Political Geography of Nationalism in Sri Lanka
(For South Bank University Students)

Dr. Shantha K. Hennayake Duration: 30 Contact Hours
Department of Geography Time 9.00-12.00 on Thursdays
University of Peradeniya

The objective of the course is to critically study the political geography of nationalist politics in Sri Lanka. There is a very close relationship between geography and nationalist politics: nationalist politics is intrinsically geographical. Yet geography of nationalism has not yet received adequate attention. Since 1970s increasing number of geographers have been researching into nationalist politics in many parts of the world. In Sri Lanka, the trend started in the 1980s.

The course is divided into three sections

  1. Introduction (3 hours)
  2. Concepts and theories ( 6 hours)
  3. Nationalism in Sri Lanka. (21 hours)


I. Introduction

  1. Definitional introduction to Geography, politics, political geography nationalism
  2. Relationship between geography and nationalism
  3. Geographical significance of the study of nationalism


II. Concepts and Theories

  1. State, Nation-state, ethnicity, nation, ethnonationalism,
    Typology of nationalism
    Mythical nature of nationalism

  2. Theories of nationalism
    Ethnic discrimination
    Internal colonialism
    Uneven development
    Ethnic competition
    Interactive ethnonationalism


III. Ethnonationalism in Sri Lanka

  1. Historical origins of multi-ethnicity.
  2. Colonialism and its impact: Divide and rule and the origin of ethnic politics.
  3. Post Independent democratic ethnonationalism up to 1977.
  4. Violent separatist ethnonationalism since 1977.
  5. Muslim politics in the context of ethnonationalist crisis.
  6. Sinhalese-Buddhist ideology and Tamil Ethnonationalist ideology.
  7. The role of ethnic groups in the ethnonationalist crisis.
  8. Ethnicism in the Studies of ethnonationalism in Sri Lanka.

Evaluation: Term Paper (15-20 pages) on a substantive topic relating to any aspect of the ethnonationalist crisis in Sri Lanka.



Agnew, J. (1987) Place and Politics: The Geographical Mediation of State and Society, Boston: Allen and Unwin

Breuilly , J. (1982) Nationalism and the State, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Snyder, L L. (1990) The Encyclopedia of Nationalism, New York: Paragon House

Hennayake (1992)) Interactive Ethnonationalism: An Alternative Explanation of Tamil Ethnonationalism in Sri Lanka", Political Geography 1 (1), 526-549

Hennayake (1995) "The Muslim Politics in the Ethnonationalist Crisis in Sri Lanka". In Security Dilemma of a Small State ( Werake, M. and P.V.J. Jayasekara eds.) New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, pp.176-203

Hennayake (1995) Ethnicism in the Studies of Ethnonationalism in Sri Lanka. A Paper presented to the Modern Ceylon Studies, University of Peradeniya.

Hechter, M. (1975) Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley University Press.

Manifestos of the Federal Party, Tamil United Liberation Front, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, United National Party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Nairn, T. (1977) The Break-up of Britain: Crisis and Neonationalism. London: New Left Books.

Ragin, C.C. (1979) Ethnic Political Mobilization: the Welsh Case. American Sociological Review, 44, August, 438-450.

Silva, K. M de (1986) Managing Ethnic Tensions in Multi-Ethnic Societies. Lanham: University Press of America

Tambiah, S.J.(1986) Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Weekly and Daily Newspapers of Sri Lanka.