sri Lanka. He received his PhD from the University of Hong Kong, where he is Honorary Assistant Professor at the School of English. Harshana’s research interests are in literary history, postcolonial theory and sociolinguistics. He is a trustee of the Gratiaen Trust of Sri Lanka and has served on a number of Sinhala and English literary panels in the country.