Modern South Asian Studies Seminar: MT19: Week 4: Nationalism, Development, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka

Conveners: Imre Bangha, Nayanika Mathur, Matthew McCartney, Polly O’Hanlon, Kate Sullivan de Estrada, and David Washbrook

Speaker: Rajesh Venugopal (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Rajesh Venugopal’s book: Nationalism, Development, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka was published in November 2018 by Cambridge University Press. In it, he explores how the economic and the ethnic have encountered one another in modern Sri Lanka, focusing in particular on Sinhala nationalism. In doing so, the draws on a historically informed political sociology, and engages with some of the central issues in contemporary Sri Lanka: why has the ethnic conflict been so protracted, and so resistant to solution? What explains the enduring political significance of Sinhala nationalism? What is the relationship between market reform and conflict? Why did the Norwegian-sponsored peace process collapse? How is the Rajapaksa phenomenon to be understood? The topical spread of the book is broad, covering the evolution of peasant agriculture, land scarcity, state welfarism, nationalist ideology, party systems, political morality, military employment, business elites, market reforms, development aid, and presidentialism.


Rajesh Venugopal is Associate Professor at the LSE’s Department of International Development.  He researches nationalism, development theory, ethnic conflict, ethnocracy, and political violence in South Asia. His work has appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies, World Development, Economy & Society and Third World Quarterly. Recent publications have been on the politics of the 2014 Kashmir floods, the 'grease devil' crisis in Sri Lanka, the Indo-Naga cease-fire, the concept of neoliberalism, and narratives of development failure.

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