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Society and Space Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka

NIHAL PERERA

Westview Press Boulder  San Francisco  Oxford


To Amma and Thatha


Contents List of Tables and Illustrations Foreward Acknowledgments Preface

ix ix xi xiii

Introduction

1

PART ONE European Expansion: The Construction of Ceylon

15

1.

17

A New Perception of the World: Portuguese Indian Ocean Space and Colombo The Spatial Revolution of the Late Fifteenth Century, 17 Portuguese Indian Ocean Space, 21 The Lisbon-Centered Urban System and Colombo, 23 Colombo as a Portuguese Outpost, 26 Institutions and the Landscape, 27 Notes, 31

2.

A System of States and Empires: The British Conquest of Kandy and the Construction of Ceylon

35

West European Construction of States and Empires, 36 The British Colonization of Ceylon, 37 The Destruction of Kandy and the Creation of Ceylon, 39 The British Appropriation of Colombo and Kandy, 48 Notes, 57 3.

A Single World-Economy and Eurocentric Culture: The Integration of Ceylon into European Economic and Cultural Systems Incorporation of Ceylon into the Capitalist World-Economy, 62 The Reorganization of World-Space and the Structures of Knowledge Production, 70 The Landscape of Colonial Institutions, 75 Homogenization of the Built Environment, 85 Notes, 89 v

61


PART TWO Decolonizing Ceylon: Sri Lankan Reactions to Colonialism and Capitalism

95

4.

97

Indigenizing Colonial Spaces: Ceylonese Adaptations to the Colonial System The Demise of Empires and Post-Imperial Space, 98 Elite Adaptation of Colonial Institutions and Spaces, 99 Ambiguities in the National Spatial Structure, 101 The Restructuring of Marginalized Institutions and Spaces, 106 Migration and the Spatial Restructuring of Colombo, 110 Ceylonese Adaptation of Colonial Architecture and the Landscape, 114 Notes, 118

5.

Nationalizing Ceylon: Nationalist-Socialist Transformations of Sri Lanka

123

Anti-Systemic Movements and the World-Wide System of States, 123 Cultural Challenges to Colonialism, 125 Anti-Colonialist Conceptions of Ceylon, 128 Nationalist-Socialist Constructions of Sri Lanka, 132 Reorganization of the National and Capital Landscapes, 136 The Construction of a Critical-Vernacular Architecture, 144 Notes, 150 6.

Beyond the Post-colonial: 155 New World Regions and the Restructuring of Sri Lanka in the 1980s The Demise of Euro-US Domination and the Multiplication of World Regions, 155 Challenges to the Post-colonial Social and Spatial Order of Sri Lanka,157 The Restructuring of National Space, 164 The Diversification of Architecture and National Representation, 177 Notes, 181 Conclusions: Society and Space

References Index

185 195 214

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Tables and Figures Tables 2.1

Territorial divisions of Ceylon and their composition, 1930s

46

Figures 1.1 1.2 1.3 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6

A new worldview: Dividing up the world in the late fifteenth century and “India” Portuguese Indian Ocean Space: A large sea-space organized around a hierarchical system of outposts connected to Lisbon by means of the Carreira Portuguese Colombo: With harbor, fort, and the large Jesuit church at the center

18

Spaces of conflict: Changing domains of Ceylon and Kandy Instruments of colonization: Roads, military outposts, and their interconnection in early nineteenth century Ceylon The center and its reach: The three tiered territorial organization of Kandy Colonizing Lanka: The territorial organization of Ceylon, 1830s A divided city: The principal zones of early nineteenth century Colombo City of the god-king: The general structure of Kandy prior to its takeover by the British The sign of imminance: Kadugannawa tunnel, with Dawson Tower in the background The center of resistance: The religio-royal complex of Kandy Symbols of power: King’s Pavilion and St. Paul’s church at Kandy

40 42

24 30

44 47 49 53 54 55 56

Capitalist space: 68 The locus of production, center of economic command, and channels of labor and material in colonial Ceylon Clapham Junction of the East: Colombo’s centrality in 1900 76 Space in time: Nuwara Eliya hill station 79 The truimph of colonial time: 81 Chatham Street clock tower, Colombo, 1850s The aura of power: 82 The bungalows of Cinnamon Gardens and a private rickshaw in the 1890s The colonial suburb: 84 vii


3.7

4.1 4.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6

Cinnamon Gardens and late nineteenth century zones of Colombo The imperial landscape: 86 Colombo Town Hall (1920s), the Parliament and Secretariat (1930s), and General Post Office (1850s) Colonization Projects: Core houses provided in the Uda Walawa development project Cultural continuity: The rural house

105 109

The Buddhist landscape: Ruwanveliseya at Anuradhapura 127 Decentralizing national space: 137 The dispersed location of state-sponsored industries, 1960s and 1970s Non-Alignment: 141 Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall, Colombo, 1972 The adaptation of colonial buildings: 143 Colombo University’s College House, previously an elite residence in Cinnamon Gardens Critical Vernacularism: Bawa buildings 145 The geography of youth subversion: 160 Principal areas of JVP (1971) and separatist activity Massive projects: The Mahaweli Project area 165 Transforming the rural landscape: Mahaweli townships 167 Reinforcing Colombo’s cultural centrality: 172 Gangarmaya Temple, Colombo Modernizing the Fort area: 175 Postcard image of the new developments in the Fort area dwarfing the old Parliament building A new national identity: 178 The new Parliament complex at Sri Jayawardhanapura Kotte

Illustration Credits: 5.5b; 5.5c; 6.1 2.9b; 3.7a; 3.7b; 5.4

by permission of Geoffrey Bawa by permission of Lakshman Alwis

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Foreword Many explanations can no doubt be offered for the rapid growth of studies on the cultural consequences of European colonialism which have appeared since the late 1980s. One, however, seems incontrovertible. The postcolonial consciousness and identities of scholars who have produced such studies have frequently been intensified by a distancing, both in space and time, from what was previously an all-too-familiar, taken-for-granted postcolonial society. The experience of spatial, cultural and, not least, intellectual mobility which characterizes much of contemporary scholarship in the world obliges us to see its history anew. Yet the phenomenon of ‘colonialism’ is not a singular thing. For each colonized territory however large or small (we can not simply speak of a ‘society’), there is always a different history, a different set of local, regional, or worldwide conditions, a different staging and playing out of events, locations, and characters and, not least, a different end to the drama. If only for this reason, each study of a colonial and postcolonial situation, whatever its particular focus or object--space, politics, literature, science--must draw creatively on whatever are the most relevant and incisive theoretical paradigms and insights in the essentially hermeneutic task of interpreting the historical record. Nihal Perera’s study of the development, over five centuries, of the society and space of what we know today as Sri Lanka is an excellent illustration of these issues. We might begin by recognizing that the importance of Sri Lanka is far greater than the relatively small size of both its island territory and population would suggest. As a society and nation-state welded together largely in response to being part of either one or other of three of Europe’s largest colonial empires-Portuguese, Dutch, British--Sri Lanka has, in half a century of independence, reconstructed and repositioned itself in other Asian, South East Asian as well as global spaces. In this and many other ways it represents a paradigmatic case of a society still coming to terms with its colonial past, not least in relation to the still unresolved ethnic conflicts and spatial struggles which have kept it in the world’s press in recent decades. Utilizing an interdisciplinary conceptualization of “society and space,” Dr. Perera’s study draws critically and creatively on a range of conceptual and theoretical models to address the historical, social and spatial development of what for most of its colonial history was known worldwide as Ceylon. He demonstrates how the development of its urban system, the nature and spaces of its cities, its earlier capital of Colombo, particularly its architecture and built environment, its entire territory and transportation system, as well as its economic, social and political structures, have been serially transformed over five centuries as they were repositioned in a larger world space, objects of different political, ix


economic, cultural and social regimes--and not least in the last fifty years--of the different ideologies and policies of the postcolonial Sri Lankan nation-state. Yet the story he tells is that the influence and power of colonial regimes was never complete, never all-encompassing, never totalizing--but always left space for the island’s indigenous cultures and structures both to continue to develop as well as create something new. Nihal Perera’s study has obviously benefitted from his earlier professional education and experience in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in both architecture and urban planning. Much more important, however, in giving a distinctive stamp to what is essentially an interdisciplinary study, is his personal, cultural, political and geographical knowledge of Sri Lanka, the result of having participated in the political as well as spatial transformations which he discusses in the following chapters. Anthony D. King State University of New York at Binghamton August 1997

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Acknowledgements Many mentors, colleagues, friends, and relatives have helped create and maintain my interests in this subject and complete this book. Although this space does not allow me to mention all of them, I owe them a special debt of gratitude. Through all stages of my doctoral studies leading to this book, I had the privilege of receiving criticism, comments, and encouragement from Anthony D. King. Whatever merits this work may have are due in no small measure to the intellectual standards he set and the opportunities he provided me to reach my goals. Mark Selden’s trust in my work and well informed guidance made the book a reality. This book also benefitted immeasurably from the critical comments of Immanuel Wallerstein, Chandra R. de Silva, Lawrence McGinniss, James Duncan, and Charles Burroughs. My gratitude also goes to those gurus who provoked my interests in critical inquiry long before I began this project, particularly Senake Bandaranayake. Most of the research was conducted while I was at Binghamton University (State University of New York). Binghamton University provided an excellent intellectual environment in which ideas were taken seriously but never uncritically. Cross disciplinary and critical approaches adapted by many programs in the humanities and social sciences provided a perfect setting for this multidisciplinary study. This study could not have been completed without the help of the library and other facilities in the university including the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations. The support of my colleagues at Ball State University, especially J. Paul Mitchell, Kristi Koriath, Gopalan Venugopal, and the inter-library loan staff, was valuable. The Core Grant awarded by the Department of Urban Planning provided the foundation to obtain further support for my research and travel. I was fortunate to have the assistance of Laurence Lillig, who took very good care of final editing, Connie McOmber, who produced the excellent maps, and Paul Larson, who was meticulous with formatting. A grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts enabled me to complete the book, and has been much appreciated. Peer support has been extremely valuable in rethinking and expanding my ideas. I would like to thank especially Po-Keung Hui, Eira Juntti, and Motha Lopez for their comments, suggestions, and exchange of information. My gratitude and appreciation is also extended to Sui Man and Beatrice Fung, Ellen Badger, and the International Student and Scholar Services staff who made my stay at Binghamton possible. My wonderful friends, Charles Small and Gopalakrishnan Kalaeswaran, and their families, helped familiarize me with the USA. Joseph Socki, Sherry Wittstock, Chung Mi (Jamie Park), Mohammed Tamgidi, Nireka Weeratunga, Ralf Starkloff, Abidin Kusno, and Greig Chrysler xi


provided a friendly, homely, and stimulating academic environment for my research. I am truly indebted to my parents who introduced me to this world from a thought provoking social, economic, and cultural position and provided me with a good education. I can never sufficiently thank my wife, Karuna, for her endurance in putting up with academic and professional peregrinations and accommodating erratic schedules. Most crucially, she has helped me find and maintain a life outside of work, through the labor of love. I have tried to convince my children, Nelanka, Sohith, and Dharini--the main victims of this project--that they have gained by the resulting cross cultural experience, with which they now have to live. They also deserve my special thanks. Nihal Perera Ball State University September, 1997

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Preface This book is an outcome of my long-time interest in investigating the correlation between transformations in urban and regional spatial structures and landscapes, and economic, political, and cultural developments. My interest in the politics of space began when I was an undergraduate in architecture. In hindsight, I realize that I was learning how to create and shape volumetric space —what architects call three-dimensional space— and also training myself to become a designer of physical space. At the same time, however, I felt the absence of a social dimension in my work and also the limitations in the creative and intellectual space that I was making for myself. Later, as an architect and physical planner, I was constantly drawn into social, political, and spatial issues, and some proved to be real surprises. At the very beginning of my architectural career, I was confronted by a Sri Lankan client in Colombo who wanted me to design a Georgian house for her. I could in no way understand her desire to live in a historic British house type in the culturally and climatically different city of Colombo. Later, as Chief ArchitectPlanner of the Mahaweli Development Project, in Sri Lanka, I observed that the authorities preferred to spend extensive amounts of money on the construction of dams, canals, and other physical infrastructure, which are highly visible and tangible, but very little on the resettlement of farmers who had to be relocated to unfamiliar areas. As the project progressed, the production of rice and electric power increased, but their prices continued to escalate, making me wonder about the meaning of "development" and who were the beneficiaries of the project. I was also puzzled by the rationale behind bureaucrats coming from Colombo to teach farmers how to farm. When working in the Transmigration Project in Indonesia, our team's recommendation of coconut as the most suitable crop for a particular settlement in East Kalimantan —based on the soil, environmental, and local economic conditions— was conveniently ignored by the Ministry, which favored the cultivation of rubber in order to achieve the government's unstated economic goal of making the country a major rubber producer. These and many other substantial issues that I came across made one thing clear to me; the core of what professionals saw as architectural and planning problems, most of the time lay outside these professional fields, in a social sphere, such as the economy, polity, or culture; in a different space such as the capitalist worldeconomy or an ethno-territory; in an earlier time, for instance, the colonial period, or a particular golden era of a culture, but most of the time, a complex combination of these. Despite its complexity, this statement is nevertheless an oversimplification of the reality; space operates at multiple but related scales and is defined by, and defines, complex social spheres. Professional and disciplinary boundaries can only be a hindrance for any serious study of society and space. Although my initial interest was in contemporary space in Sri Lanka, the concern for appropriate units of analysis xiii


and temponl frameworks drew my attention to the colonial and capitalist construction of Ceylon, as represented in Part I. "Post- colonial" transformations examined in Part 11 cannot be explained without reference to the world-economy and global cultural trends either. This is what attracted me to the study of large scale social and spatial structures and long-term trajectories. As 1 wanted to work across disciplinary and professional boundaries, it has been a long, winding, and rocky intellectual journey. The other important finding was that space, in the broadest sense, is more central to most social issues than I had ever thought. For instance, the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka was instigated, in the first instance, by issues concerning homeland, territory, nation state, agricultural land, social access, language, monuments, and has generated similar issues ever since. The political economy paradigm —to which I was exposed when studying at the Development Planning Unit of University College, London— helped me appreciate the crucial connections between the political economy of a society and urban and territorial space. This was a major step in my understanding. The focus of the paradigm on structures, processes, and agencies helps not only to critically investigate socio-spatial phenomena, but also to develop alternatives to the dominant narrative —typically from a working class perspective. Yet the majority of studies have been largely city and state based, and most models were developed to analyze particular geographies or cities in the "West." The analysis of "non-Western" spaces, therefore, has had to rely upon the borrowing of appropriate models. Yet their applicability to particular cases is highly contestable.' Moreover, there was no incentive to develop local models as they were not given much recognition, particularly by professionals and academics trained within Eurocentric education and cultural systems.' I was therefore compelled to look for theories and perspectives that took into account the uneven distribution of power, economic resources, and other relationships between various societies. World-system perspectives, particularly that of Wallerstein, transcend the limitations of approaches that adopt the nation- state as the unit of analysis, and enable the researcher to investigate urbanism or architecture in Sri Lanka -or any other "Third World" state— in relation to larger economic and political structures, and longer time frames. The concepts cf"world city" and "global city" and theories of colonial urbanism and planning, particularly the work of Friedman, Sassen, King, and Home, help to see Colombo and Sri Lanka within their larger world city and metropole-colony structures. As much as the immediate structures such as that of "everyday life," these larger ones are realities. These perspectives, theories, and concepts provide an intellectual distance from the state enabling the researcher to examine Sri Lanka within a larger system-metaphorically, to see both the tree and the forest at the same time. These intellectual tools also provide agency for Sri Lanka as a unit in the periphery, colonial empire, and the Third World within their uneven structures of political and economic power.' Although these macro political-economists have taken a great interest in the periphery of their own structures, and have gone the extra mile to render some social agency to societies within it, their work largely focuses on structures that are centered xiv


upon Europe and North America or the core of the capitalist world- economy. Moreover, these theories have been developed to explore the structure from the center, and this blurs the differences between societies in the periphery, which is a principal unit in itself. Sri Lanka and Colombo are also subordinate social and spatial units in the above-mentioned structures. As much as the "Otherness" of Sri Lanka is implied in those theories, any study of Sri Lanka can simultaneously see the "Otherness" of these theories. Any exploration of Sri Lankan responses to colonial and capitalist society and space would, therefore, require a certain adaptation of these tools. Although British colonialism in Ceylon is better understood within the larger space of the British Empire, a Sri Lankan view of the "same" would benefit by locating it within the longer temporal structure of European colonialism in Ceylon under the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British. This would, however, displace the time and space of the subject and the object. Moreover, the European transformation of Ceylon is one of many layers of "outside" influence in the long history of Sri Lanka. The giving up of the purity of the structures employed in the study in favor of focusing on uneven and incongruent structures operating at multiple scales could benefit the examination of Sri Lankan responses to colonial social and spatial structures. The "scientific method" demands the singularity of the principal structure, the purity of its parts, the quantifiability of variables, and depends on the ability to examine the parts separately and put them back together, recreating the whole. Yet "Social reality is seamless. Society does not happen at different levels,"4 only research and analysis do. These levels, social spheres, and spatial scales are all theoretical constructs that facilitate scholarly investigations. It becomes virtually impossible to employ the same framework to examine both European colonialism and Sri Lankan responses to colonial society and space, as the latter demands quite a different vantage point, and this, in effect, displaces the structure. Although Portuguese Colombo and British Ceylon were constructed as parts of Portuguese and British imperial structures based in their own metropoles, the processes of "indigenization" and "nationalization" takes place at smaller national and local levels based in Sri Lanka. Working with a whole range of small and large incompatible structures requires the researcher to build an analytical framework positioning these in relation to each other. A danger to avoid is the adoption of a hierarchical perspective —simple and easy to adopt and very common in Western scholarship— that would subject the smaller structures and actors to the determinism of larger ones. Although urban political economists have well addressed the connections between space and the political-economy, the interaction between culture and space, particularly from a cultural studies perspective, is still an underdeveloped area. This is where the scholarship of, for example, Duncan and Ley becomes important.' Brenda Yeoh's work,' which I came across only after the manuscript was completed, has taken another significant step in this direction by empowering both the indigenes, highlighting the active role played by the Singaporeans in negotiating colonial space, and the "Third World" scholar, by foregrounding the possibility of adopting different xv


ways to explore "non-Western" developments. In this context, what I aim to show in this book is the following. First, (social) space is a constituent element of most social processes, including economic incorporation, cultural subordination, indigenization, nationalization, nationalism, development, and globalization. Most social structures, such as the capitalist worldsystem, the nonaligned movement, regional alliances, the rural village, and family, are also formed and transformed with space. Space in all these processes and structures is multi-scaled, and society is mutli-sphered. It is local, global, national, political, economic, and cultural, and also has multiple meanings. An examination of space should therefore reveal the complex combination of social and spatial structures and processes. Second, in regard to independent Sri Lanka, its spatial organization displays that the country is part of the capitalist world- economy as constructed within a European cultural hegemony, and, to a large degree, the construction of space is still dominated by colonial norms and forms. As I also employ a number of time scales, I am tempted to say that the study is multidisciplinary and historical. This accepts disciplinary boundaries, which are destructive for any serious study. Instead, the study expands the space for interaction across the nineteenth-century European disciplinary divisions which were largely constructed for administrative convenience within the structure of European capitalist knowledge production and distribution. As Wallerstein has argued, what we need is a single discipline with foci rather than different disciplines separated by boundaries. Instead of undertaking to correct or retell the urban and spatial history of Sri Lanka, the book presents the impact of European colonialism on Sri Lankan history, geography, and culture, and highlights the need to take this into consideration in constructing its national (or, post-national) future. Hence, the history, or geography, that this book presents is not comprehensive, but thematic. My thoughts concerning this book are close to what my colleague, Francis Parker, said about the book he recently coauthored, Railroads of Indiana. "In a real sense, this is the book that I wish had been available to help me when I did [my earlier] research... [However,] I didn't realize that I would write it myself.' I would have written a different book if this book had been available to me. The academic environment at Binghamton University (State University of New York) was crucial for the research and development of ideas as it provided the site where I could work across disciplines with a team of scholars, including Anthony King, Immanuel Wallerstein, James Duncan, Giovanni Arrighi, Larry McGinniss, and Charles Burroughs, none of whom pay much attention to disciplinary boundaries. The valuable support of Dean Eric Kelly and my colleagues at Ball State University has helped me to develop my work this far. Notes I. See Introduction; Nihal Perera, "Exploring Colombo: The Relevance of a Knowledge of New York," in Re-Presenting the City: Ethnicity, Capital, and Culture xvi


in the 21st Century Metropolis, Anthony D. King, ed.: 137-157 (London: Macmillan, 1996). 2. See Chapter Three; Susantha Goonatillake, Crippled Minds: An Exploration into Colonial Culture (New Delhi: Vikas Publishers, 1982); Aborted Discovery: Science and Creativity in the Third World (London: Zed Books, 1984). 3. For references, see Introduction. 4. Deidre Boden, The Business ofTalk: Organizations in Action (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994), 201, in Nigel Thrift, Spatial Formations (London: Sage, 1996), 162. 5. For references, see Introduction. 6. Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Contesting Space: Power Relations and the Urban Built Environment in Colonial Singapore (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1996). 7. In "Parker Tracks "Railroads of Indiana" in New Book," ReCAP (Spring 1998): 10.

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Introduction Scholarly investigations of social space have frequently demonstrated that the form, constitution, and meaning of territorial and urban structures, landscapes, and the built environment in general, are constantly subject to change and reinterpretation. Moreover, the ways in which scholars conceptualize social space and its transformation are also in constant transition. This is evident in the emergence of important new conceptualizations in recent years such as notions of the “global city,” “growth machines,” “landscape models,” “liminal space,” and the increasing importance given to issues of culture, representation, and identity. 1 This suggests that not only is the satisfactory appraisal of contemporary spatial transformations often beyond the capacity of the analytical tools available, 2 but also that extant conceptualizations are increasingly contested. The study of historic colonial urbanisms and landscapes worldwide, as well as so-called vernacular built environments, also demonstrate the many changes in the way these phenomena are being perceived.3 These changes in the epistemological assumptions informing scholarly writing in the field broadly conceived as the social construction of space began especially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, particularly with the emergence of urban political economy at one level and vernacular architecture studies at another. If the political economists have convinced us that society is not in consensus but in conflict, scholarship undertaken within the cultural studies paradigm has reaffirmed that these conflicts go far beyond simple social dualities such as the capitalist and working classes or the colonizer and the colonized. It is in this broad and looselydefined area of multidisciplinary enquiry into the social construction of space that this study is located. The main objective of this book is to explore the historical construction of the contemporary organization of space in one particular post-colonial society, namely, Sri Lanka. I refer here to the organization of world-regions in which Sri Lanka exists, to its territories, cities, landscapes, built forms, and their interconnections and meanings as part of changing political, economic, and cultural systems. The concern of this study, to cite Henri Lefebvre, is to explore spaces “perceived, conceived, and lived,” 4 and how they are formed and transformed, adapted and contested. The principal premise of the study is that space is integral to the formation of society. Space is a constituent part of the polities, economies, and cultures in a

1


2

Introduction

society, if not on a one to one basis; it is conditioned by them and, at the same time, conditions them. “Society and space” therefore stands for the space constructed, occupied, engendered, and fashioned as part of the formation and transformation of social institutions and processes; “social” will also be taken broadly to include the political, economic, and cultural. Although “society” is a relatively weak and problematic analytical category, this weakness itself is used as a strategy to include more defined social structures, such as that of the nation, as well as less defined ones. I use the term “spatial order” to refer to the spatial organization of political, economic, and cultural systems and structures. These include the system of administrative districts, provinces, and their capitals; the loci of capital investment and the economic command center; national, urban, and rural settlement patterns; interconnections such as circulation systems; building types and forms and the narratives and landscape models through which socio-spatial processes and relations take place. It is in this sense that the term “space” is used in this study, a usage which is broader than that of mere “physical” space. Both “social space” and “society and space” are used interchangeably with these meanings in mind. “Society and space” is therefore strategically employed here to distinguish the spaces on which this study focusses from other forms, whether “empty,” 5 astronomical, absolute, and so-called natural spaces,6 as well as the more metaphorical uses of such a concept. For example, until the transformation of “air space” from an unbound natural feature to a politically and economically meaningful airshed in the early twentieth century, 7 this was a part of absolute space, to use Lefebvre’s terms. Absolute space here refers retrospectively to a social space prior to its entering into our socio-spatial discourses and practices. The production of society and space is, therefore, a broader process than the socialization of some existing absolute space, or the spatiality of a society. 8 My objective in this book is also to examine a case relatively far from the postW orld W ar II centers of political, economic, and cultural domination and power such as the United States, western Europe, and Japan. It not only focusses on Sri Lanka, but adopts a perspective as close as possible to that of Sri Lankans. Aspects of the domination and influence of these centers of power over Sri Lankan society are addressed within broader economic, cultural, and spatial conceptualizations, such as those implicit in the ideas of the world-economy, colonial urbanism, and world-space. The study also aims to explore the differences such a perspective would make and what such a study can contribute towards the understanding of contemporary Sri Lankan society and space. Ceylon--which became Sri Lanka in 1972--was essentially a nineteenth century British colonial construction. The British colonization of the island was a much deeper and momentous process than the mere annexation of another colony to the Empire. Despite the country’s political independence in 1948, the spatial order and built environment of Ceylon were not seriously reorganized for another three decades. This demonstrates, in large part, the continuing hegemony of colonially constructed cultural perceptions of Ceylon, carried over by its economic elite, post-


Introduction

3

colonial political leaders, as well as other professional groups. “Post-colonial,” with its double meaning, denotes “after colonialism” as well as the continuation of colonially produced social structures and cultural perceptions. 9 The issue of the colonial construction of Ceylon, at its broadest level, is therefore crucial for understanding the post-colonial restructuring of society and space in Sri Lanka. This provides the historical dimension of the study. The focus on the colonial construction of Ceylon should not, however, undermine the complex history of Lankan societies which were constituted in many layers of society and space laid over several millennia; yet European colonialism had the most profound impact on Lankan societies in recent history. The more historic term, “Lanka,” is used here to identify the island before European colonization and, as argued in Chapter Two, Lanka does not represent a social or a political agency but rather, a peoplehood and a territory. In this context, the book has two further aims. One is to develop a broad historical and theoretical framework for investigating the construction, institutionalization, and reproduction of “social space” as part of (west) European expansion beginning in the mid-fifteenth century. The focus here is on the spatial construction of Ceylon, as part of British colonization, its incorporation into the capitalist world-economy, and the institutionalization of a European, and principally British, cultural hegemony, mainly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Against this background, my other aim is to examine various Sri Lankan reactions, responses, and contestations to these developments, particularly in the post-colonial period. This includes the construction of certain identities (particularly, that of the elite) and the restructuring of cultural institutions (for example, Buddhism and the village) as they were adapted into the colonial system. I also examine the processes of decolonization and the formation of an independent state between the 1930s and 1970s and the restructuring of the Sri Lankan economy and polity in the 1980s, especially in regard to their spatial implications and consequences. Context and Rationale This project intends to be a contribution to the multidisciplinary study of society and space. From the early 1970s, many scholars, particularly in geography and sociology, contested the neglect of space in addressing social relationships. 10 Derek Gregory and John Urry aptly observed that “spatial structure is now seen not merely as an arena in which social life unfolds, but rather as a medium through which social relations are produced and reproduced.” 11 The study of social space has come to occupy a significant position in many disciplines and particular fields, not least in the study of world systems 12 and colonial urbanism, 13 among others. The field of urban political economy,14 developed especially from the 1970s, was often restricted to particular spatial units, such as “cities” and “urban space,” and did not deal with the built environment at large. Yet an increasing number of scholars have viewed cities as parts of larger, global urban systems. Friedmann uses the world economy in which to locate “world cities,” 15 and King looks towards


4

Introduction

the metropole to explain some of the phenomena in colonial cities. Only since 1980, according to Friedmann, has “the study of cities has been directly linked to the world economy.” 16 However, where earlier studies in this mode were largely concerned with “the negative impact of developments in the periphery on the urban economies of the core,” 17 this study focusses on the reverse process. Scholars of urban political economy have made a significant difference to the way urban studies are carried out. Yet the economic determinism and scientific objectivism inherent in this approach has often subordinated the culture and politics of space. King has addressed the development of what he terms colonial third cultures, the construction of built environments accompanying this, as well as the globalization of spatial forms. 18 Expanding and restructuring this perspective, I develop and employ a broader concept, including the political and cultural constitution of space, as perceived, conceived, and practiced, using a historical and global approach to space and time. Although this study aims at developing an interpretative understanding of society and space in Sri Lanka, I also hope it will have wider significance for the understanding of developments in other post-colonial countries. Historical approaches from a global perspective that examine spatial issues as a part of the construction and the reproduction of a society--its economy, polity and culture--are strikingly absent in conventional Sri Lankan spatial studies, whether these refer to questions of urban and regional planning, or discussions of architecture, archaeology, and urban design. Colonialism, as a major historical process, has received little serious scholarly attention in Sri Lankan studies. Dependence on the flow of scholarship from the centers of knowledge production in the core W estern states has been a major constraint on the development of new paradigms. Although it is not necessary to view social and political structures as centrally and hierarchically organized in order to locate a study within a large spatial context, this has generally been the principal perception disseminated by core academic institutions. To oversimplify this argument, “global” approaches--as opposed to “local” ones--have marked a particular division of spatial perceptions between the dominant and the dominated. Here I am comparing Sri Lanka with imperial metropoles and hegemonic powers in the capitalist world-economy, such as Britain and the United States, and principal ideological centers such as Moscow (during the Cold W ar) or Teheran. In this context, it is no coincidence that an increasing number of historically and theoretically broad based studies of Sri Lankan society and space (including this one) are being undertaken by scholars from academic institutions in the dominant core states rather than those in Sri Lanka. 19 The vast majority of Sri Lankan literature on spatial issues has not only adopted short term perspectives, focussing narrowly on normative, practice-oriented studies, but has also relied on colonially constructed perceptions. These include such issues as housing standards, particularly policy studies dealing with the up-grading of socalled “slum” dwellings and “shanties,” without properly questioning the valueladen premises of these categories. These have often been derived from upper class


Introduction

5

perceptions of the city and the built environment, whether colonial or post-colonial. Solutions to urban problems thus identified are constrained by so-called developmentalism, suggesting the need to follow the W estern model of industrialization. Moreover, the conditions and parameters of the existing spatial order and built environment are considered as given, synchronic, and uniform, and the society viewed as being in consensus rather than in conflict. The professions and professionals assume that they are engaged in an apolitical mission of serving the “public good.” 20 By ignoring the larger global and long-term context, most studies adopt upper class and post-colonial value systems in their approach to the larger society. Archaeologists too have paid little attention to the political, economic, and cultural “context” within which historic buildings and cities were constructed.21 Nonetheless, such work has given rise to more substantive debates on historical processes, including the relationships between religious and royal buildings and peasant house forms and social stratification. 22 The important link between these studies and other research on contemporary spatial issues has yet to be established. These developments have, however, created interest among an increasing number of historians23 and architects, 24 although still few in number, to engage in issues relating to the social and cultural production of space and built forms. A number of scholars have also carried out space related studies within a larger spatial spectrum: for example, in architectural research, Senake Bandaranayake’s study of roof patterns in historic Sri Lankan society draws on parallel developments in other parts of what he calls “Monsoon Asia”; in urban geography, K. Dharmasena’s research on the changing significance of the Colombo port is undertaken in relation to other ports in the South Asian region. 25 In a large majority of these studies, however, the contexts in which they have been undertaken-temporal, spatial, political, cultural--have been very narrow. The most significant object of this book is, however, to highlight the promise society and space offers as a field of study. Space is fundamental in any form of communal life as well as in any exercise of power. 26 The primacy of the visual, for example, in most architectural studies, economy in urban studies, place in some studies in geography, have largely undermined the significance of “social space” as a central category. According to Gottdiener, “this project remains undeveloped (as in the discourse of Soja) or ignored (as in the work of the reductionist, capital logic school).” 27 It is therefore appropriate for us to develop the study of society and space beyond the boundaries of the Lefebvrian discourse, to view space beyond being a material entity within conventional political economy studies, or merely as a representation of social processes. Analytical Framework and Premises As in many studies, this book raises a number of conceptual issues concerning the appropriateness to the society of existing social and spatial units, their relationships, and analytical tools. I refer here to the problems posed by the use of


6

Introduction

a knowledge produced by professional and academic institutions in a “Euro-centric” world for the study of society and space in, especially, politically subordinate, economically peripheral, and culturally marginal societies, when viewed in relation to globally dominant cultures.28 Although many scholars have examined various aspects of what might be called the production of space over the last three decades, most of these approaches pose at least five fundamental problems in regard to their applicability to cases outside the “W est,” or the capitalist center, which now also includes parts of east Asia. First, by placing the focus on the dominant social and spatial structure, or processes, in a core W estern state, most studies employ a dualistic logic that connects the object with a “W estern” opposition, for example, tropical-temperate, colonymetropole. Such attempts to provide meaning for the object of study tend to displace institutions and practices in “non-W estern” societies into parts of Westcentric structures, as if the whole is structurally determined and hierarchically organized. The application of categories such as “pre-colonial” and “pre-capitalist” to societies prior to their being incorporated into European political and economic systems tends to fix “colonial” and “capitalist” as the main points of reference for the historical development of those societies. These categories subordinate indigenous histories, especially when the continuity of foreign histories are imposed by adding the suffix “post-,” whether post-colonial or post-modern. Second is the tendency to approach problems from the center of the structure, further marginalizing the already marginalized. Most urban studies marginalize the vast majority of the world’s population simply because of the fact that it does not live in urban areas, and the rural is the antithesis of the urban. Or, if urban studies do take “non-mainstream” populations into account, it is as part of the so-called urban “informal sector.” Similarly, the “traditional” history of architecture largely ignores the large array of popular dwellings worldwide, or subordinates them as “vernacular” as opposed to “Architecture.” The intentions and intensity of such approaches certainly vary from one project to the next; however, these frameworks are not adequate for the study undertaken here. I am, however, not proposing a Sri Lanka-centrism or a “periphery-centrism” in place of a “core-centrism.” Such positions would defeat the very purpose of challenging the idea of centrism, dualism, totalization, and subordination. The principal premise is that different “worlds” and structures operate simultaneously, some related, some overlapping, and some dependent. The particular spatial discourse often depends on the social and spatial position of the author as subject. 29 Moreover, the separation of a particular phenomenon or a structure from the rest would only weaken the study by freezing the interrelated phenomena in time and space and decontextualizing the particular object of inquiry which can be understood most fruitfully as part of intertwined global phenomena. 30 Third, this method of producing knowledge in the core academic centers has marginalized and underdeveloped other discourses. The west European domination over the world, in particular, has crippled the competence of the dependent societies to develop their own perspectives on society and space. 31 It is therefore clear that


Introduction

7

this study must largely depend on the approaches and tools that it criticizes. In this context, I use theories and perspectives critically and selectively, loosening their boundaries and opening up the discursive space for further expansion. The study draws on a range of perspectives, including world systems (in relation to Sri Lanka’s changing position in the world-economy over time), theories of colonial urbanism (in regard to the derivation and circulation of discourses in architecture and planning), urban restructuring,32 nationalism and cultural identity, 33 landscape interpretation,34 and cultural theory (in terms of micro-structures of power and knowledge), and notions of the world and global city and globalization.35 The situation in regard to sources is similar. In regard to sixteenth and seventeenth century southern India, Sanjay Subrahmanyam has argued that the sources that have been used are largely those of the Europeans who arrived in Asia after 1500. 36 This is also the case of Sri Lanka. Fourth is the coherency of conceptual tools. Since the study of various aspects of space is concentrated in many disciplines, including architecture, urban planning, cultural geography, cultural anthropology, urban sociology, art history, and macro sociology, the framework employed in this study is essentially multidisciplinary, but also selective. The multidisciplinarity proposed here, however, does not imply the a c c e p ta nce o f a nine te enth ce ntury we st Europe an disc ip lina ry compartmentalizations, but rather a single larger discipline--unidiscipline--in which I focus on society and space. I well understand that the different theories on which I draw are not directly congruent but operate in tension when put together, especially since scholars use discipline-specific concepts and employ different approaches to spatial issues.37 This should not, however, be taken as an apology since there can never be a “pure” and complete theoretical framework. Finally, space is characterized by both not having any meaning and by having the potential of multiple meanings. Such meanings are constructed through spatial practices as well as through reading, that is, interpreting them. Yet these categories are not congruent. As Lefebvre suggests, social space is constructed and lived before it is read and conceptualized.38 All these processes are political for they are inextricably bound to the material interests of various classes and positions of power within a society, and also to different scholarly interests of disciplines and professions. As much as pure theoretical frameworks do not exist, neither do pure empirical data. They are all produced within particular perceptions. I am, however, not rejecting the significance of either of these, but highlighting my consciousness of their limitations. I take a middle path between empiricism and theoreticism.39 A basic premise of this study is that various social spheres--political, economic, and cultural--and “scales” of space--world, national, building--are not determined by one or the other scale or sphere, but are constructed and operate simultaneously. Social spaces that occur at various scales, however, influence each other, converging at certain points producing nodes, such as capital cities, centers of resistance, or colonial port cities. The study, therefore, seeks to investigate the ways in which various socio-spatial processes overlap and interact, producing particular nodes and multivalent, polysemic spaces and, in relation to building form,


8

Introduction

architectural symbolism. These social spheres, spatial units, and their convergences are socially produced. The politics of construction of spaces and spatial structures is therefore of the utmost importance for the understanding of a particular society, culture, and its constituent spaces. The concept of locale provides the necessary connection between society and space. Locales refer to the use of space to provide settings for social interaction. They can range from a room in a house, a street-corner, the shop-floor of a factory, to towns, cities, and national territories. It is usually possible to designate locales in terms of their physical properties, either as features of the material world or, more commonly, combinations of those features and human artifacts.40 It is in this context that I begin my investigation of Sri Lanka. I see Iberian expansion in the late fifteenth century as the crucial “beginning� of a long term trend in which today’s larger spatial structures have not only been constructed but can also be explained. This trend reached its apogee in the late nineteenth century with the beginning of the demise of British hegemony in the island. As Lefebvre notes, Neither capitalism nor the state can maintain the chaotic, contradictory space they have produced. We witness, at all levels, this explosion of spaces. At the level of the immediate and the lived, space is exploding on all sides. ... Everywhere people are realizing that spatial relations are social relations. At the level of cities we see not only the explosion of the historical city but also that of the administrative frameworks in which they had wanted to enclose the urban phenomenon.41 This book focusses on the construction, contestations, and transformation of this meta-space, in regard to both its organization and its meaning, from the late nineteenth century onwards. Finally, I do not undertake a separate review of the relevant literature, but examine this at appropriate points in the text. Moreover, the fact that I draw on arguments and ideas appearing in certain works does not mean that I necessarily subscribe to the overall ideas which the authors of particular works have argued. Descriptions and analyses are of necessity constructed within the limits of the language and the intellectual frameworks of those who make them, and these form the particular contexts for their ideas. 42 Using ideas from other works changes their context, and also their meaning. Themes and Organization The main theme of this study is the spatial constitution of the processes of colonization and decolonization, and their political, economic, and cultural structures, institutions, and processes. In more detail, the study addresses the following themes:

C The European development of a particular spatial practice based on a perception of the world as a knowable, controllable, and manageable single space. This


Introduction

C

C

C

C C

C

9

begins with the Iberian expansion of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and its continuation by west European powers in constructing a system of states and empires as the territorial matrix for organizing power and economy at a worldscale. The origins of colonial urbanism, in the late fifteenth century, the use of urban structures in the construction of west European empires, and the implications of Europe-centered urban structures for the post-colonial world. The spatial constitution of the British colonization of Ceylon, its incorporation into a capitalist world-economy, and the hegemonizing of a European cultural system. The homogenization of an “official� landscape across the empire and indigenous responses to this in producing a critical-vernacular architecture; the deployment of such an architecture in constructing a national identity. The adaptation of colonial subjects and the restructuring of indigenous institutions and their spaces within a colonial system. The challenges to colonial, capitalist, and post-colonial political and administrative systems by nationalist, socialist, ethnic- and youth-based political organizations and their impact on the society and space of Sri Lanka. The spatial implications of the demise of United States hegemony and the bipolar world political order, and the restructuring of Sri Lankan society and space.

The study is organized both thematically and chronosophically,43 using trajectories and stages of particular social and spatial formations to define time and organize chapters. Hence, it does not attempt to build a comprehensive history nor a totalized view. Temporally, I locate this study in what Braudel has called very long time (hundreds of years). 44 Although Braudelian times are economistic in their conceptualization, I use these concepts to address society and space in the following order, though with some adjustments where necessary. Part One investigates the construction of a larger world space by west European powers, from the late sixteenth to the late nineteenth century, and within this, the society and space of Ceylon. Part Two examines the Ceylonese and Sri Lankan responses, particularly adaptations and contestations, to this society and space. These processes, however, are explored in terms of two different sets of responses (discussed below), the time frames of which overlap. This part also addresses the social and spatial restructuring of Sri Lanka in the 1980s. Notes 1. See Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, and Tokyo (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991); John R. Logan and Harvey L. Molotch, Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987); James S. Duncan, The City as Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Trevor J. Barnes and James S. Duncan, eds., Writing Worlds: Discourse, Texts, and Metaphors in the Representation of


10

Introduction

Landscape (London: Routledge, 1992); Sharon Zukin, Landscapes of Power: From Detroit to Disney World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991). 2. For a useful overview, see Jane Jacobs, “Qualitative Research in Urban Studies,” in Trevor J. Barnes and James S. Duncan, eds., Writing Worlds: Discourse, Text, and Metaphor in the Representation of Landscape (London and New York: Routledg, 1992). 3. See Anthony D. King, Urbanism, Colonialism and the World-Economy: Cultural and Spatial Foundations of the World Urban System (London: Routledge, 1990); Gwendolyn Wright, The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Paul Rabinow, French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989); Setha Low and Erve Chambers, eds., Housing, Culture, and Design: A Comparative Perspective (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989); Jean-Paul Bourdier and Nezar AlSayyad, eds., Dwellings, Settlements, and Tradition: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989). 4. See Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), 34-36. 5. See Gary McDonogh, “The Geography of Emptiness,” in Robert Rotenberg and Gary McDonogh, eds., The Cultural Meaning of Urban Space (Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey, 1993), 3-16. 6. See Chapter Three below; Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 30. 7. David Wallace, ed., Metropolitan Open Spaces and Natural Process (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970) in McDonogh, “The Geography of Emptiness,” 14. 8. Lefebvre is somewhat confusing in regard to this issue. For him, social space is not socialized space [that already exists]. (190) Yet, he also argues that every space is already in place before the appearance in it of actors. (57) In this sense, space is also objective for him. Lefebvre moves between structuralism/scientism and subjectivism/social construction. 9. See Ella Shohat, “Notes on the ‘Post-Colonial’,” Social Text 31-32 (1992): 99-113; Anne McClintock, “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘Post Colonial’,” Social Text 31-32 (1992): 84-98. 10. Representative titles include David Harvey, Social Justice and the City (London: Edward Arnold, 1973), in which he argued that “there are plenty of those with a powerful sociological imagination ... who nevertheless seem to live and work in a spaceless world.” (24) In Spatial Divisions of Labor (London: Macmillan, 1984), Doreen Massey demonstrated that behind major shifts between dominant spatial divisions of labor within a country lie changes in the spatial organization of capitalist relations of production, the development and reorganization of which she calls spatial structures of production. (7) See also Manuel Castells, City, Class and Power (London: Macmillan, 1980); The City and the Grass Roots (London: Arnold, 1983). 11. Derek Gregory and John Urry, eds., Social Relations and Spatial Structures (New York: St. Martins Press, 1985), 3. 12. Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York: Academic Press, 1974); The Modern World-System III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730-1840s (San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1989); Fernand Braudel, The Perspective of the World (New York: Harper and Row, 1984); Janet AbuLughod, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); Peter J. Taylor, Political Geography of the Twentieth Century: A Global Analysis (London: Belhaven Press, 1993); Paul L.Knox and John Agnew, The Geography of the World Economy (London: Edward Arnold, 1990).


Introduction

11

13. For example, Anthony D. King, Global Cities: Post-Imperialism and the Internationalization of London (London: Routledge, 1990); Urbanism, Colonialism and the World-Economy; Wright, The Politics of Design; Thomas R. Metcalf, An Imperial Vision: Indian Architecture and Britain’s Raj (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); Robert Home, Of Planting and Planning: The Making of British Colonial Cities (London: Belhaven Press, 1997). 14. See Mark Gottdiener and Joe R. Feagin, “The Paradigm Shift in Urban Sociology,” Urban Affairs Quarterly 24 (1988): 163-87. 15. John Friedmann, “The World City Hypothesis,” Development and Change 17 (1986): 69-84; “Where We Stand: A Decade of World City Research,” in Paul L. Knox, and Peter J. Taylor, eds, World Cities in a World System (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 21-47. 16. Friedmann, “The World City Hypothesis.” 17. Anthony D. King, “Colonialism, Urbanism and the Capitalist World-Economy,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 13 (1989): 3. 18. Anthony D. King, Colonial Urban Development (London: Routledge and Keagan Paul, 1976); Urbanism, Colonialism and the World-Economy. 19. For example, Florian Steinberg, “Town Planning and the Neo-Colonial Modernization of Colombo,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 8 (1984): 530-546; Duncan, The City as Text; Lawrence J. Vale, Architecture, Power, and National Identity (New Haven, and London: Yale University Press, 1992). 20. See for example, Roland Silva, “Traditional Design and Modern Architecture,” The Sri Lanka Architect 100 (September-November, 1991): 11-13. 21. For example, Senerat Paranavitana, The Stupa in Ceylon (Colombo, 1945); Art and Architecture of Ceylon: Polonnaruwa Period (Colombo, 1954); Roland Silva, “Lessons of Town Planning from Ancient Ceylon,” CIA (Ceylon Institute of Architects) 1 (1972): 8-15, 29. 22. Senake Bandaranayake, Sinhalese Monastic Architecture: The Viharas of Anuradhapura (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974); “Form and Technique in Traditional Rural Housing in Sri Lanka,” ASA 1 (1978): 9-13; “Sri Lanka and Monsoon Asia: Patterns of Local and Regional Architectural Development and the Problem of the Traditional Sri Lankan Roof,” in Leelananda Prematilleke, Karthigesu Indrapala, and J.E. Van Lohuizen-deLeeuw, eds., Senerat Paranavitana Commemoration Volume (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978): 2244. 23. See, Senake Bandaranayake, et al., eds., Sri Lanka and the Silk Road of the Sea. (Colombo: The Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO and the Central Cultural Fund, 1990); “Monastery Plan and Social Formation: The Spatial Organization of the Buddhist Monastery Complexes of the Early and Middle Historical Period in Sri Lanka and Changing Patterns of Political Power,” in D. Miller, M. Rowlands, and C. Tilley, eds., Domination and Resistance (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 179-195; R.A.L.H. Gunawardana, “Anuradhapura: Ritual, Power and Resistance in a Precolonial South Asian City,” in Ibid, 155-178. 24. For example, Vidura Sri Nammuni, “Design Teaching at Moratuwa: The Tip of the Iceberg,” The Sri Lanka Architect 100 (Dec 90-Feb 91):15-18; Nihal Bodhinayake, “What is Ornamentation, Where is Architecture?” The Sri Lanka Architect 100 (Mar-May 1991): 15-16; T.K.N.P. de Silva, “The Sri Lankan Tradition for Shelter,” The Sri Lanka Architect 100 (Jun-Aug, 1990): 2-11; Ashley de Vos, “Some Aspects of Traditional Rural Housing and Domestic Technology,” The Sri Lanka Architect 100 (Sep-Nov 1988): 8-16; “Landscaping in the Sri Lankan Context,” The Sri Lanka Architect 100 (Dec 1991-Feb


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Introduction

1992): 51-56. 25. Bandaranayake, “Sri Lanka and Monsoon Asia;” K. Dharmasena, The Port of Colombo 1860-1939 (Colombo: Lake House Publishers, 1980); “Colombo: Gateway and Oceanic Hub of Shipping,” in Brides of the Sea: Port Cities of Asia from 16th to 20th Centuries, ed., Frank Brooze (Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1989): 152-172; “The Growth of International Shipping in Sri Lanka, 1750-1985: The Experience of a Developing Country,” In Lewis R. Fisher and Helge W. Nordick, eds., Shipping and Trade, 1750-1950: Essays in International Maritime Economic History (Pontefract, England: Loft House Publications, 1990), 235-250. 26. Michel Foucault, “Space, Knowledge, and Power,” in The Foucault Reader, ed., Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 252. See also Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984). 27. Mark Gottdiener, “Space as a Force of Production. Contribution to the Debate on Realism, Capitalism and Space,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 11 (1987): 406. 28. See Nihal Perera, “Exploring Colombo: The Relevance of a Knowledge of New York,” in Anthony D. King ed., Re-Presenting the City: Ethnicity, Capital, and Culture in the 21st Century Metropolis (London: Macmillan, 1996): 137-157. 29. Gayathri Chakravorty Spivak, In Other Worlds (London: Routledge, 1988); “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in P. Mellancamp ed., Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 217-313; Homi K. Bhabha, “The Other Question- The Stereotype and Colonial Discourse.” Screen 24 (1983): 18-36; Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, edited by Collin Gordon (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980); “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics 16 (1986): 22-27; Robert Young, White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (London: Routledge, 1990). 30. I am aware of the fact that scholars have successfully argued in favor of global perspectives and that the contemporary trend is to search for specificity. What I propose is a broad-based perspective with the necessary specificity. 31. Susantha Goonatilake, Crippled Minds: An Exploration into Colonial Culture (New Delhi: Vikas Publishers, 1982). 32. Logan and Molotch, Urban Fortunes; Joe R. Feagin, The Free Enterprise City: Houston in Political Economic Perspective (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989); Norman I. Fainstein et al., eds., Restructuring the City (New York: Longman, 1983); Michael Peter Smith and Joe R. Feagin, eds., The Capitalist City: Global Restructuring and Community Politics (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987). 33. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991); Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992); Anthony D. Smith, National Identity (Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1991); Stuart Hall, “The Local and the Global: Globalization and Ethnicity,” in Anthony D. King, ed., Culture, Globalization and the World-System, 19-39; “Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities,” in ibid, 41-68; Vale, Architecture, Power, and National Identity. 34. Duncan, The City as Text; Zukin, Landscapes of Power. 35. Sassen, The Global City; Friedmann, “The World City Hypothesis”; King, Global Cities; Roland Robertson, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992). 36. Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Political Economy of Commerce, Southern India 15001650 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 2.


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37. Mark la Gory and John Pipkin, Urban Social Space (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1981), x. 38. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 34, 143. 39. See Duncan, The City as Text (182) for a similar idea. 40. Anthony Giddens, “Time, Space, and Regionalization”, in Derek Gregory and John Urry eds., Social Relations and Spatial Structures (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), 271-2. 41. Henri Lefebvre, “Space: Social Product and Use Value,” in Critical Sociology: European Perspective, ed., J. Freiberg (New York: Irvington Publishers, 1979), 290; See also Robert Rotenberg. “Introduction,” in Robert Rotenberg and Gary McDonogh, eds., xiv. 42. See Duncan, The City as Text, 12. 43. For Pomian, chronosophy speaks of time and makes time the object of a discourse. (Krzysztof Pomian, “The Secular Evolution of the Concept of Cycles,” Review II (1979): 569.) 44. Fernand Braudel, “History and the Social Sciences,” in Peter Burke, ed., Economy and Society in Early Modern Europe: Essays from Annales (New York: Harper Torch Books, 1972), 13.


Part One European Expansion: The Construction of Ceylon


1 A New Perception of the World: Portuguese Indian Ocean Space and Colombo Taking over Colombo in the early sixteenth century, the Portuguese brought the island they called Ceilão (English, Ceylon) and its inhabitants into direct contact with south-western Europe. In so doing they drew the island and its peoples into what turned out to be the long term processes of European colonialism and European expansion. At the same time, the Portuguese also extended the European political and trading worlds into the Indian Ocean region, producing very large spaces such as what Charles Boxer terms the “Portuguese seaborne empire” and what I shall call the “Portuguese Indian Ocean space.” Despite their short-term changes, 1 any serious examination of the Portuguese construction of Colombo needs to acknowledge the larger spatial and temporal structures and systems of which this outpost was a part. As I argue below, these Portuguese spatial practices were conceived as part of a new perception of the world society and space developed in Europe, and can be called a spatial revolution. In this chapter, I explore the spatial revolution of the late fifteenth century, examining the Portuguese construction of a new Indian Ocean space, its structure, organization, nodes, and subjects, and focussing on Colombo. The Spatial Revolution of the Late Fifteenth Century Henri Lefebvre asserts that “A revolution that does not produce new space has not realized its full potential.” 2 The late fifteenth century expeditions of Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus to “India” marked the turning point of a spatial revolution, first for Iberian rulers and Italian traders, and then for west European powers. The processes that led to and resulted from these Iberian voyages transformed the world (for them) from a neutral macrocosm within which various human societies existed into a single space in which their own activities were to predominate. In the words of J.H. Parry, “Between 1420 and 1620 Europeans 17


18

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

learned that all seas are one; that seamen, given adequate ships and stores, skills and courage, could in time reach any country in the world which had an ocean coast and--what is more important--return home.” 3 Moreover, the European powers began to develop a relationship between this new world space and their various social, political, economic structures and activities, constructing a particular perception of the world as the central element of their social space. This finite space was not only knowable but also controllable and transformable, especially where it concerned long-distance trade. Samir Amin argues, If the period of the Renaissance marks a qualitative break in the history of humanity, it is precisely because, from that time on, Europeans became conscious of the idea that the conquest of the world by their civilization is henceforth a possible objective. They therefore developed a sense of absolute superiority, even if the actual submission of other peoples to Europe has not yet taken place.4 The most significant aspect of this spatial revolution was the Iberian development of a capacity to initiate world-scale spatial practices based on their perception of the world as a globe. Although starting from the same place, the Iberian peninsula, the launching of the da Gama and Columbus journeys in opposite directions, but with the same destination, “India,” demonstrated this capacity. By globe, I refer not only to its physical and geometrical qualities such as singularity, three-dimensionality, and finiteness, but also to certain cultural and political traits such as knowability, definability, and controllability. In this way, the Iberian powers established direct contacts across the oceans, between Europe, the Americas and Asia. This new perception undermined previous European as well as other “worldviews,” 5 the way in which a particular people characteristically perceive their world, especially in regard to notions of centrality and directionality of space. For example, the societies of the Mediterranean, China, Burma, Rome, and Kandy each located the center of the “world,” in their own territory, as their etymology, nomenclature, and discourses indicate.6 The “worlds” perceived did not represent the whole earth, nor did they represent a bounded area of the earth, but were limited to what was conceived of by the “center.” Iberian missions, however, transformed the once endless, perceptually flat, two dimensional world with fixed cardinal directions into a closed three-dimensional physical sphere. This perception of the world would undermine the fixity of those centers, the definition of their domains, the larger “universes” within which they were located, the narratives concerning these, and each society’s relation with others. The Portuguese and the Spanish thus began to establish and define new power centers, regions, locales, and communication networks. The Portuguese objective was to do away with the middle-man and establish direct contact with the sources of spices in the East. The King of Portugal issued specific instructions to this effect and, in the sixteenth century, the authorities in


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

19

Portuguese India tried their best to bring it about.7 W hat unified this Portuguese world was the sea. Transporting spices across the sea from Asia to Europe was also a radically new idea since every route the Asian exports had taken had an overland component to it. Establishing the fact that the Indian Ocean was not a land-locked sea and that traveling around the African continent could bring them to “India” was a crucial breakthrough. The Iberian missions, in turn, reinforced the construction of a new European knowledge of the world giving rise to new disciplines and spatial perceptions. A key instrument here is the map that organized and re-presented geographic knowledge laid out in a geometrical framework provided by a grid of meridians and parallels. As early as 1502, the Contine world map recorded the geographic information developed by da Gama’s voyage.8 Although the maps produced by the second century geographer of Alexandria, Claudius Ptolemy, served as the basis, the world mapped during this period was radically different. The new knowledge replaced a whole range of ancient European beliefs, including those of Ptolemy, that Ceylon was a large island located in the middle of the Ocean and that China bordered on Germany.9 Using this knowledge, the Portuguese not only charted the oceans but also developed the sciences of navigation and hydrography initiating a whole new era of world-scale spatial practices.10 As Jean Baudrillard has argued, as soon as the “Other” can be represented, it can be appropriated and controlled.11 New dimensions of the world dismantled the cardinal directions and erased the spatial inscriptions of old power centers. Placing Europe firmly in the middle of the world map and naturalizing it through the institutionalization of a prime meridian and a dateline--later, by west European powers--produced a modern but familiar world for them. Such a map would provide both geometrical and power based frameworks within which to locate existing places, as well as new places that were yet to be “discovered.” Such a conception, including the definability, predictability, and controllability of social space, produced a European competence to expand its social, political, economic, and cultural authority over that space. In producing a centralized world, 12 west European powers eventually constructed radically different forms of spatial boundaries, frontiers, centrality, and marginality. In the process, the historical space of west European supremacy was invented through the naming, ordering, and classifying of places and, most crucially, the bringing of this knowledge into cultural circulation in Europe. W orld space was represented as something that could be read and explored,13 and, in the long run, re-structured. In the future, any child brought up in this context, whether in Europe or Ceylon, would automatically learn that western Europe occupies the center of the world. The world perceived by the Iberians and the Vatican in the late fifteenth century, as viewed from Europe, was comprised of two principal zones: Europe and the extra-European world. The division of the extra-European world between the Spanish and the Portuguese for economic and religious purposes had begun decades before the da Gama and Columbus expeditions. Already in the 1450s, Papal Bulls had consecrated Portuguese imperialism. 14 Going far beyond the immediate conflict


20

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

with the M uslims, the Papal Bull of 1455, Roman Pontifex, authorized Prince Henry of Portugal to subdue and convert whatever “pagans” may be encountered in the regions lying between Morocco and the “Indies,” even if untainted by Muslim influence. The Portuguese clearly avoided European warfare but used “war technology” developed there to expand in the extra-European arena. The extra-European world was not only perceived but also represented by the Iberians as an endless homogenous space called “India.” According to Boxer, only a few people in early fifteenth century Europe had a clear definition of “the Indies;” “the term ‘India’ and ‘the Indies’ were often vaguely applied to any unknown and mysterious region to the east and south of the Mediterranean.” 15 Although gradually declining in its extent, almost all European imperial powers produced their empires in “India.” The Portuguese called their empire in the East, all their trading posts, fortresses, and settlements between the southern tip of Africa and Japan, Estado da India--the State of India. Similarly, the Spaniards constructed their Indian Empire in the “Americas,” calling their first institution of colonial administration the Casa de la Contratación de les Indies. As part of the construction of this space, the Iberians produced subjects within it, naming the inhabitants of these territories “Indians” and their own people engaged in overseas work, “Indiamen.” Later, the Dutch and British modified this notion to the extent of distinguishing between the East and W est Indies, and the Dutch creating the East and W est India Companies in the early 1600s. The whole region east of the Cape of Good Hope was identified as the “East Indies.” Even in the nineteenth century, until the transfer of the Federation of Malay States to the Colonial Office in 1867, “British India,” spanned from today’s Pakistan to the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. Although nuanced by the increasingly strong presence of China in European minds, the French still referred to the notion of “India” in constructing Indochina in the late nineteenth century. Even in Australia, an officer in the Indian survey corps could name a mountain range Australindia. 16 Such naming practices were essentially a part of the spatial discourse through which those lands were appropriated into the cultural realm of the naming-power.17 This was not the space of the historic inhabitants of today’s India. According to A.L. Basham, the ancient “Indians” knew their sub-continent as Jambudvipa (the continent of the rose-apple) or Bharatavarsa (the land of the sons of Bharata, a legendary emperor). 18 The names, “India,” “East India,” and “Indochina,” indicate that the construction of identities of those lands and their subjects largely took place between the European powers who carried the fifteenth century image of “India” wherever they went. Unlike Europe--which has always been highly differentiated in European minds-the extra-European world was therefore perceived as “empty,” absolute space that could be divided arbitrarily between the Portuguese and the Spanish. Crucial watersheds of this process were the Treaty of Alçovas-Toledo of 1479 and the Papal Bull of 1493. Legitimizing the division of this land between these Catholic powers in 1493, Pope Alexander VI established what came to be known as the Pope’s Line, 100 leagues west of Cape Verde Island. 19 As a response to Portuguese protests


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

21

against the lack of passage for their India bound ships in the south Atlantic, the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 moved this line another 270 leagues to the west, as a result, reallocating Brazil to the Portuguese. (figure 1.1) The other east-west boundary, between the Philippines and the Moluccas, was established through military negotiations in the early sixteenth century. The conditions that prevailed, such as the competition between two Iberian, Catholic powers, Asian resistance, and technological constraints such as the long travel time between Europe and “India,” acted as impediments to achieving domination over the space they conceived. Yet they transformed a large part of the world, producing what might be called a “world-space.” I employ “world-” to denote a fragment of the world-society and space which is, in common parlance, a “world” which forms substantially autonomous economic, political, and cultural entity. 20 Ferdinand Fried has argued that such a world-economy seems to be limited in size to about 40 to 60 days of travel time utilizing the fastest means of transport. 21 The Portuguese expanded their domain far beyond this, but with specific implications. Portuguese Indian Ocean Space The organization of the Portuguese Indian O cean space was considerably transformed over time. The Portuguese, whose trade achieved near monopoly status in the early sixteenth century and who presided comfortably over the Indian Ocean trade until the 1580s, provided accommodation for indigenous trade, as well as their own private trade. 22 In Lanka too, a formidable rebellion in their territory compelled the Portuguese to revise their policy of hostility to Kandy and conclude a peace treaty with its king in 1617. 23 The aim of this chapter, however, is to provide a long term perspective for our investigation. I shall, therefore, focus on the large-scale structures of the “Portuguese-presided Indian Ocean.” Despite Iberian colonization of vast territories in the Americas, in Asia the Portuguese established their domination over a large sea-space surrounded by and organized around a series of fortified outposts. The Portuguese presence in the Indian Ocean region was largely an urban one. 24 Technically, Ceylon was an exception to this rule. Yet Portuguese administrative control over territories was too weak to be conceptualized otherwise; they largely employed former Lankan “chiefs” and administrative mechanisms to expand their authority over the territories from the main cities. Instead of competing in the extant trade networks, an option that was open in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese chose to use force to monopolize trade. 25 Force was used to construct a profitable trading system as well as protect profits and plunder, particularly by blocking indigenous merchants from selling goods to anyone but the Portuguese. The monopoly of trading activity was radically new in Asia. Prior to the advent of the Portuguese, the Indian Ocean trade network did not represent a single, self-contained world-region. Nor was there a single world-economy within which trading in Asia, Africa, and Europe operated, but several. The Indian Ocean


22

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

complex also had a multi-ethnic composition, with no evidence of religious animosities among the various trading groups.26 The Indian Ocean had been a multivalent, polysemic geographic space, but with an underlining cohesion. Not all kingdoms around the Indian Ocean directly participated in nor depended on seaborne long-distance trade. M any Asian rulers considered that wars at sea were merchants’ affairs, and of no concern to the prestige of kings. 27 Some of them had, from time to time, entered and withdrawn from the trading system. Abu-Lughod highlights three major withdrawals by the Cholas, the Vijayanagar, and Chinese in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries.28 Sea routes of the Indian Ocean also had a wide range of meanings; they were used for diplomatic, trade, religious, political, and military purposes. Although the whole region did not share a common destiny, according to Chaudhuri, “the idea of a common geographical space defined by an exchange of ideas and material objects was quite strong, not only in the minds of merchants but also in those of political rulers and ordinary people.” 29 The large sea that connected this social space had, therefore, been a polysemic and multipurpose “commons” that could be used by the surrounding societies. Ashin Das Gupta remarked some years ago that the trouble with Asia is that we do not know if it really exists; what we see here is the construction of modern Asia. Despite the appropriation and transformation of a large proportion of trading ports and sea routes in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese failed to establish any substantial domination over the adjacent land based societies. W hat they created was a large single body of maritime power and a long distance trade network. The two rules of Indian experience illustrate that land was not the Iberian domain: first, never land on a potentially hostile shore without first exchanging hostages...; and secondly, never, unless absolutely unavoidable, offer battle on land in circumstances where the fire power from the ship’s gun could not be trained on the enemy.30 The Portuguese thus inverted the spatial order of the Indian Ocean region which was not comprised of homogeneous social and political entities, but a variety of forms, such as empires, kingdoms, and cities. 31 Moreover, many of the cities that participated in trade were not directly under the jurisdiction of the adjacent interior kingdom. Trading operated through a vast number of nodes; some within kingdoms, or empires, some outside the jurisdiction of these, and others semiautonomously. This was the case with Colombo. The various trading posts constituted a series of maritime centers for treasure, shipping, and exchange, resembling what Richard Haëpke has called, an “archipelago of towns.” The Portuguese replacement of the “archipelago of towns” by a series of outposts of a single empire separated the societies in the region into an “archipelago of kingdoms” (and empires). By the mid-sixteenth century the Portuguese held most of the major entrepôts in the Indian Ocean. These cities forming part of the larger empire acquired a disproportionate advantage in their militaristic negotiations


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

23

with the “isolated” kingdoms. For example, each time the forces of the Lankan King of Sitavaka besieged the Portuguese fort in Colombo, a force arriving by sea-mainly from the Portuguese “control center” at Goa--was able to recapture it. Yet the organization of a single imperial space, spanning from Lisbon to Salvador and Macao, was beyond the controlling abilities of Portuguese means of communication, organization, and technology. The main means of communication between Lisbon and Goa was represented by the Carreira da India, the voyage of the fleet of ships which, under favorable weather conditions, took one and a half years. 32 In order to consolidate the Portuguese position in “India,” King Manuel of Portugal appointed a nobleman, Francisco de Almeida, as Viceroy. Goa became the seat of the Viceroy who would remain there for three years, with absolute power over all settlements east of Moçambique and subject only to direction by the Crown.33 This made Portuguese India quite strong but also a separate segment of the empire. This is best illustrated by the fact that, during the Portuguese-Dutch wars of the mid seventeenth century, the Goans did not agree with Lisbon’s priority to save Brazil over Ceylon; instead they opted to save Ceylon--crucial for the security of Goa.34 In the 1650s the municipality of Goa contributed one of the largest sums ever spent on the defence of Portuguese Ceylon.35 The Lisbon-Centered Urban System and Colombo Since the Portuguese were unable to penetrate inland, these outposts became the terminal points of their expansion and represented the perimeter of their military and trading domain. The Portuguese Indian Ocean Space was, therefore, an endless “India” and a seaborne empire, the structure of which was a system of sea lanes connecting a string of trading and military outposts. Although only loosely knit together, the Portuguese Empire radically reorganized the Indian Ocean space. The heterogenous archipelago of trading ports of the Indian Ocean was transformed into a series of military and trading outposts unified under a single power. Second, these outposts were linked to Lisbon along a line of communication established principally through the Carreira. (figure 1.2) Finally, these nodes were strategically organized into a hierarchy, with Lisbon at the top. The Portuguese made Lisbon the command center of the spice trade. Taking pepper and spices themselves to their northern customers, the Portuguese moved their center of exchange in Europe not to Lisbon but to Antwerp. Yet this model of having a dual center in Europe, functioning between 1498 and 1569, was shortlived; it came to an end after the closure of the Feitoria de Flanders at Antwerp, and the merging of the political and trading centers at Lisbon. As the center of the imperial and trading system, Lisbon itself was radically transformed. The influx of “Indian products” made the imperial capital into a vast and splendid emporium. By the mid-sixteenth century, the central artery, Rua Nova dos Mercadores, became one of the most elegant mercantile streets of Europe, where all kinds of porcelains, jewels, gold and silverware, exotic woods, and textiles from the East were sold.36


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25

Exuberance over the Portuguese expansion in “India” was given tangible expression in Lisbon by building new shrines; every major Portuguese conquest in the East was depicted as a statue presenting its products symbolically to the king. The construction of architectural masterpieces during this time set a pattern for a particular Portuguese architecture.37 Manueline style was a Portuguese form of flamboyant Gothic acquiring its individuality through lavish use of decorative motifs derived from European and Asian prototypes. Portugal’s interest in Asian trade was also vividly portrayed in the triumphal arches and pedestals erected in Lisbon. This influence long outlived the king himself. Considering the means and modes of communication--especially shipping technology and the vast travel time between Lisbon and the Indian Ocean--the Portuguese Empire and its trading system largely relied on the organization of nodes, particularly the principal power center (Lisbon), the capital of the eastern empire (Goa), the ports of call (Moçambique), and the outposts. The outposts were organized along the route of the Carreira. Despite the desire of the King to transport spices as quickly as possible, the Carreira required not only a long time but also intermediate stops. For most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Portuguese Crown insisted that “Indiamen” avoid calling at any port between Lisbon (or Oporto) and Goa, in either direction of travel. 38 This was largely due to the time consumed in this journey and the fact that ships needed to stick to a strict schedule to ply with the wind patterns. These conditions also required a system of safe ports. If necessary, M oçambique island, the Azores, and (less often) St. Helena were thus authorized as stops. Of these, Moçambique island, with its facilities at Sophala in the mainland, became an indispensable port of call providing slaves, gold, and ivory, in addition to water, fruits, vegetables, and firewood that could not be procured elsewhere. 39 The Dutch, unable to capture Moçambique, were later to assign this function to the Cape of Good Hope. 40 Besides their linear organization along the route of the Carreira, the outposts were also hierarchically organized, with Lisbon as the most important. The Estado’s center of power in Asia lay on the western coast of India with the fleets that protected the Malabar Coast, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and the Straits of Melaka.41 The seat of the Viceroy, Goa, was well positioned to serve these needs of the Empire. Next to the Viceroy were the powerful Captains-General located in Moçambique, Muscat, Hormuz, Malacca, and Colombo. Crone summarizes this hierarchy: The Viceroy, or Governor General, resident at Goa, was responsible for all the fortresses and their establishments from the Indian Ocean to the China Sea, subject to directives from Lisbon. Nominally responsible to him were the Captains based at Mozambique, Muscat, Hormuz, Colombo, and Malacca; these officers, however, were given virtually a free hand in dealing with neighboring rulers, to wage war or plunder whenever they thought fit.42


26

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

The Captains of the Portuguese forts and the Disaves, rulers of provinces of Kotte, were all responsible to the Captain-General of Colombo. 43 W hat we see here, therefore, is a crucial turning point in the organization of large world-space through a single, interdependent urban system, a model which was to outlive the Portuguese empire. Colombo as a Portuguese Outpost The construction of a new urban system in the Indian Ocean required the building of new cities and the transformation of existing ones. Colombo is one of the best examples of this transformation; it was neither a principal port in the Indian Ocean trading network, nor an original target of the Portuguese, but was developed into an important node of the larger Portuguese empire and trading complex. Despite its exports, particularly cinnamon, pearls, and precious stones, Ceylon was the largest single drain on the Goan treasury.44 From the 1580s, the Portuguese abandoned many unprofitable factories but, by then, Colombo had become too vital to abandon on mere local profit grounds. Although located in the middle of the Indian Ocean and dependent on the trading complex for its existence, old Colombo had not been a principal port in regard to the scale of trading activities that took place across the ocean. AbuLughod notes that, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, “Although ships sailing between the Red Sea and the Straits of Malacca occasionally docked at [Colombo], most stopped at the commercial complex at Calicut where Gujarati and Jewish merchants shared in the prosperous trade.” 45 Since the Portuguese men-ofwar focussed on the Indian subcontinent, the Muslim traders avoided them by taking a circuitous route touching the Maldive Islands from Sumatra, Malacca, and Bengal to the Red Sea. 46 According to this thesis, it was in their attempt to interrupt this trade, that the Portuguese landed accidentally in Ceylon. Despite the existence of a dozen other small ports in the southwest,47 under the Portuguese, Colombo emerged as the principal port of the island. Although first landing in the southern port of Galle, Point de Galle, the Portuguese established their stronghold in Colombo. Galle too had an active trading port. M ost crucial for the Portuguese was the geopolitical and colonial strategic importance of the port within the larger construction of Indian Ocean space. 48 In regard to Brazil, A.J.R. Russell-W ood argues that the initial importance of the first ports established by the Portuguese, Salvador and Rio, was commercially and geopolitically strategic, but had nothing to do with the interiors. 49 Nonetheless, better access to the interior had perhaps been an important reason for the selection of Colombo as their center over Galle. The Portuguese made Colombo a strategic port in their seaborne structure of power and trade and the seat of the Captains-General. Suggestions had also been made to make Colombo the seat of the Portuguese “Indian Empire.” 50 The strategic importance of Colombo is recognized in the Dutch belief that once the Portuguese were ousted from Ceylon they would be out of “India.” 51 Later, the Dutch, who


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27

took over and ruled what had been the Portuguese territory of Ceylon between 1656 and 1798, also had a similar debate as to whether Colombo or Batavia was more suitable for the Dutch East India Company headquarters.52 These developments illustrate the process by which key decisions concerning urban development in the Indian Ocean region were made by European powers, whether in Europe or in Asia, through treaties and war. Early modern cities in Asia, therefore, had no immediate hinterland that produced them, nor did they have a history of “evolution.” The purpose of their existence and their meanings were intimately dependent on Europe, in this case, Portugal, and the Lisbon-centered Indian Ocean urban system. According to Brohier, [modern] Colombo is a city forced upon the people of Ceylon, and not a creation of their own choice or making.53 Institutions and the Landscape Nonetheless, the outposts were not created by a simple extension of the Portuguese national urban system. The original medieval European images that the Portuguese carried to the Indian Ocean, such as “India,” the Mediterranean trading system, the organization of traffic, and trading as a royal monopoly, had to be compromised with the prevailing social and spatial conditions of the Indian Ocean region. In their outposts, the Portuguese transplanted three main institutions and their constituent building types; the feitoria, the fort, and the church. The earliest European building type to be planted on Asian shores was that of the Portuguese royal trading agency, the feitoria or factory. According to Boxer, the first “extra-European” feitoria was established at Arguim (south of Cape Blanco) about the year 1445 in an effort to tap the trans-Saharan trade of the western Sudan.54 Boxer describes the transition of this institution. For some years the Portuguese were content to conduct their slave-raids, or to drive their peaceful trade, from their ships as they sailed down the coast, anchoring off suitable roadsteads or estuaries. This use of ship as a floating base always remained in vogue but it was supplemented by the establishment of [feitorias] or trading posts ashore.55 A chain of feitorias was established by the Portuguese along the African and Asian coasts as far as the Moluccas. Though there are illustrations of both Dutch and English factories, those of the Portuguese are hardly illustrated or described by historians. The feitoria was the residence of the Feitor (English, Factor), the Portuguese royal trading representative in a foreign city, and was also the royal warehouse. Directly appointed by the King, the Feitor derived his remuneration and his legitimacy not from the merchant community in which he was resident, but from this external authority. 56 Hence, the Feitoria was essentially a colonial instrument. Military-administrative, trade, and revenue formed the three most important branches of the Portuguese administration, and were looked after by the Captains-


28

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General, the Feitor, and the Superintendent of Revenue. Since the Portuguese also held territories in Ceylon, there was a Superintendent of Revenue to take care of internal revenues. The Feitor, however, had substantial control over Portuguese activities; both he and his clerk held two of three keys to customs houses--the other was held by the Superintendent--and a key to the cash vaults. He also countersigned the official receipts. In this context, the General could side-step the Superintendent and, with the help of the Feitor, could cut the ground from beneath his feet. The Feitors were also the sources of intelligence. They gathered information from the region, particularly concerning trade, but also other political and cultural aspects, and communicated it directly to the King. He was also entrusted with the recording of all regulations sent by the King and the Viceroy and those proclaimed by the Captains-General. 57 As the low salary suggests, 58 this position provided additional income through commissions and bribery. Appointments, therefore, were given to nobles as a means of becoming rich quickly, but for a limited term in order to provide this opportunity for a large number. Moreover, these Feitors’ intelligence work made them suitable for future Viceroy (and Governor) positions. The feitoria was therefore a complex institution, and the associated building type was multifunctional, serving as warehouse, residence, library, and office. The feitoria also represented the Portuguese attempt to produce a larger version of a M editerranean trading complex. Boxer notes that feitorias originated from, and had much in common with, the medieval fonduchi, the residential quarters of Genoese, Venetians, and other Italian merchants in the M uslim seaports of north Africa and in Ottoman harbors.59 Braudel identifies this as a Venetian institution, Fondaco dei Tedeschi, that goes back to the thirteenth century. 60 According to Subrahmanyam, while the fondachi more often than not acted within the private sphere, the feitor was usually a state employee. 61 Hence, the feitoria represents a Portuguese royal institution of overseas expansion constructed by adapting the European “factory” for Portuguese royal-mercantilist needs. The feitoria was the key institution around which trading settlements were organized. Braudel defines the Genoese equivalent as a street or a row of buildings. 62 W hat the Portuguese trading post replaced in Colombo was, therefore, the M uslim town. This busy “sea-junction” comprised of a single main street-Bankshall Street--where their store-houses (Bangasalas) were located. The merchants’ quarters, the market place, and the mosque were clustered around these Bangasalas.63 W hile narrow by-ways ramified from this central space, the Muslims lived in compact communities around it. The Portuguese replaced this “city,” but moved theirs closer to their domain, the sea and the port. The role of the feitoria as the central institution of the trading posts, and the construction of a large-scale Mediterranean trading system in “India,” was short lived. As a consequence of the Portuguese use of force to monopolize trading and the resistances they faced, trading in these outposts was quickly exchanged for military functions, and the feitoria was replaced by the fort as the principal structure. In Colombo, the Portuguese who built the first feitoria in 1505 could not break the monopoly of the Muslims, and this feitoria was dismantled in 1507.


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29

Returning in 1517, the Portuguese soon constructed a fort. 64 These outposts were primarily military posts. The Portuguese, and later, the Dutch and British largely resorted to forts, employing Lankan aristocrats to rule the territories outside the city. As with Feitorias, these forts were also the places where the functions previously carried out from galleons were “grounded.” Chaudhuri has noted that “with an added deck and gun ports, the galleon became a floating fortress and a floating warehouse.” 65 Portuguese forts were located adjacent to the port constructing the immediate line of communication; first the port, then the fort, and beyond that was the “city.” The fort in Colombo was located on a narrow point furthest from the interior, cut off by marshes across which lay the only entrance from land, the Main Street. The Portuguese further enhanced the security of the fort by raising the level of water in the surrounding marshes which they named Beira Lake. Even after two centuries, the Dutch were cautious not to erect their dwellings beyond the guns of the fortress.66 Although the Portuguese forts were originally built to defend the occupants from the “Indians,” the entry of other European powers into the region and the expansion of European warfare into those distant waters made them use their forts against European enemies as well. This was a consideration that the Portuguese had not taken into account, although the Dutch had done so in Colombo in the midseventeenth century. The Dutch, knowing the threat from European competitors and more commercially-oriented than the Portuguese, reduced the area of fortifications in Colombo to about forty acres, a third of that of the Portuguese. Robert Percival, who participated in the British conquest of Colombo in 1796, noted that Dutch fortifications, especially in Colombo and Trincomalee, were as complete as possible to secure the ports from internal and external attack. 67 As a European power that sought the Lankan King of Kandy’s help against the Portuguese, the Dutch also concentrated in land-locking the Kandy Kingdom by building a string of about fifteen fortresses around the island. The Portuguese fort of Colombo represented their medieval imagery and technology. It was largely a thick, high, and single line of ramparts built of timber and mud, with a ditch and moat on either side ending in the marshes, and which skirted a third of the city on the landside. The water level in the moat was raised to protect the Portuguese positions. Breaking the monotony were a dozen small size bastions built after ancient European models. 68 The Portuguese forts, however, did not follow a pre-conceived plan, but adopted medieval castle forms to site conditions, a type of fortress existing in Europe at that time.69 It was the Dutch who introduced new European fort design, including the star shape of which Batticaloa is the best example. 70 The Dutch later applied the most recent technology of the Eighty Years W ar to urban defence against both the indigenous Sinhalese and the English rivals.71 The conversion of non-Catholics, whom they saw as pagans, to Roman Catholicism, was a principal mission of the Portuguese. The spreading of Catholicism was inextricably entangled with political intrigue. In Goa in 1638, the Macaonese Franciscan Chronicler, Fr. Paulo da Trindade, observed,


30

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space The two swords of the civil and the ecclesiastical power were always so close together in the conquest of the East, that we seldom find one being used without the other. For the weapons only conquered through the right that preaching of the Gospel gave them, and the preaching was only of some use when it was accomplished and protected by the weapons.72

Offering Portuguese military help to each crowned head, Franciscan missionaries used political conflicts among kingdoms to convert the kings whom the Franciscans thought would be able to come with as large a number of men as possible. W hile the King of Kotte was the main sovereign to be converted, the ruler in Jaffna was also made to pledge in favor of Christianity in 1591.73 The large number of churches and ecclesiastical buildings crowded into Colombo is a natural testimony to the Portuguese policy of extending their religion coterminously with their power. Representing this, midway along the principal street of Rio Directo, and facing the main plaza, stood the imposing Jesuit church of St. Paul’s, built in grand Corinthian architecture of the sixteenth century, and picturesquely crowning a nest of dormitories of the Jesuit College.74 (figure 1.3) Along with Catholicism, the Portuguese also exported their hatred towards Muslims, refusing them settlement in the ports. King Manuel was to tell the Viceroy of Goa, Francisco de Almeida, that “we have ordered the said M oors to be enslaved and all their property confiscated, because they are enemies of our holy Catholic faith and we have continual war with them.” 75 Most crucial was the carrying of such an image from Europe to “India,” producing an “ethnic group” of “Mauros” (English, “Moors”) out of ethnically heterogenous Muslim people,76 and expelling such people from the new European-Christian city, which is a complex story in itself. This chapter began by addressing a particular transformation in European spatial perceptions which they employed not only to conceive but also to carry out spatial practices at a world-scale, amounting to a spatial revolution. It was as part of this process that the Portuguese produced their Indian Ocean Space which principally comprised of a system of trading and military outposts connected by sea lanes across. In the process, introducing feitorias, forts, and churches, the Portuguese transformed Colombo into an important node of this system. W ith the kingdom of Kandy assuming the role of resistance, by the end of the fifteenth century, the society and space in Lanka polarized into two camps represented by Colombo and Kandy. This spatial organization continued until the British conquest of Kandy in 1815. Notes 1. See Niels Steensgaard, The Asian Trade Revolution of the Seventeenth Century: The East India Companies and the Decline of the Caravan Trade (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1974); “Asian Trade and World Economy from the 15th to 18th Centuries,” in Teotonio R. de Souza, ed., Indo-Portuguese History: Old Issues, New Questions (New Delhi: Concept Publishing House, 1985), 225-236; Sanjay Subrahmanyam,


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31

The Political Economy of Commerce; The Portuguese Empire in Asia: A Political and Economic History (London: Longman, 1993). 2. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 54. 3. J.H. Parry, “Introduction,” in John R. Hale and The Editors of Time-Life Books, eds., Age of Exploration (New York: Time Incorporated, 1966), 7. 4. Samir Amin, Eurocentrism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989), 72-3. 5. See Michael Kearney, World View (Novato, CA: Chandler and Sharp, 1984), for a discussion. 6. See Robert Heine-Geldern, “Conceptions of State and Kinship in Southeast Asia,” Far Eastern Quarterly II (November, 1942): 15-30; Yda Sauerssig-Schreuder, “The Impact of British Colonial Rule on the Urban Hierarchy of Burma,” Review (Fall 1986): 249; Lefebvre, 243-4; Duncan, The City as Text; Patrick Harrington, “Lanka’s Cosmography Down the Ages,” in Senake Bandaranayake et al., eds., Sri Lanka and the Silk Road of the Sea (Colombo: The Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO and the Central Cultural Fund, 1990), 147-152; Richard L. Brohier, Ancient Irrigation Works in Ceylon (Colombo: Government Press, 1935) III: 1. 7. See K.S. Mathew, “Indian Merchants and the Portuguese Trade in the Malabar Coast During the Sixteenth Century,” in de Souza, ed., 1-12; Frederick Lane, Profits from Power, Readings in Protection Rent and Violence-Controlling Enterprises (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1979). 8. G.R. Crone, The Discovery of the East (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1972), 87, 159. 9. Charles R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415-1825 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969), 17; Crone, 87. 10. Crone, 158; K.N. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean: An Economic History from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 135. 11. Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities ... Or the End of the Social, and Other Essays, trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton and John Johnston (New York: Foreign Agents Series, 1983), 20-2. 12. Although unprecedented in the history of humankind, such an object was never fully achieved, nor is it fully achievable. 13. See Paul Carter, The Road to Botany Bay: An Exploration of Landscape and History (Chicago, IL: The Chicago University Press, 1987), 57, 67. 14. Particularly the Dum Diversas of 18 June 1452; the Roman Pontifex of 8 January 1455; and the Inter Caetera of 13 March 1456. (See Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 21-1) 15. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 19-20. 16. Carter, 57. 17. See, Carter, xviii, 8. 18. A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (New York: Grove Press, 1959), 1. 19. “Pope’s Line” is interpreted in most maps as a line 400 west of Greenwich. (Richard L. Brohier and J.H.O. Paulusz, Lands, Maps and Surveys: Descriptive Catalogue of Historical Maps in the Surveyor General’s Office, Vol. II (Colombo: Ceylon Survey Department, 1951), 23n.) 20. See Braudel, The Perspective of the World, 21-2; Wallerstein, The Modern World System I, 348. 21. In Wallerstein, The Modern World-System I: 16-17. See also Fernand Braudel, La Mediterranée I: 339-340. In (English) geography, the notion of time-space convergence was introduced by the geographer D.G. Janelle, to refer to the “shrinking” of distance in terms


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of the time needed to move between different locations. (“Spatial Reorganization: A Model and a Concept,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59 (1969): 348-64.) 22. See Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia; Steensgaard, The Asian Trade revolution; “Asian Trade and World Economy;” James C. Boyajian, Portuguese Trade in Asia Under the Habsburgs, 1580-1640 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 5, 7, 16. 23. de Silva, Chandra R., The Portuguese in Ceylon 1617-1638 (Colombo: H.W. Cave, 1972), 25, 247. 24. See Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 216. 25. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 78, 87; Lane, 45, 47. 26. M.A.P. Meilink-Roelofsz, Asian Trade and European Influence in the Indonesian Archipelago Between 1500 and about 1630 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1962), 297; Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony, 33, 34 fig 1; Wallerstein, The Modern World System I, 13; Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 7-8, 126. 27. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 50. 28. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony, 277, 347. 29. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 21, 3. 30. Crone, 76. 31. All these categories are ones which were produced in “modern” Europe. We do not know exactly what existed in the Indian Ocean region, nor have we developed concepts to identify them. However, the point here is that the social and political entities were not similar and homogenous in the way today’s “inter-state system” is perceived and practiced. (See Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 3) This system--if there were one--is far more complex than the matrix presented in Subrahmanyam. (The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 11) 32. Charles R. Boxer, “The Carreira da India,” in From Lisbon to Goa 1500-1750. Studies in Portuguese Maritime Enterprise (London: Variorum Reprints, 1984): 33. See also, T. Bentley Duncan, “Navigation Between Portugal and Asia in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” ch. in Cyriac K. Pullapilly and Edwin J. van Kley, eds., Asia and the West: Encounters and Exchanges from the Age of Explorations (Notre Dame, IN: Cross Cultural Publications, 1986): 3-21. 33. Crone, 45. 34. George Davison Winius, The Fatal History of Portuguese Ceylon: Transition to Dutch Rule (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), xiv. 35. Teotonio R. de Souza, Medieval Goa: A Socio-Economic History (New Delhi: Concept Publishing House, 1979), 142. 36. Donald F. Lach, A Century of Wonder. vol 2. Asia in the Making of Europe, 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 7. 37. Asian influence in Portuguese architecture is an underdeveloped area of study. (See, Raul da Costa-Tôrres, Architectura dos Descobrimentos (Braga, 1943); George Kubler and Martin Soria, Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and Their American Dominion (Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1959); J. Barreira, et al., Arte Portugesa (Lisbon, 1948); George Kubler, Portuguese Plain Architecture: Between Spices and Diamonds, 1521-1706 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1972). 38. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 111. 39. Duncan, “Navigation Between Portugal an Asia,” 4. 40. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 111, 221. 41. See Boyajian, 13. 42. Crone, 61-2.


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43. de Silva, The Portuguese in Ceylon, 160. 44. Boyajian, 7, 223. 45. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony, 273-4. 46. M.M.M. Mahroof, “The Muslims Under the Portuguese and Dutch Occupation (15051796),” in M.M.M Mahroof, et al., eds., An Ethnological Survey of Muslims of Sri Lanka. From Earliest Times to Independence, 44. 47. See Paul.E. Pieris, The Ceylon Littoral 1593 (Colombo: The Times of Ceylon, 1949). 48. According to Subrahmanyam, for the VOC, control of Sri Lanka implied an improved ability to check navigation between the Western Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. (The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 178) 49. A.J.R. Russell-Wood, “Ports of Colonial Brazil,” in Franklin W. Knight and Peggy K. Liss, eds., Atlantic Port Cities: Economy, Culture, and Society in the Atlantic World, 1650-1850 (Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991). 50. See, Charles R. Boxer, “Portuguese and Spanish Projects for the Conquest of Southeast Asia, 1580-1600,” Journal of Asian History III (1969): 125. 51. Paul E. Pieris, Ceylon: The Portuguese Era (Dehiwala: Tissa Prakasakayo Limited, 1983), II: 3. See also Winius, ix. 52. For example, a leading figure in the Dutch VOC, Sebalt de Weert, had favored Ceylon as the Dutch East India Company headquarters. Once he left his position in the company, the matter was settled in favor of Java in 1619. (Richard L. Brohier, Links Between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands: A Book of Dutch Ceylon (Colombo: Netherlands Alumni Association of Sri Lanka [1978]), 23) 53. Richard L. Brohier, Changing Face of Colombo (1501-1972): Covering the Portuguese, Dutch and British Periods (Colombo: Lake House, 1984), 2. 54. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 25; 47-8. 55. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 25. 56. Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 46-7. 57. de Silva, The Portuguese in Ceylon, 167-8. 58. Tikiri Abeyasinghe, Portuguese Rule in Ceylon 1594-1612 (Colombo: Lake House Publishers, 1966), 83-9, 129. Captain of Colombo 25,000 Pardaos, Captain of Galle 15,000, the Feitor 4,000 Pardaos. (191) 59. C.R. Boxer The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800 (London: Penguin Books, 1990), 209; Crone, 154. 60. Braudel, The Perspective of the World, 125. 61. Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 46. 62. Braudel, The Perspective of the World, 125 63. See Brohier, Changing Face of Colombo, 5; Mahroof, 65; Marina Azeez, “Early Muslim Settlers,” in M.M.M Mahroof, et al., eds., 35. 64. Winius, 6. 65. In Merle Severy, “Portugal’s Sea Road to the East,” National Geographic 79 (1992): 182-5. 66. James Emerson Tennent, Ceylon: An Account of the Island. Physical, Historical, and Topographical with Notices of its Natural History, Antiquities and Productions. 2 vols (London: Longman, 1859), II: 153. The Dutch had built what can be identified as country houses, but in a well-protected area of Hultsdorp. 67. Robert Percival, An Account of the Island of Ceylon Containing its History, Geography, Natural History, with the Manners and Customs of its Various Inhabitants to which is Added the Journal of an Embassy to the Court of Candy (New Delhi: Asian Education Service, 1990), 14; Brohier, Links Between Sri Lanka and Netherlands, 37.


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68. From Ribeiro’s accounts cited in H.A.J. Hulugalle, Centenary Volume of the Colombo Municipal Council 1865-1965 (Colombo: Colombo Municipal Council, 1965), 14. 69. G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (Colombo: Colombo Apothecaries, 1946), 17. 70. See R.K. de Silva and W.G.M. Beumer, Illustrations and Views of Dutch Ceylon 1602-1796. A Comprehensive Work of Pictorial Reference with Selected Eye-Witness Accounts (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), 71, 91, and 138. 71. See G.J. Ashworth, War and the City (London: Routledge, 1991), 34; W.A. Nelson, The Dutch Forts of Sri Lanka: The Military Monuments of Ceylon (Edinburgh: Cannongate, 1984). 72. In Charles R. Boxer, The Church Militant and the Iberian Expansion, 1440-1770 (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 75. 73. O.M. da Silva, Vikrama Bahu of Kandy: The Portuguese and the Franciscans (15421551) (Colombo: M.D. Gunasena, 1967), 29-30; de Silva, The Portuguese in Ceylon, 42. 74. Brohier, Changing Face of Colombo, 7. 75. In Charles R. Boxer, Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1415-1825 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), 41. 76. M.A.M. Shukri, “Introduction,” in Muslims of Sri Lanka, 21; Marina Azeez, “The Muslims of Sri Lanka,” 3-13; “Early Muslim Settlers,” 20.


2 A System of States and Empires: The British Conquest of Kandy and the Construction of Ceylon Three centuries after the Portuguese, the British subjugated the whole island of Lanka to their own authority in 1815. Although the Portuguese had failed, in the sixteenth century, to transform Asia’s social, political, and economic life much beyond their military and trading outposts, by the nineteenth, west European powers, principally the British, Dutch, and French, had brought much of Asia under their domination or influence. W est European powers here refers to the northern states on the Atlantic seaboard. Between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, these had built their own overseas empires and long-distance trading systems undermining the Iberians. Despite the gradual progression of the broadly defined European domination over world-space, its trajectory was marked by various breaks and vicissitudes. Most significantly, Iberian expansion had come to a halt by the late sixteenth century, leading both Spain and Portugal to bankruptcy. This rupture in the trajectory of European expansion meant that the society and space constructed by west European powers as part of this expansion was to be significantly different from that of the Iberians three centuries earlier. Nonetheless, the conception of the world initiated by the Iberian powers in the fifteenth century was advanced to its fullest potential by the west European powers in the nineteenth century. They not only produced expanded and more integrated versions of seaborne empires, but also colonies around their outposts, transforming both the European outposts into colonial port cities and their empires from “trading post empires” into “territorial empires.” Territorially, this transformation was accompanied by the reorganization of Europe into what would become a system of “nation states” and a large part of the extra-European world into a system of west European empires, each centered upon its respective state. It is in relation to these larger transformations that the British colonization of Ceylon took place. I shall

35


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first briefly highlight the main characteristics of the larger world-space created by west European powers and then examine the British construction of Ceylon, its territorial and urban structures, landscapes, and subjects. W est European Construction of States and Empires The west European appropriation of aspects of Iberian knowledge and practices produced in their expansion was key to the transformation of what might have been a historical period of Iberian imperialism into one of long term west European expansion. Despite the policy of secrecy followed by the Portuguese authorities, the Dutch and British not only followed Iberian practices closely and learned from their experience, by the seventeenth century, they also produced more developed forms of knowledge. 1 The gathering of intelligence and the systematic documentation of geographic information by these states shifted the center of European map production to the north. 2 Hence, when the Iberian political authority over their world-spaces was eroding, the Dutch and British were well prepared to seize this opportunity to construct their own. The spreading of west European authority over distant territories was an urbancentric process that began from the colonial outposts. W est European seaborne empires, first established in the Indian Ocean region from the late sixteenth to eighteenth century, were similar to that of the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century. Yet the British organized their empire around a well-woven network of strategic ports which the nineteenth century naval authority, Admiral Fisher, described as the “keys that locked up the globe.” 3 This policy is evident in the British decision to retain Ceylon and the Cape of Good Hope, but restore the East Indian Islands to the Dutch in 1802 and establish the more strategic port at Singapore in 1819. The means of communication, mainly the sea routes and shipping, were also significantly improved at this stage, reducing the size of the world-space and overcoming the old problems of holding an empire tightly together from Europe. Most significant here is the reduction of travel time, for example, between Amsterdam and Batavia, to about six or seven months by the midseventeenth century. 4 The creation of a system of states provided Europe with a discrete territorial organization, and one that emphasized the distinction between Europe and the rest of the world. Marking a crucial turning point, in 1648 the Dutch-led Peace of W estphalia laid the “contractual” foundation for an inter-state system in Europe. This meant the “inter-national” recognition and legitimation of each government’s absolute right over its subjects within mutually exclusive territories. Along with inter-state conflicts, this arrangement would also regulate intra-state conflicts. This particular territorial organization of the European polity was carried out through the monopolization of power and violence in the hands of the rulers (states) within exclusive jurisdictions. Hence, the notion of the boundary is central to this territorial organization of states. 5 W hat the major powers of Europe produced in the rest of the world, however,


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were not states but mainly empires. As many of the post-1450s European wars were closely related to the production of “nation-states” in Europe,6 the waging of wars outside Europe during this period--between different European powers, as well as between those and indigenous rulers--was intimately tied up with the production of west European empires. These wars were to become the means of dividing large areas of the extra-European world into west European empires with the monopolizing of violence and power--within these imperial territories--in the hands of the respective imperial powers. What we see, therefore, is the emergence of a particular system of states in Europe and a larger system of empires outside it, and where the political power lay in these European states as the principal political matrix organizing this world-space.7 The British construction of Ceylon is to be viewed in this context. The British Colonization of Ceylon Although the Portuguese and Dutch efforts to bring the whole island of Lanka under their control had been futile, each only acquiring patches of territory along the coasts, the Dutch did manage to landlock the remaining Lankan Kingdom of Kandy in 1766. Yet their control was limited and both the Portuguese and the Dutch governed these territories without significantly transforming former Lankan administrative structures. It was the British, who took over the D utch controlled territory of Ceylon in 1796, who eventually colonized the whole island in 1815. For the British, the geo-strategic importance of Ceylon largely emerged as a result of the shift of European colonial competition to the eastern parts of continental India. The Seven Years’ W ar (1756-1763), in which India had been an important locus of Franco-British encounters,8 made the Bay of Bengal a significant region of conflict. It is this shift of European warfare in India from the west to the east which precipitated the strategic need for the British to have a naval base in the Bay of Bengal. This made Trincomalee Bay, in the northeast of Ceylon, important for European colonial competition from the mid-eighteenth century. Although the British had used Trincomalee from time to time from the 1740s as part of a comprehensive operation to gain control of a dozen Dutch territories, they in fact captured the whole of Dutch controlled Ceylon in 1796. Ceylon’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean made it necessary for the British colonial authorities to hold it as a Crown Colony, separate from the territories in continental India which were under the British East India Company. The settlement made between Company and Crown authorities in Calcutta and London largely determined the future of Ceylon as a separate politico-territory. Like former southern Indian kingdoms, Ceylon could have been integrated into a future India by the British, especially since it was conquered and ruled for a short period by the Company forces of the Madras Presidency, later combined with other presidencies to construct a larger India. 9 Similarly, if the Dutch had succeeded in restoring it to the Batavian Republic at the Peace of Amiens (1802), Ceylon could have become a part of Indonesia. The establishment of the Crown Colony took place after the


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Peace of Amiens; this formally ceded Ceylon from the Dutch to the British, making Ceylon a separate administrative unit within the Empire. The British not only acquired all Dutch controlled territories of Ceylon, but also retained the same spatial organization, of which the center was Colombo. A principal cause for the shift of interest in Ceylon from Trincomalee to Colombo was a shift in the balance of power among European states in Britain’s favor at the end of the Seven Years’ W ar. 10 The easing of European competition and the takeover of Ceylon had shifted British attention from acquiring a reliable port in the Bay of Bengal to protect their interests in India, to that of appropriating the established port of Colombo--a strategic requirement for their broader domination over the Indian Ocean. Colombo was also more strategic for the desired establishment of control over Ceylon. As a Crown Colony, Ceylon was ruled by the British authorities in London through its agent in Colombo, the Governor. In constructing the vital link between London, Colombo, and other Crown Colonies, a Colonial Agency was set up in London in 1801. In Colombo, the office of Governor was established in 1802, centralizing the authority for, as well as the responsibility over Ceylon. Ceylon was, therefore, not constructed as a political, economic, or cultural entity either in terms of the peoples within it, or in relation to its simple territorial self but rather, as part of the larger Empire of which the center is the metropole. This direct relationship between the metropole and the colony was quite different to that of the Portuguese and Dutch organization of their empires in the “East.” Both these empires were hierarchically organized with regional centers, Goa (Portuguese) and Batavia (Dutch), as the seats of their Eastern empires. Portuguese or Dutch Colombo was, therefore, not directly under the metropole, Lisbon or Amsterdam, but was controlled through Goa or Batavia. Under the British, however, Colombo came directly under London’s control. In contrast to the theories of evolution concerning modern cities in Europe, therefore, Colombo did not evolve through “internal” or “organic” processes. Instead, it was constructed as an element of the B ritish Empire from “outside,” reversing what are normally seen as the organic processes of city growth. A primary function of colonial port cities was to expand European domination beyond the maritime world into inland territories. W riting about the Caribbean, Malcolm Cross insists that the colonial society was not just “influenced” by Europe, but actually created by it. 11 Vesting formal political responsibility in a single office of Governor was perhaps the most important factor in the construction of Ceylon as a single territorial unit around Colombo, with political and administrative links to London. Just as, Mary Karasch has observed, in regard to Brazil, that it was Rio that made Brazil and not vice versa,12 so it was Colombo that made Ceylon and not Ceylon (nor Lanka) that made Colombo. As both a node of the imperial urban structure as well as the political center of Ceylon, Colombo was the pivotal link between the British imperial and the Ceylonese colonial urban systems. Ronald Horvath has noted that the colonial city was the political, military, economic, religious, social, and intellectual entrêpot


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between the colonizers and the colonized.13 Although the importance of these elements has varied over time, Ceylonese social and economic processes significant to the larger imperial system were channelled through Colombo. It was simultaneously the central node through which imperial power and European capitalist culture were diffused to Ceylon, and the one which channelled the forms of domination over the Ceylonese and the economic gains from the colony to the metropole. The Destruction of Kandy and the Creation of Ceylon The British Governors’ drive to colonize the interior was apparent from the beginning of colonial rule. In addition to colonial aspirations, the Europeans were constantly pre-occupied with the idea that more mystery and wealth lay behind their frontiers. George, Viscount Valentia, a British traveller who visited Colombo at the beginning of the nineteenth century wrote, “[Ceylon’s] central situation, its harbours, its produce, and the treasures which I suspect are hidden in the bowels of its lofty mountains, will, I think, render it one of our most valuable possessions.” 14 Until the whole island was taken over and fully “known,” European colonizers of Ceylon considered the perimeter of their authority as a frontier, a temporary boundary that they were compelled to push forward until it reached the physical limits of the island. Portuguese invaders had also thought of the whole island as a single territory, especially when the King of Portugal had become heir to the Kingdom of Kotte after the death of its king, Dharmapala, in 1597. Although Kotte was, with Sitavaka, Jaffnapatnam, and Kandy, one of four kingdoms on the island in the early sixteenth century, by the late century it had already been reduced to a Portuguese protectorate and shrunk in size. (figure 2.1) Yet the imagined territory which the Portuguese took over was the whole island, the one which the King of Kotte longed to rule; earlier, King Buwaneka Bahu of Kotte had claimed Kandy as an ancient seigniory of his kingdom. 15 Lower Burma also provides a similar example of conflict between space in practice and representational space. Although the delta of the Irawaddy and the province of Pegu were conquered only in 1852, the British declared them part of their colony of Lower Burma along with what they had conquered in 1826.16 Unifying the island into a single political-territory under their own kingdom had also been a social and spatial conception of the “Sinhalese” monarchs.17 Yet there is no evidence to suggest that this political domain and the island territory were congruent, or that each political domain was exclusive and defined by a strict boundary. 18 Lankan kingdoms were principally identified according to their metropolitical center, for example, Sitavaka, or the region in which they were located, for example, the “hill-country kingdom,” the center of which was located in the central highlands. 19 Robert Knox, a British captive in Kandy for nearly twenty years (1660 to 1679), refers to that territory as Cande Uda, an abbreviated form of Kandé Uda Rata Rajadhaniya (kingdom in the hill country). The kingdom


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was organized hierarchically, in three tiers: the center was occupied by the metropolitical center, Maha Nuwara (the chief city), the second tier by nine ratas, and the last by twelve larger disas. (figure 2.2) The disas were not only larger, but also more autonomous and their outer boundaries were fuzzy.20 According to de Silva, lesser principalities extended from the western coastal region south of Mannar across north-central Lanka and then southward along the eastern seaboard up to the “boundaries” of Kotte. 21 It was only with the British conquest of Kandy and the bringing of the whole island under a single English speaking administration in 1815 that the entire island became single socio-political entity. What we see here is the introduction of the boundary to define the society, transforming Lanka from a cluster of center-based, overlapping societies to a boundary-based society and specifically, where the boundary is established, round an island, by the sea. According to Carter, the limited extent defined by boundaries gave the colonizer a heightened sense of stability and security.22 Moreover, this followed the contemporary European practice of constructing boundary-based politico-territories, nation-states. The main and final barrier for the English to materialize the representational space of Ceylon as well as the overland unification of the territory already under their control, was the Kingdom of Kandy. According to Chitty, the areas of “Ceylon” and Kandy were 10,520 and 14,144 square miles respectively.23 The desire to overcome this barrier is evident in Governor North’s proposals to the King of Kandy in 1802, which demanded free communication between Colombo and Trincomalee for the troops and tappal (mail service). 24 Hence, what the discrepancy between space in practice and representational space produced was a political conflict between the powers based in Colombo and Kandy. Despite the failure of earlier attempts, the final conquest of Kandy in 1815 was made with the utmost ease. Suppressing the revolt of 1817-18, the British unified the island politically and territorially under their rule for over a century. The Unification of the Island The unification of the island under the British was radically different from previous historic forms. W hat they created in Ceylon was a highly centralized bureaucratic structure for both political integration and the maintenance of law and order. In this section, I focus on the establishment of a new communication infrastructure and a “national” urban system, centered on Colombo, the breaching of the defense systems of the Kandyan country, and the organization of the island into a system of contiguous administrative divisions, which simultaneously destroyed the identity of Kandy. The establishment of a communication system converging on Colombo was central to the subjection of the island. Its main purpose was to organize a network of military outposts, and then regional administrative centers to facilitate the subjection and control of the Lankans from Colombo. Similar to the British seaborne communication system that expanded the authority of London over the


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Indian Ocean region along a system of colonial outposts, this overland communication system, ramifying from the colonial port city of Colombo, expanded its domain over Ceylon along a hierarchically organized structure of administrative centers. The kings of Kandy, aware of the importance of blocking potential military movements between the sea and “upcountry”--Colombo and Kandy--followed what might be called an “anti-road” policy. Among others, Tennent, Mills, and Knox argue that it was the location and the geography of Kandy that provided its defense. It was penetrable only through great passes which the Kandyans were able to defend with a small force, and it was also surrounded by a belt of thick jungle. The awareness of the strength of Kandy’s geography, as well as the danger of its breach, is demonstrated in the Kandyan proverb that said Kandy would be conquered the day the invader drove a road from the sea to Kandy. The kings had therefore forbidden the construction of roads, ceasing to improve existing roads and allowing them to fall into disrepair. In contrast to their colonial predecessors who fought to defend their positions, the British had the capacity to move their forces more freely on the ground. They were therefore more interested in roads than forts. Such a strategy marked a clear distinction with that of the Portuguese and the Dutch. Since existing paths of communication were inadequate to serve the movement of a disciplined “Mauritian” military, 25 the immediate strategy of the British following the conquest was to construct a road from Colombo to Kandy. Yet the rebellion of 1817-18 once again put them temporarily on the defensive; the definitive move from defending positions to establishing control outside those nodes or, from forts to roads, was made in the 1820s. At that time, the new Governor, Edward Barnes, considered forts less useful than roads for the colonial enterprise: without them “we can never be said to have secure possession of the country, nor can it commercially improve.” 26 Beginning with the breach of the Kandyan defenses, the British constructed a whole new infrastructure. By the beginning of the 1830s, every town of importance for the colonial administration was connected to the two principal cities, Colombo and Kandy, the building of the long desired highway from Colombo to Trincomalee had commenced, and the coast road which was to eventually encircle Ceylon was completed from Puttalam to Hambantota.27 The most significant road from Colombo to Kandy was also shortened to seventy miles--the former route was about ninety miles--and the other to Trincomalee was laid out as almost a straight line. The military objectives of this communication system are evident in the relationship between the road network and the interior military outposts, and in the institutions that carried out road construction. T he British stationed troops at Kandy, Trincomalee, and the chief towns between Colombo and these; roads capable of supporting troop movements connected those locations. (figure 2.3) Most importantly, the military also made maps of the interiors to help the movement of troops. 28 In the 1820s, an army Major was responsible for the construction of all Kandyan roads. Until 1832, the Royal Engineers in charge of road building were under the Quartermaster General, the officer who oversaw the military barracks.


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Both Mills and Tennent correctly referred to the British achievements on this front as “a triumph of military engineering.” 29 Complementing its military usage, beginning with a tappal service between Colombo and Kandy in 1822, 30 this road network was also used as the means to develop a broader system of communications. The transformation of the organization, from subjection to control, and military to administrative, took place in the 1830s. In 1832, the construction of “public works” was transferred to the Department of Civil Engineers and Surveyor-General.31 In the second half of the century, the main purpose of the communication infrastructure had come to serve and depend on the plantations, while the means of transportation had shifted from bullock carts to railways. These developments are addressed in Chapter Three. Destruction of Kandy Two major steps in the colonization process were the destruction of the territorial identity of the former Kandy Kingdom and the reorganization of Ceylon and Kandy into a single administrative space. The destruction of extant indigenous social and spatial structures which were seen as obstructions to the achievement of particular colonial objectives is a precondition for colonization. The elimination of the principal Lankan political structures would deprive the Lankans of their capacity to employ the former political system as an instrument of subversion against colonial rule. The first step in the destruction of the Kandyan territorial self was to superimpose a colonial administration over it. Until the 1830s, the British treated former Kandy as a separate society. Despite the appointment of the Resident to be in charge of the new territory, the administration of the Kandyan “provinces” was left in the hands of Kandyan nobles, Dissavas, re-appointed as provincial authorities but under the supervision of the Resident. Former Kandyan compulsory labor services, such as Rajakariya, were also used by the colonial state to lay down the initial colonial infrastructure. The superimposition of a colonial administration over the Kandyan one made the indigenous administrators into subordinate partners of the British, bringing their positions into line with the dominant form of remuneration for work--money rather than land.32 Bringing the colonization of Kandy and the island as a whole to its climax, however, the entire administration was transformed in the 1830s. Sweeping changes introduced by the colonial state, following the recommendations of the Colebrook-Cameron Commission, reorganized the administrative division of the island into a hierarchy of five provinces and twenty-one districts, these being the sub-units of provinces. (table 2.1) Mirroring the model of European states of the time, this move homogenized the island territory by incorporating all differences, including all isolated and remote parts, into a single society and space that was divisible into uniform sub-units. Evidently, the delineation of new provinces with no reference to the society was aimed at weakening the potentially nationalist feelings of the Kandyans. The


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TABLE 2.1 New Provinces of Ceylon, 1833 Province Composed of the former districts of Ceylon Kandy

Capital

Northern

Jaffna, Mannar

Jaffna

Eastern

Trincomalee and Batticaloa Galle, Tangalle, Matara, and Hambantota Colombo, Chilaw, and Puttalam

Southern Western

Central

Nuwarakalaviya and the Wanni Tamankaduwa and Bintenna Sabaragamuwa, Patha Uva, and Wellassa Sath Korale, Thun Korale, Sathara Korale, and Patha Bulatgamme Central districts of the Kingdom

Trincomalee Galle Colombo

Kandy

Sources: Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 68; Mendis Ceylon Under British, 39. colonial state allocated parts of former Kandy among all five provinces created in 1833, in this way eliminating Kandy’s physical identity. (figure 2.4) Most crucially, apart from the Central Province, much smaller than the former Kingdom of Kandy, the administrative capitals of all other provinces were located within former Ceylon, outside former Kandy Kingdom. For example, the Nuwarakalaviya area in which Kandyans lived was subjected to Jaffna, the principal inhabitants of which were Tamils. Government Agents of Jaffna have frequently complained about the impossibility of carrying out their duties in such a large province.33 In this way, the new territorial structure destroyed former Lankan relationships between peoplehood and territory. The re-naming process completed the effacing of the identity of Kandy. The colonial state’s use of cardinal directions to name the Provinces could well have been aimed at effacing the identities of former Kandyan provinces. This naming practice not only represents the extreme “rational” thinking of the “enlightened” colonials, but also the appropriation and familiarization of these provinces for the colonial community. It was far easier for them to rule the “Eastern” Province rather than Kottiar Province. At the same time, such naming of provinces obscured the territorial identity and peoplehood for the Lankans, with no longer the Kandy, Jaffna, Kotte, or Sitavaka kingdom or province to which they could relate. The next two provinces created in 1845 and 1873 were also labelled in the same order as the North-W estern Province and North-Central Province. It was only in 1889 that a province was, for the first time, given a “name” beyond such a rationalistic framework. By then, the threat of Kandy as a potentially subversive force, had disappeared. M oreover, these two provinces, Uva and Sabaragamuwa, were also carved out of former Kandy. W hat we see in the 1830s, therefore, is the restructuring of the colonial administrative and revenue system through the division of the island into uniform Provinces and Districts. The hierarchical organization of these administrative


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divisions and their capitals was to create the colonial territorial and urban structure of Ceylon. Compared to the earlier organization of Lankan towns, of which the most prominent were religious and royal centers,34 these new urban settlements were politically and culturally alien to the surrounding society. The authorities received orders from the English speaking administration in Colombo, and the administrative functions carried out by them were evolved in Europe. It was this nascent territorial and urban structure that was employed to construct social, political, and cultural institutions within the colonial society and these, in turn, reinforced this spatial structure. The British Appropriation of Colombo and Kandy Early nineteenth century Colombo, for its size, was one of the most populated places in India (sic).35 It was also the meeting place of a large number of races and ethnic groups, a multi-ethnic, multicultural, cosmopolitan city. Yet Colombo was also a divided city, organized along particular racial, ethnic, and functional lines into three principal zones: the fort, the Pettah, and the outer Pettah (an anglo-Indian corruption of Tamil Pettai, meaning outside the fort). In comparison to many dichotomous colonial cities, the tripatriate division of Colombo reveals its complex colonial history, involving three colonial powers. The British not only kept the Ceylonese out of the fort, but also the descendants of the Dutch and Portuguese, transforming the fort completely into a British ethnic compound. The Portuguese and the Dutch, who chose to settle adjacent to the fort, transformed what they called the Oude Stad into their domain. In appropriating the Pettah, Dutch and Portuguese descendants pushed the so-called “native city” further outward to the Hultsdorf area. In the words of Hulugalle: “The Fort was chiefly occupied by British residents; the Pettah, then a clean and airy residential district, by the D utch and the Portuguese; and the suburbs by the Sinhalese, Tamil and Moorish population.” 36 (figure 2.5) The fort was the locus of British political, military, and cultural institutions, including the Government House, the Governor’s House (Queen’s House), military and civil offices, parade grounds, the Anglican church, and the High Court of Appeal. In comparison to the later separation of colonial spaces in other British colonial cities in terms of civil station, cantonment, and native city, 37 both the “civil station” and the “cantonment” were fused within the fort. The fort was therefore the exclusive locus of power, occupied by the British, with no comparable social and cultural institutions outside it. The separation between the fort and the rest of the city demarcated by the wall and the marshes was bolstered by open spaces. The division was first introduced by the Portuguese who raised the water level of the marshes, leaving only one physical link between the fort and the mainland--today’s Main Street. Later, the Dutch reduced the separation to a canal, the breadth of which was determined by the range of a cannon ball, but complemented it with an open area outside it. According to the Dutch Governor, Ryckoff van Goens (1660-1675), there was to


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FIGURE 2.5 A divided city: The principal zones of early nineteenth century Colombo. From: Cordiner, 41. be a clear area of 340 roods (3/4 mile) from the fort, in which no coconut or tall trees were to be grown. “An open field of this kind would give no cover to an enemy and could be swept by gunfire from the walls.” 38 The British also maintained this “open field of fire,” designating it as the esplanade, and removing any house that encroached upon it. 39 Despite organizing it as their exclusive domain, the British did not transform the fort itself, but rather the space within it. The Dutch, who took over the fort from the Portuguese in the mid-seventeenth century, restructured both the fort as well as its internal layout, straightening its roads to form a grid-iron.40 The British were apparently content with the space. At the turn of the nineteenth century, Percival observed that Colombo, more than any other town in “India,” was built in the European style.41 The chaplain of the garrison of Colombo, James Cordiner, emphasized the “beauty” of it: “the streets being broad, straight, regularly planned, intersecting one another at right angles, and shaded on each side by double rows of trees.” 42 Although appearing neutral on first inspection, the grid-iron served the colonial forces in making a tabula rasa out of the place, erasing all differences that might have mattered to anyone else. As in former Roman colonial cities, the grid-iron layout represented the power of the authority laying it down and that authority’s


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considering Colombo as a tabula rasa devoid of any physical, social, or cultural features, and the utter disrespect for whatever existed before. It represented the Cartesian, rational perception of its European creator who subdivided the city into rectangular blocks. Adopting this Europeanized space, the British began to “customize” it. They sub divided the fort into four quarters by means of two principal streets, not more than an English mile in either direction, 43 and superimposed over the former Dutch “grid-iron.” Although still a grid-iron, the layout was hierarchically organized, with the principal street, King’s Street, connecting the Government House and the military parade grounds, located at either end. Later, the center was marked by a clock tower. Although not formally designed as a mall, the early twentieth century King’s Street connected the Queen’s House and the Parliament building. The gridiron with a center, central axis, and four quadrants, could not have been more different to the organization of Lankan metropolitical centers, and signified that Colombo was a foreign, colonial city. Straight roads and grid-iron planning served troop movements well, while the hierarchical organization buttressed colonial ideals. The British anglicized these urban elements by naming them in British style. Naming physical features, structures, places, and spaces is perhaps the most crucial aspect of colonization, since naming appropriates places by reconstituting them within the particular cultural schemata of the namer. 44 A.J. Christopher claims that British scientific culture required that every place, mountain, or river be given a name, mainly for the purpose of identification and mapping. 45 Although the Dutch had adapted many Sinhalese and Portuguese names for places and streets, British names in Colombo were largely derived from their own cultural memories in the metropole (Bristol Street, Hyde Park, Kew Road), associations with the royal family (York Street, Duke Street, Prince Street), historically significant men in Britain (Chatham Street, Stafford Avenue), and Governors and officials in Ceylon (Gordon Gardens, Norris Road). The system of cultural and spatial apartheid was, therefore, very pronounced. As in contemporary European cities, the streets in the fort were principally lined with buildings, constructed in rows. In this sense, streets can metaphorically be compared to figures of which the background is buildings, and streets are spaces defined by the buildings which are the solids. The transitionary space between buildings and the road was marked by the verandas and lofty pillars of public and domestic buildings, 46 and by the trees that lined both sides of streets. In contrast, Lankan streets and buildings did not define each other; streets were not laid out geometrically and buildings were located as clusters at varying distances from each other, defined by their cultural norms and functional needs.47 Evaluating according to European cultural perceptions, both Marshall and Knox note that the Sinhalese did not care to make streets by building their houses together in rows.48 In making the landscape of the fort like that of a normal English town, the British excluded indigenous buildings. In 1803 Percival wrote that, “none of those huts (sic), peculiar to the natives, are allowed to be erected in [the fort].” 49 As


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compared to Lankan dwellings, the colonial dwellings in the fort, known as bungalows, were most comparable to the residences of the aristocracy, known as Walavvas. Here I refer both to physical aspects, such as the scale of the building and the durability of materials used in construction, as well as the social superiority inscribed into those. The bungalows, single or double storied, were tall, spacious, and roofed with two layers of half round burnt clay tiles set on timber rafters.50 In Kandy, the use of tiles for roofs and the whitewashing of walls, which required the King’s permission, marked social distinctions in the built environment, and such buildings were rare.51 From this perspective, the bungalow appears to be the dwelling of the elite of the society. The most contrasting aspects of the colonial bungalow are its division into rooms for specialized and exclusive functions, the use of furniture, and the aspect of conspicuous consumption built into it. This is especially evident in the perception of “the view” as a consumption good. According to Cordiner these bungalows were constructed to provide a panoramic view. On one side, the upper balconies provided an extensive outlook over the sea, the road, and shipping in the harbour. On the land side, inhabitants enjoyed the “richest prospect comprehending the lake, [the] Pettah, cinnamon plantations, and a wide range of the inland factories bounded by Adam’s Peak, and many larger mountains.” 52 In transforming the fort into a space of their own, the British defamiliarized it not only for the Ceylonese, but also for the Portuguese and Dutch descendants. W riting in regard to India, Thomas R. Metcalf notes that “during the first decades of their rule, ... the British gave little thought to architecture.” 53 In Colombo too, their primary requirement was for domestic and other functional space, for which they adapted Dutch buildings. For Percival, however, the early nineteenth century houses within the fort, mostly built by the Dutch, were monotonous: “most houses have the same plan ... hall in front, chamber at each side.” 54 The British gradually modified these to suit their own cultural requirements, for example, replacing glass windows with venetian blinds and fixing punkas, a colonial form of labor intensive ventilation.55 In contrast to the densely developed fort area, the Pettah in the 1800s was “neat, clean, regular and larger.” 56 This was largely a residential neighborhood. Laid out by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, it consisted of a grid-iron of five streets, each of about a half mile long, parallel to each other, and the same number intersecting them at right angles.57 This, the principal space of the Dutch and Portuguese descendants, later known as the Burghers, was largely undisturbed until the 1860s, when the colonial state began to expand its locus beyond the walls of the fort and the influx of Ceylonese merchants from the opposite direction also grew. The Outer Pettah was the typical “native” component of the colonial city. It was, however, a completely different world, filled with Lankan cultural practices, but with no political or military institutions comparable to those of the fort. According to H.W. Cave, in 1908 this world was occupied by astrologers, tinsmiths, cobblers, vendors, Ayurvedic doctors, betel sellers, and barbers,58 all operating within Lankan systems of knowledge and culture. As King argues in regard to


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colonial cities in general, this segregated city was “fundamental in the development of ‘categorical’ relationships, the stereotyping of one race and its behavior by another.” 59 According to Percival, in the 1800s the Pettah was a large area with exceedingly narrow streets and a number of bazaars kept by native Ceylonese, and had an abundant supply of vegetables, dry fish, and fruits, typical of what he sees as a classic “native city.” 60 The division between the space inside and outside the fort was therefore not only ethnic, but also political, cultural, and social. In contrast to Colombo, the cultural acquisition of the Sinhalese city of Kandy proved to be a formidable task for the British. Although Colombo was a port city located on the periphery of the Lankan society, Kandy was geographically, politically, and culturally centrally placed in the Kandyan society. W hile Colombo had been an important outpost of the Portuguese and D utch empires for three centuries, Kandy had acted as the principal center of resistance for over two centuries. Kandy, therefore, represented the political and religious center for the Sinhalese, and a symbol of resistance to European invasions for the Lankans. W hat the British constructed in Kandy, therefore, was drastically different from what they had made in Colombo. The conferment of political legitimacy was central to the British takeover of Kandy, and the past colonial takeovers of Kandy confirm that the mere presence of the military was insufficient. According to James Duncan, colonizing Kandy required the transformation of its cultural landscape. Duncan argues that much of the strength of a place is derived from the power of the model in which its landscape partakes. Kandy was built as the place of the god-king at the center of heavenly universe near the Mahameru mountain where the governmental and religious functions of the kingdom culminated. (figure 2.6) In order to transform Kandy in a way that represented their power, it was crucial for the British to take possession of the most sacred symbol, the tooth relic of B uddha, enshrined in the Dalada Maligawa, to build a road from the coast up through the mountains to Kandy, and to ride a horse through the heart of a mountain.61 Besides facilitating the subjection of Kandy by enabling military and administrative traffic, the road from Colombo to Kandy itself was used to represent the mastery of the British over Kandy. According to Tennent, The British succeeded in constructing a military road, unsurpassed in excellence, into the heart of the Kandyan country,... rocks were pierced, precipices scraped, torrents bridged, to effect a passage; and ... [the Kandyans] recalled the warning of ancient prophecy, and felt that now the conquest of their country was complete.62 Moreover, these wonders of W estern engineering were bolstered by additional symbols of power. The “tunnel” at Kadugannawa was particularly important. It was a magnificent presence at the sharpest switch over of this road after a long steep climb along a stretch of road that resembled a pass. There was a precipice on one side and a near vertical drop on the other, and with a final steep climb just in front of it. Considering the technology employed in the construction of the road, the


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British engineers could have blown off the top section. Yet making this tunnel was a deliberate decision, to turn it into a symbol. According to contemporary British sources, it was built to impress the Kandyans with the full sense of the “irreversible power” of their conquerors rather than as a specimen of engineering.63 Other monuments, such as the Dawson Tower, commemorating the engineer in charge of the road’s construction, were built as symbols of political and cultural power. (figure 2.7) Kandy was both the metropolitical center of the kingdom and religious center for the Buddhists. The merging of political and religious centers in Lanka goes back to the fourth century when the Tooth Relic of Buddha was brought to the island and housed in a shrine near the royal palace. W ilhelm Geiger, translator of the great chronicle of Lanka, The Mahawamsa, has noted that these relics of Buddha had gradually come to co nstitute th e “n a tio n a l palladium”--the symbol of legitimate kingship. The sangha (order of Buddhist monks) legitimized and strengthened the kingship; they r e p r e s e n te d t h e k i n g a s a FIGURE 2.7 Sign of imminance: Kadugannawa tunnel, with DawsonTower in the background. Bodhisattva--“a Buddha to be” in a From: Tennent, II: 186. future life. In turn, the king was the 64 chief patron of the sangha. Hence, the kingship and sangha comprised the principal politico-ideological institution of the system, in which each was both independent and interdependent. This complex institution was spatially represented in the traditional location of the Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Tooth Relic) adjacent to the palace. (Figure 2.8) This temple, which housed the relics (tooth and, later, the bowl), was the only religious building to be built within the royal compound. 65 This combination had been central to the layout of the royal complex right up to the last Kingdom of Kandy. For the Sinhalese, the possessor of the relic was the legitimate ruler of Lanka,


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FIGURE 2.8 The Center of resistance: The religio-royal complex of Kandy. From: Davy, 112. and the legitimate ruler should possess the relic. Despite their inability to maintain the traditional relationship between the ruler and the religion, the British rulers also undertook the role of the patron publicly. Instead of destroying the Temple, which would have created chaos, the British regime opted to appropriate it. As in the 1817-18 rebellion, however, a Sinhalese appropriation of the relic in their struggles of resistance could prove fatal for the colonial regime. They therefore first stationed troops at the Temple and installed iron bars to protect the outermost casket of the tooth relic, 66 particularly from the Buddhists. The pressure from Christian missionary groups, however, made the Resident of Kandy distance himself from the relic. The British undertook to fill this political vacuum by transforming the landscape built for a god-king in the center of the universe, into one which represented British power. This was carried out by coopting Kandyan symbols and by substituting some of them by their own. The other most significant symbol, the former Kandyan palace, was adopted as the Resident’s Quarters. As part of their conscious attempt to transform the meaning of the royal complex, the British reorganized both the function and space of the king’s audience hall, located between the palace and the temple. This open colonnaded building was turned into an Anglican place of worship on Sundays, with a pulpit being erected on the alcove previously occupied by the king’s throne, and with an image of the British Emperor placed immediately behind it. During the week this was also used as the civic court, a place of British justice. 67 British rulers playing tennis in the Kandyan royal complex culminated its transformation and provided a spectacle for the Kandyans. Tennis courts were constructed between the Temple and the palace, near the audience hall, the new recreational function deliberately replaced the previous aura of power, and turned the complex into a B ritish playing field. The British also converted the Malabar Palace of the king’s kin into a European hospital, the Queen’s bath house into a European library, the octagonal pattirippuwa of the temple into a jail, and the large houses of the nobles into stores and hotels.68 The other main element of the former palace complex was the lake, symbolically representing the Ocean of Milk in the kingdom of the god-king, and reflecting the clouds providing the sense that it was up in the sky. Building an ornamental wall and a walkway around it,69 and creating a promenade, the British transformed the lake into an object of aesthetic consumption for the colonial community. In


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FIGURE 2.9 Symbols of power: King’s Pavilion and St. Paul’s church at Kandy. From: Cave, 317; Alwis et al., 33. addition, they built a driveway encircling the lake and, most crucially, named it after the British Empress Victoria. W hat was previously the Sea of Milk was now appropriated in the name of the British Empress. As in Colombo, the British created an esplanade in front of the temple to act as a buffer zone between themselves and the “natives,” and named it after the Empress Victoria. 70 The esplanade provided both an area of surveillance and an open field of fire. British games, such as cricket and rugby were played in the esplanade, transforming the “natives” into spectators, who were also kept at a distance. The British built their own symbols in such a way as to deliberately subvert the symbolic significance of old Kandy. 71 These were meant to subject Kandy, to physically, spatially, and symbolically overpower the former Kandyan built environment and its inhabitants. In 1820, the King’s Pavilion was built close to the former palace, in the process, dwarfing the palace. An Anglican church was built in the sacred square, towering over the Dalada Maligawa, and moving the principal religious center to a now dominant St. Paul’s church. (Figure 2.9) In this way, the principal sign of the built environment was shifted from the structures of the former power holders to those of the British. In the judgement of one colonial official, the houses of the Governor, of the Commandant, and the jail, were the finest looking buildings in the country. 72 According to Harold Lasswell, the ‘signature of power’ is manifest in two ways: through a ‘strategy of awe’, intimidating the audience with majestic displays of power, and through a ‘strategy of admiration’ aimed at diverting the audience with spectacular and histrionic projects.73 These colonial power symbols were also supplemented by institutions of cultural dissemination and control, with a Protestant school and a police station located in the sacred square. Most significantly, the new institution of British justice, the courthouse, was constructed on the most sacred grounds, right behind the Temple on the side of the heavenly Mahameru mountain. As much as it represented the domination and power of the British, the new landscape also familiarized space for the colonizers. Kandy was transformed into a British cultural place. British statues were erected in public squares and, as in


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Colombo, streets and places were given British names, 74 Brownrigg Street, W ace Park, W ard Street, the whole transformed into an object of tourist consumption. In this way, the British transformed former Kandy. Its meaning and function were thus obscured, defamiliarized and dehistoricized, making Kandyans, and Lankans, ambivalent about its existence. The British, therefore, not only took over the whole island of Lanka physically in the nineteenth century but also reconstructed it around Colombo. They transformed its social and spatial structures and subjected it to an English speaking administration. In the process they also destroyed, erased, or subjugated Lankan territorial spaces, landscapes, and architecture. Going beyond the political appropriation of territories and built environments, however, the British continued their colonial project into the realms of economy and culture. These aspects are examined in the following chapter. Notes 1. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 135; Lach, II: 151-154; Brohier and Paulusz, II: 6-7. 2. John Channell Berry, Europe Looks at the World: The Evolution of European Cartography from 1493 to 1761 (Kingston, ON: Agnes Etherington Art Center, 1984), 6; Ronald V. Tooley, Maps and Map Makers (New York: Crown Publishers, 1978). 3. In A.N. Porter, ed., Atlas of British Overseas Expansion (London: Routledge, 1991). 4. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 126; Lennox A. Mills, British Malaya 1824-1867 (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1966), 50, 53. 5. Giovanni Arrighi, “The Three Hegemonies of Historical Capitalism,” Review xiii (1990): 380; John Ruggie, “Continuity and Transformation in the World Polity: Toward a Neorealist Synthesis,” World Politics xxxv (1983): 275; Lane, 51, 62. See also Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1987). 6. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 75. 7. This world-space is not congruent with the world as a whole, and I do not argue that this matrix is total. There were a considerable number of varied “third” spaces, including protectorates, zones of influence, and various types of independent states. See, for example, John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” The Economic History Review, Second Series VI (1953): 1-15. Yet this world-space was the principal one. Our focus, however, is on states and empires, particularly because they were the principal forms of territorial space; the construction of Ceylon also took place within this structure. 8. Wallerstein, Modern World-System III, 179. 9. See Edward Ingram (Two Views of British India. The Private Correspondence of Mr. Dundas and Lord Wellesley: 1798-1801 (Somerset: Adams and Dart, 1970), 10, 144, 153, 162, 205) for correspondence between Earl of Merrington and Dundas suggesting the retention of Ceylon under the Madras Presidency. 10. Wallerstein, Modern World System III, 57, 193; Kennedy, 114-5. 11. M. Cross, Urbanization and Urban Growth in the Caribbean (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 9.


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12. Mary Karasch, “Rio de Janeiro: From Colonial Port Town to Imperial Capital,” in Robert Ross and Gerard J. Telkamp, eds., Colonial Cities: Essays on Urbanism in a Colonial Context, (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1985), 123-154. 13. Ronald J. Horvath, “In Search of a Theory of Urbanization: Notes on the Colonial City,” East Lakes Geographers 5 (1969): 76. 14. George, Viscount Valentia, Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806. 3 vols (St. James: W. Blumer, 1809) I:309. (Italics added) 15. da Silva, v. 16. Yda Saueressig-Schreuder, “The Impact of British Colonial Rule on the Urban Hierarchy of Burma” Review x (1986): 254. 17. By a “Singhalese monarch,” I refer to a king or a queen of a “Singhalese kingdom” who may or may not be Singhalese in ethnicity. For example, the rulers of the Kandy Kingdom in the last phase were of the south Indian Nayakkar dynasty. Although Tamil kingdoms were established in the north of Lankan territory after the twelfth century, and also attempted to capture the whole island, there is not enough evidence to argue that those monarchs had imagined the whole island as a single society and space. 18. See H.A.P. Abeywardena, Kadaimpoth Vimarshanaya (Colombo: Cultural Department, 1978). 19. This translation is taken from Henry Marshall, the surgeon of the military that conquered Kandy, who wrote, “the Kingdom of Kandy, as it is frequently called, the Kandyan country.” (A General Description of the Island and its Inhabitants with an Historical Sketch of the Conquest of the Colony by the English (Kandy: Kandy Printers, 1954), 24) 20. H.L. Seneviratne, Rituals of Kandyan State (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1978), 1-7. 21. De Silva, The Portuguese in Ceylon, 2. 22. See Carter, 147. 23. See Simon Casie Chitty, The Ceylon Gazetteer Containing an Accurate Account of the Districts, Provinces, Cities, Towns, Principal Villages, Harbours, Rivers, Lakes of the Island of Ceylon (Colombo: M.D. Gunasena, 1972). 24. Colvin R. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation 1795-1833. 2 vols. (Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries, 1953), I: 88, 94. 25. For Tennent, who reflects the British view, when the British took over Ceylon, and for many years afterwards, no road deserving its name was in existence to unite these important positions. (II: 120) See also, James Cordiner, A Description of Ceylon Containing an Account of the Country, Inhabitants and Natural Productions; with Narratives of a Tour Round the Island in 1801, the Campaign in Candy in 1803, and a Journey to Ramisseram in 1804. 2 vols. (London: Longman, 1807) I: 15-16. 26. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 224; see also de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation, II: 406. 27. Tennent, II: 95, 120-1; Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 225. 28. Mendis, 17. The military forts in the interior included Ruwanwella, Fort King, and Balangoda, and outposts included Hettimulla, Nalanda, Maturata, Amanapoora and Pasbage. (See John Davy, An Account of the Interior of Ceylon and Its Inhabitants, with Travels in the Island (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1821), 357, 362, 381, 400, 437, 451.) In addition, there were forts in more than a dozen ports around the island. (See Brohier, Links Between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands)


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29. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 225; Tennent, II: 95, 121. A.J. Christopher notes that the colonial city planners tended to be military men until the last few decades of the colonial era. (The British Empire at Its Zenith (London: Croom Helm, 1988), 131) 30. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation, I: 200. Carts were used on this route from the 1820s. (G.F. Perera, The Ceylon Railway: The Story of its Inception and Progress (Colombo: The Ceylon Observer Press, 1925), 27) 31. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 225. 32. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 62; Mendis, 33; Patrick Peebles, “Governor Arthur Gordon of Sri Lanka, 1883-1890,” in Robert J. Crane and N. Gerald Barrier, eds., British Imperial Policy in India and Sri Lanka 1858-1912: A Reassessment (New Delhi: Heritage Publishers, 1981), 90); de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation, II: 165; Tennent, II: 57; Cordiner, 18; Valentia, 151. 33. See K.M. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka (London: C. Hurst and Co., 1989), 317. 34. Robert Knox, An Historical Account of Ceylon (Glasgow: James McLehose and Sons, 1961 [1711], 10. 35. Percival, 114. 36. Hulugalle, Centenary Volume, 25. According to Duncan (The City as Text), Kandy, and according to Tennent (II: 344-5), Kurunegala, of the north western province, also had similar structures. What is crucial here is that most, if not all, colonial cities were racially divided, at least since the nineteenth century, whether it was the colonial port city or one in the interior. 37. King has noted that in southern India, the civil station was frequently spatially incorporated in the cantonment, although the basic military and civil institutions were kept separate. (Colonial Urban Development, 45) This also demonstrates a difference in time. New Delhi was built much later in the twentieth century, not next to a port, and was also planned by professionals. 38. Brohier and Paulusz, 9. 39. Cordiner, 38. 40. See Brohier, Lands, Maps and Surveys, 87. 41. Percival, 102. 42. Cordiner, 30. 43. Ibid, 37. 44. See Carter, xx-xxi. 45. Christopher, 231-234 46. Cordiner, 30, 39. Yet Davy wrote about “houses which construct streets in Kandy.” (365) Kandy was, however, the metropolitical center of the kingdom and it does not reflect the normal building practices of the Lankans. 47. de Silva, “The Sri Lankan Tradition for Shelter”; de Vos, “Some Aspects of Traditional Rural Housing and Domestic Technology.” 48. Marshall, 20. 49. Percival, 102. 50. Cordiner notes that the Ceylonese houses, even in Colombo, were considerably lower [shorter]. (31, 40) 51. Davy, 256; Knox, An Historical Account; Marshall, 20. 52. Cordiner, 36. 53. Thomas R. Metcalf, “Architecture and the Representation of Empire: Indian, 18601910,” Representations 6 (1984): 39. 54. Percival, 103-4. 55. See Cordiner, 30-33; Percival, 103.


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56. In Hulugalle, Centenary Volume, 30. 57. Cordiner, 33. 58. See Henry W. Cave, The Book of Ceylon: Being a Guide to its Railway System and an Account of its Various Attractions for the Visitor and Tourist (London: Cassell, [1908]), 50-55, 86. 59. J.C. Mitchell, “Theoretical Orientations in African Urban Studies,” in M. Burton, ed. The Social Anthropology of Complex Societies (London: Tavistock, 1966) cited in King, Colonial Urban Development. 60. In Hulugalle, 31. 61. Duncan, “Power of Place in Kandy,” 186, 190. 62. Tennent, II: 95. Italics mine. 63. J. Stewart, Notes on Ceylon and its Affairs During a Period of Thirty Eight Years Ending in 1855 (London: Privately Published, 1862), 7; Cave, 234. 64. R.A.L.H. Gunawardana, Robe and Plough: Monasticism and Economic Interest in Early Medieval Sri Lanka (Tuscan and Arizona: The University of Arizona Press, 1979), 79, 172, 178, 210, 211. 65. Silva, “Lessons of Town Planning”: 7, 29. 66. Seneviratne, 24; Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 127. 67. See Duncan, “Power of Place in Kandy,” 191. 68. Duncan, “Power of Place in Kandy,” 191. 69. Cave, 320. 70. See Cave, 319. 71. Duncan, “Power of Place in Kandy,” 191. 72. Davy, 371. 73. Harold Lasswell, The Signature of Power (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1979), 57, cited in Paul L. Knox, Urban Social Geography: An Introduction (New York: John Wiley and Sons inc., 1987), 228. 74. Duncan, “Power of Place in Kandy,” 191.


3 A Single World-Economy and Eurocentric Culture: The Integration of Ceylon into European Economic and Cultural Systems This chapter addresses two major themes: the incorporation of particular zones into the European world-economy, and the establishment of a world hegemony in which west European cultures were to hold the most prominent position. The spatial dimensions of these are examined, particularly as they relate to Ceylon. According to W allerstein, the incorporation of new zones into the European world-economy, usually as simple raw-material producers, has involved three major transformations: the creation of a new pattern of exports and imports, larger economic “enterprises� capable of responding to the ever changing market conditions of the world-economy, and a significant increase in the coercion of the labor force. 1 The incorporation thus required the building of institutions and spaces in new zones which were compatible with those of the larger world-economy and the necessary links between these. Ceylon was incorporated into the worldeconomy through the introduction of an export-oriented cash-crop agriculture, principally coffee, destined for the British imperial market, a plantation system large enough to operate as a constituent element of the European world-economy, and the necessary communication and financial networks that converged in Colombo. Gayathri Chakravorty Spivak and Homi Bhabha have argued that west European imperialism was not only territorial and economic but also cultural, inevitably involved in the constitution of subjects. In addition to establishing political domination and economic command, the core European states also constructed a privileged position for the knowledge, cultural systems, and worldviews that they were simultaneously developing. European expansion thus involved a complex process in which the European powers were both developing a world and a body of knowledge about that world. Robert Young argues that European thought since the Renaissance would be inconceivable without the impact of colonialism just as the history of the world since the Renaissance would be inconceivable without the 61


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effects of Europeanization.2 Moreover, the production, legitimation, and circulation of this knowledge--not least, in regard to “orientalism,” “indology,” “tropical agriculture,” “tropical architecture,” and “development”--was regulated by academic and professional institutions in the metropole. Making such knowledge hegemonic would minimize the need to use direct military power to control the colonized. In pursuing these themes, I focus on how the process of incorporation into European economic and cultural systems was spatially manifest in Ceylon. I first examine the introduction of the coffee plantation system and the restructuring of Ceylonese society and space around it. I then briefly explore the spatial implications of the movement of people and particular plant species across the larger world-space, and the establishment of a hegemony for European perceptions and knowledge of the form of this space, particularly through cartography and surveying. Finally, I examine issues concerning the export of architecture and architectural knowledge from the metropole and its influence on the Ceylonese landscape, urban forms, and architecture. Incorporation of Ceylon into the Capitalist W orld-Economy Until the 1830s, Ceylon was not an integral part of the European worldeconomy. Despite the high demand in Europe for cinnamon, neither the Portuguese, the Dutch, nor the British were capable of organizing a system of cinnamon production in Ceylon for the European market. Instead of producing, the Portuguese and the Dutch were engaged in the gathering, collecting, and buying of cinnamon and other commodities which they then exported. British emphasis on raising sufficient revenues internally to maintain the Crown Colony government defeated every attempt of the colonial state to build a cinnamon plantation system. A British commission of inquiry in Ceylon stated in 1833, “... besides the system of monopoly maintained and in some cases extended by the government, the power exercised by the Governor of regulating duties and imposing taxes has been injurious to commerce and to the influx and accumulation of capital.” 3 In the 1830s, however, while the imperial regime provided a market for Ceylonese coffee, the colonial state made coffee plantations a viable enterprise in Ceylon. The decline in W est Indian coffee production following the emancipation of slaves in the early nineteenth century, and the increase in demand for coffee in western Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, opened up a potential market for Ceylonese coffee. In this way, Ceylon was incorporated into the European worldeconomy by the 1850s. Import duties in the United Kingdom had earlier favored the W est Indies; while the general duty on coffee was 9d, W est Indian coffee was charged only 6d a pound. In 1835, Britain reduced the import duty on East Indian coffee also to 6d, assigning Ceylon a potential place in the imperial division of labor as a coffee producer.4 The role of the colonial state established compatible space in Ceylon, principally, large-scale cash-crop production units, to materialize this potential. As


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with the administrative reforms of the 1830s, the recommendations of the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission were central to the transformation of the Ceylonese economy. The colonial state began to actively engage in commodifying land, producing a labor force, and introducing “scientific” means of coffee cultivation. The change was dramatic. Although there was only one coffee plantation in 1823 by the 1850s, there was a whole system, 17,583 in all. The value of coffee exports from Ceylon shot up, by twenty-five times within a decade, from a total of £31,863 in the five years between 1831 and 1835, to an annual average of £257,925 between 1841 and 1845. 5 In Tennent’s words, [the] experiment ... inaugurated in the Kandyan highlands ... within less than a quarter of a century has effected an industrial revolution in the island, converting Ceylon from a sluggish military cantonment into an enterprising British colony, and transforming the supply of one of the first requisites of the society from the western to the eastern hemisphere.6 The plantations responded to the 1840s depression in the European economy,7 and by restructuring, emerged as the dominant element of the Ceylonese economy, visa-vis the world-economy, in the 1850s. In order to organize a coffee plantation system, the colonial state was compelled to appropriate the existing system of coffee production from the Lankan peasants as well as the coffee trading system from the Muslims. The buyers of peasant coffee were largely local Muslims who carried out internal trading, bartering peasant products for supplies brought from “outside,” lending money, and also buying land in the villages. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the British authorities were not only unable to break into this monopoly located between their foreign trade and local producers, but also had neither the capital nor the knowledge to cultivate coffee in a more efficient way than the peasants. In the 1830s, however, the British appropriated the growing of coffee from the peasants. The colonial state began the creation of a much needed European planter class as early as 1810 by abolishing the regulation of 1801 that forbade Europeans from owning land outside Colombo District. In 1832, following the Commission recommendations, the salaries of civil servants were reduced. More importantly, civil servants were allowed to own land in the colony and make up for their loss of income through investment in commercial agriculture. 8 This encouragement of civil servants to enter into planting explains the need for the Crown Lands Encroachment Ordinance (no.12) of 1840, the main instrument used for the commodification of land, and the sale of vast tracts of land immediately thereafter. In order to supply land, the colonial state appropriated what it identified as “uncultivated” and “unoccupied” land, and sold these to the nascent planter class. The state brought what was defined as “all forest, waste, unoccupied, or uncultivated lands” under the Ordinance, presuming that these were at the disposal of the Crown. This decision ignored the importance of communal land and the


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larger eco-system in the organization of Lankan villages. For the British, land simply represented privately owned isolated lots (or estates) without any social, spatial, or ecological context. The villages, however, were largely self-sufficient entities comprised of homesteads, paddy fields, and communal land which provided common amenities such as firewood, pasture, and game. In many cases, forests in the vicinity of a village were used for héns (swidden agriculture), in which villagers grew “highland” or “dry land” crops, and which were also used as sources of water and for the paths of irrigation channels. These communal lands and forests were therefore collectively consumed by the villagers, and formed a necessary component of those settlements. Although a substantial contingent of the land sold by the state was forests not adjoining the villages, their clearance affected the supply of water (for both drinking and farming) and reduced the fertility of the soil. 9 “U ncultivated” and “unoccupied” lands were therefore British constructions, part of a strategy employed by the colonial state to abolish users’ rights to highlands, destabilize the “subsistence based” village organization, and commodify land for plantation purposes. According to Lankan customary law, however, the villagers had users’ rights to highlands surrounding their villages, regardless of the overlordship of the village--royal or aristocratic. Although some of the land categorized as “Crown Land” under the Ordinance was privately owned by Ceylonese, those who could not furnish proof of ownership, such as title deeds (sannas) and tax receipts, were evicted from the land they occupied, and the crops and buildings on them were confiscated. In this way, vast tracts of land were brought into the market and between 1833 and 1930 two and a half million acres of “Crown land” were sold to private individuals.10 Unlike the situation of cinnamon, with coffee, the colonial state had worked out a system that would both promote plantations and increase state revenues at the same time. Right at the outset, the pricing of land guaranteed a profit for the buyers. The land “giveaway” price was set by the state at 5s an acre, and the government officials re-sold it at an average of £2 an acre. Buyers included the Governor and many other high ranking colonial officials.11 In regard to capital for the enterprise, the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission recommended the dissociation of the state from direct involvement in the economy, simultaneously encouraging government officials to engage in commercial agriculture in their private capacity. A bank of deposit was established in 1832 to facilitate finance for economic development, and credit was easily obtained at 910% interest rate. As coffee production prospered, more British capital was invested in Ceylon from the late 1830s. For example, around 1844, the minimum cost of setting up a plantation was as high as about £3,000, but during the same year, nearly 130 coffee estates were opened up in the central province alone. 12 Nevertheless, capital was a serious problem, and more so for the Ceylonese. The greater part of the coffee plantations were owned not by companies, or big capitalists, but by small independent proprietors most of whom were short of capital. The Ceylonese who wished to join the plantations as capitalists were also short of capital, and their holdings were therefore small. Donald Snodgras has


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emphasized the extreme reluctance on the part of British banks and agency houses managing plantations to extend credit to the Ceylonese. 13 In his critical essays to the Ceylon Observer, George W all, who later became Governor, wrote in 1867 that “there was no native capital worth the name.” 14 Producing a labor force for the nascent plantation industry was the most difficult task. Persuading Kandyans to join the ranks of labor in new plantations was much more difficult than appropriating their land. The colonial state employed two principal strategies. One was taxation, a common colonial policy requiring that villagers earn a cash income. Taxes were, however, insufficient to destroy rural peasant practices; most villagers either grew a small quantity of cash crops, or worked on plantations for short periods to earn the cash necessary to pay their taxes. 15 The other colonial strategy was the abolition of the old Lankan social structures that hindered the production of a wage-labor force, namely, the tenurial system of rajakariya. Historically, Lankan land ownership, the division and control of labor, and the extraction of surplus were organized around a complex structure of land tenures, a village structure, a caste system, and rajakariya. In this system, “Service lands were held free from tax so long as the occupiers rendered the services in return for which the lands had been granted for them.” 16 According to Ralph Pieris, “The personal services to which holders of land were liable was far the most important aspect of rajakariya, for on this system of service tenures the machinery of state administration largely hinged.” 17 Since “Service holdings could as a rule be abandoned by those who wished to be free of onerous rajakariya,” 18 the service was attached more to the land than the person. The caste system organized such services (duties) into a system of occupations which, in effect, amounted to a technical division of labor. The abolition of rajakariya was the most problematic. As with taxation, the colonial state had always attempted to achieve multiple objectives through the abolition of rajakariya. These included curtailing the power of the former Lankan “chiefs” and land holders, securing a wage labor force, and expanding the tax base. For the colonial state, therefore, the abolition of rajakariya and the introduction of taxation were inseparable. Yet for the Lankans, these were radically different: rajakariya was a compulsory obligation and taxation was not. The average Ceylonese had always responded positively to the idea of abolishing rajakariya. This is apparent in the evasion of rajakariya when it was restored in maritime Ceylon after the revolt of 1796-97. 19 The revolt was, therefore, largely aimed against the taxes, but not against the abolition of rajakariya itself. The conflict between the colonial regime and the villagers in regard to the meaning of abolition made it difficult for the state to produce a labor force this way. W hen the rajakariya was abolished once again in 1833, the state faced a labor shortage in completing road works begun in the 1820s.20 The census of 1891 states that the Sinhalese did not readily go into plantation “lines,” and the limited Sinhalese labor came, for the most part, from neighboring villages. In addition, the coffee berries on the estates ripened at the same time as


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those on the home gardens of the peasants, to which they gave priority. Planter and one-time Assistant Colonial Secretary, P.E. W odehouse, stated that “you cannot very often depend upon the native labour; they will at certain seasons go to work upon their rice fields, whatever you may offer them.” 21 W hat these attitudes reveal is the tension between the worldviews of the colonial regime and the villagers. As Farmer puts it: ‘underdeveloped’ societies have a different view of things which are worthy of effort, and these things do not necessarily include technical change for its own sake, or as a sign of modernity, or as a means to more efficient production. The Westerner thinking about economic affairs in an Oriental setting cannot too often remember that, if one considers the whole known range of human attitudes to work and wealth, then the modern Western attitude is seen to be highly abnormal.22 Since the strategies of the colonial state were inadequate to produce a Ceylonese labor force, both planters and state resorted to importing cheap labor from southern India. The immigration of labor to Ceylon largely began in the 1830s, increasing to a regular flow in the 1840s. Although early immigrants were seasonal workers, by the 1850s, the component of women and children had increased, suggesting that they were forming a permanent labor force. The reduction of laborers’ mobility through the accumulation of high debts to the kangani--who was both the recruiter of labor from south India and, later, the supervisor on the estate--and the replacement of coffee by tea as the main plantation crop in the 1880s--which required a permanent labor force--established this trend. As workers came with wives and children for whom there was picking work all year round, the plantation society became a distinct world segregated from the surrounding villages. In this way, the colonial state produced a coercible, landless, and stateless work force in Ceylon.23 In addition to organizing a plantation system, the colonial state also provided the science and technology for the cultivation of coffee. This brought the knowledge base of coffee cultivation to a radically different level from that of the peasants. The main instrument of this was the botanical garden. A botanical garden was first established near Colombo in 1799; later, in 1822, after the conquest of Kandy, it was moved to Peradeniya, near Kandy. Supplementing botanical research, in 183437 a “specialist tropical agriculturist,” R.B. Tyler, introduced the so-called “Jamaican methods” of coffee planting in Ceylon. 24 Moreover, new approaches to plantations were developed during the depression of the late 1840s, making the plantation more efficient, economic, and different. Though coffee prices in the 1850s were lower than those in the 1840s, the cost of production had fallen so greatly that “the cost of bringing an acre of land under cultivation would be, in 1857, one tenth of the cost in 1844.” 25 The plantation industry responded to the depression in the world-economy of the late 1840s, emerging economically sound in the 1850s. The most immediate response to the depression, the selling and abandoning of estates, and the


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prohibition on civil servants owning plantations, resulted in a large number of estates changing hands, and producing a new breed of private proprietors. 26 This restructuring demonstrated that these plantations were sizeable economic units well capable of operating within the capitalist world-economy, and suggesting that the Ceylonese economy was well incorporated into it by the 1850s. As expanding incomes increased imports, Ceylon became increasingly dependent on this economy. 27 The plantation system gave rise to a whole new class structure which, while somewhat independent of the state, was also capable of dominating it. Since state revenues began to depend on coffee exports, planters emerged as a powerful economic and political force. The establishment of the Chamber of Commerce in 1839 and the Planters Association in 1854 completed the formation of a European land-owning planter capitalist class in Ceylon. In 1855, the mode of appointment of the unofficial European members to the Council was also changed, from nomination to election, elevating the Chamber of Commerce and Planters Association to the level of a constituency for three unofficial European members of the Legislative Council.28 In short, “the problems of the planter came to be regarded as synonymous with those of the country,” 29 and the economy with society. In sum, as plantations became the central institutions of the new economy, so was Ceylon constructed as a peripheral unit of the capitalist world-economy. Landscape and Built Form The space produced through these processes consisted of five principal components: first, the locus of the institutions through which capitalism extended its control over the colonial economy--banks, agency houses, trading companies, and shipping companies. The new economic command center where these were located was, in fact, overlain on the older colonial port city, Colombo. Second, the locus of production is the plantation complex, located in the highlands of Ceylon; third, the connection between these, the Colombo-Kandy communication axis. Finally, there are the sources of labor supply and the communication axes that connected these with the plantations. (figure 3.1) The establishment of coffee plantations transformed the central highlands into the locus of production in Ceylon, a space compatible with the European worldeconomy. Although the plantations spread out over a vast area, it was a centralized system of production compared to forms of Lankan agriculture. Not only were the estates large in scale and centrally controlled, they were also interlinked as a plantation complex supplying the same commodity, coffee, to the same market, through Colombo and London. This new capitalist space was both foreign to Lanka and also largely occupied by foreigners: British planters and superintendents representing absentee landlords and companies and south Indian “coolies.” The “coolies”--a pejorative term for a category of labor in the colonial context--were also produced as part of the colonial capitalist enterprise. Eric Meyer argues that Sinhalese villagers and Tamil plantation workers had, during the coffee era,


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attempted to co-operate with each other, but it was the planter who used separation as a means of control, maintaining a rigid boundary around the plantations and relying on apartheid as a means of social control. In contrast, assimilation was advantageous for the Lankan system, and the villagers continuously contested this separation. 30 Attempts to stop what the planter saw as “encroachments” by the Kandyans led to serious unrest which culminated in a major revolt in 1848.31 The villagers also invited the Tamils to join the rebellion, even when they launched an attack against a plantation in Matale District. 32 The road system, which provided the initial communication infrastructure for the military and political control of Ceylon, helped develop the plantation industry. The main route between Colombo and Kandy provided the basis for the development of plantations established around Kandy. By 1831, many of the principal towns in the Kandy area were accessible by road. Originally, each planter was compelled to build a road at his own expense linking it to the nearest government road. The coffee boom, however, underestimated expenses and exaggerated returns. 33 The Colombo-Kandy axis, which had represented political rivalry for three centuries, now took on an economic meaning, connecting the plantations with the colonial port and economic command center. Complementary to the Colombo-Kandy road were the roads from the northwestern ports of Ceylon to the central highlands. Along these the labor force marched from southern India. They were first marched up to the south Indian coast of Rameswaram, where they were placed in a fishing boat, dhoney, to Talaimannar of Ceylon. They then marched another two hundred kilometers or more through the jungle to the estates. These roads meant death for many, with corpses strewn along the sides. 34 According to the estimates of the Colombo Observer, twenty five percent of immigrants died during the period between 1841 to 1849, totaling as many as 70,000 persons.35 Although these estimates were challenged, the graveness of the problem is demonstrated in the debate between the state and the planters as to who was responsible for these deaths. The route was gradually improved with the building of treatment centers--“dignified shacks”--and resting places-ambalams. References suggest that later there were four “hospitals” for “the exclusive use of Malabars,” in Gampola, Kurunegala, Puttalam, and M atale. 36 Forming the plantation complex, each estate was organized as a production unit with processing facilities and with the factory and office at the center of the estate. In regard to the collective consumption of the laborers, the responsibility of the individual estate was minimal but included the distribution of food rations, housing, and a rudimentary school. These few facilities were supplemented by bazaars and temporary shops in nearby villages. 37 From the beginning of the twentieth century, the planters stepped up their attempt to keep the labor force on the estate by opening shops, canteens, and taverns, building more decent lines, dispensaries, temples, sometimes schools, and by allowing the workers to cultivate their own vegetable plots on estate land. 38 According to M eyer, however, the estate was never a selfcontained kingdom where planters could rule, uncontested, over the labor force, since they were neither slaves nor indentured laborers in the conventional sense. 39


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Each estate was organized both hierarchically and as a divided settlement, spatially evident in the forms of accommodation and their location. The types of accommodation these estates produced, both for planters and estate laborers, were evolved forms of shelter particular to metropolitan and colonial cultures. Planters’ dwellings, part of a system of accommodation utilized in cash-crop production operated by representatives of British colonial culture, were political- and culturespecific forms known as bungalows.40 These represented the high standard of living of the planter capitalist class, as the owners of coffee--and later tea--plantations, and their representatives. These provided family accommodation with spaces for domestic servants and individual services such as water, sewage, and later, electricity.41 Individually located on spacious sites, they were built for the conspicuous consumption of space, views, scenery, time, goods, and money. 42 Gardens were landscaped with “exotic” plants, employing the same labor of estate workers, particularly that of women and children. Accommodation provided for so-called “coolies” represented a completely different world; reproduction of labor power took place at a bare minimum. Accommodation was in “lines,” narrow rows of rooms up to about one hundred yards long and ten feet wide. Each block was divided into approximately 10’x10’ rooms opening onto a common veranda, in each of which lived six to ten people. Unlike the extensive consumption spaces of the bungalow, lines were mere “shelters” of a purely utilitarian nature, with cooking mostly done outside. Some used the verandah to keep cattle while others enclosed it. “Lines” had no selfprovisioning, and little attention was paid to drainage, ventilation, and privacy. 43 W ithout windows and doors, but having a mere opening to enter, rooms were gloomy, dismal, and unhealthy. Maternal and infant mortality rates in plantations lines were far greater than the rest of Ceylon. Most estates did not provide latrines and the laborers developed the habit of defecating on the surface of the soil. Exceptionally, plantations set apart a block of land in the vicinity of the lines, for them to deposit excreta. Rarely, dwellers provided flimsy envelopes with temporary materials such as jute bagging and cadjan (woven coconut leaves). Such conditions not only accustomed laborers to “unhealthy” habits but, from a metropolitan perspective, encouraged the development of prejudices against plantation workers who were seen as having such habits “naturally.” This created serious impediments to improvements in the general state of sanitation.44 The Reorganization of W orld-Space and the Structures of Knowledge Production The plantations in Ceylon were part of a larger global plantation complex which, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were a vital component of the overseas economies of France, the Netherlands, and Great Britain.45 They were part of a system of raw material production--which also included mines--developed, over three centuries, by European imperial powers across continents. Although the first successful plantations in Ceylon were established through the


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appropriation of peasant coffee cultivation, the transfer of plants and botanical knowledge directed the kind of cash crop grown. Botanists in Peradeniya Gardens in Kandy experimented with a number of species, including rubber (brought from Brazil in 1876), cinchona (a tree growing wild in the Andes until the 1850s), and indigenous tea.46 The planters were thus in a position to replace the cash crop when, due to a leaf disease, coffee plantations declined in the 1870s. Tea, rubber, and coconut plantations replaced coffee, reproducing the plantation system. Tea displaced coffee in the 1880s, and by 1887, the area under tea had increased to 157,000 acres, and in 1936 there were about 2350 estates.47 Rubber exports expanded following the boom of 1905 produced by the nascent automobile industry. 48 The transfer of plants, particularly in the nineteenth century, was a well organized activity, the political control of which lay in Europe. Expanding the institution of botanical gardens on an imperial scale, Kew Gardens opened up branches throughout the British Empire, including India (1768), Jamaica (1793), and Ceylon (1810). Kew Gardens had become a center for botanical research by 1772 and, in the nineteenth century, established itself as the “command center” for the transfer of economically valuable plants across continents.49 In Ceylon, botanical gardens were established at Peradeniya, Hakgala, Heneratgoda, Anuradhapura, and Badulla. 50 In effect, the west Europeans were developing a “whole” new world. The transfer of people and plants are examples of a much larger redistribution and reorganization of the elements of space--also including animals, food types, and diseases--all of which helped to incorporate an extant “natural” environment into a European, “man-made” one. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century webs of long spanning and complex socio-spatial chains were being produced, restructuring world-space. As King puts it, the gardens producing the staple diet of industrial workers in England were located in the Empire, growing tea, sugar, cocoa, and wheat, “voluntarily” imported from the colonies of India, the W est Indies, W est Africa, and Canada; the cotton cloth worn by tea-plantation workers in Assam or Ceylon, “involuntarily” imported from Britain, were manufactured in the mills of Lancashire. 51 Just as the transfer of plants, people, and technology, transformed the contents of imperial and world spaces at a material level, so surveying, mapping, cartography, and classification complemented this at a perceptual level. Although Ptolemy’s preoccupation was largely based on religious, cosmic, and mathematical aspects, the renewal of interest in maps in fifteenth century Europe focussed on the appropriation of world-space for secular, military, and commercial purposes. Crucial here is the west European re-mapping of the world through its homogenization within a single schema, and then the production of new differentiations and nodes within it. Modern cartography perceived the world as an homogenous surface, organized around an equilateral grid of longitudes and latitudes. This representational form erased all other identities and signatures standing in its way, transforming extant space into a tabula rasa. Each place was


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to derive its uniqueness from the coordinates of the colonizers’ grid. In the nineteenth century, imperial surveying and cartography redefined and renamed places, rivers, and mountains, bringing every corner of the world under its authority. 52 These names, often derived from British places, monarchs, members of the royal family, nobles, and colonial officials were radically different from those of the Ceylonese, which were usually descriptive, for example, Maha Nuwara (the principal city), Ihalagama (upper village), Mahaweli Ganga (sandy river). As Peter Jackson argues, the naming and renaming of places is a crucial aspect of geographical “discovery,” establishing proprietorial claims through association with the colonizing power. 53 Space and place were thus relocated within a European cultural sphere. Yet the conflict between the “systematic mapping of Ceylon” and the use of surveying as a tool to block out land as private property was significant. The colonial social order could neither be confirmed nor extended into so-called virgin territories without the creation of property through the quantification and mapping of space. Demonstrating the significance of surveying, the colonial state established a Survey Department as early as 1801. Yet even in the mid nineteenth century, a significant proportion of geographic information was borrowed from old Dutch maps. Brohier speculates that, in the case of urban areas, the practice of supplementing a title deed with a lot diagram based on its measurements had been started by the Dutch in the 1660s, and keeping a record of every allotment by the state was institutionalized under the new system of tenure introduced in the 1740s.54 As colonial economic, political, and cultural practices brought parts of the world close together, the development of a particular system of knowledge in the W estern core states brought the perception of the world into a single framework of time and space, undermining the cultural and historic worldviews of the “others.” History is cultural, and culture is a process of ordering knowledge; 55 the knowledge on which we are focussing was constructed within the cultural systems that the imperial metropoles were developing. Frank Perlin argues that colonial history was affiliated with European history, and not that of the colonized.56 European powers have thus colonized the mind in addition to the body. 57 In this process, Eurocentrism presents itself as universalist for it claims that imitation of the W estern model by all peoples is the only solution to the challenges of our time. Just as flora and fauna in the colonies were forced into European botanical and biological categories, Lanka and the Lankans were relocated into new European temporal and spatial relationships. 58 For Nandy, colonization is “objectification,” and W estern science has built a structure of near-total isolation where human beings themselves--including all their suffering and moral experience--have been objectified as things and processes, to be vivisected, manipulated or corrected.59 For example, colonial officials in Ceylon related the disease parangi (yaws) to a diet which included kurakkan, a dry grain which was the principal product of chena cultivation. This led them to view chena cultivation, widely practiced in the Dry Zone, as senseless and to argue for its replacement by “permanent” wet paddy culture.60


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The west European construction of the “Climatic Other” is of utmost importance to issues of space. According to King, the institution of ‘science,’ especially, ‘tropical medicine’ or ‘tropical architecture,’ comprising ethnoscientific ideas about disease, cultural expectations of health, perceptions of climate and environment, and cultural beliefs and practices regarding various populations in subordinate and superordinate positions.61 W est European geographic categories such as the “tropics” replaced the former Iberian conception of “India,” yet reproduced the large-scale conceptualization of Europe and an homogenous “rest-of-the-world.” The west European “Climatic Other” was, however, a subtle objectification of the subjects referring to more impersonal, material, and scientific factors than the Iberian “Cultural Other” which explicitly referred to their culture and the belief system. This notion was to promote climatic determinism.62 It is within such a framework that London and Liverpool Schools of Tropical Medicine were established in 1899. The new field of “tropical medicine” provided scientific credence to the idea that the tropical world is inherently disease ridden compared to the safer and sanitized temperate world. 63 The diffusion of urban planning and architectural knowledge, particularly constructed for the “Tropical Other,” was undertaken by educational and professional institutions of the metropole. The first paper on “Tropical Architecture” read at RIBA was given in 1869. 64 Along with schools of tropical medicine, courses on “tropical architecture” also began in Britain. Later, British Commonwealth membership increased the capacity for post-colonial subjects to travel to the metropole and other dominions for the study of such “tropical architecture.” The particular imperial conjuncture and the forms of this knowledge have given rise to an international division of labor and authority in the production, legitimation, and circulation of knowledge in which the key centers were located in west European metropoles. Confirming this hierarchical structure of knowledge production and referring to the unevenness it created, M ax W eber notes that “only in the W est does science exist at a stage of development which we recognize to-day as valid.” 65 The structured reality that science proposed implied that alternatives are not possible once such knowledge is established.66 In this singular system of production and distribution of knowledge, the dependency of colonies and the peripheral societies of the capitalist world-economy towards the core-states was affirmed. The development of these all encompassing “regimes of truth” is reflected in the Hegelian belief that the Eastern spirit was static whereas the W estern one was oriented to change and development. Moreover, the broader institutions of science and the monopolization of knowledge production in the metropoles deprived the colonized from deploying particular forms of knowledge as a means of resistance. A crucial aspect of this argument is the development of economics as a--if not the--central determinant of life, a cultural aspect of capitalist Europe that was


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imposed upon their colonial subordinates. Especially with Adam Smith’s contribution to the notion of the secularization of wealth, economists became the proprietors of progress. W ith progress becoming an irrefutable, universal truth, the primacy of economics would be instrumental in replacing ethics with reason. 67 This ideology equates the well being of a society with its ability to foster “economic development,” an avatar of the “industrial revolution.” “Economic development” thus not only “scientifically” propagates the particular historical path taken by W estern industrialized states as the common destiny of each individual nation, but also measures the social well being of the society by its capacity to progress in this direction. This has become a central theme in urban development and planning. Along with a world history, the British authorities reconfigured Ceylonese history, including the rewriting of Lankan history from a secular and outsider’s point of view. The “empire-builders” from the British upper classes were educated and patronizing, carrying with them their patronizing attitude towards the people of their own country. The first scholars to approach the great chronicle, Mahawamsa, from such a position were colonial writers such as James Cordiner, Robert Percival, Anthony Bertolacci, and John Davy who refused to accept the possibility of a Lankan historiography that was not myth or fable. Commenting on some of the oldest historical literature in south Asia, Davy did not hesitate to assert that the Sinhalese do not possess an accurate record of events; they were ignorant of genuine history, and not sufficiently advanced to relish it.68 Instead, what the Sinhalese have are legendary tales. 69 The first modern compilation of Sri Lankan Tamil history, the Yalpana Vaipava-Malai, was also written in 1736 at the initiative of a Dutch official administering Jaffna.70 One after the other, British writers continued to re-write Lankan history, including the translation of ancient chronicles such as the Mahawamsa and Culawamsa from Pali, so that the Ceylonese, once the cultural capacity to use English had been acquired, could read this new history in English. The Production of Colonial Subjects Although colonial society in Ceylon was, at first, unfamiliar to the Lankans, education provided the means to familiarize this society and space to them and transform themselves into its subjects. W hat the colonial state had to accomplish was to provide the means whereby the Ceylonese could understand what these social structures, spaces, and symbols meant and to recognize their subordinate position within these. As the main means of producing such subjects, the Commission recommended that a system of education “should be held out to natives whereby they may in time qualify themselves for holding some of the appointments.” 71 This would both facilitate the employment of Ceylonese in the English-speaking administration as well as make the colonial language an agent of social mobility. The requirement that the unofficial members of the Legislative Council, appointed by the Governor, speak English, made English education a necessity to become a “politician” within the colonial governmental system.


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English was established as the language of the government, the medium of courts, trade, and commerce. 72 In order to facilitate the circulation of British knowledge in Ceylon, five English schools were established in the early 1830s. At the same time the government sponsorship for the Sinhalese and Tamil schools was abolished.73 By 1835 there were 235 Protestant schools, 90 government-controlled schools, and about 100 Catholic schools. The urban structure of Ceylon, constructed through Provincial and District capitals, provided the necessary infrastructure for the organization of the colonial educational system. English schools were built at Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Jaffna, and Chilaw. Since the emphasis was now placed on these leading schools, the centers of education moved from the villages to towns. Completing the educational system, the state established the Colombo Academy (later Royal College), in 1836, and introduced Cambridge University examinations in Ceylon in 1880. Both their location and the curriculum reinforced the process of urbanization, from rural schools to the main English ones, and then, to Cambridge University. As Frantz Fanon has argued, “colonialism tended not only to deprive a society of its freedom and wealth, but of its very character, leaving its people intellectually and morally disoriented.” 74 Institutions such as education and religion provided the opportunity for these disoriented “natives” to transform themselves into subjects of the new colonial society and space. It was more the establishment of this British cultural and knowledge hegemony that created the colonial society and space of Ceylon, and particularly, the durability of its urban spatial structures, than the mere installment of a colonial administration. The Landscape of Colonial Institutions As the communication system and its related urban structure provided the basis for the development of a plantation based economy, they were also incorporated into this economy. The increase of state revenues from the expanding coffee industry, with the state re-investing part of this revenue in the physical infrastructure --including the building and repairing of roads and irrigation works--produced a major building boom in the 1870s and 1880s, particularly in Colombo. 75 Kandy became the headquarters of the main planting interests, and the most developed town after Colombo. Jaffna and Galle grew as regional centers in northern and southern Ceylon. This exemplifies the reinforcement and expansion of the extant urban network, adding a broad international and regional significance to it. Profitable plantations and the expanding economy attracted financial and service industries, consisting of banks, insurance companies, and agency houses, and which carried out the management and business functions of the estates. By the 1870s, especially with the increase in the size of vessels, the expansion of the harbor had made Colombo by far the most prominent port in Ceylon. Colombo’s growing


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FIGURE 3.2 Clapham Junction of the East: Colombo’s centrality in 1900. From: Philip, ed., 52-53. centrality, especially with the introduction of railways and telegraphs, undermined the competitiveness of Galle. Colombo was always much more than just the capital of Ceylon. The many institutions and the size of their operations, as well as the buildings that Colombo contained, were far greater than what the capital of Ceylon required. As early twentieth century maps demonstrate, Colombo was centrally located on major world shipping lines with links to Albany (Australia), Penang (Malaya), Rangoon (Burma), Mauritius, and Aden. (figure 3.2) According to Dharmasena, Colombo stood on three major routes: from Europe to Madras via Cape Town; to the Coromandel coast and Calcutta; and to Bombay and the Far East. 76 This was complemented by the development of Colombo harbor as a coaling station and a calling port in Asia, particularly for vessels plying between Britain and Australia. 77 At the turn of the century Colombo was known as “the Clapham Junction of the East.” 78 Henry W . Cave described it as “a spot on which converge the steamships of all nations for coal and the exchange of freight and passengers.” 79 The harbor was expanded in 1874 to accommodate fifty steamers and a breakwater was constructed, at a colossal cost of £2½ million.80 This had a significant impact on Colombo’s landscape. By the 1890s, the docks had become one of the most significant places in the city. Outside the port, the expanding labor force transformed the area north of the fort (especially Kochchikade) into one of the first urban working class settlements.


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These transformations redefined Colombo’s role, reinforcing its position within the imperial urban system. The city seems to have grown into an “international” financial center during the late nineteenth century. Its new economic role was evident in the establishment of the First Bank of Ceylon (1841), the Mercantile Bank of India (1854), The Bank of Madras (1867), The National Bank of India (1881), the Chartered Bank of India, London and Australia (1892), and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (1902). A decimal system of currency was also established in 1872, and gold was made legal tender at Rs.15 (Rupees) a sovereign. These financial institutions laid the foundations for what a century later would be Colombo’s attempt to become a major financial center in south and southeast Asia. W ith the addition of these banks and other institutional buildings, the landscape of Colombo was radically transformed. Hotels were built to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors and tourists. There were three major hotels during this time: Grand Oriental, Bristol Hotel, and Galle Face Hotel, which was rebuilt in a Renaissance style in 1894. Along with the commercial and financial institutions, state institutions also expanded: a Municipal Council in 1865 for the administration of the city and the construction of a M unicipal Council building in 1873. 81 The morphogenesis that Colombo was undergoing was characterized by the interrelated processes of the outward expansion of Colombo--into areas such as Cinnamon Gardens--and the restructuring of the older areas--particularly the fort area--transforming them into parts of this new and larger Colombo. The impressive scale of this development is indicated in the description of the Cave Building: “Quite close to the lighthouse is a fine building occupying the corner of Upper Chatham and Queen Streets with a frontage of four hundred feet.” 82 By the end of the century most former Dutch buildings had already disappeared “giving place to colossal houses of business befitting the dignity of the port.” 83 The extent of early twentieth century Colombo, the scale of its harbor, and its spectacular buildings and architecture only make sense when seen as those of a major node in the larger imperial urban system. It was this critical role within the larger Empire which boosted its development, not least, its architectural and spatial provisions, planned in relation to London and Perth, Calcutta and Cape Town, but not in relation to Kandy, Anuradhapura or any place in the interior of Ceylon. At the same time, however, Colombo’s role as the economic, political, and communication center of Ceylon also became well established. The introduction of the railways in the 1860s reinforced this communication network, at the same time destroying the Sinhalese monopoly in transportation, where 79,000 carts traveled between Colombo and Kandy annually. The Sinhalese largely used bullock carts, double-bullock carts and single-bullock hackeries, which took six to eight days either way in the 1850s. The trains took only four and a half hours. If speed, tight scheduling, as well as organized procedure for loading, unloading, refueling, and maintenance justified the cost of steamers in international transportation, the same factors justified railways within Ceylon. The dominance of the planter’s


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needs is also evident in the spatial layout of the railways. The first railway line, between Colombo and Kandy, was extended further into the highlands in the 1870s and 1880s, linking more remote coffee and tea plantation areas with Colombo and serving the hill station at Nuwara Eliya. Subsequently, the extension of railways to Mannar, and connecting it with the south Indian Tuticorin line (opened in 1875) by a ferry service, provided a more reliable form of transportation of labor for the plantations. 84 Railways, telegraph, and other means of communication radiating from Colombo connected all principal towns within Ceylon to Colombo in the first instance, but then to the major commodity exchanges of the world--M anchester, Liverpool, London, and Paris. In 1858, a mere four years after the laying of a telegraph line between Calcutta and Bombay, the line was extended to Ceylon. By the early twentieth century, Ceylon had highly organized postal, telegraph, and telephone services with over a hundred call offices and 25,000 miles of telephone wire for subscribers, most of whom were in Colombo. 85 Affluence, particularly manifested in the late nineteenth century major construction boom, gave rise to a range of new institutions and spaces. There was not only a rapid expansion of leisure buildings in terms of resorts and spas but also the intervention of new building forms and leisure environments, whether the seafront promenade, winter gardens, or specialized vacation house.86 In the colonies, however, labor was cheap, more resources were available, and the members of the colonial community were more powerful in carrying out their aspirations than their compatriots in the metropole. The leisure and conspicuous consumption, therefore, extended to a wider group of colonial officials. The Nuwara Eliya hill station and the suburb of Cinnamon Gardens provide two good examples of this. The development of Nuwara Eliya as a European resort was begun by the Governor, Edward Barnes, who visited the area in 1827 and built a house there for “summer” use. Nuwara Eliya soon attracted the attention of the colonial community which soon transformed it into a hill station. King argues that these highland settlements resulted from a particular set of environmental preferences, demonstrating the distinctive residential models available for the colonial community; they are also explained by the particular ethno-medical theories supporting the view that hill stations were healthier than residence on the plains. 87 W ith the increase in the income of the state, and from plantations, especially from the mid-nineteenth century, these pursuits began to be viewed as a regular aspect of social life by the broader colonial community. Hence, the hill station of Nuwara Eliya represents both the growing affluence of the colonial system and the socialization of its benefits to a larger segment of the colonial community. In addition to a healthy environment, the hill station was also a place that replicated both the social and physical environments of “home.” The extensive plateau of Nuwara Eliya, encircled by hills, was therefore transformed into a proto“Lake District” with two lakes, a race-course, two golf links, public gardens, and several hotels. 88 Urwick, who visited Nuwara Eliya in the late 1870s, commented


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that “Here one seems to get into England again; English-looking cottages, with gardens full of English flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables; oaks and firs, green fields and hedges, robins and black-birds, bracing breezes and crisp, frosty nights.” 89 Although the “ice” that could complete the ambience was absent, the piercing cold wind frequently complained of in England was never felt, and the temperature in Nuwara Eliya never approached what is called “tropical heat.” 90 In short, for the B ritish, Nuwara Eliya was the Buxton of Ceylon, its greatest sanatorium. Emphasizing the high level of consumption, houses were located on spacious sites, near culturally significant physical features such as lakes and woods, and usually providing residents with long range views of valleys and mountain ranges. (figure 3.3) The multiplicity of house forms reflected the Victorian preference for variety. 91 The principal house form, however, was a modified form of bungalow, with reduced veranda space and corrugated iron roofing, a compromise between an English cottage and a colonial bungalow adapted to the environmental and cultural conditions of the place. Nuwara Eliya thus reflected a “little England,” but within a colonial context. Hidden behind the “English looking facades,” were the comforts of the spatially differentiated domestic architecture of the colonial community, with specialized spaces for sleeping and eating, private and social functions, all maintained by the availability of servants. In order to facilitate leisure based travel, the British also introduced the institution of the “rest house.” Due to the absence of culturally appropriate overnight resting places in Ceylon, in the early nineteenth century the houses of

FIGURE 3.3 Space in time: Nuwara Eliya hill station.


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colonial officials had been used as places of “public entertainment” for travelers. 92 This function was gradually taken over by rest houses constructed by the Department of Public W orks, particularly for the use of civil servants. Turner wrote in the 1920s, “Ceylon is singularly fortunate in possessing 175 rest houses.” 93 Built of stone, roofed with tiles, these were organized around rooms with specialized functions and the services of servants. These provided both food and accommodation at rates subsidized by the colonial state. W hat this replaced was the former Lankan institution of Ambalama, the resting place for travelers, usually built along roads. Apparently there were ambalams in every village and they appeared more frequently along main roads. This was usually an open structure consisting of a roof on four columns with a square ground plan and elevated seating spaces. Elaborate ones had more columns and provisions to use temporary cloth partitions for privacy. Travelers were expected to bring utensils to cook. Unlike in rest houses, the users were not provided with food, but with firewood, water, and, sometimes, a knife. Ambalams were also used as a meeting place, both formal and informal, by the villagers. Another set of more elaborate “rest houses,” madamas, supplied visitors with food and firewood.94 These new spaces of resorts, hill stations, and rest houses, were developed within a new metropolitan perception of time. The division of the day between “work” and “leisure” and the year between “work” and “vacation” was part of the emergent culture of west European industrial societies. It was a culture based upon the task-oriented organization of the individual’s time, replacing a distribution of time organized to suit other “natural” compulsions, such as weather patterns, and social and cultural obligations, such as participating in religious festivals, marriages, and funerals. In contrast, colonial time is part of a larger, “industrial” organization of time within fiscal years, work days and holidays, weeks and weekends, and the organization of life around European-Christian notions of time. 95 Places such as Nuwara Eliya and Cinnamon Gardens (discussed below) from the fort area or the plantations represent the spatial constitution of this structured time, particularly, the separation of both “everyday life” and “recreation” from “work.” The impressive clock tower that stood at the center of the fort was a permanent reminder of the triumph of this new colonial time, space, and culture in Ceylon. Carlo Cipolla argues that soon after its appearance in Europe, the clock assumed the role of a status symbol. Towns competed with one another in the construction of the most lavish clocks and many of these municipal time pieces possessed elaborate movements and dials whose meaning only a few could understand. 96 In Colombo, the lavish design of the clock tower, combined with a lighthouse, by the wife of Governor Henry W ard (1855-60), was given a commanding presence by its prominent location at the principal intersection between King’s Street and Chatham Street. (figure 3.4) If Europe was influenced by the clock tower while using it, in Colombo, it stood as a reminder and symbol of the new capitalist and industrial temporal discipline imposed upon the society. Separating work and residential spaces, the colonial elite also created the urban residential space of the suburb. In the late seventeenth century, high ranking Dutch


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officials preferred to live outside the city, for example, just north of the Oude Stad, in Hultsdorf and Grandpass. As the Dutch had insufficient political authority, these houses were located in protected areas and poor economic conditions limited these luxuries to a few high ranking officials. (figure 2.5) These Dutch houses were, therefore, more comparable to the country houses or villas of a European elite, designed for their owner’s enjoyment and relaxation, than a suburban dwelling type. The British Governor’s country lodge at San Sebastian, “situated very prettily on a freshwater lake, that neatly insulates the fort, of which there is a pleasing view,“ 97 also belonged to this category. As with the hill station, this luxury began to be expected by a larger group of colonial officials and were institutionalized as a regular aspect of urban life in the late nineteenth FIGURE 3.4 The triumph of Colonial time: Chatham Street clock tower, Colombo, 1850s. century. Cinnamon Gardens represents a greater socialization of residential living away from work giving rise to a form of proto-rural living within the urban, but only when it had become economically feasible and politically viable. The early location of colonial residences was governed by functional needs, such as the proximity to the port and warehouses and security. By the mid-nineteenth century, members of the colonial community neither needed nor wished to live in the fort area and the prevalent ethno-medical ideas also favored spacious low-density layouts. The disappearance of the need for high security is evident in the dismantling of the fort in 1869. Moreover, the limitations in transport and communication had also been reduced. The introduction of man-pulled vehicles, especially the jingrickshaw from Hong Kong in 1884, not only provided transportation for the increasingly affluent colonial community, but also the imagery of social power that they enjoyed.98 (figure 3.5) The construction of Cinnamon Gardens represented the first large scale expansion of the city, for its authorities, as well as the shift of the elite from the city center to its outskirts. As with the Nuwara Eliya hill station and the Galle Face promenade, here too the colonial regime was able to make use of a “no man’s” land, at Cinnamon


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FIGURE 3.5 The aura of power: Bungalows of Cinnamon Gardens and the private rickshaw in the 1890s. From: Cave, 67; Ferguson, 107. Gardens. In a situation where the contestations of the indigenous inhabitants were minimal, it is likely that there was not much of a difference between the conceptualized form of the settlement and its final materialized form. It was initiated with the laying out of spacious park and flower gardens as the focus,


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naming it after the British Empress, Victoria, and by selling the land around for residential building. 99 Further familiarizing the settlement for the colonial community, the area around it was laid out as a system of radial streets named after British Governors of Ceylon, for example, Horton Place, Torrington Place, and Cameron Place, and leading to the circular road around the park, with its crescents, the names of which recalled members of the royal family, Edinburgh, Albert, and Guildford Crescents crossing the radials. The streets were planted with a row of trees on either side, and in some cases, along the center such that they resembled boulevards, as for example, with Green Path, traversing Victoria Park. (figure 3.6) The layout of Cinnamon Gardens demonstrates a particular set of social and aesthetic beliefs that begin to value country living in the context of rapidly industrializing cities in the metropole. The dominance of the garden city movement in the ideological and cultural context of British planning in the first half of the twentieth century is well known. Although Colombo, unlike most nineteenth century metropolitan cities, was neither an industrial city nor polluted, the planned suburb as a specialized urban residential area was laid out as early as the late nineteenth century. Yet the form of Cinnamon Gardens does not represent the ideals of the romanticism but was laid out according to a strict geometry. If urban densities in the fort limited private gardens to the rear, in Cinnamon Gardens the practice was to have a garden all round, with various functions assigned to them. Bungalows were laid out in spacious sites of about an acre, a complete reversal of the early colonial urban landscapes that Percival described as having a “compact appearance to which we are accustomed.” 100 The restructuring of Colombo in the 1860s was not limited to the construction of Cinnamon Gardens. The open field of fire to the south of the fort--controlled by the military--was transformed into a seaside promenade, Galle Face. This open lawn of about one mile long and three hundred yards wide is located between the sea and Beira Lake on the west and the east, with the fort area and the 180-room Galle Face Hotel (1894) to the north and south. The disbandment of the Ceylon Rifles Regiments between 1869 and 1871 opened up Slave Island, where the British stationed these, mostly Malay, regiments. The freed-up military bands were used to provide entertainment at Galle Face and Victoria Park, creating a symbolic space which embodied “British dignity, culture, and power.” From 1887, the English cricket team played a test match on their tours to Australia at Galle Face. 101 The political and economic authorities of the colony, however, continued to be located in the Fort area, but now a place without fortifications. Concurrently, Pettah was transformed into the “national” center of communication, with the central rail and bus stations, from which railway and bus lines radiated, as well as the locus of wholesale activity. The separation of elite residences in Cinnamon Gardens, and other developments such as the building of a promenade skirting the sea front in Galle Face, not only spread out the social and economic functions of Colombo in the 1860s, but also specialized them into functionally defined zones, although “zoning” was yet to be introduced as a formal urban planning tool.


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Nonetheless, the larger Colombo area also reproduced the space of the colonial cultural groups that were formerly located within the fort. By the early twentieth century Cinnamon Gardens was growing into a second center of colonial power, reproducing the divided city at a larger scale. This is manifest in the establishment of British cultural institutions, such as the civil hospital and medical school, museum, library, the Municipal Council theater, and later, the Council building in Cinnamon Gardens. The cultural institutions of Cinnamon Gardens included an Anglican church, cricket pitch, a (Havelock) race course, (Ridgeway) golf links, and clubs (Garden Club and Prince’s Club). 102 The colonial community’s desire to secure colonial cultural space is most evident in working within and outside the Legislative Council to defeat a government proposal to construct railways to the south of Ceylon across either Galle Face or Cinnamon Gardens. 103 Unlike their attitude towards the fort in the early part of the nineteenth century, the British did not prevent non-British inhabitants from moving into Cinnamon Gardens. The selection was largely effected through the real estate market and restricting the membership of their prime cultural clubs, in which the “colored” and “blacks” were debarred from membership. 104 Homogenization of the Built Environment In many respects, the construction of the new built environment and culture in Ceylon operated at the “international” level of the British Empire, linking the imperial metropole and the colonies. Carrying over the monopoly of the colonial regime, the Public W orks Department institutionalized the distinct ways in which the “official” built culture of Ceylon was to be produced. As a department of the colonial state, the Public W orks Department was simultaneously a constituent element of the larger administrative structure that held the Empire together.105 The buildings produced by colonial state agencies across the Empire provided more of a uniformity, representing these as belonging to a single social and cultural system. 106 (figure 3.7) As Gwendolyn W right suggests in relation to the French Empire, if differences in architecture reflected the cultural and geographical differences of the colonies, the uniformity that was particularly prevalent in the most prestigious buildings demonstrated that they belonged to the larger architectural space of the British Empire. 107 Officials in the Public W orks Department and the colonial community did not replicate the metropolitan culture and built forms, but ones which were specifically modified according to climatic, resource, cultural, environmental, and other conditions and constraints in particular colonial situations.108 This is where the concept of “colonial third culture” becomes valuable, as the official colonial built environment is built as part of this culture. King has defined this as, “the European colonial culture which resulted from the transformation of metropolitan cultural institutions as they came into contact with the culture of the indigenous society.” 109 That the colonial community had shown the greatest commitment to the export of grand styles of metropolitan architecture to Ceylon with little adaptation is


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FIGURE 3.7 The imperial landscape: Colombo Town Hall (1920s), the Parliament and Secretariat (1930s), General Post Office (1850s).


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particularly evident in two periods: from the 1830s up to about the 1860s, and again in the 1910s through 1930s. It was, therefore, a part of a larger imperial landscape which replaced the former Lankan built environments, and which had been organized within several kingdoms. The process of production and circulation of architectural ideas was also transformed, from one of appropriation, to appropriation and diffusion. Focussing on historic Lankan roofs, Bandaranayake has argued that the forms of historic religio-royal buildings were largely rooted in the organic traditions of the village. 110 Yet the social stratification of the built environment was constructed by preventing the dissemination and emulation of the “official architecture,” this way protecting the visibility of the uppermost strata by monopolizing these built forms by social and legal means. In regard to the larger imperial built environment, King has demonstrated the appropriation of a Bengali peasant house form by the British to construct the particular colonial bungalow form, and re-circulating it as an appropriate cultural form over different parts of the Empire. 111 The export of built forms from the metropoles to the colonies did not take a linear, or uniform, but rather a varied trajectory. Here I would identify four different stages, albeit not contiguous or exclusive, nor progressive, but representing different colonial attitudes towards the built environment. In the early stages of colonialism, as Thomas Metcalf has observed in regard to India, the British did not pay much attention to “architecture,” 112 neither British nor Lankan. During this period, up to the 1830s, the principal objective of the colonial regime was the conquest of Ceylon--ruled by the Dutch--and Kandy. Although the British required particular forms of accommodation they were more concerned with their function than with their symbolism. Functions also included crude symbolism such as building the Kadugannawa tunnel, which highlighted a “technological superiority,” but not “high style” architecture. Hence, after the appropriation of Ceylon in 1796, the British seem to have been content with adopting Dutch buildings in Colombo, as well as their forms of defense, including the fort, with little modification. Similarly, with the appropriation of Kandy in 1815, they began adapting Kandyan buildings, as discussed in Chapter Two. After the subjection of Kandy, the colonial regime embarked on a practice of aggressively following metropolitan institutions and building forms as models, stamping their authority on the built environment. This is evident in the King’s pavilion and St. Paul’s church built in metropolitan/colonial architectural styles in Kandy. This trend was slow but steady until the 1870s. The buildings erected during the building booms of the 1870s and 1880s were largely of metropolitan origin. Representing the political authority and economic prosperity of the period, and so-called Victorian taste, the building types and forms varied. These include the G eorgian and arcaded General Post Office, the cast iron Fort railway station, and the Gothic town hall built in 1873 in Pettah. In regard to India, Evenson argues that, from the 1860s, the British became the self-appointed guardians of Indian civilization.113 Yet the simultaneous need for the symbolic elaboration of colonial buildings created conditions for the use of some


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decorative elements from Mogul buildings, giving rise to what was called an “IndoSaracenic” style in India between the 1860s and 1910s. 114 Attempts to appropriate “native aesthetics” can also be seen in other European empires during this period, for example the French Empire, 115 suggesting similarities of trajectories. During the period in which the European colonizers’ attention was attracted by the mysteries and marvels of the colonized, there is enough evidence to believe that British attention in Ceylon was drawn more towards the historic irrigation works. The example of the ruined tanks and canals in the so-called dry zone, some of which were about two-thousand years old, presented a challenge to the British who, in their perception, belonged to a nation with unbound confidence in its technological abilities. They also provided a powerful motive as the restoration of irrigation works would bring credit to the government in the eyes of local people. 116 This is demonstrated by the creation of the Archaeology Department in 1890 and Irrigation Department in 1900. It is important to notice that all the departments significant for the conquest and administration of the territory were established within a few years after the takeover of Colombo, but the departments necessary for the restoration or studying of Lankan historic structures were only created in the late nineteenth century. Also reflecting specific cultural developments in the metropole, the British established the Kandyan Arts and Crafts Association in the 1880s to protect and encourage Kandyan arts and crafts. Associated with these reservoirs and colossal buildings and stupas, the historic Raja Rata civilization became a focus of study and institutions were created to deal with what was increasingly being represented as the “Other” culture. By then Lankan culture was a dead force for the British, and their interest turned to preserving artifacts of a past, and a culture that is “different.” Most exemplary is the construction of a museum in 1877,117 its “Georgian” style symbolically framing the appropriation of one culture by the dominant other. This building, the aim of which was to “store” Lankan historic culture, was the most prominent building in Cinnamon Gardens until the grand Municipal Council building was built in the 1920s. Behind the Georgian facade of the M useum was a central hall displaying brass and ivory, galleries for Ceylonese products; natural history; rocks, minerals, and gems; indigenous birds, fishes, and insects; and archaeological rooms, all displayed within this single building in the Cinnamon Gardens. Around 1910, following the rubber boom, another group of buildings sprang up. By the 1920s, the British had begun to build in a more grandiose neoclassical style prevalent in the metropole. The most notable examples are the new Secretariat and Parliament (council chambers) and the town hall of the 1920s. This return to metropolitan high styles demonstrated a more rigorous projection of the image of the Empire, not least evident in the location of these buildings; the Parliament house in the Fort area and the Municipal Council building in Cinnamon Gardens. This trend can be seen as a response to the increasing indigenous resistance to capitalism and colonialism. As in Duncan’s example of Kandy, prior to the British takeover,118 the last phases of British rule were also marked by an aggressive policy of monumental building.


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Yet the Parliament house also represented universal suffrage, introduced in 1931. The assembly was built to accommodate 49 representatives--with room for expansion without structural changes. This building therefore also represented the introduction of democracy, a Western way of decision making at “national” level by its colonial authorities. It is therefore somewhat ironic that this building, representing a nascent Ceylonese democracy, was built as a statement of British imperial power, and in a high style of W estern architecture. In these three chapters, I have addressed issues concerning the Europeancolonial construction of space at variety of scales--world-spaces, regional spaces, territorial spaces, urban systems, landscapes, and interiors. I have argued that European colonialism is not merely a political, social, and economic process, but also a spatial and cultural enterprise. I have also aimed to demonstrate how social and cultural institutions and the architecture, built environment, and urban form, which contain and represent them, symbolize the height of colonialism in the late nineteenth century. In my next three chapters, I shall focus on the Ceylonese and Sri Lankan responses to these spaces and environments. Notes 1. Wallerstein, The Modern World-System III, 130, 137. 2. Young, White Mythologies, 119. 3. G.C. Mendis. The Colbrooke-Cameron Papers. Documents on British Colonial Policy in Ceylon, 1796-1831. 2 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 190. 4. Tennent, II: 229, 231; Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands 1833-1886 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1983), 72; Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 227-8; I.H. van den Driesen, Some Aspects of History of the Coffee Industry in Ceylon With Special Reference to the Period, 1832-1885 (PhD. diss. University of London, 1954), 41. 5. Tennent, II: 235; Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 228-9. 6. Tennent, II: 229. Italics mine. 7. For N.D. Kondratieff, 1844 to 1851 was the end of a long wave of economic life that began in the 1790s. (“The Long Waves in Economic Life,” Review II (1979): 535) 8. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 222; Bandarage, 231, 63; de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka, 227. 9. Bandarage, 94; de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation, II: 372; Ralph Pieris, Singhalese Social Organization: The Kandy Period (Colombo: Ceylon University Press Board, 1956), 41-2; Brohier, Lands, Maps and Surveys, 5; University of Ceylon, The Disintegrating Village. Report of a Socio-Economic Survey Conducted by the University of Ceylon [at Pata Dumbara] (The Ceylon University Press Board, 1957), xi-xii. 10. Bandarage, 87-97; Mick Moore, The State and Peasant Policies in Sri Lanka (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 31. 11. Bandarage, 231. See the list George Akland presented in his evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on Ceylon in 1850, in de Silva, ed., Social Policy and Missionary Organizations, 297. 12. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British, I: 291; Ibid, II: 582; Bandarage, 63, 74; Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 230; van den Driesen, 43; Donald Snodgras, Ceylon: An Export Economy in Transition (Homewood, Il: Richmond D. Irwin, 1966), 26.


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13. Snodgras, 26. 14. Speculum, Ceylon: Her Present Condition, Revenues, Taxes and Expenditure (Colombo: Observer Press, 1868), 5-12. 15. Bandarage, 179. See also, Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 21. 16. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 19-21. 17. Pieris, Singhalese Social Organization, 95. See also Knox, An Historical Account of Ceylon, 68-9. 18. Pieris, Singhalese Social Organization, 97. Rajakariya was largely a Singhalese system and similar systems such as Uliyam existed in Jaffna. (de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka, 213-5) 19. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British, I: 209; Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 20-1. 20. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 73-4. 21. In Bandarage, 191. The unreliability of indigenes for the capitalist enterprises was not peculiar to the Singhalese. (See, W. Kloosterboer, Since the Abolition of Slavery: A Survey of Compulsory Labor Through the World (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1960), 44; R.M.A. van Zwanenberg, Colonial Capitalism and Labor in Kenya: 1919-1939 (Nairobi: East African Publication Bureau, 1975), 73) 22. B.H. Farmer, Pioneer Peasant Colonization in Ceylon: A Study in Asian Agrarian Problems (London: Oxford university Press, 1957), 283. 23. I. H. van den Driesen, Indian Plantation Labor in Sri Lanka: Aspects of the History of Immigration in the Nineteenth Century (University of Western Australia: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, 1982), 6; de Silva, Social Policy and Missionary Organizations, 259, 274; Eric Meyer, “Aspects of the Singhalese-Tamil Relations in the Plantation Areas of Sri Lanka Under the British Raj,� The Indian economic and Social History Review 27 (1990): 170; L.J.B. Turner, Handbook of Commercial and General Information for Ceylon (Colombo: Government Printer, 1927), 25; J.C. Willis, Agriculture in the Tropics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909), 20). 24. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 226-7, 237-8; Tennent, II: 209 25. Tennent, II: 232-3; Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 227 26. Bandarage, 81, 214; Mills, Ceylon Under British, 77-8; Speculum, 6; Tennent, II: 232-3. 27. See Michael Havinden and David Meredith, Colonialism and Development: Britain and its Tropical Colonies, 1850-1960 (London: Routledge, 1993), 63, 94. 28. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 112. 29. Bandarage, 236. 30. Meyer, 170. 31. C.A. Bayly, Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World 1780-1830 (London: Longman, 1989), 240. 32. See Meyer, 170. 33. See Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 225, 230. 34. See van den Driesen, Indian Plantation Labor, 11. 35. In Frank Heidmann, Kanganies in Sri Lanka and Malaysia: The Tamil RecruiterCum-Foreman as a Sociological Category in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century (Munchen: ANACON, 1992), 13. 36. Van den Driesen, Indian Plantation Labor, 10, 11, 14. According to P.D. Millie, more deaths took place after arrival on the estates, many being worn with the journey and changes of climate. (Thirty Years Ago or Reminiscences of the Early Days of Coffee Planting in Ceylon (Colombo ,1878) See also Soma Hewa, Colonialism, Tropical Disease and Imperial Medicine: Rockefeller Philanthophy in Sri Lanka (Lanham, MD: University Press


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of America, 1995), 39. 37. Meyer, 175. 38. Dharmapriya Wesumperuma, Indian Immigrant Plantation Workers in Sri Lanka: A Historical Perspective, 1880-1910 (Colombo: Vidyalankara Press, 1986), Chapter vii. 39. Meyer, 187. 40. See Anthony D. King, The Bungalow: The Production of A global Culture. 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995). 41. See Marga, Housing Development in Sri Lanka 1971-81 (Colombo: Marga Institute, 1986), 76. 42. See King, Urbanism, Colonialism and the World-Economy, 120. 43. Wesumperuma, 232; Van den Driesen, Indian Plantation Labor, 12, 55. 44. Wesumperuma, 233-4. 45. Philip D. Curtin, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex: Essays in Atlantic History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), ix, 204. 46. Daniel R. Headrick, The Tentacles of Progress: Technology Transfer in the Age of Imperialism 1850-1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 213, 232, 235. See also Willis, 104; Ferguson, Ceylon in 1903, 70. 47. Willis, 59; Bandarage, 14; Alan Pim, Colonial Agricultural Production: The Contribution Made by Native Peasants and by Foreign Enterprise (London: Oxford University Press, 1946), 62. 48. Headrick, 243. 49. Headrick, 212-3. 50. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British, 100. 51. King, Colonialism, Urbanism and the World-Economy, 132. 52. Christopher, The British Empire at its Zenith. 53. Peter Jackson, Maps of Meaning: An Introduction to Cultural Geography (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 168. 54. Land sales credit earned by the Department peaked in 1873, amounting to £133,500. (Brohier, Lands, Maps and Surveys, I: 59) 55. See James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 235. 56. Frank Perlin, “Precolonial South Asia and Western Penetration in the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries: A Problem of Epistemological Status,” Review iv (Fall 1980): 284. 57. See Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994 [1983], xi. 58. See Anthony Pagden, European Encounters with the New World: From Renaissance to Romanticism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 10) for a similar argument in regard to the “New World.” 59. Nandy, Traditions, Tyranny, and Utopias, 106, 107. 60. Michael Roberts, “Irrigation Policy in British Ceylon During the Nineteenth Century,” South Asia 2 (1972): 52. 61. King, Colonialism, Urbanism and the World-Economy, 34. 62. A standard geography text book used in Britain in the early twentieth century spells out this concept well: 1. The temperate zones are the most desirable regions of the earth. They have produced the highest types of mankind, and within them alone can the white man live comfortably and work effectively. There a man is encouraged to labour; for the heat is not so great as to sap his energy, and the cold is not so intense as to numb his powers. 2. The savage in the tropical forest has but to put out his hand to find sufficient food to


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keep him alive. Nature is most bountiful, and the balmy skies make clothing and shelter almost unnecessary. In the temperate zones, however, a man must work to live. He must make clothes to wear and build a roof for shelter. He must clear and till the land before he can secure a steady, regular livelihood. 3. His harvest comes but once a year, so that he must learn to deny himself and lay by something for the future. He discovers that in concert with others he can do many things which are impossible to his unaided strength. He thus learns to unite into clans, tribes, and states. In this and in many other ways he develops himself, and in the course of long ages becomes the civilized being which we know as the white man. (The World and Its People: A new Series of Geography Readers (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1908), 13) 63. Hewa, 2-6 passim. 64. T.R. Smith, “On Buildings for European Occupation in Tropical Climates, Especially India,” Proceedings of the RIBA (1868-9), cited in Anthony D. King, “Exporting Planning: The Colonial and Neo-Colonial Experience,” Urbanism Past and Present, 5 (1977): 18. 65. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1988), 13. 66. Goonatilake, Aborted Discovery, 82, 72, 86, 111. 67. Christovam Buarque, The End of Economics? Ethics and the Disorder of Progress (London: Zed Books, 1993), 12, 39. 68. Steven Kemper, The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics, and Culture in Singhala Life (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 85. 69. See Davy, 219. 70. Kemper, 116. 71. Mendis, Colebrooke-Cameron Papers, I: 68. 72. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British, 53, 105, 115. 73. Swarna Jayaweera, “Language and Colonial educational Policy in Ceylon in the Nineteenth Century,” Modern Ceylon Studies 2 (1971): 154, 156. 74. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1968). 75. See Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 134, 135, 240. 76. Dharmasena, “Colombo,” 160. 77. Ferguson, Ceylon in 1903, ciii. 78. Turner, 152. 79. Cave, 1. 80. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 245. 81. Ferguson, Ceylon in 1903, 24; Hulugalle, Centenary Volume, 141, 148; Cave, 37. 82. Cave, 41. Italics are mine. 83. Ibid, 42. 84. Perera, The Ceylon Railway, 11, 28, 33-34; van den Driesen, Indian Plantation Labor, 116. 85. Headrick, 97; Mendis, Ceylon Under the British, 66; Turner, 192. 86. E.J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975); King, Colonialism, Urbanism, and the World-Economy, 93-4. 87. Anthony D. King, “Colonialism and the Development of the Modern South Asian City: Theoretical Considerations,” in Kenneth Ballhatchet and John Harrison, eds., The City in South Asia: Pre-Modern and Modern (London: Curzon Press, 1980): 1-19. 88. Cave, 2. 89. Urwick, 31. 90. Casie Chitty, 81.


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91. See Pamela Kanwar, Imperial Simla: The Political Culture of the Raj (Delhi, Oxford University press, 1990), 48. 92.Cordiner, 314-5. 93. Turner, 265. 94. Ananda K. Coomaraswami, Medieval Singhalese Art (Colombo: Government Press, 1962 [1908]), 116-7. 95. See King, Colonial Urban Development, 159; E.P. Thompson, “Time, WorkDiscipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” Past and Present 38 (1967): 60. 96. Carlo M. Cipolla, Clocks and Culture 1300-1700 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978), 104. 97. Valentia, 274. 98. Ferguson, Ceylon in 1903, 106. See also Wright, The Politics of Design, 186. 99. Ferguson, “Old and New Colombo,” cxiii. 100. Percival, 174. 101. Cave, 54, 57; Michael Roberts, Colombo in the Round: Outlines of its Growth in Modern Times, Paper presented at the “Second International Conference on Indian Ocean Studies” held at Perth, Western Australia, December 5-12, 11-12. 102. See Ferguson, “Old and New Colombo,” cxiii; Hulugalle, 74; Cave, 77. 103. Ceylon Government Railway, One Hundred Years, 1864-1964 (Colombo: Government Press, [1965]), 26; Perera, The Ceylon Railway, 190. 104. Roberts, Colombo in the Round, 10. 105. See Christopher, 28. 106. See Wright, The Politics of Design. See also King, Urbanism, Colonialism and the World-Economy, 60; Metcalf, “Architecture and the Representation of Empire”; Norma Evenson, The Indian Metropolis: A View Toward the West (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 83-84. 107. Wright, The Politics of Design, 11. 108. See King, Urbanism, Colonialism and the World-Economy, 60; See also Metcalf, “Architecture and the Representation of Empire”. 109. King, Colonial Urban Development, 59. 110. Bandaranayake, “Sri Lanka and Monsoon Asia.” 111. See King, The Bungalow. 112. Metcalf, “Architecture and the Representation of Empire,” 39. 113. Evenson, 83. 114. See Metcalf, “Architecture and the Representation of Empire,” 62. 115. See for example, King, Urbanism, Colonialism and the World-Economy, 42. 116. Roberts, “Irrigation in British Ceylon” 50. 117. See Ferguson, Ceylon in 1903, cxiii; Cave, 61. 118. Duncan, The City as Text.


Part Two Decolonizing Ceylon: Sri Lankan Reactions to Colonialism and Capitalism


4 Indigenizing Colonial Spaces: Ceylonese Adaptations to the Colonial System British imperialism, British hegemony among core capitalist states, and the expansion of the European world-economy all reached their highest point in the late nineteenth century. 1 Towards the end of the century, Britain was subjected to increasing economic and political competition by countries following in its path, particularly the United States and Germany. The ending of the British lead by its W estern competitors, however, produced what Arrighi calls “systemic chaos,” 2 leading to two world wars. The vital sign of the crisis in power balance among the metropolitan powers was the return of war to Europe after a long period. At the same time, the Third (Communist) International posed the first serious political threat to the capitalist world-economy, a threat that turned out to be real with the Soviet Revolution of 1917. Terence K. Hopkins suggests that the Dutch, British, and United States hegemonies can be conceptualized as historic “moments” in the rise, dominion, and demise of the capitalist world-economy.3 In this sense, these events marked the beginning of a long term decline of the Europe-centered world, particularly the capitalist world-economy and its constituent political structure. Concurrent with US and German emulation of Britain, the nascent elite of Ceylon also followed British (colonial) models of wealth, power, and prestige. This process of emulation was articulated by elites seeking to rise to the topmost positions in colonial political, economic, and administrative systems, particularly the Legislative Council and the plantation system. However, the socialist movement that emerged in the 1930s chose to contest colonial rule as a whole. In this chapter, I focus on the processes by which the Ceylonese advanced their political, economic, and cultural positions within the colonial society, especially where these had spatial implications. I shall also shift the vantage point of my inquiry from the European construction of a world-space (and society), and a

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Ceylon within this, to Ceylonese responses and reactions to these structures, with their ensuing spatial outcomes. This strategy I employ to separate this and the following chapter thematically should not suggest that indigenous reactions and responses to the colonial society and space were constructed within a simple duality of emulations and challenges. In some way or another, all Ceylonese adapted themselves to colonial structures as well as contested them. I have, therefore, expanded the scope of this chapter to include discussion of a broader array of institutions, processes, and agencies that did not explicitly collide with the colonial system, such as the village and internal migrants. I begin by sketching out the transformations of British imperial space and the capitalist world-economy during the decline of British hegemony. The Demise of Empires and Post-Imperial Space The demise of British hegemony was to bring about the collapse of the particular system of states and empires constructed by west European powers from the seventeenth century and led to the reorganization of the European world-space. By the last decades of the nineteenth century, the United States and Germany had advanced themselves to the position of prospective leading economic and political powers of the capitalist world. The policies of these two countries towards the states and empires contrasted with each other. Germany’s quest to strengthen its position within the capitalist world-system had moved it towards a strategy of territorial expansion within Europe, culminating in the two world wars. Although it rescued the system of states, the United States did not favor the continuation of west European empires. The territorial outcome of this was an expanded global version of the Euro-American inter-state system, institutionalized through world organizations such as the United Nations and W orld B ank. In addition, mass decolonization produced a series of new states, the social and spatial structures of which were largely determined by their colonial predecessors. In contrast to other European imperial powers such as the French and Portuguese, the British were quick to decolonize. British governments had already begun to reorganize their imperial space into what was called the British Commonwealth as early as the 1920s. According to Tinker, both Conservative and Labour Parties alike perceived the British Empire as a series of territories to which the British people could emigrate. 4 The most significant British objective, however, was to retain its naval and airborne strength, if not superiority, in the world. This was evident in its retention of geo-strategic nodes, such as Singapore and Diego Garcia, in the India Ocean. 5 British concession of dominion status for Ceylon in the 1930s was aimed at retaining “the island as a loyal member of the Commonwealth, with its naval and air installations available as important links in the chain of imperial communications and defense.� 6 Ceylon not only provided the only existing fleet base between Malta and Singapore, it also occupied a commanding position as a base for defense communication without which control over the Indian Ocean would be weakened.7


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Hence, the British were cautious not to antagonize the Ceylonese political elite. Although the new system of states expanded the European inter-state system across the world, the space of the ex-Empire was inscribed within it. Technical assistance programs such as the Colombo Plan, the Commonwealth Games, and the Crown acted as symbols of unity for the ex-Empire. Ex-colonial states were represented in the high commission buildings constructed in the new capital cities of Commonwealth states. By the 1960s, the post-colonial leaders had made the Commonwealth a convenient and constitutionally undemanding club of rulers who had taken over from the British.8 Elite Adaptation of Colonial Institutions and Spaces In Ceylon, the late 1870s and 1880s also marked the turning point in important socio-spatial processes, from production of colonial subjects to the indigenizing of colonial economic, political, and administrative structures, in the process making a proto-“national space.� W here confrontation with the colonial order of things had at first disoriented the native, subsequently--and due to power relations--the colonial system became a world of which the native was envious. 9 The merging of subjects and colonial structures took place through both the westernizing of subjects and the indigenization of larger social and political structures and spaces. The changes caused by these developments were wide-ranging, and included Buddhist and Hindu revivals. This section, however, concentrates on the activities of three significant groups; the nascent Ceylonese entrepreneurs, politicians, and administrators. Ceylonese penetration into the capitalist space economy of Ceylon began as early as the first decades following the construction of plantations. This process gained momentum in the 1880s and eventually culminated with independence. British concentration on plantations, banking, and long distance trade, directed Ceylonese entrepreneurs, lacking in capital, to invest in such sectors as transportation, consumer services, and arrack renting. As these areas were complementary to those of the British, Ceylonese entrepreneurs therefore expanded and strengthened the colonial capitalist structure. Despite their worldwide naval superiority, and prior to the introduction of railways in the 1860s, the British had no more efficient means of overland transportation in Ceylon than had the Ceylonese. This advantage was immediately captured by the latter, who monopolized the system of transportation, largely consisting of bullock carts, especially between Colombo and Kandy. In this way, these investors established the vital economic link between the plantations around Kandy and the economic command functions in Colombo, unifying the capitalist space. W ith the introduction of railways, however, the colonial state reappropriated the control of this communication axis. Ceylonese entrepreneurs who undertook the more difficult task of penetrating into the plantation arena were more successful in the longer run. Unlike in India where indigenous capitalists competed with the British, Ceylonese planters surreptitiously sneaked into the plantation complex without generating conflict.


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They eventually appropriated the peasant grown coconut as a plantation crop--as the British had done with coffee. Coconut cultivation along the western coast was dominated by the Low-Country Sinhalese, with the European planters never exceeding five percent of the total. By 1900, the area under coconut had increased to 41% of the total cultivated land in Ceylon, compared to 32% of paddy and 20% of tea.10 In this way, Ceylonese entrepreneurs expanded the plantation complex, increasing the overall area of plantations to over three times that owned by the British, and also diversifying the crop. However, tea remained the core of the production system in Ceylon, and the main export earner of Ceylon until the 1980s. W ithin the plantation complex, Ceylonese investments were, therefore, supplementary and subordinate to those of the British. The new Ceylonese entrepreneurial class emerged from the south-western quadrant, subsequently known as the Low-Country. Over a century of violent resistance, adaptation to the colonial system had become a significant aspect of the Low-Country inhabitants’ response to foreign military power. Elite formation in the Low-Country largely began within particular castes--Karava, Salagama, and Durawa (primarily fisher, cinnamon peeling, and toddy tapping). The leadership of the anti-colonial Kandyan aristocracy was thus being replaced by this emerging entrepreneurial class of the Low-Country. Cooperation of the Ceylonese elite with the British also extended to the political arena. As in the plantations, Ceylonese participation in the colonial government began as early as the 1830s with the establishment of the Executive and Legislative Councils. Caste competition, central to elite formation in Ceylon, continued in the arena of appointment of legislators; in this context the Karava elite strove to enlarge and reform the Council through gradual constitutional reform. The development of a constitutionalist approach in order to increase Ceylonese representation in the colonial legislature was, to a large degree, the result of W estern education that had taught them about British government and W estern democracy. 11 The third important group groomed under colonialism was that of the administrators. In the early days of their rule, the British mainly employed the sons of former Lankan administrators, Mudliyars.12 Low-Country Mudliyars were first incorporated into the Portuguese administration and their adaptation to the British service was represented in their wearing of sixteenth century Portuguese uniforms even in the early twentieth century. 13 Their aristocratic family origins, political power, and “modern attainments” such as English education made them part of the elite. In 1870, for example, five out of eight Ceylonese in the civil service were from Low-Country Mudliyar families. 14 W hat the British colonial culture achieved in Ceylon was a high degree of hegemony among the elite, families of owners of plantations and mines and native administrators, with their sons educated in England and being Christian in faith. According to Singer, it was forgivable for a graduate of Royal or St. Thomas College not to know who followed King Rajasinghe I to the Lion Throne, but downright unthinkable for him not to know who signed the Magna Carta. 15 The first


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Ceylonese to seek higher education in England were a full three decades ahead of the Indian pioneers of 1844. 16 The elite jealously guarded their culture from further diffusion, using this to symbolize their privileged position among the Ceylonese, and perhaps increasingly exaggerating their metropolitan culture as a buttress to maintain their social and cultural identity.17 The elite sub-culture was not British, but an elite construction that adapted British colonial culture to Ceylonese cultural conditions in a way that would represent their power to the average Ceylonese, and their worthiness to the colonial community. Governor Henry M acCallum wrote in 1910, [it] is precisely the acquisition of European ideas and the adoption of European in preference to Ceylonese civilization that differentiates this class from their countrymen. ... [and separates them] by a wide gulf from the majority of the native inhabitants of the colony. Their ideas, their aspirations, their interests ... are all moulded upon European models and are no longer those of the majority of their countrymen.18 Emulating the British model, the elite, who were nevertheless not allowed membership of British clubs, also created their own, the exclusive Oriental Club in the vicinity of Cinnamon Gardens.19 Indigenizing the colonial administration was therefore a challenge since the Ceylonese had to comply with the rigorous rules of the administration and also had to face competition from the metropolitan British. According to Singer, apart from being a Lankan chief--who controlled enough power locally to force the British to incorporate him and his function into their administration--the only hope of joining the colonial administration was by “out-Englishing” Englishmen. Yet competition from England largely ensured a complete British domination of the administration. Even as late as the 1920s, 20 Ceylonese held only eleven out of a total of ninety administrative positions. By that time, however, the upper class Ceylonese had become sufficiently vocal to win concessions from the colonial regime, so that by the 1930s, Ceylonese civil service were in a majority. The Ceylon State Council officially resolved in 1934 to implement a policy of Ceylonization in all branches of public services.21 Ambiguities in the National Spatial Structure For the elite, therefore, independence was merely a peaceful transfer of power and did not imply significant changes in the larger economic, administrative, and ideological structures. The first decade after independence was marked by a matching of the interests, intentions, and desires of the ruling national elite with the “post-colonial” political, economic, and cultural systems constructed by the British in consultation with them.22 Hence, independent Ceylon was largely a constituent element of both the larger world-wide system of states and the British post-imperial space. In this section, I examine the spatial construction of the “national space” of post-independent Ceylon.


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The consciousness of Ceylon becoming a single state precipitated the reconstruction of cultural differences and identities within the society. 23 This was manifest in the increased intra-group competition among the elite. For example, in 1931, the Tamil elite had shifted its policy of 1910, of having reasonable representation for Tamils in the Legislative Council, to wanting equal weight for Tamils and Sinhalese.24 In the environmental realm, the Sinhalese were already reclaiming and restoring the historic and sacred places belonging to the Rajarata civilization, the locus of which is the north of the central mountainous region. I refer here to the restoring of sacred places, including Ven Naranvita Sumanasara taking residence at a main temple site of Anuradhapura, Ruwanveliseya, in the 1870s, and irrigation systems, making the ancient Lankan capital, Anuradhapura, the focus of this effort.25 Important markers in this development include the formation of the Sinhalese-nationalist party, Sinhala Mahajana Sabhawa in 1919, and the decision of a prominent Tamil leader, Ponnambalam Arunachalam, to leave the Ceylon National Congress in 1921 with its Low-Country Sinhalese majority. For the constitutionalists, however, independence largely meant gaining control over the colonial state. As in seventeenth century Europe, the form of nation building in the post-colonial periphery was also a process of first creating the state and then homogenizing its space and subjects to produce “nations.” Ironically, a particular homogenization of the society and space of Ceylon had already been carried out by the colonial regime, through the subduing of cultural differences. This society was, therefore, not produced through the articulation of various groups within a single Ceylonese society, but rather by imposition from outside, and by forces external to it. The central characteristics of colonial Ceylon did not change much after independence; even the British naval and airborne installations were retained until the mid-1950s. Raised within the colonial system, the post-colonial elite did not question the appropriateness of colonial administrative divisions, or of a national urban structure with the territoriality peripheral colonial port city, Colombo, at its head. Hence, the territories and societies which the Lankans had lost in the sixteenth century to European imperial powers and what the Ceylonese recovered in the twentieth were radically different. Historically, what the single post-colonial state replaced were four Lankan kingdoms and a number of principalities and port cities that existed prior to colonization. Nonetheless, the post-colonial rulers of Ceylon used their new authority to restructure certain aspects of the society and space of Ceylon. Crucially, the postcolonial regime viewed Ceylon as their space, and did not readily accept all colonial subjects as nationals. To begin with, the Sinhalese elite were not ready to accept the plantation workers of southern Indian origin, classifying them as “Indian Tamils” and reaffirmed that they were a foreign population. This was despite the words of D.S. Senanayake, who later became the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, who wrote in 1928, “W e do not consider the Indians as aliens. W e tell them ‘become part of ourselves, become Ceylonese, and then share in the government of the country.’” 26


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W ithin two years, the United National Party government of 1948 deprived the plantation workers of southern Indian origin of both their citizenship and voting rights. They had already participated in the socialist-led struggles for independence in the 1940s and their voting pattern had helped many socialist candidates win in the 1947 elections. If anti-colonial struggles had brought these plantation workers into Ceylonese politics and the “national” space, the post-colonial state denied these. As the planters had attempted, the post-colonial rulers of Ceylon also resorted to apartheid, re-directing the hatred shown by Kandyan peasantry against plantation owners into one against plantation workers. Another major concern of the post-colonial rulers was economic and political “self-sufficiency.” Since Ceylon had been part of the British Empire, its selfsufficiency was not a principal concern. The state was more concerned with its military and political interests until the 1820s, and with the plantation enterprise in the three decades that followed. 27 The colonial state had, therefore, let the Lankan system of rice production and irrigation fall into disrepair, making the colony dependent upon imports. For the colonial state, the principal economic unit was the Empire. Yet within the perception of a self-contained national unit, the postcolonial rulers viewed the self-sufficiency of Ceylon as an essential national requirement. This national policy had three premises. First, the notion of “development” that became hegemonic in the 1950s also implied self-sufficiency for most states in the post-colonial periphery. Second, the state assumed that self-sufficiency in rice could be achieved, as the ancients had done, by revitalizing and expanding the ancient, but partly ruined, irrigation infrastructure. Third, this assumes an earlier Lankan historic period in which self-sufficiency was a societal norm. Although historically this may have operated at the level of the village, and under colonialism at an imperial scale, the post-colonial concern was to achieve self-sufficiency at the national level. The revitalization of segments of ancient irrigation infrastructure had already begun under the colonial regime in the late nineteenth century. It was thought in the 1860s that irrigation works would generate greater revenue for the colonial state, promoting the production of paddy and providing a stimulus to trade and industry. 28 This policy has been continued by the post-colonial government and, by 1980, nearly 90,000 farming families had been settled in 105 major irrigation projects consisting of about a million acres. Rice paddy production rose from about 450,000 tons in 1953 to two million tons in 1983.29 Settlers for colonies were easily found in those the authorities saw as overcrowding the so-called W et Zone--the southwestern quadrant which receives sufficient annual rainfall not to require irrigation for paddy cultivation. The Land Commission in 1929 had defined “colonization” as “the relief of congestion in certain localities by the settlement of peasants on vacant lands outside their own villages.” 30 The post-colonial state completely ignored the existing old villages, purana gam, and incorporated them into colonies stamped out on a much larger scale. In the Chandrikawewa area, for example, purana gam had been small


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hamlets of about fifty to sixty people and had small clearings of about two acres each of highland crops land. 31 These villagers’ voices were not heard until Tamil political parties made ethnicity-based allegations about these settlements. For the post-colonial government, colonization was a “national planning” strategy. First, it was a strategy for integrating remote areas into the national space by means of government sponsored settlement of peasants from more integrated areas, a process of “internal colonization.” Second, it was aimed at redistributing the population nationally, moving them from what the authorities saw as more congested areas to “vacant lands,” with national economic goals such as increased employment and self-sufficiency in mind. The original criteria for the selection of settlers had been dominated by what was considered to be the [economic] needs of the prospective settlers, determined by the size of the family, landlessness, and unemployment. In 1968, this was complemented by a concern for reliability, adding the criteria of previous experience in irrigation-based cultivation, familiarity with so-called improved farming practices, and credit-worthiness.32 Although the desirability of a lot, large by peasant standards, was never thoroughly investigated,33 its size was calculated to match the land requirement of a self-sufficient farming family. Hence, settlers were not allowed to subdivide these lots among their children, but required to pass on the full parcel to one child. The standard allotment of eight acres (five of paddy and three highland), was reduced to five acres (three of paddy and two highland) in 1952, and to three acres (two of paddy and one highland) after the introduction in the 1970s of new high yield varieties of rice.34 In the late 1960’s, however, the authorities of the most ambitious irrigation scheme, the Mahaweli Project, clarified the objective of fixing the standard allotment as the optimum utilization of basic resources of land, labor, and capital, bearing in mind that land and capital are scarce national resources while labor is an abundant resource. 35 Colonization was, therefore, not the revitalization of former Lankan villages, but rather a compromise between creating villages and plantations; modern villages that produce a food crop for the market in addition to looking after its own subsistence needs. They were not organically developed, but planned from Colombo according to a model in which settlement units were replicated with very little variation.36 The mass produced hamlets did not have names, but simply identification tags--a tract number, a tract being a sub-unit of the colony--useful for the colonizing agency in Colombo to differentiate each unit. W hat the government has provided were primarily large reservoirs that constituted large irrigation systems. For example, Chandrikawewa was expected to irrigate 5,000 acres of virgin forest. Planning and development was also carried out at that scale and not at village scale, using heavy machinery for the clearing of land, ridging of paddy fields, and construction of canals and roads, homogenizing the landscape. The methods of mass construction were complemented by the mass production of smaller building units across the settlements. (figure 4.1) The use of type plans for infrastructure buildings and houses and the replication of service


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centers homogenized the built environment, undermining the identity of each individual settlement. 37 In contrast to villages, “colonies” were more commercialized, the population was heterogenous, and the settlers were more individualized. The commodification of land emphasized the ownership of land over the traditional right to water. In early stages, however, land ownership was attractive to prospective settlers. Despite the settlers’ desire to lessen the cost of cultivation, the employment of customary self-help methods, such as attam and kaiyya, was deterred by large landholding and individualism. Attam “contract” requires the settlers to free up time to work on others’ fields, but large individual lots would not allow this. The settlers’ response was to employ paid labor and “build” communities with those from their home villages. They continued to maintain strong ties with their home villages, and also brought labor from their home village. 38 Colonization became very expensive for the post-colonial state. 39 The W orld Bank mission of 1951 recommended the reduction of the standard allotment, the cost of clearance borne by the government, and the government subsidy on colonists’ (sic) dwelling houses. In 1966, a Bank mission highlighted the urgent need to increase productivity per acre. Despite the increasing cost on the principal irrigation structures, however, governments have attempted to reduce the direct expenditure on settlers. Independence produced an ambivalence in the spatial order of Ceylon, particularly reinforced by the post-colonial adoption of the colonial administrative center, Colombo, as its capital. Unlike historic Lankan “urban centers,” which were associated with temples, Colombo was a secular city which linked the Ceylonese political economy with that of the metropole. W hile Colombo continued to function as the center of the Ceylonese polity, economy, as well as the capitalist culture, the religious and cultural organization of Ceylon reproduced the centrality of their historic centers, for example, Anuradhapura, Kandy, and Jaffna. This multicentricity, however, did not generate any disorder in Ceylonese society and space, but rather a split-site until the 1980s. In addition to producing a Ceylon which expressed their values, the elite had also to transform themselves to be a part of the this new state. The increasing use of national dress by the members of the Legislative Council was part of this process.

FIGURE 4.1 Colonization Projects: Core houses provided in the Uda Walawa development project.


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Yet the views of the national leadership epitomized the paternalism of the elite towards the villagers. 40 Reconnecting with Sinhalese history, though to a lesser degree, the state also assumed the patronage of Buddhism. Buddhism in this context might be understood as the “reformed version” which many of the elite studied in English, and some in Oxford, for the first time. 41 Although only implicit at times, the increase in significance of historic Buddhist centers in the post-colonial political arena is illustrated by the fact that every ministerial cabinet of newly formed governments made a pilgrimage to the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy. The height of this new “tradition” was reached in 1977, when Prime Minister J.R. Jayawardene, following a former royal tradition, addressed the “nation” from the octagonal Pattirippuwa of the Temple. Since the Low-Country elite changed their religion many times in order to retain power, this can be seen as part of the process of the re-adapting of the elite. 42 W hat we see, therefore, in the post-colonial, national territorial and urban spatial structures is a multivalence. Although the elite had developed their identity within a system of colonial values, and focusing on the colonial port city, independence changed the ground beneath it, making Colombo the capital of Ceylon. If the elite had derived its political power principally by peaceful bargaining with the authorities in London, with independence they had to rely on, and negotiate with, the average Ceylonese. It is this transition that brought about a multivalent social, cultural, and spatial formation. The Restructuring of M arginalized Institutions and Spaces Despite its dominance, the colonial socio-spatial structure was not total, but incomplete; many Lankan social and cultural institutions and practices continued inside, and outside, but marginal to, the principal colonial structures. The village and Buddhism are two such institutions which carried Lankan traditional worldviews across the colonial rupture of time. The continuity of Lankan institutions and practices within a colonial and capitalist society, however, required their restructuring. This section discusses on the restructuring of Lankan rural villages (gamas) under colonialism. The colonial regime had periodically attempted to make the village useful to its economic system. In the early stages, the state desired to transform villages into a source of tax revenue. In creating plantations, the state appropriated land from certain villages, coercing the inhabitants into plantation lines. In the 1840s and 1850s, colonial officials proposed to restore the ancient reservoirs in the Dry Zone and settle south Indians, transforming this region into an area of cash crop production and a more convenient source of labor for the plantations. 43 Later, with “colonization,” sporadically distributed purana gam were incorporated into its planned settlement system. These developments indicate that rural Ceylon was marginal to the colonial system and the state wished to transform it into a more meaningful and useful element of colonial Ceylon. The villagers’ initial response was one of apathy. Their refusal to join the


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plantations, as well as rebellions, were also typical reactions of the villagers, particularly in Kandy. In the longer run, however, villagers restructured their gamas within the new conditions. According to Cohen, “Anthropological <others’ are part of the colonial world. ... [yet] these <others’ had to restructure their world to encompass the fact of white domination and their own powerlessness.” 44 Although the villages were never fully integrated into the colonial society, the colonial policies towards them gradually eroded their foundations. The neglect of the irrigation infrastructure, much needed for the production of food crops, weakened the economic base of the village; the abolition of rajakariya had the effect of a sudden demolition of the communal machinery which maintained village irrigation facilities. 45 The restructuring efforts from within the village were complemented by state intervention. From the 1860s, the colonial regime developed a concern for what they saw as “deteriorating” villages and began supporting these through the revitalization of ancient irrigation schemes, financial assistance, technical supervision, and facilitating the enforcement of customs relating to paddy cultivation. The reintroduction of the ancient gamsabhava in the 1850s marked the changing point in the balance of forces, between the village and the state, from conflict to corporation. As the mutual co-operation in former villages was undermined by the new forces of trade, individualism, and ownership, disputes over the ownership of land and the use of water began to rise. Litigation prospered as a means of negotiating this transition. The original purpose of the new gamsabhava was to reduce the number of cases that came to courts and to reduce the cost by passing over the responsibility to the village itself. 46 The reintroduction of the gamsabhava was, therefore, an endeavor to make use of ancient regulations and institutions to pass the responsibility of solving these disputes to the village. The new gamsabhavas were under the chairmanship of the Government Agent (or his nominee).47 These were called into action only when a ‘rule’ was broken, and were to enforce their decisions through fines. Simple in form and summary in action, gamsabhavas were resuscitated in partial form to act as liaison between people and the white govt.48 This was also the beginning of the state’s co-opting of the village into the colonial society and space. More profound changes took place in rural areas in the early twentieth century. Intervening into the so-called problem of rural debt, the colonial state created Cooperative Credit Associations in 1911. By 1927, there were more than 303 societies with a membership of 35,112 operating under state supervision.49 Despite the slow integration process, paths and roads gained increasing significance in gamas. This development demonstrates the integration of former self-sufficient, inward-oriented gamas into the larger urban structure and division of labor as food production units of Ceylon. The infiltration of norms of private property into villages is reflected in the separation of private lots, the appearance of the fence demarcating the significance of private property and public paths connecting to the larger urban system, and the use of paths as a central device for organizing dwellings and farm land.


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The most glaring transformation was, however, in the increasing replacement of communal spaces by more institutionalized social infrastructure, such as schools, cooperative stores, and sub-post offices. In this process, while some of the communal spaces disappeared others were absorbed into the private sphere. For example, the function of storing grain in courtyards, bihi, formed by a particular layout of dwellings, was largely absorbed by individual dwellings. And the meaning of central spaces, known as tisbamba, has been replaced by modern “village centers.” In this way the villages became increasingly centrally organized, after the urban model, around administrative, commercial and, most importantly, communication facilities that connected these to the “outer world,” replacing the former centrality of the temple and the irrigation reservoir. Yet none of these developments was capable of completely “modernizing” the rural built environment, nor of radically transforming rural building methods and building forms. Most notably, villagers continued their spatial traditions at the scale of building and locale. The “small building tradition,” according to Andrew Boyd, is a minor episode in the long and rich history of Lankan art, but it has the interest of being alive when most of the other traditions have come to an almost complete stop.50 (figure 4.2) The subordination of the Lankan upper classes and the destruction of their organization of state-craftsmen created a large decrease in the “historic” building activity. Increasingly, the wealthier Ceylonese began imitating European ideas and manners, supported by an English educational system which marginalized Lankan history. Yet the ordinary peasant houses were always built by peasants themselves and not by professional craftsmen. The Lankan cultural tradition, therefore, passed out of the hands of the upper classes but lived on among the common people. Particularly, rural incomes did not increase sufficiently to transform rural cultures or allow the successful mimicking of urban dwelling forms and methods. Despite the introduction of industrially-produced materials such as cement, a large proportion of house building activity in villages is still carried out by the villagers themselves. Materials and technology used in house building activity, the use of self-help methods, incrementally constructing over a long period of time, and the transformability of the size and form of dwellings according to the changing size and needs of their inhabitants, demonstrate the continuity of many aspects of former villages. This continuity is also reflected in the large proportion (77%) of owner occupation of rural dwellings.51 At a more abstract level, the time and space in which villagers operate, occupy, and also construct their houses are significantly different from those of the so-called urban middle classes. 52 In addition to religions, their worldview includes astrology, vastu vidya--historic architectural principles of south Asia--and other customs. Many villagers still get an astrologer to work out an auspicious time to begin construction as well as to occupy a new dwelling. For example, they boil milk as a sign of prosperity when entering a new house and, sometimes, invite Buddhist bhikkus to chant pirith. Instead of adhering to the mundane norms of the city, villagers continue to employ a degree of vastu vidya, infused with astrological


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beliefs based on indigenous conceptions of time and space developed over two thousand years. The continuity of rural building methods suggests that most villagers were not readily incorporated into so-called market economies under colonialism. Villagers have continued to produce one of the most efficient house types, combining internal and external spaces. Unlike the specialized monofunctional rooms of the upper classes, villagers have continued their practice of building multi-functional spaces. 53 According to Bandaranayake, it has ... solved major problems of structural design, ventilation and insulation, while providing only a minimum necessary amount of internal accommodation, by an ingenious combination of internal and external facilities for production, processing, storage and leisure activities. In short, it is a great historical invention and forms an essential part of the domestic economy, technology, social life and culture of the village.54 W hile the rhythm of rural life still contrasts with urban life, urban influences have also seeped in over the last three hundred years. Following urbanistic values, not only are there aspirations among villagers to build a so-called â&#x20AC;&#x153;permanentâ&#x20AC;? house one day, but many contemporary rural houses also have furniture (apart from utensils), sometimes television, individual services such as a well and a toilet, and specialized spaces for different functions such as sleeping and eating. How people think affects how they build and what they build indicates their cultural notions about space. 55 The language used in building is therefore an indicator of what aspects of building have been influenced by what culture.56 The Portuguese, and particularly the Dutch, who had initial contact with the Lankans, diffused a crucial set of terms covering a variety of elements, such as building methods and the modern organization of conceptualized spaces and furniture, defining space.57 The circular column and the Roman arch are two striking examples of colonial influences.58 The Sri Lankan building vocabulary suggests the direct transfer of a range of spaces, building elements, and methods. For example, the gable, in some sense, evolved in Holland during the so-called Renaissance was reproduced abroad, including in Ceylon.59 In other cases, it was simply the use of

FIGURE 4.2 Cultural continuity: The rural house.


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western terminology to identify an indigenous element. Even if colonial terms renamed already existing Lankan spaces or building elements, the process of naming transformed those. For example, although “veranda” resembles a traditional Lankan space, it remains different from the pila or tinnai, which is an elevated semi-outdoor space protected by a roof overhang.60 As much as buildings and building elements, furniture is also a constituent element of interior space. Domestic furniture has also been radically transformed during the colonial period. According to Percival, “where luxury seems almost unknown, sumptuous furniture is not to be expected, even in the best houses” of the Ceylonese.61 Instead, their so-called household furniture largely consisted of necessary utensils--as opposed to consumption- and comfort-oriented objects and art work. According to Coomaraswami, Sinhalese furniture was not only simple, there was also a hierarchy built into it; only the king sat on a “chair” with an arm. 62 An Englishman once observed that, “if we may judge from the example of India, the great art in furniture is to do without it.” In contrast, “the British equipped their interiors with a variety of bulky objects.” 63 This was a major influence in transforming the organization of the overall space and form of the dwelling which accommodated such furniture and the practices attached to it. Despite influences, however, the line of mimicry, with the indigenes imitating the culture, knowledge, practices, and built forms produced in the metropole, transmitted through Colombo, did not fully reach the village. In continuing Lankan “traditions” (or proto-traditions), villages, religions, and the custom have kept alive the prospect of developing new ideas based on these traditions. Some of such nodes were later deployed by nationalists, socialists, separatists, as well as--in the realm of architecture--“critical-vernacularists.” These issues will be addressed in the next two chapters.

M igration and the Spatial Restructuring of Colombo W hile the upper classes were Ceylonizing the main British sites in Colombo, migrants complemented this process in other quarters. The population of Colombo grew from a meager 28,000 in 1800, to about 150,000 in 1900. 64 Migration, the immediate principal cause of this growth, transformed Colombo into a “primate city,” a city with the largest population, many times larger than the next largest cities. In the 1870s, Colombo Municipal Council area held twice as many people as both Galle and Kandy. By the 1920s, this proportion had increased to six times.65 Since Colombo represented only one level in the hierarchy of the colonial urban system, emigration continued to London, and later, to other settler colonies in the Empire such as Australia and Canada, as well as the United States. In this section, I briefly explore how a Colombo constructed by the colonial powers was Ceylonized, feminized, and ruralized by migrants. The colonial spatial structure created as part of metropolitan capital’s drive to extract profits from rurally located plantations was different from the process of


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surplus extraction in the metropole itself. Knox and Agnew have argued that there was only a limited stimulus to the growth of a distinctive urban economy, as the orientation of urban networks was towards exploitation of hinterlands rather than an industry--and service--based urban economy. 66 W hile the provincial and district capitals of Ceylon did not contain a significant proportion of production functions, plantation areas did not have any significant urban centers. The principal towns of Ceylon were, therefore, centers of administration, economic command, capital accumulation, and consumption, and not industrial production. Although the hill stations, Nuwara Eliya and Kandy, were important as centers of consumption during colonialism, and some redistribution of resources took place in them, Colombo represented by far the most dominant urban center. For the average Ceylonese, therefore, the main attraction was Colombo, where all economic and administrative functions culminated and most opportunities existed. Until the 1960s Colombo was the only city with a population of over 100,000 people. Urbanization in the “Third W orld” has sometimes been compared to the same process as taken by the industrialized states of Europe and America, seen anomalously, and expressed through notions such as urbanization without industrialization, tertiary sector employment, and primate cities, all with negative connotations. Yet there were 69 factories dispersed in and around Colombo in 1910. 67 These factories included coconut oil mills, foundries for plantation machinery, other engineering workshops, saw mills, aerated water plants, printing presses, and plants for processing crops for export. It was, however, not these factories which gave rise to Colombo, as with W estern industrial cities, but rather, Colombo attracted them as an appropriate location. Colonialism both underdeveloped and “modernized” the colonies simultaneously. 68 In regard to Colombo, Turner wrote in the 1920s, Of the towns of Ceylon, the most important and progressive is the capital, Colombo. ... [It] possesses most of the refinements of modern civilization, up-to-date hotels; electric light, fans, and tramways; an excellent water supply; an up-to-date system of water-borne drainage; and extensive emporia of all kinds of goods. 69 In addition to modernizing Colombo and the colonial urban system, the colonial state also produced modern subjects. In rural areas, the younger generations were increasingly “modernized” through education, the principal means of diffusion of W estern urban-centric values. Young and aspiring men produced by this system were unable to see much opportunity to succeed in the rural environment. Despite the bias towards capitalist industrial societies, urban, capitalist, and industrial spaces were limited in Ceylon. Many people, therefore, moved to Colombo, as much for new opportunities as to escape from the limitations they saw in their “traditional” environments, and looked towards the capitalist arena and cities for opportunities, though not toward the plantations. The introduction and expansion of communication networks facilitated the rural to urban movement. The principal purpose of the communication infrastructure was


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to organize the political, economic, and administrative systems and spread these outward from Colombo to rural areas along a hierarchy of urban centers. Yet the migrants reversed this directionality, employing the transport networks as a means of moving to Colombo. This is evident in the influx of people to Colombo from the 1880s, especially the Tamils from Jaffna, particularly with the opening of the Colombo-Jaffna railway line in 1905. Compared to the growth of the national population by 18% between 1921 and 1931, the North Central Province grew by less than 1%, and the Northern and Eastern Provinces by less than 10%.70 The migrants, in turn, used the communication network as a two-way system, maintaining their relationships between their villages of origin and their new residence in Colombo. 71 As mentioned above, colonial Colombo was a relatively cosmopolitan city; a large proportion of its population were not the residents of former Lankan kingdoms. They also consisted of a variety of immigrants, including Muslims who settled in Colombo, and the descendants of the Portuguese and the Dutch, the “Burghers.” According to Roberts’ estimates, out of Colombo’s population of 31,188 in 1824, about 13,420 were M oors, 4,550 Burghers, and 2,450 Chetties; 72 including the British residents of the fort area, more than two-thirds were “nonLankans.” Until the late nineteenth century, the large majority of Colombo’s residents were not those who had migrated from inland. Both the space of Colombo and its inhabitants had been imported over the years. By the early twentieth century, Colombo had been Ceylonized in regard to its population, through the naturalization of immigrants and migration from the interior of the country. In addition to Muslims adopting Tamil as their daily language (Arabic for prayers), caste also seeped into their communities. 73 In this way, M uslim migrants who had settled in the island only temporarily for business purposes became naturalized. Migration not only escalated between the 1880s and 1920s, increasing Colombo’s population by about 120%, but also changed the ethnic and religious composition of the city. By 1921, 47% of Colombo’s population were already Sinhalese, largely from the Low-Country, and the Sinhalese, Ceylon Tamils, and (naturalized) Ceylon M oors and Burghers made up 63% of Colombo’s population. The influx of migrants, however, created the basis for a new type of spatial grouping in the city. The most known Tamil enclave of W ellawatta, then at the outskirts of the city as defined by municipal boundaries, had already appeared by the 1880s. 74 Migrants brought ethnically defined quarters around the British compound of the Fort. After the mid-nineteenth century, the British also developed several enclaves outside the fort, including the residential Cinnamon Gardens. By the early twentieth century, however, the Sinhalese formed the main part of the city’s population within which enclaves of other ethnicities were formed, but with more permeable boundaries. In Ceylonizing Colombo, the Low-Country Sinhalese have therefore replaced the Europeans four centuries after they had appropriated Colombo from the Muslims. Segregation was not limited to racial and ethnic groups, but was also based on


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class, status, and income. By 1973, what the Census Department defined as “shanties” and “slums” accommodated almost half the city’s population. Yet the concentration of these in particular areas forming so-called working class neighborhoods, and their relative absence in elite and upper class suburbs, demonstrate class and income-based segregation. The expansion of the port in 1883, and its associated industries, was primarily instrumental in converting large areas, such as Kochchikade, and Gintupitiya, into dockland areas giving rise to a particular clustering of working class tenements and small businesses.75 A distinctive demographic characteristic of the colonial community, and also of the early immigrant and migrant communities in colonial port cities--as well as plantations--was the relative absence of women. 76 Cordiner notes that English society in Colombo in the 1820s consisted of one hundred “gents” and twenty “ladies.” 77 The significance of being single has been stressed from the beginning of European settlement; any Portuguese soldier who married was immediately discharged from the service. 78 This demographic aspect was accompanied by specific masculine institutions such as bachelors’ chummeries, clubs, and the allocation of disproportionate space in the city to the provision of recreational activities for the single male official. Brohier describes the club in terms of “An old adage holds that wherever two Englishmen met away from Home, they founded a “club”--in reality a nostalgic corner in a foreign field that was for ever England!” 79 The clubs were principally for men and, according to Cordiner, “ladies” did not attend the meetings of any of these societies. 80 These clubs also reflected the system of social stratification and their membership was highly restricted. In regard to W hist Bungalow, which had only twelve members, they were “chosen from among the most respectable inhabitants, whose wealth or position entitled them to the highest social honours.” 81 The main component of the Ceylonese who migrated in the initial stages as also male. These men lived in small rooms in lodging houses known among immigrants from India as Kiddangies, sustained by the small shops and other marginal services which are part of the so-called informal economy of the poor. 82 In 1921, 61% of Colombo’s population was male.83 The gradual settlement of migrants in Colombo, later joined by their families, eventually feminized the city, bringing about a gender balance by the 1960s. In addition to Ceylonizing and feminizing, migrants also nativized and ruralized Colombo. Even in what the authorities called “slum” areas of towns, attempts were made to grow one or two papaya trees around each house thereby creating the sense of a garden. 84 McGee argues that characteristics of the city such as high-fertility and the persistence of the so-called “extended-family” are simply aspects of the “ruralness” of “Third W orld” cities. 85 A common solution to the lack of affordable dwellings was the construction of single-storied, mostly detached, small housing units using less durable material. These dwellings, “shanties” in the language of planners, represented 21% of Colombo’s housing stock in 1981. 86 Building their own houses with materials available in the new environment and using self-help methods to do so represents the transfer of rural housing methods to the city. These


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buildings both helped the inhabitants to familiarize themselves with the city and, at the same time, also ruralized a part of it. Patterns of migration and other post-colonial developments, however, blurred the urban-rural distinction. According to Moore, “The amorphousness of the ‘village’ in Sri Lanka and the lack of clear urban-rural boundaries are opposite sides of the same coin. Both are in large part due to the preference for dispersed settlement.” 87 The rural emphasis of state development policies, nationalist and socialist influences, and the conservative characteristics of the westernized have contributed to the continuation of this lack of urban-rural distinction until the late 1970s. Urban Problems and Planning Solutions From the late 1910s, Colombo Municipal authorities began to stereotype the poor migrants in Colombo. The housing and landscapes they produced were seen by the authorities as “unhealthy,” “overcrowded,” and undesirable for living. The enactment of the Housing Ordinance of 1915 made municipal authorities view the city as plagued with urban and housing problems. As an exported discourse, the urban problems the municipal authorities found in Colombo did not differ much from what the authorities in M anchester and London had found in those cities. The difference is that Colombo’s problems were new and the means to perceive those were exported to Colombo only in the first decades of the twentieth century. As a result, colonial planners, such as Patrick Geddes, Clifford Holliday, and Patrick Abercrombie, were invited from the metropole to solve these problems. It was within these planning proposals that “town planning” developed and took root in Ceylon. This led to the establishment of the Town Planning Department as a national planning agency, with colonialism being the vehicle by which urban planning was exported to Ceylon. As the building of cities and urban and rural institutions go far back in history, urban and regional planning, broadly defined as “environmental decision making,” is clearly not a new phenomenon. The history of urban planning in any society, therefore, demonstrates a long continuity, in terms of emerging ideas of social policy, social and cultural values--the distribution of power and the development of political institutions--between an age when there was no governmental responsibility for “Town Planning” described as such and a period when there was.88 Yet in Sri Lanka, these two stages were ruptured by colonialism. Governmental responsibility for, and how to understand and manage towns were also taught by colonial officials who built them in the first place, thus subjugating Lankan urban history to a British colonial one. Ceylonese Adaption of Colonial Architecture and the Landscape As both town planning, the field of post-colonial architecture had its roots in the late colonial period, and was marked by the continuation of colonial practices. Yet unlike with planning, the development of so-called “Modern Architecture”


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transplanted hegemony in architecture from individual metropoles to a broader Euro-American core. This discourse provided a culturally neutral context for a continuing dependency on the imperial metropoles well into the post-colonial period. I shall focus here on the process of the Ceylonese elite penetration of colonial landscapes, and explore the post-colonial architecture of Ceylon. The manifestation of a distinct cultural expression in architecture was not an issue of any significance for Ceylon’s post-colonial rulers. The immediate postindependence period was marked by drives for “development” and “modernization,” still following the model of Europe. Architecturally, the same process had enabled “architectural modernism” to climax in such “Third W orld” cities as Brasilia and Chandigarh. Modernization was thus part of the post-colonial phase of the “W esternization” of society and space and, from a nationalist point of view, this minimized the need for institutional and spatial change. Ceylonese leaders who continued to rule the country within the British-made constitution of 1947 were quite at home adopting the symbols of the colonial elite. They thus moved into former colonial spaces, reinventing their own identity, and re-interpreting these spaces as those of their own nation. The colonial fort area, where the colonial military and administrative apparatuses had long been located, came to be identified simply as “Fort,” or Colombo Fort, a politically neutral name. However, when national leaders had political power in their hands, they rapidly Ceylonized the government sector and its built environment. The “Neo-Classical” parliament house, built by the British, was transformed from its status of State Council building to the House of Representatives and Secretariat. The building itself was not changed, but the processional way and council chamber were altered to accommodate more elected representatives.89 The former residence of the British Governor, the Queen’s House, was occupied by the new Governor-General, the ceremonial head of the state representing the Queen. The colonial built environment of the Fort area, therefore, did not change for three decades after independence. The elite followed the late colonial model of living in residential suburbs. Colonial living styles had been of particular interest to the nascent elite from Dutch times. Dutch country houses built to the north of Colombo, near Kelani River, attracted the so-called “leading citizens” to Mutuwal, Hultsdorp, and Grandpass, and remained a socially preferred location until the mid-nineteenth century. Later, British residential neighborhoods to the south of the fort area, in Kollupitiya, and later, Cinnamon Gardens, set a new trend for the Ceylonese elite to follow. 90 W ith independence, they moved into the Cinnamon Gardens area in much larger numbers. These housing and locational choices were part of a broader emulation of British colonial culture, which also included eating habits, dress, consumerism, and even naming practices. The city of Colombo, and Cinnamon Gardens in particular, became one of the prime sites for symbolic display. According to Roberts, the construction of palatial mansions with neat driveways and gardens was just as much a part of this status competition as forms of elegant dress, profligate wedding


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receptions, and the use of material artifacts of W estern origin. Conspicuous consumption for symbolic purposes was played out through material forms.91 As Abu-Lughod argues in regard to M orocco, “the elite had moved into the vacuum left by the foreign caste, and the privileges that accrued to these positions so newly occupied were dependent in part upon maintaining the system that had created them.” 92 Although the physical-spatial forms of colonial urban development apparently strained the economic resources of the city, 93 the elite’s ambition was clearly to occupy colonial spaces. Post-colonial cities largely retained their former patterns of spatial stratification, 94 although the boundaries were less rigid. Racial inequality built into the colonial urban form was now reproduced within the postcolonial spheres of status and class. The continuation of the colonial administrative structure also required spaces to house both post-colonial activities and subjects. Adaptation of the colonial categorization of government servants, providing them with quarters with largely the same facilities, is evident in the Report of the Committee Appointed to Advise on the Type Plans of Quarters for Government Officers of 1952. Although the committee noted post-colonial realities, such as the expense of maintaining detached houses for higher ranking officers with a garden close to the work place in Colombo and the furnishing of these, the actual provision of quarters was not questioned.95 Its recommendations, rather, aimed at reducing the cost of housing for the lower ranks of government servants, providing them with flats (apartment housing) and reducing internal areas below the minimum requirements specified in the Housing Ordinance. The committee, advised by (British) Government Architect, T.N. W ynne Jones--who had designed grand “Neo-Classical” buildings in Colombo--did not place value in what it called “conventional features in building,” “such as extensive overhang of eaves, high valleys, embellishments, broken outlines, and mouldings” and recommended avoiding such “non-essentials.” 96 It was not therefore so much the structure that was at issue, but the cost and subsidies for lowranking government workers. These modified colonial building practices also required architects capable of producing them. From about the 1930s, compliant Ceylonese were trained in the metropole; the Commonwealth also increased the capacity for post-colonial subjects to travel to other Dominions to study architecture. These Ceylonese professionals also studied the same material, culture, and history as their British predecessors had done so that their products hardly transformed the colonial landscape. Although Ceylonese architects gradually replaced the British, therefore, the PW D-based structure of architectural production largely continued to dominate in the postcolonial period. Just like the production of architecture itself, the centralization of production of architectural knowledge in the institutions of the metropole tended not only to homogenize the landscape across the Empire, but also to obscure what we might call “national” (or proto-national) cultural expressions. From a core-periphery perspective, Goonatilake has argued that so-called significant knowledge assertions


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in the dependent periphery resulted from the diffusion of ideas of the center, in which the fundamental and basic core knowledge grows largely in the “W est.” 97 Holding on to the production of architectural knowledge, major schools of architecture in the core states reproduced the former colonial monopoly on architectural production, but on a global scale. For the professionals in the periphery, therefore, the production of “meaningful architecture” was largely guided by the process of mimicking W estern buildings and architectural styles. The metropole-colony dependency was thus carried over by the post-colonial state, its departments, and its professionals. Architects educated in the metropole formed, as a club, the Ceylon Institute of Architects in 1957. Decentralizing the diffusion of architectural knowledge, this institution introduced architectural education into Ceylon in 1961. Yet not only was its curriculum fashioned after the British model but, until the 1980s, a representative from the Royal Institute of British Architects sat on the final design review committee. At the same time, a long standing process among European architects of referring back to classical buildings in search of styles was profoundly challenged from the 1920s under the rubric of “Modernism.” The ideology of what might be called “architectural modernism” was produced in Europe under the leadership of the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM).98 W hat is significant to this discussion is that, breaking away from one kind of European history, architectural modernists projected a new future, an alternative to historic architecture as well as the industrial city. In the second place, the development of building typologies and planning conventions were projected as instruments of change, and seen as particularly useful in redefining the social functions of urban organization. Moreover, the CIAM’s view relied on the state’s authority to achieve the planning goals of the city. The leading figure of CIAM, Le Corbusier, claimed that radical social change could be brought about through this new architecture without social revolution, an appeal which attracted both revolutionaries as well as their opponents. These ideas were in keeping with the wishes of most post-colonial leaders whose objective was to use the post-colonial state as an instrument of change in constructing a modern nation. Furthermore, architectural modernism called for massive state intervention and centralized coordination, 99 and this certainly appealed to post-colonial states which undertook the task of “development” in place of private capital. Moreover, CIAM’s projection of a common future, with no reference to previous forms of European architecture, tended to underplay the cultural context in which this ideology was produced. It was this de-historicization of architecture and the aesthetics of erasure, particularly the capacity to represent a future outside both colonial and “pre-colonial” histories, that made the adoption of modernism more comfortable for post-colonial architects. The representation of architectural modernism as a thrust towards, and an image of, progress made it even more attractive to the post-colonial political leadership. This is evident in Nehru’s employment of Le Corbusier as the architect-planner of independent India’s first significant city building project, Chandigarh.100


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The only reference in the modernist discourse to distinctive and a particular place was found in the notion of “Tropical Architecture,” discussed in Chapter Three. This suggests that architectural modernism was not just European, but was also constructed within the premises of Eurocentrism, undermining the social and cultural values of non-European people, and recognizing only a climatic difference in relation to temperate Europe. Moreover, the notion of “Tropical Architecture” was based on an assumption that the indigenous architectures of newly independent states were “decadent,” “moribund,” and devoid of a living history. 101 It claimed that modernism was of value in the production of “more efficient” buildings for the “Tropics.” Its momentum was towards the homogenization, standardization, and rationalization of the building process, opening up overseas markets for building material and component producers of the metropole. The decentralization of the design process, therefore, did not produce much diversity in the post-colonial landscape. If Ceylonese architects were ambiguous about post-colonial architecture and the relevance of so-called Gothic or NeoClassical buildings in Colombo, architectural modernism provided a spuriously “neutral” terrain for the transfer of architectural ideas from the centers to the peripheries. W ithin the budgetary constraints of post-colonial states, there also seemed to be a belief that “ornament” is costly. Despite the cost of construction and maintenance, modernist buildings were perceived as cheap to construct, and the hegemony of “Modern Architecture” became strong in post-colonial Ceylon. The main institutional buildings that appeared in Colombo until the 1970s, for example, the Central Bank of Ceylon, the Irrigation Department Headquarters, Ceylinco Building, St. Thomas’s Primary School (Kollupitiya), Peoples Bank headquarters, were all designed in the so-called “modernist” mode. In brief, the colonial society and space in Ceylon was not subjected to any qualitative change immediately after independence. The colonial ideological foundation within which cities had been built, and which provided the necessary knowledge to understand, manage, and maintain the extant built environment, persisted during the first decade after independence. The process of independence largely took the form of indigenizing colonial social and spatial structures. Notes 1. Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Three Instances of Hegemony in the History of the Capitalist World-Economy,” ch. in Politics of the World-Economy: The States, the Movements, and the Civilizations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 46; Giovanni Arrighi, “The Three Hegemonies,” 396. 2. “a situation of total and apparently irremediable lack of organization.” (Arrighi, 369) 3. Terence K. Hopkins, “Note on the concept of Hegemony” Review xiii (1990): 409-412. 4. Hugh Tinker, Separate and Unequal: India and the Indians in the British Commonwealth 1920-1950 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1976), 36, 355-6. 5. See P.K.S. Namboodiri, J.P. Anand, and Sreedhar, Interventions in the Indian Ocean (New Delhi: ABC Publishing House, 1982), 2-3.


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6. Tinker, Separate and Unequal, 264-5. 7. H. Duncan Hall, Commonwealth: A History of the British Commonwealth of Nations (London: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1971). 8. Robert H. Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 98. 9. See Fanon, 52. 10. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka, 287-8. The Ceylonese also invested in rubber, making it fairly evenly owned between the Europeans and the Ceylonese. 11. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka, 162; I.D.S. Weerawardana, Government and Politics in Ceylon (1931-1946) (Colombo: Ceylon Economic Research Association, 1951), 3; Mills, Ceylon Under British, 105, 107, 266; Michael Roberts, Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of the Karava Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 2, 166, 168. 12. Marshall R. Singer, The Emerging Elite (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1964), 120. 13. Peebles, “Governor Arthur Gordon,” 102. 14. S.J. Tambiah, “Ethnic Population,” 113, 117. 15. Singer, 75. 16. Hugh Tinker, South Asia. A Short History (London: MacMillan, 1989), 163. 17. See James S. Duncan, “The Power of Place in Kandy: 1780-1980,” in John A. Agnew and James S. Duncan, eds., The Power of Place: Bringing Together Geographical and Sociological Imaginations (Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 191. 18. In de Silva, A History of Ceylon, 327. 19. Michael Roberts, “Problems of Social Stratification and the Demarcation of National and Local Elites in British Ceylon,” Journal of Asian Studies xxxiii (1974): 558. 20. Singer, 118-9. 21. Tinker, Separate and Unequal, 156. 22. For a critical appraisal of the concept of “post-colonial,” see McClinntock, “The Angel of Progress;” Shohat, “Notes on the “Post-Colonial.” 23. In conceptualizing globalization, Robertson refers to similar implications of various groups becoming conscious of the world becoming a single place. (Globalization) 24. Weerawardana, 15. 25. Steven Kemper, The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics, and Culture in Sinhala Life (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 142; Elizabeth Nissan, “History in the Making: Anuradhapura and the Sinhala Buddhist Nation” Social Analysis: Journal of Cultural and Social Practice 25 (September 1989): 64-77. 26. Tinker, South Asia, 118. Italics mine. 27. See, Michael Roberts, “Irrigation Policy in British Ceylon During the Nineteenth Century,” South Asia 2 (1972): 48. 28. Roberts, “Irrigation Policy,” 51. 29. Land Commissioner’s Department, Statistical Information of the Human Settlement Schemes Under the Land Commissioner’s Department, 1981; R.D. Wanigaratne, The Minipe Colonization Scheme: An Appraisal (Colombo: Agrarian Research and Training Institute, 1979), 47; G. Gunatillake, Participatory Development and Dependence: The Case of Sri Lanka (New York: Overseas Development Council, 1980), table 7.4. 30. In Farmer, 163. Italics mine. 31. Sarath Amunugama, “A Recent Attempt at Colonization on a Peasant Framework” Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Studies 8 (1965): 134. 32. Farmer 113; Wanigaratne, 50. 33. Farmer, “The Origins of Agricultural Colonization,” 233, 234.


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34. Wanigaratne, 48, 50. 35. Farmer, “The Origins of Agricultural Colonization,” 234. 36. See Amunugama, 131, 134. 37. Amunugama, 133; Roberts, “Irrigation Policy,” 59. See also Wanigaratne, 1; Farmer, “The Origins of Agricultural Colonization,” 233-4; Marguerite S. Robinson, Political Structure in a Changing Singhalese Village (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 260. 38. Wickramasinghe, 250; Amunugama, 139, 143; Robinson, 260-1. 39. Farmer, “The Origins of Agricultural Colonization,” 231; Wanigaratne, 47-9. 40. See Mick Moore, The State and Peasant Policies in Sri Lanka (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 218. 41. See Richard Gombrich and Gananath Obeyesekere, Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 447-8. 42. See Bertolacci, A View of the Agricultural, Commercial and Financial Interests of Ceylon, 24, 45; Major Forbes, Eleven Years in Ceylon. two vols. (Weatmead: Gregg International Publishers, 1972 [1840]), 63-5; Tilak Hettiarachchi, The Sinhala Peasant in a Changing Society: Ecological Change Among the Sinhala Peasants from 1796 A.D. to 1909 A.D. (Colombo: Lake House, 1982), 87-8. 43. J.W. Bennett, Ceylon and Its Capabilities (London: W.H. Allen, 1843) and Tennent’s reports of 1846 and 1847, cited in Roberts, “Irrigation Policy”, 48-9. 44. Bernard Cohen, “History and Anthropology: The State of Play,” ch. in An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987), 44. 45. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka, 298. 46. Ibid, 299-300; Michael Roberts, “The Paddy Lands Irrigation Ordinances and the Revival of Traditional Irrigation Customs, 1856-1871,” Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Studies 10 (1967): 129-30. 47. In 1861, three choices were given to the proprietors of each irrigation division: that of gamsabhava only, village headman only, or gamsabhavas in combination with headmen. While Northern Province favored headmen untrammeled by councils and Eastern Province preferred gamsabhavas only, the rest of the provinces picked the combined option. (Roberts, “The Paddy Lands,” 121) 48. Roberts “The Paddy Lands,” 117. 49. Mills, Ceylon Under British, 261. 50. Andrew Boyd, “A People's Tradition: An Account of the Small Peasant Tradition in Ceylon,” Marg 1 (1947): 26, 28-9. 51. See de Vos, “Some Aspects of Traditional Rural Housing,” 16; Census, 1981. 52. See James S. Duncan, “Getting Respect in the Kandyan Highlands: The Home, The Community, and the Self in a Third World Society,” in Setha Low and Erve Chambers, eds., Housing, Culture, and Design: A Comparative Perspective (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989), 229-250. 53. See MacDougall, 1971. 54. Bandaranayake, “Form and Technique in Traditional Rural Housing,” 11. 55. Amos Rapoport, “Vernacular Architecture and the Cultural Determinants of Form,” in Anthony D. King, ed., Buildings and Society, 292. 56. Anthony D. King, “Rethinking Colonialism: An Epilogue,” in Nezar AlSayyad, ed., Forms of Dominance: On the Architecture and Urbanism of the Colonial Enterprise (Aldershot: Avebury, 1992), 348.


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57. See Brohier, Links Between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands, 93, 94, 97; Tinker, South Asia, 85; de Silva and Beumer, 118; Hulugalle, The Centenary Volume, 22. 58. Coomaraswami, Medieval Singhalese Art, 257. 59. Brohier, Links Between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands, 92 60. See G. Kalaeswaran, A Study of Traditional Domestic Architecture of Jaffna up to ‘Colonial-Influenced’ House (M.Sc. Thesis, University of Moratuwa, 1983). 61. Percival, 173. 62. Coomaraswami, 31. 63. Evenson, 71. See also Clifford, The Predicament of Culture. 64. Ferguson, 9; Hulugalle, Centenary Volume, 68. 65. Roberts, “Colombo in the Round,” 4. According to Turner, the population of Colombo in 1921 was 244,000, while the next, Jaffna had only 42,400. Galle’s population was 39,100, while Kandy’s was 32,600. (Turner, 4) 66. Knox and Agnew, 247. 67. Michael Roberts, Ismeth Rahim, and Percy Colin-Thome, People In Between: The Burghers and the Middle Class in the Transition Within Sri Lanka 1790s-1960s (Colombo: Sarvodaya, 1989), I: 104; Kumari Jayawardena, The Rise of the Labor Movement in Ceylon (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1972). 68. See Chandra, “Colonialism.” 69. Turner, 4. 70. See de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka, 408. 71. See Perera, “Exploring Colombo.” 72. Roberts, “Colombo in the Round,” 5. 73. Azeez, “The Muslims of Sri Lanka,” 13-14. 74. Roberts, “Colombo in the Round,” 5, 17. 75. Roberts, “Colombo in the Round,” 9. 76. King, Urbanism, Colonialism and the World-Economy, 35. 77. Cordiner, 76. See also Roberts, “Colombo in the Round,” 6. 78. Brohier, Changing Face of Colombo, 14. 79. Ibid, 47. 80. Cordiner, 77-9. 81. Brohier, Changing Face of Colombo, 47. 82. Roberts et al, 106. 83. Roberts, “Colombo in the Round,” 5-6. 84. Morrison, et al, 24. 85. McGee, The Urbanization Process, 55. 86. Marga, 59. 87. Moore, 126. 88. King, “Exporting Planning,” 13. 89. Lakshman Alwis, Rohan C. Aluwihare, and Dayapriya B. Navaratne, British Period Architecture in Sri Lanka (Colombo: Sri Lanka United Kingdom Society, 1992), 60. 90. Hulugalle, Colombo, 143, 144. 91. Roberts, “Colombo in the Round,” 14-15. 92. Janet Abu-Lughod, “Dependent Urbanism and decolonization: The Moroccan Case” ASQ 1,1: 54. 93. See King, Colonial Urban Development, 284. 94. See Abu-Lughod, 60; Hugh Tinker, Race in the Third World City (New York: Ford Foundation, 1971).


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95. Ceylon Government, Report of the Committee Appointed to Advise on the Type Plans of Quarters for Government Officers (Colombo: Government Publication Bureau, 1952), 1,2. 96. Ibid, 4. 97. Susantha Goonatilake, Aborted Discovery: Science and Creativity in the Third World (London: Zed Books Ltd, 1984), 110-111. 98. A cogent examination of architectural modernism is found in James Holston, The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1989). 99. Ibid, 5. 100. See Ravi Kalia, Chandigarh: In Search of an Identity (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987). 101. Shanti Jayawardana, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bawa: A contribution to cultural regeneration,â&#x20AC;? Mimar 19 (JanMar 1986): 48.


5 Nationalizing Space: Nationalist and Socialist Transformations of Sri Lanka Adaptations to the colonial society and space in Ceylon, discussed in the previous chapter, were complemented by challenges to the colonial system, and these became most visible from the 1930s. In this chapter I explore the spatial constitution of these challenges, particularly by the socialists and nationalists, whose politics were dominant in the national political arena between the mid-1950s and the1970s. I also investigate a new development in the field of architecture, critical vernacularism, which also became prominent in the 1970s. As colonialism and capitalism are worldwide phenomena, the challenges to these also cause global effects. It is within, and as part of, this context that Sri Lankan challenges to both these systems are investigated. Anti-Systemic M ovements and the W orld-Wide System of States W ith the stepping up of socialist and independence struggles in the 1910s and 1920s, the movements going against the grain of the system, anti-systemic movements, expanded both in number and in their sphere of influence, posing a formidable threat to the world-society and space centered upon western Europe. The powerful image of the European states was greatly weakened by the Japanese defeat of Russia in 1904-5 and also, during two world wars, by the specter of â&#x20AC;&#x153;white men killing each other by the most horrific means scientific minds could devise.â&#x20AC;? 1 The Second W orld W ar also provided the conjuncture in which colonial controls became weaker than they had ever been. 2 This context provided the opportunity for the culmination of anti-colonial struggles. As discussed previously, Ceylonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s alternative to being a colony was restricted to becoming a member of the system of so-called sovereign states. This world-wide system of states was, however, not the inevitable outcome of the colonized societies gaining self-determinancy but the one that was swiftly fixed by the core states. As 123


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Gellner has argued, “Nations are not inscribed into the nature of things, they do not constitute a political version of the doctrine of the natural kinds. Nor were national states the manifest ultimate destiny of ethnic or cultural groups.” 3 The system of nation-states was legitimated through the construction of world organizations, particularly, the United Nations Organization and its predecessor, the League of Nations. These organizations were, however, created prior to most of the states in the periphery. Instead of post-colonial states participating in the production of a system of states, or an alternative to the modern state, they were recruited into preconstructed positions. Independence was, therefore, a controlled process, best defined as decolonization. In this sense, the Euro-US construction of a world-wide interstate system has been the continuation of the European (and the American) bourgeoisie creating a world after its own image--as Marx once said.4 This new polity represents a particular compartmentalization of the world into states, reducing these to knowable, manageable, and controllable territorial units represented as a politically homogeneous jig-saw puzzle. The far-reaching hegemony such notion has achieved is exemplified by the constant effort of the Peoples Republic of China to join the United Nations, especially since it was not only marginal in the west European system but also claimed to be breaking away from the capitalist world. Beyond their representation as equal, these states have not been equal in any sense. According to Jackson, what the states in general “received” was a “negative sovereignty,” the power to act within a particular territory, supposedly unobstructed by other states. 5 Yet west European states possessed “positive sovereignty” that went beyond the boundaries of the state, and they employed it relentlessly over the extra-European peoples. Moreover, the contemporaneous development of international organizations and transnational corporations has created an extensive and dense network of pecuniary and non-pecuniary exchanges which no single state can control unilaterally and, more importantly, from which no state can attempt to “delink” except at exorbitant costs.6 This worldview also regulated the objectives of independence movements, for which prospective states were largely “given”--or taken for granted--within colonial states, or simply left by them, for example, Siam (now Thailand). Independence was, therefore, a paradoxical situation of recruiting subjects to these already given states, and at the same time attempting to construct a “nation.” Hence, the new system of states established at the end of the principal European colonial era produced another wave of dehistoricization and defamiliarization of space for the extra-European peoples. Ethnic rivalry and separatism, addressed below, are manifestations of the disorientation among “post-colonial” peoples brought about through this defamiliarization of space. The Bolshevik victory in what became the Soviet Union had become a principal source of inspiration for both working class and nationalist movements. Yet the core capitalist powers had managed the communist challenge to the system by incorporating and institutionalizing it into a duality, the so-called Cold W ar. The overdetermination of this duality between the 1950s and 1980s compelled every


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political movement to identify with and be conditioned by either the US model of “democracy,” or the Soviet model of “communism,” suppressing any political space outside this duopoly. The hegemone, the United States, also opted to reorganize the world-economy. The US interest was in dissolving the protectionism of imperial powers and in improving exchanges, a primary means of which was the Bretton W oods Agreement of 1944. This agreement provided for the increased flow of currency across national boundaries, especially US Dollars, making the transfer of “values” and capital accumulation in the core, particularly in the United States, smoother than ever before. Moreover, two basic institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the W orld Bank, were also founded in this process; the first was mainly responsible for the stabilization of exchange and the maintenance of international financial discipline and the latter, for rebuilding the economies of “undeveloped” countries.7 Nonetheless, the “post-colonial,” post-W ar world was much more diverse and fragmented, not only in regard to the number of political centers, but also the meaning of these centers. This process of multiplication of political centers and their particular groupings, in addition to the capitalist-communist duality, is evident in the emergence of “third forces,” for example, the Non-Aligned Movement, regional cooperations like pan-Arabism and pan-Africanism, alternative centers of communism such as the Peoples Republic of China, and multiple ethnic and religious centers, some later resorting to so-called “fundamentalism.” These “third models” were, however, ambivalent, largely because, on the one hand, they challenged the existing political order, yet on the other hand, they were organized and derived their meanings from the Cold War and the inter-state system. Nonetheless, they represented the incompleteness of the US-USSR duality. In this sense, if the Iberian expansion of the late fifteenth century, in effect, had the potential towards the homogenizing of world-space, from about the 1880s, that same world-space had begun to fragment. This became evident in every restructuring of the world-space, especially in the 1940s and, again, in the 1980s. The political space of the world after the 1940s was to be constituted of a complex combination of capitalist-core, semi-periphery, and periphery; metropoles, colonial states, colonies; “democratic,” “communist,” non-aligned, and later fundamentalist states, and many other forms intertwined and interacting with each other. If imperial city structures connected colonial port cities to their respective metropole, the independence of a large number of societies not only multiplied the centers of political power, but also diversified the inter-city relationships. Cultural Challenges to Colonialism Before any political party, the Buddhist establishment had been a principal challenger of colonialism and had also provided the inspiration for such challenges. Its survival and continuity, however, required the restructuring of its institutions and practices. According to Malalgoda, these transformations did not affect the essential doctrinal ideals of Theravada Buddhism in any significant way. 8 Hence,


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what we see here is a particular continuity and change. In this section, I examine the spatial impact of the restructuring of Buddhism as part of its struggle against and survival under colonialism. In the Low Country, the removal of the sangha from royal patronage began in the sixteenth century with the conversion of the crown prince of Kotte, Dharmapala, to Roman Catholicism, his transfer of Buddhist temple villages to the Franciscans and, subsequently, the bequest of his kingdom to the King of Portugal after his death. At the same time, keeping Buddhism alive, the King of Kandy warmly received the Buddhist monks, bhikkus, who fled from the Portuguese-ruled areas and endowed them with new temples and land grants. The British conquest of Kandy deprived the sangha of any royal patronage. In addition, under three colonial regimes, Buddhism was also subjected to competition from various forms of Christianity which received the support of the colonial state. 9 Changes in colonial state policy and the conflicts between different Christian faiths had helped the Buddhists to reorganize their religious activities in the LowCountry. The broad-based transformation of Buddhism and its organization that took place in the late nineteenth century has been addressed by scholars such as Gananath Obeyesekere, Kitsiri Malalgoda, and Richard Gombrich which need not be repeated here. 10 Obeyesekere argues that Buddhism was transformed in the late nineteenth century (1860-1885) into what he calls â&#x20AC;&#x153;Protestant Buddhism,â&#x20AC;? in regard to its protest against British colonialism in general and Protestant Christian missionaries in particular. This transformation was largely an urban phenomenon, in which the Buddhist leadership became more socialized, blurring the former distinction between the sangha and the laity. Malalgoda argues that the laity not only became increasingly involved in religious activity but also, from the 1880s, displaced monks from some of their traditional positions of religious leadership.11 The main outcome of the collapse of the Govigama (caste) monopoly of religious life and the entry of non-Govigamas into religious activity was the expansion of the religious sphere, including an increase in the number of sects, monks, as well as temples. The protest against colonialism and Christianity was also the process in which, and for which, Buddhism acquired many W estern Christian attributes. The formation of a Buddhist Theosophical Society, invention of a flag, incorporation of songs modelled on Christmas carols, sending of cards during Vesak celebrations, organization of Sunday Schools and catechism classes, and the use of English are some examples of this influence. The new Buddhist mission schools, sponsored by the Buddhist Theosophical Society--founded by Olcott--and the Mahabodhi Society --founded by Dharmapala--also adopted the model of Christian missionary public schools, whether in regard to cricket or the curriculum.12 Spatially, these Christian and colonial influences are evident in making Colombo the principal site for Buddhist protest activities. Although the southern city of Galle was developing as the B uddhist center of the Low-Country in the eighteenth century, a century later, Colombo and its vicinity had become the locus of Buddhist organizational activity. This is evident in the reinforcing and revitalization of


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temples at Kotte and Kelaniya, both former Lankan seats of power close to Colombo, the building of temples in Colombo itself, the establishment of missionary schools, and the reinforcing of monastic educational institutions, piriven, such as the Vidyalankaraya and V idyodaya in the vicinity. The contest with Christianity also provoked the establishment of their main printing presses, publishing houses, and new organizations like the Society for the Propagation of Buddhism, Mahabodhi Society, Young Mens Buddhist Association, and â&#x20AC;&#x153;missionâ&#x20AC;? Schools, such as Ananda in Colombo. Nonetheless, since Buddhism was not privileged by the patronage of the political authority, its presence in Colombo was not conspicuous. 13 This surge in Buddhist activism in cities, and in the Low Country at large, should not confuse the fact that Buddhism was largely operative in villages. The sangha were overwhelmingly recruited from villages, and the villagers were more closely acquainted with their local Buddhist monks. As in the process of protest in which Buddhism acquired many Christian characteristics, in socializing its own institutions Buddhism was also influenced by local beliefs and worldviews. This was largely a rural phenomenon, where the expansion of Buddhism in villages made the bhikkus engage in astrology, local medicinal systems (Ayurveda), traditional approaches to designing and locating buildings (vastu vidya), and even in so-called supernatural interventions, such as bali, thovil, and huniyam. As in missionary activity, the temple became closely associated with the laity in particular areas supporting not only their spiritual needs, but also aspects of day-to-day life. As in

FIGURE 5.1 The Buddhist landscape: Ruwanveliseya at Anuradhapura.


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the Christian organization of space in terms of parishes and dioceses, the temple became the center of a particular group of dayakas who in turn supported it, including the provision of food (dana) for monks.14 Transformations can also be seen at the level of households and dwellings. The introduction of a place of worship as the prayer room, also introduced new divisions between the sacred and profane into dwelling spaces. This was constructed through the use of (Buddha) statues and pictures, the adding of another ritual of offering flowers and food resembling the Christian offering of one tenth of produce to the church. Moreover, rituals such as chanting pirith and alms giving in houses, in both cases inviting bhikkus (priests) to one’s residence, also became institutionalized. In addition to the restructuring of “national” as well as its own space, Buddhism has also been a major contemporary source of historic built forms. Since key temples formed a part of the former religio-royal landscape, their survival has contributed to the partial continuity of historic Lankan built forms. (figure 5.1) Moreover, as the center of education and knowledge, the temple has also been an instrument for the survival of Lankan medicinal, astrological, and architectural (vastu vidya) systems and practices. These also provided potential nodes for the subversion of European cultural hegemony and the basing of nationalism. Similar and comparable developments also occurred in other Buddhist societies, particularly Burma, and in regard to other Asian religions, including Hinduism and Islam, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. According to M alalgoda, changes in the “traditional” social and political order and competition from Christian missions provided the common background for changes and revivals of religions in those areas, 15 and the Hindu revival in the mid-nineteenth century demonstrates developments similar to those of Buddhism. Anti-Colonialist Conceptions of Ceylon The early “nationalisms” that were more of a critique of colonialism, and which emerged around the 1880s with religious revivals, were replaced by more confrontational struggles in the 1920s and 1930s. Subsequent to the stepping up of the Indian national struggles in the 1920s, south and south-east Asia gradually developed into an anti-colonial battlefield. Drawing Ceylon into the spreading arena of anti-colonialism, the active leadership of the Suriya Mal (Sunflower) movement, organized in 1933, formed a political party, Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP, the party for social equality), in 1935. These socialists and the nationalists, principally the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), formed in 1951, shared the view that independence in 1948 was incomplete. From this perspective, the process of independence continued until the 1970s. The LSSP had two primary objectives: independence and socialism. Its impact on national space was in the development of an island-wide anti-colonial sentiment among the people; the transformation of prime capitalist spaces, particularly the plantations, into a locus of anti-colonial struggle; and the drawing of “outlying areas” and “marginalized subjects” into a future national arena. Since it was these


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processes that finally produced “Sri Lanka” as an independent state, much more than merely the name, I shall identify anti-colonial spaces as “Sri Lankan.” Unlike its outcome, the national state, the struggle for Sri Lankan independence was constructed through the articulation of widespread anti-colonial sentiments against the colonial state of Ceylon. Just as trade unions of the European proletariat corresponded to the production units (factories) and “trades” organized by capital, this independence movement, which had been born within the colony, saw colonial society and its territory as orthogenetic, i.e., natural or given. As most socialist movements of the time, however, the LSSP’s spatial orientation was international. Its internationalism largely lay in the Marxist slogan that attempted to unite the working class against capitalism, across national frontiers, and a critique of the Stalinist notion of socialism in one country. Although its objectives contested those of the capitalist world-system, the international solidarity the Sama Samajists strove to build was not explicitly directed at producing a single socialist world. The international socialist revolution it conceived was to be carried out by socialist parties at national level. More so than with any other political movement in Ceylon, the Sama Samajists’ ambivalence towards the “inter-national” was more effective in producing a “national space.” This was not, however, the outcome of supporting the notion of the “national,” but was largely their ignorance of it. W hat I am arguing here is that the nature of the society and space represented by anti-colonial movements was not inevitable. For example, given the international orientation of organizations like the LSSP, in theory, much broader anti-colonial movements could have been organized within the Empire as the social and spatial unit; given the working class orientation of many independence movements, they could also have joined with the working classes of the metropole. Yet historically, despite the sporadic occurrence of some alliances across colonial boundaries, such as between Vietnamese and French Communist parties and the LSSP cultivating relationships with leftist anti-colonial groups in India, none of these developed into broad-based anti-imperial organizations. Yet the LSSP’s increasing focus on the national political arena demonstrates the “naturalness” this colonial territory and society had acquired. W allerstein points out that, in Europe, “it was the socialists who first and most effectively integrated the “outlying” zones into their respective nation-states.” 16 He refers here to the strength of the British Labour Party in Wales and Scotland, French socialists in Octavia, and Italian socialists in the south. W ithout exception, the LSSP was also instrumental in closely integrating marginalized areas and subjects into the prospective national space of Ceylon. The Sama Samajists organized the masses across ethnic, religious, and caste boundaries and had a special appeal for the marginalized. Two forms of social consciousness were produced among such groups. First was the consciousness of discrimination against these, especially Sinhalese “low-castes.” Roberts suggests that supporting the LSSP also provided the means to engage in caste and other conflicts. 17 Second was the consciousness of being a part of the same society, and not outside it. This is demonstrated in the confidence the LSSP gained as a national movement among the Tamils and, more


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ardently, the plantation workers of Indian origin (officially, “Indian Tamils”). Beginning with trade unions, the Sama Samajists transformed the plantation workers into a significant political force in Ceylon in the 1940s, drawing the plantation enclave into national space. Despite the deprivation of their citizenship by the government of 1947, it was impossible thereafter to perceive plantation workers as “alien.” The Sama Samaja Party, of which the first goal was national independence, therefore, not only represented nationalist sentiment during this phase, but also produced it, profoundly promoting the perception of Ceylon as a “nation.” Post-Colonial “Dem ocracy” and Colom bo’s Centrality Lankan religious revivals of the late nineteenth century and the shifting of the locus of independence struggles to the plantations in the 1940s obscured the centrality of Colombo. Yet in the long run, Colombo’s political and spatial centrality over the island also remained unchallenged, even by the socialists and nationalists, until the 1970s. That political negotiations took place in Colombo, which were hardly confrontational, indicates that those were carried out within a set of rules that favored those who controlled Colombo. The reliance on the “proletariat” in its struggle against capitalism made the LSSP view capitalist spaces in Colombo and the plantations as the principal potential sites of confrontation. They entered the plantations, creating a working class--in regard to its consciousness--and organized plantation workers against both British domination and capitalism right at the heart of the space that British capital commanded. Struggles in the plantations in the 1940s, therefore, were an invitation to the colonial regime, once again, to enter the opponents’ territory to settle the disputes, as they did in their wars with Kandy. Nonetheless, the timely British transfer of political power to the Ceylonese was instrumental in transforming the locus of anti-colonial struggles from the plantations to Colombo, and drawing the challengers’ attention to the task of capturing political power in Colombo. This raises another significant issue concerning the difference between the societies in the capitalist core and the periphery and the applicability of discourses produced within core industrial states, particularly M arxism. In core capitalist states, state power, command centers of capital, and a large concentration of the working class tended to be concentrated in the principal cities. In Ceylon, however, most of the working population was in agriculture, and the majority of the working class was on the plantations. In 1911, Colombo had only 4.4% of the total working population of the colony, but the population in the plantations was five times that and about 40% of the working population was engaged in agriculture and dispersed in the island.18 Despite having a strong electoral base in Kegalla and Kalutara Districts outside Colombo, however, the LSSP’s urban bias made it pay more attention to the urban working class, and also to consider Colombo as their center of organization. W ith independence, Colombo’s role as the locus of political negotiations in


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Ceylon was continued through a form of European political culture based on a “Westminster” type of democracy. Representatives from electorates were sent out to the House of Representatives in Colombo to govern the “nation” as well as to negotiate issues concerning each individual electorate. The socialists who questioned the premises of capitalist democracy, but who were ambivalent about resorting to “armed struggle,” were drawn into the election process by their success in elections, rather than failures. The hope of winning a future election was boosted by the LSSP coming closer to forming a government in the elections for the first parliament of independent Ceylon. By the 1970s, they were so deeply entrenched in this position that some factions became quite interested in such European models as “Eurocommunism.” The “success” of this imported system of European political culture in Ceylon can be contrasted with its failure in many post-colonial countries in Asia. According to Pandey, “Indonesia abandoned its democratic system in 1957, as did Thailand for the second time in the same year, Pakistan in 1958, and Burma in 1962. Cambodia’s skeletal democracy collapsed in 1970. In 1972 the Philippines came under martial law ...” 19 Hence, the post-colonial locus of political power, for socialists, communists, capitalists, and elite alike, remained in Colombo. Colombo’s significance was further reinforced by the somewhat balanced strength of the two major political forces at independence, one led by the elite United National Party, and the other by the socialist LSSP, later by the nationalist Sri Lanka Freedom Party. The political culture developed during the transition, in which the strength of political rivals in Ceylon was evenly balanced, prevented either of these attempting to use excessive force of any sort against the other, or to extinguish its rival. This can be contrasted with the political situation in India where the Indian National Congress was so dominant that the Muslim League resorted to a policy of separatism.20 The Parliamentary system also added a new dimension within the national society and space, namely, the dividing of the country into electoral divisions. 21 Here the electorate has become the organizational base for political parties and voting patterns have constructed political identities through loyalty to particular parties and allegiances for different leaderships. Electoral identities are more complex than party loyalties since most successful candidates have drawn on the support of villagers, through village-level leaders--religious, caste, business, or otherwise--who delivered them blocks of votes. 22 Despite periodic changes in voter loyalty, however, it is not difficult to see electoral identities. Moore documents the pattern, In all general elections since 1956, the UNP has generally been relatively secure in most urban seats while the Marxist parties ... have continued at least until 1977 to form the main opposition to the UNP in much of the densely populated south west coast. Sri Lankan Tamil electorates almost invariably return members of separate Tamil parties. Thus the question of which of the major (Sinhalese) parties should take power has mainly been decided in the Kandyan and Dry Zone Sinhalese electorates.23


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There has also been a particular urban-rural combination and tension in the election process. Although every government appeared strong at the beginning of its term, it has generally been the case for it to be crippled by a general strike, mostly at the end of its term, and be defeated in the following election. This process, mostly dominant until 1980, had its own tensions since the strikes were staged by the urban working class and led by the socialist and communist parties; the change of government was caused by the rural voters who favored the two major Sinhalese parties and Tamil ones where Tamils were the majority. Spatial changes brought about during this period were, therefore, dominated by the particular alliance between the broadly defined nationalists and socialists. In short, the reason why both political leaders and the people believed in the “parliamentary system” lay in the early beginning of that system, the timely transfer of political power by the British, the balance of political forces at the time of transition, the relative absence of corruption in the electoral process, the relatively “healthy” economy, and the lack of direct external manipulation. All these factors contributed towards the process of people with various regional, ethnic, religious, and communal identities and affiliations being transformed into “nationals,” principally concerned with economic and social rather than ethnic issues and considering Colombo their capital. Nationalist-Socialist Construction of Sri Lanka W ith the end of the post-colonial elite rule in 1956, Ceylon entered a twentyyear period (1956-1977) in which governments were primarily led by the nationalist Sri Lanka Freedom Party and supported by the socialists, particularly the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, and the Communist Party. Since both nationalists and socialists viewed the political independence of 1948 as incomplete, the 1956 government negotiated the withdrawal of the British military and the closing of their military bases in Ceylon, and the United Front government (of the SLFP, LSSP, and CP) that came to power in 1970 completed the political decolonization of Ceylon, severing all constitutional and judicial authority retained in British hands. If the colonial spaces were indigenized up to the mid-1950s, we might say these were “nationalized” during the two following decades. By “nationalizing” I refer to the transformation of the Ceylonese society and space from a “dominion”-like state into the republic of Sri Lanka and to describe this period in which the state employed nationalization of private enterprises as a key instrument to reorganize the economy. International Orientation and National Identity Non-alignment was a central aspect of post-colonial Sri Lankan identity. During the Cold W ar period, most newly independent states not only resented being part of this bi-polar political order, but also the idea of being identified with one or the other camp. The active role of Sri Lanka in setting up the Non-Aligned Movement was one such expression. In this context, rejecting the Cold W ar formation, the nationalists and socialists advanced Sri Lanka into a leading Non-Aligned nation.24


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The pro-British foreign policy of the UNP and the LSSP’s dominance over the (pro-Moscow) Communists were instrumental in keeping both the “right” and the “left” of Sri Lankan politics at a distance from both the USA and USSR. As the most powerful state in the region and a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, India had also been quite central in the construction of the non-aligned position of Sri Lanka. 25 India’s reluctance to accept the US presence in Sri Lanka could later be read into the Indo-Sri Lankan Peace Accord of 1987, which included clauses directed at preventing the USA from establishing a naval base at Trincomalee. The differentiation from the Cold W ar diversified Sri Lanka’s political links with the outer world. This is especially manifest in the immediate steps of the United Front government which strengthened ties with China, broke relations with Israel, recognized the Provisional Government of South Vietnam and began to look towards Eastern Europe for technical assistance. In a larger world, Sri Lanka’s activism in the Non-Aligned Movement has helped build direct links with many states that rejected the Cold W ar duality, as well as maintain a balanced relationship with the US and Soviet bloc countries. It also continued to be a member of the Commonwealth. It is within these geo-political regions and boundaries that independent Sri Lanka was reproduced in the 1950s through 1970s. Economic Developm ent Prioritizing the economy over society and culture, and glorifying the particular path taken by W estern industrialized states, “economic development” became a main policy objective for the so-called Third W orld from the 1950s. The W orld Bank, for which societies were economies, was quick to provide these states with the economic identity of “undeveloped” states, and extended its support to raise their income per capita. This discourse was not only appealing for the nationalists, but the Left did not offer any radically different alternative to this doctrine. “Development” represented here is a disciplined one that should occur within dominant social and political structures of the world-economy, without disrupting the processes of capital accumulation in the United States, and the core states in general. W hat was new here is that even those who defended the inevitability of inequalities felt the need to argue that over time these inequalities would disappear, or at least diminish considerably in scope.26 This discourse was therefore instrumental in the reproduction of the capitalist world-economy through the building of a consensus among the leaders of the new states that “development” is not only desirable, but also feasible within the extant socio-political structures. Both M arxists and Liberals alike, however, implicitly and explicitly, drew on this evolutionary model. The focus, however, was on the appearance of progress that the W est had made and the primary model emulated by the post-colonial states was one of physical growth and modernization of the landscape. According to Arndt, “In Western countries, the tendency to think about economic development mainly as economic


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growth was undoubtedly strengthened by the fact that in the post war decade economic growth became a major objective of economic policy in the developed countries and a major interest of economic theorists.” 27 In regard to the United States, Logan and Molotch argue that the elite have used their consensus on growth to eliminate any alternative vision of purpose of local government, or the meaning of community. 28 M oreover, the modernization of society and space, based on the absorption of W estern science, technology, attitudes, and behavior, was also seen as a necessary condition of economic growth. It is largely this strategy that is institutionalized on a world-scale from the 1950s through the function of worldscale growth, led by world organizations dedicated to the economic growth of the Third W orld, especially the W orld Bank and the U nited Nations, trivializing alternative economic--let alone social, political, and cultural--goals. Marking the 1970s as the “development decade,” the United Nations brought this discourse to its peak. As discussed above, for the elite, development lay in the expansion of agricultural production, complementary to the plantations. Two main criticisms of such a policy came very early from the socialists and nationalists. One preoccupation of the two Sama Samajists of the Legislative Council in the 1930s was to call for the industrializing of Ceylon. Even earlier, nationalists such as Anagarika D harmapala had raised the issue in the form of promoting a Sinhalese industrialist class. For the lack of interest on the part of capital, nationalist governments depended on the state to industrialize the nation. Marking a clear break from the policies of the previous governments, that of 1956 took the initiative in industrializing Sri Lanka, guided by an economic policy of import substitution and industrialization. Propagating industrialism as well as industrial progress under it, the SLFP-led government of 1960 held a grand industrial exhibition at the end of its term in 1964 and state-sponsored industrializing was carried out until the late 1970s. The first attempt at planned industrialization can be seen in the ten-year plan of 1959, under the first SLFP-led government. Yet specificities were glaringly absent. As with its political orientation, Sri Lanka’s economic links with the outside world increasingly diversified from the late 1950s. Although its main trading partners continued to be western economies, particularly Britain, Sri Lanka increasingly imported rice from China and industrial goods from the USSR; exported rubber mainly to China and the Soviet Union, and copra and coconut oil to India, Pakistan, and the Soviet Union. Moreover, SLFP-led governments were more in favor of bilateral trade than so-called “free trade.” For example, these governments expanded the model of the Sino-Sri Lankan rubber-rice agreement of 1952 to other sectors of the economy. This diversification is clearly apparent in regard to tea exports, where the function and meaning of tea estates in Ceylon was transformed from a sector that produced primarily for London, to one that produces for the world. Moreover, institutionalizing state-dominated bi-lateral trade, the government placed harsh restrictions on imports in 1961, and these remained in effect until 1977.29 In addition to the lack of capacity and commitment among the Sri Lankan


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entrepreneurs to industrialize the state, the governments did not favor private capital, particularly foreign companies. The 1956 government reversed the privatization policy of the previous government, not only by continuing to appoint the members of executive boards but also in increasing the number, making state corporations just another variation of state-run institutions. 30 Concurrently, nationalization was carried out across all businesses whether owned by Ceylonese or foreigners, including institutions such as schools and, in the mid-1970s, plantations. Complementary to nationalization was the expansion of state activity in sponsoring banks (Peoples Bank, Bank of Ceylon, National Savings Bank, and the State M ortgage and Investment Bank), insurance corporations, new industries, and development projects, particularly in agriculture. The state policies further narrowed the room for development of large private enterprises. Taxation, price controls, and the welfare system largely regulated the rest of the (private) economy. Moreover, in the early 1970s, elected workers’ councils were given a role in the management of many state departments and corporations. W hat we see between the 1950s and 1970s is therefore a quasi-Soviet type of economic development, guided by five-year plans, and not very different from developments in many states in the periphery, particularly India.31 Holders of private capital were, therefore, reluctant to invest, except for a few who received state patronage, such as Piyadasa Mudalali. It is well known that many “developing” countries had indeed enjoyed rapid economic growth, more rapid than W estern industrialized states had generally experienced in the nineteenth century, and that this growth had not eliminated poverty but had frequently been accompanied by a widening gap between rich and poor. 32 The new industries were large, but uncompetitive in the world market. 33 Yet their competitiveness in the world market was not an issue for these governments since, under the policies of import substitution, these industries produced primarily for the national market and they were expected to be labor intensive. Therefore, despite the diversification of the sources of foreign earnings and exports, tea continued to be the main source of foreign income and plantations the locus of production. Despite its declining economic indicators, particularly the ones employed by the W orld Bank based on national incomes, suggesting Sri Lanka’s “backwardness,” its social indicators have always been significantly high. For example, in 1988, life expectancy at birth (68 years) was the highest in South East Asia and the population growth was a moderate 2.0%. 34 Nevertheless, the United Front government’s economic policy helped Sri Lanka evade a “debt crisis” common to a large number of states in the 1970s and 1980s. The nationalization of schools in the 1960s further socialized education making it available to all Sri Lankans. The scarce presence of multinational capital and the improved conditions of the workers and rural masses as a whole, largely due to the bargains made by the leftist movements, made the gap between the rich and the poor comparatively small. 35 W hat this demonstrates is that economic indicators do not adequately represent social reality; social indicators can be high while economic indicators such as income per capita, quite low, and this was the case with Sri Lanka.


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In short, what nationalist-socialist policies had foregrounded was an ambiguity within the Sri Lankan economy. On the one hand, SLFP-led governments operated within the hegemonic narrative; striving to “catch up” with the industrialized states, and at the same time, maintaining the colonial-produced import-export economy and the primacy of the plantations within it. On the other hand, these governments continuously attempted to escape and subvert this dominant narrative, providing social benefits from economic progress and guaranteeing the redistribution of resources, largely through subsidies, compatible with their political objectives. Nonetheless, both the reality and the meaning of national as well as Colombo landscapes changed radically. Reorganization of the National Landscape and Colombo As in the early British colonial period, the first period of national transformation was marked not so much by changes in Colombo’s built environment, but by the profound change in its meaning. This was accompanied by a transformation in the rural areas, particularly the village, the so-called “undeveloped” areas, the plantations, and the historic sites. Building the post-colonial nation, the nationalistsocialist governments incorporated these into the national society and space. Until the 1960s, the village was still largely marginal within national space. The national administration was represented at the village level by the Village Headman and the Vel Vidane (the irrigation headman), who were usually local elite recruited from the village itself. W hile the latter was replaced by a member of the elected Cultivation Committee under the 1958 Paddy Lands Act, the former was replaced by an appointed government officer, Grama Sevaka, in 1963. 36 Secondly, establishing their position in national politics, the rural population actively participated in 1956 elections. The participation in national politics also brought national politics to the village, which was represented by the opening of branch offices of national political parties in the 1960s. The access this provided the villagers to regional and national leaders undermined the hold of the local elite on the village. Moreover, the ruling SLFP leadership at village level had been in the hands of ayurvedic doctors, Sinhala school teachers, and petty traders, and not the traditional elite. If the old leaders gained their power by controlling the villagers’ access to important “outsiders,” 37 these transformations opened the connection between the village and the “nation.” From the 1960s, the village in general ceased to be a semi-self contained social unit, but a part of national society and space. The nationalist-socialist governments, however, did not alter the compartmentalized organization of Ceylon into provinces and districts, nor their administrative centers established by the British. The United Front government of 1970, however, used this territorial structure to decentralize the administration.38 In 1973, it introduced a system of District Political Authorities led by the District M inister, and supported by a decentralized budget. This potentially transformed district capitals into district development centers, where decisions regarding the development of each region were made. Despite differences, this structure is most


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comparable with Vietnam which also developed districts as key economic and political units and district capitals as development centers. 39 The Freedom Party concentrated on the development of the village, principally the Sinhalese one, and particularly in the provision of collective consumption goods such as transport, educational, and medical facilities to remote areas. 40 Although the buildings constructed during this period were themselves small in scale, the number of building projects, such as bus stations, depots, hospital wards, clinics, and primary schools, spread across the national territory. Expanding the national communications and welfare systems, the nationalist-socialist governments integrated remote villages into the space of a national society. The industrial policy of the SLFP-led governments also led to the scattered location of factories and plants throughout the island. (figure 5.2) M ost of these were located in small urban centers, far from Colombo. This policy of the dispersed location of industries, however, seemed somewhat ambiguous, particularly since the aspect of profitability was overshadowed by this government’s desire to increase social benefits, especially employment opportunities, outside the main urban areas. Most of these have large plants, often Asia’s largest. T hese not only required immense resources to maintain, but also produced only at a fraction of their capacity.41 Despite the dispersed location of factories and farms, their command centers were in the corporation headquarters located in Colombo. The continuation of projects to improve irrigation works in the rural areas also reached a high point in the mid-1960s with the proposal for the most ambitious and largest single development project in Sri Lanka, the Mahaweli Project, which accounted for 22% of government capital expenditure.42 The principal objective of this multipurpose project was to partially divert Sri Lanka’s longest river, the Mahaweli, to revitalize, reinforce, and expand ruined ancient irrigation works. This project included the construction of six major dams across the river to divert water, regulate the flow, and, in so doing, produce hydro-electric power for the national grid which would also be expanded. Norms such as a cluster of one hundred families as the “manageable and comfortable social unit” were derived directly from the study of existing old (purana) villages. Fundamental differences between the new planned settlements and purana villages, such as the fact that these existed largely marginal to the national urban structure, were not addressed. The study of purana villages has, nonetheless, influenced planners’ attitudes towards new settlements, for example, instead of using numbers to identify settlements in the Mahaweli Project, hamlets were given associable names. Second, the project primarily focussed on irrigation and the planned rational use of water. Hence, the form of settlements were determined not by social but by physical decisions regarding the best location of reservoirs, the efficient path of canals, and soil types. Third, the dominance of the irrigation infrastructure complemented by a hierarchical structure of “service centers,” new towns and village centers, which were linked to the national urban structure. This process, therefore, put an end, at least in theory, to the remaining communal land, or “unclaimed” land, by institutionalizing its use and bringing a


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large part of it under private ownership. The empowering of the powerless in the rural area was complemented by policies directed towards disempowering the powerful. Two important legal measures to this effect were the ceiling placed on landed property at fifty acres per person in 1972, and the nationalization of company-owned estates in 1976. This legislation radically transformed land ownership patterns across the national territory, making the state the principal owner of plantation space and by far the largest owner of land. In regard to the plantations, their authority was moved from overseas to Colombo. Not only were the new state-appointed executives in the plantations paid much less than their British predecessors, but the difference in resources allocated to maintain planter bungalows and workers’ “lines” was also reduced. The increased attention paid to the living conditions of plantation workers is represented in improvements such as the replacing of “line rooms” with “twin type cottages” and the conversion of old “barrack” type lines into separate units with more living space.43 Most crucially, however, the Sirima-Shastri pact brought the plantation workers into the national arena, and repatriation of a proportion--under this agreement--also began to change its composition. If these policies left the historic sites untouched, the tourist industry, promoted as a response to a worsening deficit of foreign exchange conditions, incorporated these into post-colonial national space. A new ministry was also created in the 1970s for the promotion of tourism. Two major developments affecting the built environment were the growing concern for historic monuments and the numerical expansion of hotels. Although Sri Lankan concern about religion and culture was on the rise from the 1950s through the 1970s, large scale restoration of historic landscapes has only taken place from the 1970s. Nevertheless, apart from vacation and recreational sites, cultural tourism was also developed and tourists were offered new “independent” and “traditional” histories to consume. These sites were therefore radically different from former tourist attractions, such as the colonial hill stations of Nuwara Eliya and Kandy where the British had attempted to simulate a “home away from home.” In the 1970s, cultural artifacts located in the ancient metropolitical centers of, for example, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa were reidentified and exhibited for the consumption of mainly European and American visitors. These sites, located far away, marginalized Colombo’s tourist value, though it is increasingly viewed as a somewhat alien portcity of less interest. This exemplifies the stereotypical colonial and post-colonial split site of the so-called “traditional” and “modern” city, although in Sri Lanka, these components are relatively far apart. This provides a departure from earlier British representations of Sri Lankan cultures through dead artifacts in museums, whether in Colombo or London. W hat we find here is the post-colonial continuity of the colonial idea of tourism combined with the replacement of the colonial organization of tourism, both in regard to the activity as well as the landscape, buildings, and structures involved. Nonetheless, the state’s emphasis on rural development increased the


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involvement of rural villagers in the national political process. The district system also became the mechanism through which local level demands were articulated at the national level, with District Ministers assuming the role of the spokesperson. Mediating between national and local levels, the expanding role of “regional” leaders also strengthened the capacity of the population in these areas to relate to these leaders, rather than to the less accessible national ones. The Mahaweli Project’s policies, not least the naming of places instead of numbering them, also opened a space for settlers to develop relationships with the places they live. Overall the nationalist-socialist governments’ emphasis has helped to modify the role and meaning of rural areas and centers, but now within the national space. Colom bo and the National Urban System This brings us to the area of the post-colonial urban structure in Sri Lanka. The spatial implications of the rural focus of development policies, including making the District the development unit, is apparent in the somewhat even distribution of population among urban centers across the nation. In 1981, seventeen out of twenty-four district capitals had a population between 20,000 and 50,000.44 Migratory patterns were also revealing; while Colombo District had received migration from Kandy, Galle, Jaffna, and Matara, it lost to Kurunegala, Puttalam, Anuradhapura, and Kegalla. Instead of a linear migration pattern from rural to urban, what this represents is a circular movement of Colombo gaining from districts in which the next tier of cities are located, while losing population to the next tier. Just as expanding its bus station represented Colombo’s centrality within Sri Lanka, the expansion of the airport represented its new foreign links throughout the world. Representing the increasing significance of air travel due to tourism as well as diplomacy, a new airport was constructed at Katunayake. Prior to independence, almost all international transport connections with Ceylon were by sea. Indeed, the pre-eminent position and growth of Colombo as a port city, a critical fuelling station, and port of call linking colonial economies and societies in four continents, as all nineteenth and early twentieth century maps confirm. Yet with the introduction of oil burners and the reduction of the distance between Europe and Asia with the construction of the Suez Canal, Colombo’s importance in international shipping declined.45 Air links with a post-colonial world-system of trade and international relations were, however, slow to be established.46 The main international airport in Ceylon in 1947 was for military use, a strategic base for the Royal Air Force Bomber Command, linked to its strategic defense plan for southeast Asia. This small station at Katunayake, eighteen miles north of Colombo, formed the basis of Sri Lanka’s international airport. It was first enlarged in 1956, but with Sri Lanka out of the British imperial system and into the space of the post-W ar Non-Aligned Movement, not least serving as its principal host for the summit of 1976, the government invested three billion Rupees in constructing a new airport to host the event.


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Moreover, entering into a lucrative five-year agreement with the French airline, Union de Transports Aeriens (UTA), the national carrier, Air Ceylon, was reorganized in 1972. In this way, Sri Lanka like all new nations entered the air corridors of the world system of international relations and trade with its own airline. The diversification of Sri Lanka’s political orientation did not radically change Colombo’s landscape. Most directly related to the Non-Aligned Movement is the Bandaranayake International Memorial Conference Hall which accommodated the Non-Aligned Movement’s summit meeting in 1976.(figure 5.3) Although it came to be identified with the Non-Aligned Movement after its summit meeting of 1976, this modern conference hall was a gift from the Peoples Republic of China in memory of late Prime Minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake (1956-1959). Regardless of its architecture, however, conference halls in which summit meetings were held represent a deep meaning, and stand witness to the movement. Colombo’s spatial transformation during this period was not so much visual; it was not “modernized” until the 1980s. Private capital, of which the natural home was Colombo, was constantly under the axe of nationalist-socialist governments. Although the built environment did not change much, the purpose and meaning that it symbolized did drastically. Since the state was expanding mainly through nationalization and investment, so also did its ownership of property in Colombo, and old colonial buildings were turned into government departments and corporation headquarters. Several highrises built in the 1970s also included the state sponsored bank and corporation headquarters. The continued significance of the British-built Parliament complex stands witness to the central political and economic role of the former fort area. They replaced the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General, with a President, and

FIGURE 5.3 Non-Alignment: Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall, Colombo, 1972.


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the highest court of appeal, the Privy Council of London, with a Sri Lankan Appeals Court. This government also installed a new constitution and changed the name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka in 1972. Despite these changes in the constitution and nomenclature, the colonial landscape of the Fort area remained the same, and the Queen’s House was simply renamed Janadipathi Mandiraya (President’s House). The colonial mansion, entirely derived from seventeenth and eighteenth century European architecture and dated at least from the 1770s, was used by the Dutch as the Government House, the residence of the Dutch administrator of the maritime province. The British who called it the Queen’s House (earlier King’s House) used this as the Governor’s residence. In 1972, however, no architectural changes were made. The agencies responsible for the construction of the official built environment were indigenized and expanded. Not only was the Public W orks Department separated into the Highways Department and the Buildings Department, but many new specialized institutions were also established. W hile the Buildings Department designed accommodation for state institutions, for example, town halls, hospitals, and police stations, the new State Engineering Corporation was responsible for the building needs of the semi-government sector run by government-appointed boards, for example, corporations and banks. The expanded role of the state in the production of spaces was also constituted through the increase in the number of buildings it built, which was accommodated by replicating type buildings and homogenizing the national built environment. These state sector buildings provided for a minimum requirement, especially due to the stringent control of budgetary allocations. Legislation passed by the government of 1970 not only transformed the practices and attitudes but also the legal framework of urban planning. A considerable amount of legislation was introduced, including a rent control act, a ceiling on the ownership of housing property to a maximum of two per family, a minimum lot size for building, and a maximum limit on the buildable area of dwelling houses to 2,000 square feet. These regulations indicate that the United Front government did not perceive “planning” as simply a technical expertise, but a highly politicized, valueladen activity that is closely related to global and national power structures. In the area of housing too, it was not so much the landscape, but the meanings that changed during this period. For the first time, the government of 1970 created a separate cabinet ministry for housing, and the official perception of poor tenements was changed from “slums” that had to be removed from sight to one that saw these as dwellings in need of upgrading. The appointment of a Member of Parliament from Colombo itself to the ministry (which has continued until today) helped poor urban dwellers in their bargaining for housing. W ith the Ceiling on House Property Act of 1973, which limited the ownership of housing property to two units, Colombo’s rented housing stock fell from 41% of the total in 1971 to 28.6% in 1981,47 and many tenants of so-called slums were transformed into home owners. The meaning of the housing landscape of Colombo, thereby, radically changed.


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The state regulation of the building industry, however, reduced construction activity, making the state the principal builder. This led to the re-use of existing spaces and the transformation of building functions; spacious private bungalows were increasingly adapted as offices, and state institutions intruded into the fashionable colonial suburbs of Cinnamon Gardens. (figure 5.4) This was especially the case with the entire length of the Bauddaloka Mawatha (previously, Bullers Road) connecting Bambalapitiya and Borella. Decolonizing Colombo, the place and street names were also indigenized. The park in Cinnamon Gardens was renamed from V ictoria to Viharamahadevi Park, after the queen of a highly regarded Sinhalese king in Lankan history; Gordon Gardens attached to the President’s House, and named after a British Governor, was changed to Republic Square. The main thoroughfare in the Fort area, Queen’s Street, became Janadhipathi Mawatha (lit. President’s Avenue). In Kandy too, statues of Governor W ard, and the unknown (British) soldier (who fought to colonize South Africa) were removed and replaced by five other statues including the brave child (Madduma Bandara) of Kandy; the Government Agent’s bungalow was transformed into a museum and street names were also changed.48 Finally, attempting to bring order to all these transformations, which had reached the threshold, the government of 1970 embarked on a project to reorganize Colombo. W ith the United Nations agreeing to support such a project in 1974, the Colombo Master Plan Project was established. If the “socialist” partners of the United Front government had until then been an obstruction to W estern-style city redevelopment that came along with financial aid, this opened the channel. Yet in keeping with the worldview of the government, the three consultants selected were Czechoslovakian, British, and Soviet, a somewhat unusual combination. Despite

FIGURE 5.4 The adaptation of colonial buildings: Colombo University’s College House, previously an elite residence in Cinnamon Gardens.


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the “communist” representation in this team, its initial suggestions hardly differed from any other development project of the time, and its language of “growth,” “growth poles,” and “growth corridors” is a good indication of this.49 Overall, transformations in the Sri Lankan national landscape, urban structure, as well as Colombo were in most part the result of the ambiguity of national leaders and governments about the centers of the society, their focus on upgrading the living standards of the rural masses and the urban poor, on restructuring the national economy in response to the problems of the 1970s, and also on deliberate antiprivate capital policies. In effect, they produced a post-colonial national space incorporating outlying and marginal zones, including villages, plantations, “undeveloped” land, and historic sites, in regard to its double meaning; breaking away from the colonial yet reconstructing in relation to it. Despite minimal change in Colombo’s visual landscape, its content, organization, and meanings were, therefore, profoundly transformed. The Construction of a Critical Vernacular Architecture Although the landscape of Colombo had hardly changed since independence, a new type of architectural design emerged as the leading trend in the 1970s, transforming the constitution of the Sri Lankan field of architecture. (figure 5.5) Considering its movement beyond so-called “Modern” architecture and its relation to historic Lankan architecture, I shall call this a “critical-vernacular” architecture of Sri Lanka. However, I am not referring to a mere “style,” the main trait of which is that it is visually distinguishable from others, but to a cluster of broadly defined design practices that draw upon historic Lankan concepts of space in creating culturally, climatically, and technologically more appropriate buildings in independent Sri Lanka. The prominence gained by this architecture led to the commissioning of a leading architect of this tendency, Geoffrey Bawa, to design the most prestigious piece of “national architecture” in the late 1970s, the new Parliament complex--addressed in Chapter Six. This section investigates the production of this architecture, its language, and the changes in Sri Lankan architecture it brought about, focussing on Bawa and his partner in the early stages of his career, Ulrik Plesner. I shall first explore the larger context in which similar architectural design practices were developed. The rise of critical-vernacular architecture has been a particular indigenous cultural response to post-colonial economic, technological, ideological, and historic conditions. W hile the socialists and nationalists contested the colonial system, critical vernacularists contested the colonially produced norms and forms of design. Unlike the restructuring of the village and Buddhism in the nineteenth century, this architecture has no direct continuity with the past. Instead, it uses indigenous and historic spatial concepts, elements, architectural details, and construction methods to construct a built environment for contemporary institutions and functions. This is, however, not a “vernacular architecture” nor an architectural style constructed by borrowing elements of an historic architectural vocabulary to provide visual


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signs. 50 Nor am I referring to W estern architectsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; attempts to create stylistically defined place-specific architecture, or to modern hotel complexes designed for the visual consumption of tourists, simulating built forms of the indigenous environments. W hat I am concerned with here is the conscious or unconscious construction of a historic continuity through a particular cultural response from within the society concerned where the trajectory of history has been ruptured by colonialism, or other aspects of European expansion. Critical-vernacular tendencies are apparent in the designs of, among others, the late Hassan Fathy of Egypt, Charles Correa of India, and Geoffrey Bawa of Sri Lanka, as well as in building complexes such the Citra Niaga of Samarinda and Sukarno-Hata airport of Djakarta, both in Indonesia.51 Immediately after returning home, usually after studying in Britain or the United States, these architects designed in the W estern styles they had learned. Yet they are examples of those architects who increasingly became conscious of the incompatibility of such an architecture within the societies in which they practiced. They gradually incorporated elements of indigenous and historic spaces, architectural elements,

FIGURE 5.5 Critical Vernacularism: Bawa buildings.


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building methods, and materials in developing their approach to design. These decisions may well have begun in the interests of developing an appropriate “style,” yet what they finally produced was profoundly different from an alternative style. Critical vernacularism can also be distinguished from two other contemporary architectural practices. One is the provision of organized support by institutions based in the core for the development of culture-specific and place-specific architecture. The Aga Khan Awards for Islamic Architecture, begun in 1976, and based at Harvard-MIT, is by far the best example. While supporting “Islamic Architecture,” the program has also assumed the role of being “spokesperson” for Islamic culture and architecture worldwide, its paternalism expanded to the broader Third W orld architecture through the journal, Mimar. The second type of practice --the “cultural contextualization” of the non-indigenous presence--can be found, for example, in the US embassies in Kuala Lumpur, Dhakka, and Colombo, built in a “place specific style.” The culture of critical vernacularism is, however, the result of a consciousness of the inappropriateness of colonial and modern architecture of the W est in a culturally different, extra-European, post-colonial site. This is evident in Fathy’s book titles, Architecture for the Poor, and Natural Energy and Vernacular Architecture. Although the inappropriateness of his earlier “modernist” designs were signalled by the shortage of steel and cement during the Second W orld W ar, Fathy clearly notes the significance of issues of difference and identity. highlighting the absence of an architectural signature in modern Egypt. 52 The consciousness of the cultural context of design was not limited to well known architects. The open pavilions of Citra Niaga and Sukarno-Hata airport in Indonesia, and much contemporary building, for example, in India and Malaysia, illustrates that this trend is a relatively widespread phenomenon. The Yemenese government wrapped the W est German-built glass and steel airport with traditional Yemeni stonework, complete with decorative motifs. 53 Peter Scriver finds in these trends a “cultural revolt against modern technology --specifically the technological rationalism associated with the modern industrial complex of W estern civilization.” 54 It is in this wider context that Sri Lankan critical vernaculars can most usefully be examined. Critical vernacularists were, however, not insulated from regular architectural trends of the world. Yet the involvement with issues in Sri Lankan architecture has drawn their attention away from the stylistic controversies of the W est. By referring to the indigenous spatial elements and culture, critical vernacularists have differentiated the field of architecture. Their new designs contested the homogenizing effect of architectural modernism in regard to built forms and the continuing colonial norms. Bawa and Plesner, who began their practice in the late 1950s, and others who engaged in developing alternative approaches to colonialist and modernist architecture, largely practiced independently, outside the government departmental structure of design and construction. By the 1980s, however, the architects employed in government


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departments and corporations, and responsible for continuing colonial practices, had been substantially influenced by critical vernacularism, and many of these offices developed their own variations, for example, in the State Engineering Corporation’s “Summit Houses” and in the M ahaweli townships.55 Critical-vernacular architecture also ended the marginalization of indigenous built forms from this post-colonial structure of architectural production. Architectural historian Lawrence Vale observes that “Bawa’s capitol complex stands squarely between the abstract universalism of high modernism and the literal localism.” 56 For Shanti Jayawardana, Bawa’s work “implied a sharp break with the then modes of the ‘international style’ which were reaching a high point in neocolonial fluency around [the] 1950s and 60s, best displayed perhaps in the arrogant extravagance of Brasilia and Chandigarh.” 57 The most significant impact of Sri Lankan critical vernaculars was that they began to refamiliarize the official and institutional landscape for Sri Lankans. The “innovators” of this practice, particularly Plesner, were apprehensive about the disarray in post-colonial architecture caused by the colonial and modernist imposition of, and the Sri Lankan desire to imitate, W estern building forms and elements which they had no cultural and economic competence to internalize. In Plesner’s words: Architecturally speaking, the country suffered from post-colonial self-denigration ... Some people enthusiastically believed in things like “American Style” and vinyl floors... Most of the new buildings were a reflection of Western ways, climatically unsuitable and visually indifferent... On my part, it was a process of first clearing away the shabby asbestos roofing, the bare bulb lighting, the disastrous flat roofs, the imported rubbish, the slimy black mouldy walls without drip ledges, the admiration for the second rate from Europe. 58 Clearing away the colonial and modernist “mess” was accompanied by the reintroduction of “traditional” elements and spaces, as found in dwellings, temples, and historical remains, particularly the roof, veranda, and the internal courtyard. The Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonials in Ceylon also adapted visually dominant roofs with wide overhangs--with modifications such as the introduction of half-round clay tiles--in their residential buildings. The roofs of the main British colonial institutional buildings were, however, concealed behind dominant and decorated walls that rose above the eaves line, generic to British built forms known as Georgian and Neo-Classical styles. The issue is, however, not just about climatic awareness, that monsoons destroy exposed walls and dampness creates “slimy black molds” on them, since there are many design methods in the modern world to enhance the climatic performance of a building, such as using ceramic tiles as a wall finish. The reintroduction of the roof in a proto-traditional character was rather a selection by Bawa and others, not merely to combat climatic problems, but to do so by deploying indigenous methods, and building elements. Bawa claims:


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One unchanging element of all buildings is the roof -protective, emphatic and all important -governing the aesthetic, whatever period, whatever place. Often a building is only a roof, columns and floors -the roof dominant, shielding, giving the contentment of shelter ... the roof, its shape, texture and proportion is the strongest visual factor.59 Similarly, verandas and internal courtyards are not the only solution to problems of heat and ventilation, and their performance and function is not limited to solving such problems either. For example, air-conditioning is used for such purposes in many buildings in Colombo. Again, for critical vernacularists, verandas and courtyards were culturally desirable. The reintroduction of these elements was, therefore, not merely climatic or functional but also cultural and representational, not least since these elements are not used in every so-called “tropical” setting.60 As Plesner has mentioned, although when judged by European standards they may lag behind in building technology, these buildings were basic “simple houses.” 61 Instead of depending on modern technology, such as air conditioning, these architects have employed historic spaces, building elements, and forms, in developing solutions to post-colonial problems. The particular selection of spaces and architectural elements promoted crossculturally familiar space for indigenous cultural practices. The building elements selected by Bawa and Plesner, such as the roof and veranda, bore a cross-cultural familiarity. These are, however, not the only available historic and cultural references in Sri Lanka. Most intimate religious architectures, for example, represent more of a difference than a commonality. Buddhist stupas (and vatadages), sikhara type masonry roofs of Hindu kovils, Islamic bulbous domes, and the facades of Christian churches articulate their distinctiveness. In contrast, the building type with a rectangular or square plan, extended veranda, and pitched roof is the most commonly used form by all Sri Lankan social and cultural groups.62 Cultural differences among Sri Lankans are largely represented in the organization of particular internal spaces rather than in the basic form or on the exteriors of regular houses. 63 As Vale suggests: “Bawa could [therefore] begin by working with roofs not necessarily choosing sides in so doing.” 64 Despite drawing from historic Lankan built forms, 65 critical vernacularists, however, did neither replicate nor re-produce historic buildings. This can be contrasted with how the British colonial regime conceived and projected postindependent Sri Lankan architecture in constructing a concrete replica of a historic audience hall in Colombo to commemorate independence. Such replication of historic built forms was also an option tried in several buildings, including the Kandy and Anuradhapura railway stations. Critical-vernacular architects rather rediscovered old Lankan buildings within a contemporary context instead of simply replicating building elements. These they transformed, making them compatible with and suitable for contemporary functions. Critical vernacularists have not limited themselves to drawing solely on Lankan historic forms. The hybridization of built forms over centuries through contacts,


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exchanges, and subjection, has made the field of post-colonial architecture quite complex. Between the two poles of highly prestigious colonial buildings using imported forms (for example, the old Parliament) and Lankan peasant dwelling houses was a wide array of hybridized built forms which included colonial bungalows and new middle class housing. Bawa states: I like to regard all past and present good architecture in Sri Lanka as just that--good Sri Lankan architecture--for this is what it is, not narrowly classified as Indian, Portuguese or Dutch, early Sinhalese or Kandyan or British colonial, for all the good examples of these periods have taken the country itself into account.66 In this sense, this is not a historically defined ethnic or religious architecture, but a particular type of “nationally” relevant contemporary production within a postindependent context. As with the selection of elements, the efficacy of an eclectic formation like the critical-vernacular architecture of Sri Lanka depends on their composition. Critical vernacularists have avoided a collage of direct historic quotations, as in architectural postmodernism in the W est, or in the case of Papua New Guinea’s new Parliament. The architect of Papua New Guinea’s Parliament house, Cecil Hogan, has adopted a kind of compendium of roof typologies treating three village types of “typical” house forms merely as decorative shells, which “seem almost obviously concerned with a near-literal representative documentation of the art and architecture of the country’s multitudinous component cultures.” 67 In Sri Lanka, critical vernacularists have not attempted to capture and represent all cultures within a single image or as a series of images each representing a component culture, but employed particular combinations that produced a new character with which Sri Lankans can readily associate. As Vale argues, the Sri Lankan Parliament building is inclusive in its approach to history without descending into a caricature or pastiche; the articulation sought to capitalize upon the elements, traditions, and cultures without trivializing them or rendering them incomprehensibly abstruse. 68 Jayawardana finds this practice a reflection of the emerging post-independent nationalism. Yet the elite and the W estern background of the architects involved, the forms they produced, and the language of the critical vernaculars of Sri Lanka have nothing undeniably nationalistic. Nonetheless, the architecture they produced was nationally acceptable and the timing was appropriate. In addition to leading Sri Lankan architecture out of post-colonial denigration, the buildings and their architectural spaces have developed a commonality across diverse social and cultural groups. Its coincidence with the emergence or strengthening of particular nationalist regimes in the 1950s provided the appropriate moment for its success. Jayawardana rightly points out that: “Though Bawa was not the first Sri Lankan to adopt revivalist trends in his work, he was the first to sustain such a course in the building world.” 69 As stated above, critical vernaculars are not specific to Sri Lanka but can be conceptualized as a broader practice taking place in countries like Egypt, India,


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Indonesia, and Yemen. Although this broader trend does not represent one single practice, these architectural practices have many characteristics in common, principally arising from the consciousness of the inappropriateness of European or American models of architecture, and, in some cases, also of notions such as development and modernization, in different social, cultural and political contexts. These critical vernacularist practices have, nonetheless, breached the larger process in which knowledge is produced and circulated, subverting what Goonatilake calls the “imitative syndrome,” or mimicry of knowledge produced in the center. Yet Bawa’s Parliament gained for his practice the approval of the professional peers in the core, expressed through an honorary Fellowship of the American Institute of Architects and an exhibition of his work in London, sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architects. As Goonatilake has noted, “If a major breakthrough occurs in a peripheral region, ... it is then usually transferred to other peripheral regions only after legitimation and acceptance in the center.” 70 Bawa, and a few others, have gained the legitimacy of their peers in the core, and entered the world of the architectural “glossy” magazines. As in the case of the national landscape, transformations in the field of architecture, have been part of the larger production of a post-colonial nation, which they also help to constitute. Critical vernacularists have responded to the economic, social, and cultural problems bequeathed by a colonial built environment as well as neo-colonial attempts to mimic western and modernist built forms. In so doing, they produced a particular architecture that average Sri Lankans, as well as its architects, can relate to. Temporally and spatially, critical vernaculars are both a post-colonial as well as a global mode of architectural design. Severing the vestiges of colonialism between 1956 and 1977, the nationalistsocialist governments largely completed the post-colonial nation-building process. Both rural villages, which were operating marginally within the national spatial structures, and the plantations, the labor of which was denied citizenship, were integrated into the national society and space. W hile the governments began questioning the premises of urban and regional planning, critical vernacularism became hegemonic in the national field of architecture. Although Colombo’s landscape did not change much from outside, the social transformation brought it to a threshold from within. Notes 1. John Hatch, “The Decline of British Power in Africa,” in Tony Smith, ed., The End of European Empire: Decolonization After World War II (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1975), 82. 2. See Christopher Clapham, Third World Politics: An Introduction (London and Sydney: Croom Helm, 1985), 28. 3. Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 49. 4. Karl Marx, The Manifesto of the Communist Party (New York: International Publishers, 1948 [1848]).


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5. See Jackson, Quasi-States, 1, 27, 50-55. See also, Immanuel Wallerstein, “The WorldEconomy and the State-Structures in the Peripheral and Dependent Countries (the So-Called Third World),” ch. in Politics of the World-Economy, 80-81. 6. “The principles, norms, and rules to which states must submit have increased in number and have become tighter, and a growing number of supranational organizations have acquired an autonomous power to overrule the inter-state system.” (Arrighi, 402-3) 7. See Fred L. Block, The Origins of International Economic Disorder: A Study of United States International Monetary Policy From World War II to the Present (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977), 46-47; Jeffrey A. Frieden, Banking on the World (New York: Harper and Row, 1987), 64-65. 8. Kitsiri Malalgoda, Buddhism in Singhalese Society 1750-1900: A Study of Religious Revival and Change (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1976), 25. See also Gombrich and Obeyesekere, Buddhism Transformed, 455. 9. Malalgoda, 28, 50, 258; Boxer, The Dutch Seaborne Empire, 138; Tinker, South Asia, 91. 10. For example, Gananath Obeyesekere, “Religious Symbolism and Political Change in Ceylon,” Modern Ceylon Studies I (1970): 43-63; Malalgoda, op cit; Gombrich and Obeyesekere, op cit. 11. Gombrich and Obeyesekere, 7; Malalgoda, 246; de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka, 249. 12. See Gombrich and Obeyesekere, 204-5; Obeyesekere, 46. 13. Malalgoda, 188. 14. See Gombrich and Obeyesekere, 11, 447; Malalgoda, 25. 15. Malalgoda, 262. 16. Immanuel Wallerstein, “Liberalism and the Legitimation of Nation-States: An Historical Interpretation,” Paper prepared for the conference on Nation-States and the International Order, Emmanuel College, Cambridge, September 4-6, 1991: 13. 17. See Roberts, Caste Conflict and Elite Formation, 291-2. 18. See Jayawardena, The Rise of the Labor Movement in Ceylon, 4. 19. B.N. Pandey, South and South East Asia, 1945-1979: Problems and Politics (London: Macmillan, 1980), 29. 20. In the 1937 elections, the Indian National Congress came to power in all eight provinces, even in Bengal, and the Muslim League only gained a total of 40 out of 119 seats. (Niranjan M. Khilhani, India’s Road to Independence, 1857 to 1947 (London: Oriental, 1987), 97) See also, Padmasha, Indian National Congress and the Muslims 1928-1947 (New Delhi: Rajesh Publications, 1980). 21. For the significance of this aspect of society, see Knox, Urban Social Geography; Peter J. Taylor, Political Geography: World-Economy, Nation-State and Locality (London and New York: Longman, 1985); and in regard to Sri Lanka, see Dilesh Jayantha, Electoral Allegiance in Sri Lanka (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). 22. Jayantha, 3-4. 23. Moore, 25. see also, James Jupp, Sri Lanka: Third World Democracy (London: Cass, 1978). 24. See Urmila Phandis and Sivananda Patnaik, “Non-Alignment as a Foreign Policy Strategy: A Case study of Sri Lanka,” in K.P Misra, ed., Non-Alignment, Frontiers and Dynamics (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1983), 229-31; A.W. Singham and Shirley Hune, Non-Alignment in an Age of Alignments (London: Zed Books Ltd, 1986), 321; Philip Towle, “The United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean: Blind Alley or Zone of Peace?” in Larry W. Bowman and Ian Clark, eds., The Indian Ocean in Global Politics (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1981), 207.


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25. See Norman D. Palmer, South Asia and the United States Policy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966), 277. 26. Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Present State of the Debate on World Inequality,” in Immanuel Wallerstein, ed., World Inequality: Origins and Perspectives on the World System (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1975), 12. 27. Arndt, 52. 28. Logan and Molotch, Urban Fortunes, 51-2. 29. Patrick Peebles, Sri Lanka: A Handbook of Historical Statistics (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1982), 230; Department of Census and Statistics, Ceylon Economic Atlas (Colombo: Department of Census and Statistics, 1969), 41, 42. 30. Seven corporations were created in 1955. These were Paper Mills, Oils and Fats, Ceramics, Leather Products, Plywood, Chemicals, and Cement Corporations. By the end of 1959 another seven were added to these; Textiles, Sugar, Salt, Mineral Sands, Small Industries, HardBoard, Industrial Estates, and in the 1960s, Petroleum and Steel (1961), Tyres (1962), Hardware (1963), and Fertilizer (1964). (Peebles, 180) 31. See Stuart Corbridge, “Colonialism, Post-Colonialism and Political Geography of the Third World,” in Peter J. Taylor Political Geography of the Twentieth Century: A Global Analysis (London: Belhaven Press, 1993), 191-2. 32. See Arndt, 3. 33. Ministry of Planning and Employment, The Five Year Plan 1972-1976 (Colombo: Ministry of Planning and Employment, 1971), 59. 34. World Bank, Development Report 1989 (Washington, Oxford University Press, 1990). Only Singapore has less population growth, at 1.6%. (Pandey, 177) 35. See Central Bank of Ceylon, Survey of Sri Lanka’s Consumer Finances, 60. 36. Barrie M. Morrison, M.P. Moore, and M.U. Ishak Lebbe, ed. The Disintegrating Village: Social Change in Sri Lanka (Colombo: Lake House, 1979), 10, 32. See, Roberts (“Problems of Social Stratification,” 558-9) for a discussion on national and local elite. 37. See Roberts, “Problems of Social Stratification,” 558-9. 38. Moore, 229. See also, G.R. Tressie Leitan, Political Integration Through Decentralization and Devolution of Power: The Sri Lankan Experience (Colombo: Department of History and Political Science, University of Colombo, 1990), 8-9. 39. Dean Forbes and Nigel Thrift, “Territorial Organization, Regional Development and the City in Vietnam,” in Dean Forbes and Nigel Thrift, eds., The Socialist Third World. Urban Development and Territorial Planning (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1987), 99-128. 40. Castells, City, Class and Power, 17-20. 41. Ministry of Planning, 66-70. 42. Moore, 95. 43. Marga, 75; Weerapurage Nimal A. Fernando, Continuity and Change in Plantation Agriculture: A Study of Sri Lanka’s Land Reform Program on Tea Plantations, PhD Dissertation (University of Wisconsin at Madison, 1980), 307. 44. M.W.J.G. Mendis, “Small and Medium Towns in Sri Lanka: A Statistical Analysis and Their Planning Significance,” Economic Review 8 (1982): 30. 45. K. Dharmasena, “Colombo,: Gateway and Oceanic Hub of Shipping.” 46. See Peebles, Sri Lanka, 165-7. 47. Marga, 142-3. 48. See Duncan, “The Power of Place in Kandy,” 197-8. 49. “Urban Development Strategies,” Economic Review 3 (1977): 14; “Colombo Urban Development,” 4.


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50. For a discussion of the use of borrowed elements stripped of their historic substance, see Mark Jerzombek, “Post-modernist Historicism: The Historian’s Dilemma,” in Marco Diani and Catherine Ingraham, eds., Restructuring Architectural Theory (Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press, 1990), 86. 51. For an overview of these architect’s work see Hassan Fathy, Architecture of the Poor (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1977); Hassan-Uddin Khan, Charles Correa (Singapore: Concept Media, 1987); Brian Brace Taylor, Geoffrey Bawa (Singapore: Concept Media, 1986); J.M. Richards, “Geoffrey Bawa” Mimar 19 (1986) 45-6; Jayawardana, “Bawa”; Ulrik Plesner, “Ulrik Plesner” Living Architecture 5 (1986): 94-97. 52. See Fathy, Architecture for the Poor, 19. 53. Brent C. Brolin, The Failure of Modern Architecture (New York: Van Nostrand, 1976), 109. 54. Peter Scriver, “Arcadia or Apocalypse? Some Observations on Post-Independent Urbanity and the Notion of a Third World Architecture,” Presented to the International Conference on Architecture, Calcutta, November 16-20, 1990, 4-5. 55. Ulrik Plesner, “Mahaweli Building Program, Sri Lanka,” Living Architecture (1986); Nihal Perera, “Parameters Employed in the Planning of Mahaweli Towns,” (in Singhalese) Isura 11 (1986); “The Scope and Potential for Architectural and Planning Professions in the Mahaweli Project.” Mahaweli Architects’ Union 1 (1988): 11-15. 56. Vale, 194. 57. Jayawardana, “Bawa,” 47. 58. Plesner, “Ulrik Plesner”: 85. 59. Geoffrey Bawa, “Statement by the Architect,” in Khan, ed., Geoffrey Bawa, 16. 60. King has observed that the verandah, for example, is not a universal “tropical” feature and many traditional African cultures do not use this element. (The Bungalow, 265) Therefore there is nothing climatic about the verandah or, in a general sense, any building element since which element to use in what situation is primarily a cultural decision. (See Rapoport, House Form and Culture) 61. Plesner, “Ulrik Plesner.” 62. See Bandaranayake (“Sri Lanka and Monsoon Asia”) for typologies. 63. See M.J.A. Rahim, “Muslim Architecture,” in M.M.M. Mahroof et al. eds. According to Rahim, Islamic, Singhalese, and Tamil houses are similar from outside and the differences are encoded in interior spaces. 64. Vale, 197. 65. Barbara Sansoni’s collection of drawings, mainly of historic religious and royal buildings, and country and town houses, entitled Viharas and Verandas illustrates their main source. 66. Bawa, 16. 67. See Vale, 273, 279-280. 68. See Ibid, 194; Barbara Sansoni, “A Background to Geoffrey Bawa,” in Taylor, ed., Geoffrey Bawa, 172-3. 69. Jayawardana, 49. 70. Goonatilake Aborted Discovery, 111.


6 Beyond the Post-Colonial: New World Regions and the Restructuring of Sri Lanka in the 1980s If Sri Lankan society and space between 1948 and the 1970s can be perceived as â&#x20AC;&#x153;post-colonial,â&#x20AC;? it has been radically changed since then. From the 1970s, the society and space of Sri Lanka were subjected to profound changes and challenges. The challenges include the Janata Vimukti Peramuna (JVP)-led insurrection of 1971, its activism in the 1980s, and the Tamil-based separatist struggles, also from the 1970s. These struggles displaced the primary focus of the post-colonial polity on social and economic issues, with those concerning conflicting ethnicities, and to a lesser degree, the rural population and youth, both destabilizing the national society and space and shifting the locus of political negotiation from Colombo to remote rural areas. At the same time, the policies of the United National Party governments between 1977 and 1994, particularly those of export promotion, the relocation of the seat of government, and the massive development program radically transformed Sri Lanka. These transformations, which also include the relocation of Sri Lanka within new world regions, are intimately related to the demise of the Cold W ar and its bi-polar political structure and the reorganization of world geopolitical structures. Following these themes, I begin my inquiry by exploring the changes in the world-space. The Demise of Euro-US Domination and theEmergence of M ultiple W orld-Regions On a world scale, the late 1960s was when the post-W ar political and economic order organized under US hegemony began disintegrating. Although the Marshall Plan may have prevented possible communist revolutions in western Europe in the aftermath of W orld W ar II, the developing economies of west European states and Japan turned into economic competitors of the United States. Revolutions in, for example, China, Cuba, Algeria, and what became specifically Islamic states, defied 155


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the US-USSR bi-polar political arrangement and the places assigned to them in the Yalta agreement. From the 1960s, protests against the status quo were not only geographically widespread--from the “May of France” to the “Prague Spring” and the Naxallite rebellion in India--the formation of protest movements and their political objectives also became diversified. What W allerstein calls the “world revolution of 1968” not only undermined US hegemony and domination, but also the Soviet model of communism as the sole alternative to the US model of capitalism.1 By the 1950s, communist revolutions and the postwar independence of a large number of colonies had given rise to new political, religious, and other centers. W ith the surge of new political movements including Islamic fundamentalism and ethnicity-based separatism this diversification of urban structures had further intensified, particularly from the 1970s. Furthermore, the “unruliness” within states also undermined these states’ control over civil societies. In short, the control of populations through controlling the space they and their relations with one another occupy--as citizenry, as communities, as individuals--is in the process of being fundamentally undermined in two key directions formed by the modern world-system’s spatial jurisdictions; within states and between states.2 Parallel to political changes, the post-W ar economic order had also been overturned by the 1970s. The Marshall Aid Plan and the consequent “Eurodollar market” helped west European states to overcome the obstacle of a lack of convertible currency, 3 more or less materializing the idea of an international monetary order projected in the Bretton W oods agreement of 1944. The same processes, however, created a balance-of-payments problem for the United States in the 1970s, 4 leading to the collapse of the Bretton W oods system without a comparable alternative. Here the Nixon administration unilaterally abrogated the Bretton W oods system by twice devaluing the dollar, abandoning the gold standard, and converting to a floating exchange rate.5 The rising power of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the growing impact of the Newly Industrializing Countries of east Asia, and increasing budget deficits of the USA and many other industrially advanced countries, had largely altered the configuration of the worldeconomy by the late 1970s. For the first time in the history of the capitalist worldeconomy, major centers of capital accumulation were also established outside Europe and North America. Most societies in the periphery have also become suspicious about the prospects of both political independence and economic “development,” two principal goals of the post-W orld War II period. On the one hand, there still remain in every ocean and on every continent a considerable number of European and U S colonies and dependent territories, independence for which is not an issue.6 These include the Falklands, New Caledonia, Bermuda, Diego Garcia, Samoa, and Guam. Most of these are small island territories, but they have enormous strategic value for their metropoles. On the other hand, the populations in most of these colonies are less


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optimistic about what independence would bring. For example, the highest standard of living in the Caribbean is found in the French colonies of Martinique and Guadeloupe, whereas Haiti, which gained independence in the 1790s, is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. In the referendum of 1994, Puerto Rican voters overwhelmingly favored so-called commonwealth status over independence. 7 Hence, the independence of Namibia in 1990, and the return of Hong Kong and Macao to China in the late 1990s appear to be postscripts to decolonization rather than part of a continuing decolonization process. In regard to “development,” most states in the periphery have accumulated debt instead of capital. Even one year before the famous default of Mexico in 1982, Poland and Romania informed W estern banks about their inability to meet payment requirements.8 The total debt of Africa has quadrupled over the decade of the 1980s, and their debt service ratios are higher than those of Latin American states. 9 Yet the weakening of the core power’s hold on the world-economy from the 1970s has provided an opportunity for “economic development” in the periphery, illustrated in the industrialization of states from Japan to Mauritius, including Sri Lanka. This is perhaps another instance of what Frank has argued as the development of some peripheral states when their ties with the core were at their weakest.10 W ithin this changing geography, the intervention of Sri Lankan agencies, not least the state, have transformed the post-colonial society and space of Sri Lanka. The demise of US hegemony, and political and economic orders constructed under its leadership, and the weakening of the core states’ capacity for international political and economic intervention have, however, expanded the capacity of other agencies in economic competition, political bargaining, and cultural expression. One major reaction to the decentralization and dispersal of what appeared to be UScentric economic activities has been the corporate attempt to centralize their management and control functions in so-called global cities, especially in Tokyo, London, and New York.11 In brief, along with the collapse of the post-W ar world political and economic order from the late 1960s, not only have the world-regions multiplied, but also the intra-state conflicts. The world-economy itself has been restructured as three core regions centered upon Tokyo, London, and New York, and regional economic blocs such as the Association of South East Asian Nations and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation have gained more currency. Most crucial for Sri Lanka is the expansion of the east Asian economic bloc towards south Asia, and the formation of a south Asian region. T he Newly Industrialized Countries of Asia have provided new models for peripheral states in the region to emulate in their quest for the old national goal, “development.” Challenges to the Post-Colonial Social and Spatial Order of Sri Lanka Unlike the religious movements that led Buddhist and Hindu revivals of the late nineteenth century, and ethno-political parties of the 1920s, the Janata Vimukti


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Peramuna-led rebellions and Tamil separatist struggles challenged the so-called integrity of Ceylon, Colombo’s centrality in it, and the rules governing the political negotiations. In this section, I explore the spatial constitution of these struggles. The changes these challenges brought about in the society and space of Sri Lanka were primarily fivefold. First, Sri Lankan youth became a significant political force. Second, the primacy of social and economic questions in the national political agenda was replaced by ethnic and other cultural issues. Third, the locus of political negotiations moved away from Colombo. Fourth, the primary mode of political negotiations shifted from Parliamentary debates to military confrontations. And finally, the “national integrity” of Sri Lanka was both questioned and destabilized. Important to note is the fact that these movements do not have direct colonial British influence, not least when compared to the political elite of Ceylon as well as those who initially contested this elite. 12 The context in which these shifts have taken place was largely provided by the inefficacy of the hegemony constructed for itself by the post-independence political establishment, and the changing national and global political and economic conditions discussed above. As in Western democracies, Sri Lankan political parties, dominant classes, and the mass media were able not only to establish the idea that elections are the acceptable means of changing governments, but also to marginalize any subversive movement contesting the political establishment. Yet the strength of the subversive movements addressed here have highlighted the incompleteness of such a political establishment dominated by two main political parties. By capitalizing on the concerns of youth and ethnic groups these subversive political movements arguably defied this post-colonial political establishment and diversified the means and modes of political negotiations. Both the JVP and Tamil separatist groups consist primarily of militant youth.13 These distrusted the leadership of the conventional left, especially Sama Samaja and Communist Parties, which they branded as mahalu nayakatvaya (feeble leadership), and the leadership of post-colonial Tamil political parties in regard to Tamil separatists. The JVP notion of the “old left” appears to have been inspired by the Cuban revolution of 1959 which was led by a group of young militants defying the Cuban Communist Party’s claim to it, and the Chinese cultural revolution of the late 1960s, in which many “old leaders” were replaced by younger ones. These viewpoints suggest that youth--or at least that generation from the 1970s-became a significant social and political agency. The role that youth played in uprisings of the late 1960s in Europe, in communist revolutions, and in nationalist struggles is well known. Yet the study of youth as a social group has been limited to concepts of, for example, “generation” and “cohort” 14 which are no where so powerful as concepts such as “class” or “ethnic group.” According to Simon Firth, “Youth” is not a term of sociological jargon.15 The treatment of youth as a theme in social history is also recent.16 As in most struggles from the 1960s, the uprising of 1971 was unprecedented. According to Charles Blackton, the insurgency of armed youths against an adult system is the first instance when tensions between generations have led to a military conflict on a national scale.17 As they were


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unable to grasp the meaning of this event through their own frameworks, and were interested in reproducing the state’s monopoly on violence, all “national” political parties, both Super Powers, and the regional powers, supported the government’s effort in crushing the rebellion. The prelude to these struggles was the politicization of the university. The boycotting of classes and conflicts in the universities, led by left wing student unions, were common in the late 1960s. Rising unemployment during this period, and insecurity about the future caused by this, is arguably the main cause for increasing student willingness to risk their immediate goal of graduation for longer term political objectives. By the early 1970s, JVP activism had expanded this locus of youth political struggles to include the state-run high school system. Although universities acted as nodes, the most intense JVP uprising took place in the coastal areas between Ambalangoda and Tangalla, and in Kalutara and Kegalla Districts, all of which were rural. (figure 6.1) Tamil separatist movements also moved their base further away from the university to the larger and more rural Jaffna peninsular. These struggles were more dispersed and territorial-based, but waged against a power source centralized in cities. Up to the 1970s, it was the SLFP that largely represented the rural masses and Sinhalese nationalist sentiments. Despite the politicization of rural areas after independence, and the mass participation of rural voters in elections, villagers were not able to use their electoral power to place on the national political agenda issues which directly and deeply influenced their material welfare.18 Nor did the main political parties, which gained their votes, attempt to mobilize these masses or organize them behind a common set of “agrarian” demands. This is evident in the rural base that the JVP was able to construct for itself. Although the JVP itself was not victorious, the 1971 uprising rocked the entire political establishment; it also drew them to the rural areas to negotiate power relations which were supposedly centered upon Colombo. First, it destablized the integrity of the state, making the government in Colombo send troops to negotiate the conflict. This was a crucial turning point in the socialization of violence, once monopolized by the colonial state and later disguised by the post-colonial propagation of the idea that there can be no revolution in a Buddhist country where people are inherently non-violent. Secondly, the uprise drew the attention of the central government to rural areas. The acceleration of rural transformations, particularly land reforms of the 1970s, was largely the government’s reaction to this situation. These, however, did not address the concerns of rural youth, expressed in these uprisings, which was largely the incapacity to leave the poverty of the village, a knowledge and aspiration diffused by W estern, urban-centric education. The struggle was, therefore, not over a land problem, and, despite its rural base, the JVP had no “agrarian program.” 19 The JVP itself had no objective in transforming the national society and space, but creating a place for the youth within it. This was more evident in JVP activism in the 1980s, in which isolated attacks were primarily targeted on regional and local rural leaders of the ruling UNP, instead of on the central state. Their principal


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targets in 1971 were local police stations. Moreover, the JVP was not antagonistic to the creation of Export Processing Zones, the employees of which were younger than 24 years, and mainly female. Instead of expanding the extant society and space, creating more space for newcomers, the JVP adopted the strategy of replacing personnel within it. Ethno-Politics and Separatism Ethno-political conflicts that led to the struggle for a separate Tamil state had been developing from the 1950s. The nationalism that this study focusses on is a modern phenomenon, a significant outcome of the socio-spatial anatomy of the modern state. The early ethno-political organizations which had emerged in the 1920s had been confined to a broadly defined group of the elite which had operated along with other social differences such as caste. Their political bargaining took place within the confines of the constitutional framework. Crossing the boundaries of this structure in the late 1940s, the Federal Party took its version of the ethnic issue and the federal policy to the Tamil people. Nationalism has become an important subject in recent scholarly work. Yet for the most part, the attempts have been to capture the phenomenon of what scholars call nationalism in a simple “objective,” “scientific” manner. For example, Jonathan Spencer notes that “Each nationalism is based upon the assumption that people are naturally divisible into different kinds--known as nations--and ideally each kind should have the responsibility for its own governance.” 20 Although this may be valid at a particular level, nationalisms are much more complex than this suggests, not least Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka. It is, therefore, more useful to see how these political positions are constructed. For Kemper, the strength of nationalism, or any other political movement, is its ability to draw on sentiments-language, religion, family, culture--that appear to be natural and autochthonous. 21 As Sahlins argues, whether the past is continuous or discontinuous with the present is an irrelevant issue; “every reproduction of culture is an alteration, insofar as in action the categories by which the present world is orchestrated pick up some novel empirical content.” 22 Despite its horrors, nationalism may well be viewed as a mechanism of reproduction of cultures, histories, and identities within particular power structures. It was the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna that advanced ethno-politics to a national political issue through its “Sinhala only” policy, implementing some measures to this end after it came to power in 1956. The pre-election pact of the leader of this SLFP-led government with that of the Federal Party politicized Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic concerns as a duality between these two parties. The polarization of the polity into two camps based on social and political issues, as commonly identified as the Left and the Right, however, provided the hegemony for these over ethnic and other concerns in the national political agenda until the late 1970s. Yet differences are expressed in a variety of contexts using multiple identities. It is, therefore, important to ask how much of the politics of one cultural group is


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comprehensible to the other cultural group. The Federal Party, which proposed a federal policy in the Sri Lankan polity, was, in its Tamil designation, Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi, meaning the Ceylon Tamil State Party. 23 Moreover, it is only when these political and other cultural dimensions such as caste divisions are added that the separatist struggle can be seen as the complexity it actually represents. Jupp observes that within the Tamil and Christian communities, differences of caste are as important as among Buddhists. “Tamil Kariars at Point Pedro do not behave politically like Tamil Vellalas [high castes], while Tamil minority castes seem susceptible to extreme left-wing appeals.” 24 There is, therefore, no single variable --ethnicity, language, religion, or caste--that is generally applicable across any of these groups. Yet this nationalism holds that the political and national unit should be congruent.25 Responding to the Sinhala-biased politics of post-colonial governments and the need to secure their votes, in 1972 the Federal Party and the Tamil Congress banded together to form a Tamil United Front (Tamil United Liberation Front from 1976). In M ay 1976, it raised the demand for a separate Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka named “Tamil Eelam.” 26 Instead of there being a leftist or a right-wing government and a corresponding opposition, once the TULF became the second largest group in the 1977 elections, the Parliament polarized into a Sinhala-Tamil duality. In this context, ethnic issues concerning the Tamils were prioritized in the national political agenda, and any issue that came up in the Parliament was debated for its implications on Tamils until the TULF boycotted the Parliament in 1986. Spatially, what the T ULF proposed was two states on the island, and with an international boundary between them and two capitals, Jaffna and Colombo. The Sri Lankan Tamils, in general, and the political parties based on them, did not identify themselves with the Tamils in the plantation areas, nor with those in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Still, Tamil Nadu was part of their strategies, including as a place of escape and military training.27 Although the TULF, as the principal opposition, was in the best ever position to bargain for the rights of the Tamil people, the heavy imbalance of forces (a mere 18 TULF seats in a 168-member Parliament) was insufficient to win a separate state through the parliamentary process. As Heath and M cLaughlin suggest, politicians thrive on problems to solve,28 and the Parliament could go on debating this issue. Yet the youth were discontented by the distance between the rhetoric and the deeds of their political leaders. After the Pakistani crisis of 1971 and the establishment of Bangladesh, some Tamil youth leaders were inspired with the idea that if they would be able to free an area from the control of the central government and claim a separate state, then India would intervene, in the same way as it did with the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. Although the decades of Indo-Pakistani conflicts might have been influential in the Bangladeshi case, the Indian government did not welcome the idea of Tamil separatism, which would have inspired the separatist movements in its own country. India also feared that a divided country would attract the “superpowers,” particularly the US which was searching for a new place in the Indian Ocean for a


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naval base after the Diego Garcia crisis. Although the objectives did not differ from that of the TULF, the separatists’ means of achieving these and their commitment to doing so were in contrast. The huge imbalance of forces, especially in the Parliament, and the state’s carrying out of law and order which is biased towards those who hold this apparatus, were compensated for by the growing militancy among the Tamil youth that had improved their capacity to negotiate. These were not merely extra parliamentary struggles. These groups contested the very validity of the Parliament itself, disrupting and boycotting elections after 1982 and threatening to kill whoever participated in them, whether as voters or candidates. Like the JVP, the LTTE too was ambiguous about territorial space but accepted the hegemonic notion of the inter-state system and colonial provinces. Firstly, what the LTTE, other separatist groups, and the TULF demanded and strove for, was to produce a new state within the inter-state system. This state is, however, an ethnic one--a T amil one. Modern states, however, have not just been constructed to contain or constitute ethnic groups, but so-called “nations.” Past experiences of the modern state, from sixteenth century Europe onwards, demonstrate that the process of states homogenizing their subjects into nations was more prominent than homogenous cultural groups forming states. “Nations” thus largely consist of multiple cultural groups dominated by one or several of them, partly assimilating and suppressing the rest. It is precisely this situation that makes those groups which do not want to be part of a particular state want to construct a new state, hence, separatism and violence. Paradoxically, the conception of Tamil Eelam confronts the problem of its “Tamilness.” The problem of the Muslims of Sri Lanka is telling here. The population of one of the two provinces which the separatists claim, Eastern Province, consists of about 30% Muslims and 30% Sinhalese. How the Tigers have attempted to handle this problem is by frightening away the non-Tamils from the province by the use of terror.29 This leads to the second ambiguity, that of the territory perceived as Tamil Eelam. W hat the LTTE strives to liberate are largely the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the two farthest from Colombo, out of a total of nine Provinces. As discussed in Chapter Two, these Provinces were created by the British, not only disregarding cultural differences among the Lankans, but also to obscure them. If there was ever a clear territorial division between the Tamils and Sinhalese in history, such a division has radically changed during the last five hundred years. 30 Today, Tamils live in almost all provinces, with a large proportion in Colombo. The context within which such a boundary existed has also changed by the colonial abandonment of ancient irrigation works, the main source of life in the low rainfall areas, and the production of a Colombo-centric territory. Among the Tamils themselves, the ethnoscape has become more complex; historic cultural differences such as castes have been overlain by new religious and class categories, such as Christians, administrators, capitalists, merchants, and landowners, particularly during the colonial period. In this context, the provinces do not have the same


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meaning beyond the colonial administration for which purpose they were produced. The post-colonial state of Sri Lanka has only adopted these divisions for the administrative convenience and due to cultural ignorance. Yet, the politicohistorical solutions offered so far by governments, and all party conferences, have also been based on the same administrative divisions. For example, the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord of 1987 offered a degree of devolution of power to all nine Provinces, represented by Provincial Councils. Directly responding to the territorial demand of the separatists, the conference also made the temporary provision of a unified North-Eastern Provincial Council. In the meantime, both LTTE and JVP-led struggles have shifted the locus of political negotiations to the rural areas. Both these movements have refused to participate in the parliamentary process and recognize Colombo as the political center. The JVP and the LTTE are not only not represented in the national Parliament, they also actively hinder the election process. Instead of negotiating in Colombo, representatives of both movements have invited the representatives of the state to their territory to negotiate on their terms, but with arms. Despite sporadic bomb attacks on targets in Colombo, the separatists have been waging their struggle in the Northern and Eastern provinces while the JVP have primarily been active in the southern, central, and north-central areas of Sri Lanka. Hence, the government has been compelled to send troops to negotiate and regain control over those areas. As far as the major political negotiations are concerned, Colombo has, therefore, lost the consensus it once had as the locus of political negotiations for three decades after independence. The constant proposal to devolve power indicate the impasse the system based on centralized power has reached. The Restructuring of National Space In addition to assuming the leadership against “terrorism” and “separatism,” and reproducing Colombo’s centrality, therefore, the government also undertook the task of rebuilding capitalist structures destroyed by the previous nationalist-socialist regimes. The crushing of the general strike of 1980 by the government of 1977 was a direct blow not only to the proletariat but also to the capitalist-proletariat politicoideological duality that had characterized the post-colonial political arena. Spatially significant state sponsored projects and programs of the three consecutive UNP governments (1977-1994) include, first, the shifting of the seat of the government from the former colonial Fort area of Colombo, to a new parliament complex, built on the outskirts of the city at Sri Jayawardhanapura. Second, the Fort area was transformed into a central business district by relocating its former occupants and replacing them with banks and private businesses. Third, export-processing zones were introduced within what is called Greater Colombo in order to attract foreign investment. Fourth, the compression of the major construction and resettlement component of the Mahaweli Development Project into six years. Finally, a program to build one hundred thousand houses in six years was followed by a One Million Houses Program, largely based on the provision of state support for self-builders.


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Over and above these and many other smaller scale projects which it carried out, the state also stimulated private investment through the removal of legal and administrative constraints, the provision of fiscal incentives, and the privatization of state corporations. This transition, undertaken by Sri Lankan governments since the late 1970s as part of a larger program of planned privatization, generated the most profound building boom since independence, and one which changed the whole national landscape. The heightened construction activity transformed the colonial landscape in Colombo and its immediate environs which, till then, had largely survived for three decades. The Accelerated Mahaweli Project, the largest single development project undertaken by a Sri Lankan government, comprised the construction of five major dams, irrigating 320,000 acres of new land, and reinforcing the irrigation system in an area of 32,000 acres. This was anticipated to provide farm employment for 500,000 and off-farm employment for another 50,000 people.31 The primary focus can be explained as the drive to build an infrastructure, which is expressed through the selection of capital intensive dam and canal construction projects in formulating the accelerated program. (figure 6.2)

FIGURE 6.2 Massive projects: The Mahaweli Project area.


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The Acceleration added its own share of problems to others inherent to this long-term, large-scale program, discussed in Chapter Five. As does any dam project, this too uprooted people from fertile basins which were turned into reservoir beds. Although on many occasions there had been discussions about these evacuees, there was very little the Mahaweli Authority officials could do because of its fast pace. Despite the fact that the negative effects of this have often been noted, massive clearance of trees became natural to the project. It was only with the intervention of the Mahaweli Architectural Unit in 1984, through the proposal of a tree policy, that saving some of the trees became important. (figure 6.3) Highlighting its focus on the expansion of communication and irrigation infrastructure, and incorporating the development area into national space, the project gave only marginal importance to the settlers. Despite enormous spending on infrastructure building, each settler was given a plot of land and Rs. 1500.32 The concern for settlers was therefore much less than in early colonization schemes where the government attempted to provide core-houses. (figure 4.1) Jaap Jan Speelman and G.M. van der Top sum up, The Mahaweli Programme gives the impression of being mainly directed towards construction rather than actual settler development. The greater part of foreign aid is pumped into the hardware of the downstream works; and although plans for social infrastructure in all its aspects exist the real software of financial and agricultural extension and guidance seems to be mainly in the planning stage.33 The huge size of the program also created space for negotiation. Architects and planners were major groups that made use of this opportunity between 1983 and 1989. Earlier, planning had been approached from a master plan perspective where a whole large town was planned and laid out and then gradually filled in with buildings. Since what would be built depended on the annual budgetary allocations of the Authority, the towns tended to consist of a number of buildings and patches of vegetation, a landscape of uncertainty. From 1983, however, the Mahaweli Architectural (and Planning) Unit took a new approach, designing and building only a dense core and leaving the bulk of the land reserved for the township in its original state to be utilized when the town expands. The towns, therefore, began to function from the outset without having to wait until they fully developed according to a master plan over a couple of decades. In the area of housing, the large-scale state intervention can partly be understood as a reaction to the previous governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s emphasis on housing. The transition from the Hundred Thousand Houses Program to the Million Houses Program in 1983 meant a transition from providing state-built housing, largely in the cities, to the provision of more limited support for self-builders in the whole national territory. The magnitude of the Million Houses Program (1983-1987) can be contrasted with the total housing stock of Sri Lanka, which was under three million


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FIGURE 6.3 Transforming the rural landscape: Mahaweli Townships.

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housing units in 1981. Inevitably the largeness of the program and the extensive publicity surrounding it was instrumental in creating a housing problem. The huge scale, a hundred thousand and one million, represents a particular quantification of housing programs. Arguably this was to make those programs politically appealing and easily understandable for the general public. Although setting quantified targets for programs is not uncommon, those carried out under the guidance of the popular UNP leader, Premadasa, were strikingly so. For example, in 1993, he undertook the task of opening 200 garment factories in 200 days at an average of one per day. The need to quantify for the public consumption and the project of high degree states that housing had become a significant political issue by the late 1970s. The shift to the Million Houses Program was largely due to the failure of the Hundred-Thousand Houses Program (1978-1982). Although 85% of these dwelling units were for low-income groups, these ended up being too costly for this income bracket. Yet the apartments constructed for working households were inadequate, both in area and quality, for the middle income groups who could afford them. Arguably that housing program reached an impasse with incomplete projects incurring large subsidies, unacceptable for the state as well as aid agencies. The number of housing units constructed under this program was also far less than what was originally planned. 34 In this context, the Million Houses Program was designed to reach one million families without the state having to construct housing for them, and touch the hearts of every family that became eligible to participate. The most significant aspects of the Million Houses Program was the idea of supporting those who build their own housing, instead of the state building housing for distribution among a selected group of beneficiaries, and the politicization of the housing question. The policy to support “self-builders” arose from the adoption of broader critiques of Third W orld housing policies by W illiam Mangin and John Turner in the 1970s, 35 particularly, the failure of state-built housing projects to address the housing needs of the urban poor. According to Turner’s argument, the policies of state provision of built housing have not been successful in reaching the poor. Second, in regard to Peru in the 1970s, Turner identified that what he called the “self-building activity” was not an urban problem but was rather, a solution to the housing problem, and no better solution has been found. That is, “self builders” are the people who know what they need, and not the state. Turner considered the main issue to be “who decides what and for whom?” Hence, the problem was one of lack of access to basic resources to fulfill their needs. Instead of the state’s “prescription” of housing through the provision of built housing units, therefore, Turner called for the support of their housing efforts. The proviso of “external support” for this activity was, ironically, identified as the state; 36 the state should ensure the users’ access to basic local resources, as well as secure the autonomy of the self-building activity. In arguing that users would be able to decide what support the state (sponsor) should provide, 37 however, the concept of “support systems” seriously underestimated the power and the regulatory functions of the state. W hat is ignored


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here is that even support coming from the state implies a part of its regulatory function. In practice, the state had decided what was meant by housing, who needs access to what resources, and most crucially, what need makes such state intervention necessary, or desirable, and how to balance its account books. The state’s extension of support to self-builders was, therefore, a means of coopting and institutionalizing the housing activity at a national scale. Firstly, the program decided who needs support, i.e. the lower middle income group (Rs 300 1000 per month). Second, what the Authority undertook to deliver was “low standards for many rather than high standards for a few.” 38 The housing authority assumed that “nature would supply practically all their material needs” and “family labor goes a long way in meeting their house building needs,” 39 and the problem was defined as one of a cash gap, principally to hire skilled labor and transport certain building materials. Thus, the support system was based on the provision of small loans, which was justified as “support for those who are helping themselves,” and organized as loan packages, the amounts of which were also decided by the state, with several different options. The state thus regulated and institutionalized a large proportion of the self-building activity. The mismatch between the problem and needs, which operated at the level of housing, now operated at the level of support. The consultants for the program questioned whether the government would tolerate the principles of “progressive development” as an inherent consequence of the facilitating role and accept the prolongation of the construction time. Ruwanpathirana and Tilakaratna observed that “the officials appeared to have been more concerned with the technical aspects, speedy construction, implementation and reaching physical targets of the projects, and less with the human processes at work and the participatory aspects of the project.” 40 According to James Brow’s study of a new development, the process produced a settlement but destroyed a community. 41 For the state, however, the Million Houses Program was one of many development projects that produced a low wage labor force and promoted the hope among them of getting better housing. Portes and W alton have argued that the poor access to resources among Third W orld people is caused by the need of multinational capital to maintain low levels of reproduction of labor power as close as possible to the subsistence level in the periphery. 42 Castells has argued that housing is one of the main expenses in reproducing labor power and thus, keeping housing out of the remuneration package (wages) has been desired by representatives of capital. 43 If these were not primary concerns of post-colonial Sri Lankan governments, it certainly was for the government of 1977 which invited international capital to invest in Sri Lanka. Self-built housing is cheaper than any other comparable form of housing, including low-cost government housing projects, because there is a large input of labor by the worker him/herself, kin, and friends. 44 Such methods of housing therefore absorb most of the costs of reproduction of labor power enabling high profits or surplus extraction from the periphery for multinational capital. Theoretically, therefore, the Program’s significance is that it solves a crucial


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problem for foreign and local capital, through the in-situ production of a low wage labor force. W hile the JVP and the LTTE were undermining Colombo’s centrality, the government was reproducing it in a grand scale. This process of centralization culminated at the level of government. The establishment of an Executive Presidency in 1978, concentrating political power in the President’s office, strongly demonstrated the government’s drive to centralize political command functions. Moreover, the replacement of the former Prime Minister, directly responsible to the legislature, with a Presidency that stands above all social, political, and economic institutions of the country, indicates the government’s desire to organize a supreme command center. Nationally, this was accompanied by the centralizing and reinforcing of colonial districts. The UNP’s main criticism of the electoral system was that the number of seats it won in the 1970 election was disproportionately low to the overall number of votes it received nationally. 45 According to the constitution of 1978, which created an executive Presidency, the President was to be elected by an island-wide vote. This hypothetically guaranteed the Presidency to the ruling UNP, since it was only in 1956 that another single party had polled more votes than the UNP. In this way, a single national electorate was superimposed over the diversifying electoral system of Sri Lanka. At the same time, the whole electoral organization of Sri Lanka was also transformed. The 1977 government eliminated former electorates, 150 in all, and replaced them with twenty-two administrative districts. Instead of a single Member of Parliament, each district elects a number of them proportionate to its population. Similarly, local governments too were transformed into single electorates. The election of five or more representatives, sometimes twenty, from a large electorate, however, abolished the relationship between the electorate and their representative, developed from the 1930s, along with the identity of former electorates. This was the construction of a centralized single national political system, undermining “local” identities. If the electoral system provided room for people to express their local concerns, and if the popularization of elections in the 1950s incorporated the village into the national system in the 1960s, this change stifled the localized concerns and marginalized small political parties and former local independent candidates. Centralizing industrial production, the government established industrial enclaves, called Export Processing Zones, in the vicinity of Colombo. Beginning in Ireland in 1959, these were established in countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The emphasis of this policy was on the rapid expansion of exports, free international trade, and the provision of an “open door” environment for foreign companies.46 The objective was to produce competitive exports relying on direct foreign investment. In Sri Lanka, government policies after 1977 focussed on “export promotion” in place of previous economic policies of “import substitution and industrialization.” Special benefits provided for industries included quick customs


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clearance, an uninterrupted supply of electricity, and also the ability to obtain loans from off-shore banking at cheaper rates. 47 The government also removed dual exchange rates and, in effect, devalued the currency. Other incentives to Zone investors included a full tax holiday for up to ten years, no limit on the equity holdings of foreign investors, the free transfer of shares within and outside Sri Lanka, no tax or exchange controls on such transfers, unrestricted remittance of capital and proceeds of liquidation, and the exemption of dividends to non-resident shareholders tax and exchange controls, also of import duty and regular controls on machinery, equipment, construction and raw materials.48 Guarantees were also provided against nationalization, and labor unions were also kept out of bounds.49 This privileged treatment of investments in the EPZ, however, disadvantaged extant private industries and discouraged new investments outside this. 50 Despite the failure of EPZs in south Asia (beginning from the first one, Kadla Free Trade Zone of India, opened in 1956 51), and the fading away of the hope of attracting electronics (bluechip) industry, the garment industry provided the backbone of the EPZ at Katunayake. Garments became the main export earner of Sri Lanka in 1988.52 Despite high capital expenditure, profits earned by foreign firms, the labor intensive garment industry provided a considerable proportion of the employment. Of the 17,813 workers employed in the Zone by the end of 1981, 15,689 were employed in the garment industry. 53 The previously dominating position of plantations in the Sri Lankan economy have thereby been replaced by export-oriented light industry. EPZs were not only constructed as legally exclusive safe havens for private investments, but were also physically separated by fences and walls providing only limited access from outside. These enterprize zones have reintroduced foreign enclaves in the form of compounds. These compounds are, however, not plantations but industrial areas, not British-owned but South Korean and Taiwanese-owned, not in the central highlands but near Colombo International Airport. As compared to the distributionary location of factories by the previous governments, the location of factories in the vicinity of Colombo represents a centralization of industrial production activity. In regard to the cultural arena, former President R. Premadasa (1988-1993), who was also the Prime Minister between 1977 and 1988, attempted to organize a central religious role for Colombo. Although his intentions were not made explicit, President Premadasa’s patronage and effort to promote the Buddhist temple at Gangaramaya, Colombo, to a “national” level is well known in Sri Lanka. (figure 6.4) Most strikingly, the temple holds an annual procession resembling that held at Kandy by the Temple of the Tooth Relic, both in regard to its size and quality. It is important to recall that the construction of Colombo as a significant place for the Sinhalese and Buddhists was a continuation of the “Ceylonizing” of Colombo. This politico-ideological coalition involved “the invention of tradition,” and the evoking of history and tradition has been carried out by the leaders of the UNP government at a high level. One main campaign promise of its leader, Jayawardene, was to create a dharmishta (righteous) society, that recalled the rule of Emperor


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FIGURE 6.4 Reinforcing Colombo’s cultural centrality: Gangarmaya Temple, Colombo. Asoka of India. In inaugurating one of the major dams of the Mahaweli Project, the Kotmale Dam, the Mahaweli Minister, Gamini Dissanayake, evoked Kotmale’s “unique” relationship to one of the greatest kings in Lankan history, Dutugemunu, a link which was a construction of his own. Moreover, during his first visit to the United States as President in 1984, Jayawardene proudly claimed that he was the 205th head of state of Sri Lanka in its 2,500-year long history. 54 Yet, in contrast to evoking history and tradition, and locating oneself and new rituals within these, President Premadasa invented a “new” tradition, appropriating traditional rituals, putting these together, but also locating them in Colombo. The advancement of Colombo from its previous colonial and secular state into a nationally significant ethno-religious center, however, has not been limited to Sinhalese-Buddhists, but can also be seen among the Hindu-Tamil elite and middle classes of Colombo. Despite Tamil separatism in areas furthest from Colombo, the Hindu temple at W ellawatta, Colombo, has also acquired a significantly increased importance among Hindu temples of the island. It is, therefore, the elite of Colombo--the power elites, 55 capitalists, and the upper middle class--of perhaps all ethno-religious groups, that have striven to construct a more central cultural role for Colombo. Such a drive has certainly produced tensions between the desire of the capitalist classes to incorporate a cultural dimension into its political economy centered upon Colombo, and the determination of more ardent ethno-religious groups to preserve their historic centers, located far outside Colombo, and to reconstruct and replenish their identities in such a context. 56 The acceleration of the Mahaweli Development Project and the launching of massive housing programs in the late 1970s, the creation of large scale electorates, and the location of an industrial zone near Colombo constitute a strategy of both decentralization and recentralization of national space. The expansion of government programs to support activities such as irrigation and housing would, at


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the same time, stretch the national social and spatial infrastructure, closely integrating the “marginal” areas into it.

The Restructuring of Colom bo Changes within Colombo were the result of a massive restructuring carried out through a series of government policies and projects, including the relocation of the seat of government and the main site of production for export, and the construction of a new Parliamentary complex deploying critical vernacular architecture of Sri Lanka and a Central Business District in the so-called “international modern” style. The restructuring of Colombo was carried out first by the separate location of political and administrative functions in Kotte and economic command functions in the Fort, economic production in the EPZs, and warehousing at Peliyagoda, outside the northern boundary of the municipal council. Then these distributed functions were reincorporated into Colombo by expanding its perceptual boundary. The shifting of the seat of government to Kotte and the development of the Fort area into a central business district, together represent a particular separation of the national government and the economy. Although the state’s involvement in the economy continued, the objectives of the government were dominated by the privatization of state institutions. The construction of this particular relationship between the economy and the polity, and the centralization of Colombo within the national space, is constituted in the moving of the seat of government, but by only about five miles, and not to a distant place such as a historic capital of the Raja Rata period. Although it can also be considered as part of Colombo, Kotte was a historic Sinhalese metropolitical center, and a principal kingdom when the Portuguese arrived in 1505. Kotte, however, has multiple meanings in Lankan history. W hile King Parakramabahu VI (1411-66) re-established a single authority over the whole island, Kotte was also the first Lankan kingdom to be pulled into a Portuguese “client-state” in the sixteenth century. The dominant discourse of Sri Jayawardhanapura, however, was not produced around the disgraceful narrative of King Dharmapala embracing Catholicism and making the King of Portugal heir to his throne after his death, but rather the greatness of Parakramabahu VI who established a unified rule over the island from Kotte. 57 Hence, the construction of the new capital not only involved the physical construction of the parliamentary complex, but also a whole new discourse, including the evoking of the name (Sri Jayawardhanapura) relating to that of the President, and relating his intentions in defeating Tamil separatists, re-unifying the country from Kotte. This royal discourse is also represented in the master plan for Kotte as well as in the layout of the parliament complex. All government departments were either moved or encouraged to move to Kotte, making it also the locus of administration. The moving of the government to Kotte was part of the larger plan of action


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which included the reorganization of the Fort area for the attraction and unrestricted consumption of private capital. Relocating the government, administration, military, and warehouse functions from it, the Fort area was designated as the central business district of Colombo. Since foreign capital was invited to occupy this central space, economic command functions were also transferred from the state to foreign banks and corporations. The introduction of a central business district in the late 1970s transformed the Fort into a “capitalist/commercial” space represented by a modern highrise skyline. Promoting its growth, planners turned the southern end of the Fort, where the former military barracks (designed in “echelon” form) were located, into a special project area named Echelon Square. Here, the Urban Development Authority adopted a pro-growth approach instead of applying so-called development controls. This is evident in its employment of, for example, floor area ratios--allowable total floor area of a building as a multiple of the area of the site--and maximum plot coverage in place of former regulations, such as light angles--controlling heights of buildings by a hypothetical line drawn at a particular angle drawn from the rear boundary of the plot or the opposite side of the access road. Moreover, the UDA increased the floor area ratio for the Echelon Square, primarily to promote buildings between fifteen and twenty-five floors, and anticipated the construction of over two million square feet of built space.58 Compared to the restructuring of US cities, for example, New York, where capital no longer has to seek state-directed redevelopment,59 in Sri Lanka, state intervention was needed to create profitable arenas for capital investment, for which Colombo was a prime site. Linking Colombo to the club of cities in the world-economy, the UDA emulated designs and construction methods of other internationally successful business districts, in the Fort. Colombo’s built environment was principally colonial and its spaces were largely occupied by state institutions. The practical initiative was made when the UDA approved the thirty-two story (state-run) Bank of Ceylon headquarters. The award of the contract to design and build this to a Singaporean turnkey firm suggests that Singapore was the model followed by the government during this time. This is also evident in the building of pedestrian crossings over Colombo’s streets, following the model of Singapore. The UDA’s intentions in the Fort have, however, been negotiated by various agencies. Although some tall buildings have been constructed, there has not been a race to construct tall buildings as is the case with many leading banking and financial centers of the world. The largest buildings erected in the Fort area were, however, not multinational corporation headquarters or regional offices, but hotels that largely serve international business travellers and tourists. Many internationally operating banks, such as the Bank of America, have opened branch offices in the Fort area either in rented spaces in old colonial buildings or buildings that were remodeled. The Bank of Ceylon, therefore, stands out as the state’s image of what the business district should look like. Nonetheless, the landscape of the Fort area and its surroundings has been modernizing in the 1980s, but not at the pace or in the way the state or the UDA


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desired. Although not so tall, multi-story buildings have been constructed. The modernization of the Fort area has spread towards the south, incorporating formerly isolated developments, such as the People’s Bank headquarters, the other state-run bank, into a larger and spreading modern fabric, displaying the new dominance of businesses in the Echelon Square area. This development dwarfed the former Parliament, which is now a restored remnant of colonial architecture. (figure 6.5) In developing the central business district, the UDA privileged foreign designers and contractors, subordinating the national construction industry.60 The post-1977 UNP governments’ collaboration with selected foreign elements was part of much broader phenomena and was not limited to the Fort area. Nonetheless, the government did not exclude Sri Lankan private architectural firms from reaping the benefits of the construction boom. These were given a large number of commissions that would, under previous governments, have been carried out by state agencies. Yet the awards were selective, and the development was organized by allocating them particular niches, such as Colombo’s large housing projects. The allocation of such niches protected them from the competition from large international firms which bid for large-scale projects. Sri Lankan architectural firms were, therefore, playing a significant role in the transformation of Colombo’s built environment. Finally, it is important to explore why there were such grand programs to reorganize Sri Lanka. Nationalist-socialist governments had sufficiently ruined the capitalist structures of the state that the resurrection of a central role for capitalist activity, which the 1977 government required, demanded the reversal of the

FIGURE 6.5 Modernizing the Fort area: Postcard image of the new new developments in the Fort area dwarfing the old Parliament building.


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measures taken by the previous governments and the building of a new social and spatial order. The magnitude of such a need and the government’s use of this opportunity to enhance the prospects for capital are expressed in the pretentious programs of the 1980s, discussed above, that transformed the whole post-colonial landscape. Internationally, the state’s policies constituted a response to the downturn in the world-economy from the 1970s, which had also brought stagnation to the Sri Lankan economy. The desire to move quickly and fill in significant gaps made them invite in foreign capital and produce enclaves where the above constraints did not apply, hence the special project areas, for example, EPZs and the Fort. The deployment of a strategy of “special project areas” thus staked out particular nodes in the national landscape from which such programs could be initiated, which would gradually spread out transforming the larger society and space. Relocating Sri Lanka within New World Regions Massive programs of state intervention to develop the Sri Lankan economy within a policy of “export promotion” also demonstrate the state making use of the expansion of the “room for maneuvering” for individual states brought about by the changing political and economic order, particularly with the demise of the global political and economic systems constructed under US hegemony. The same condition has, however, increased the capacity of various international and intranational groups to bargain without powerful “external” interventions. The state’s initiative has therefore not gone uncontested, but has been negotiated by various agencies at both intranational and supranational levels. Negotiations with international agencies have, however, transformed the whole orientation of Sri Lankan society and space within a larger world spatial organization. The Sri Lankan political and economic elite, who largely maintained a British orientation, were disoriented by the acts of the 1970 government which made Sri Lanka a republic, severing the last vestiges of colonial authority in 1972, and nationalizing British-owned plantations in 1976. Hence, the international orientation of the elite-based UNP had become ambiguous in the late 1970s. Changing its British orientation, the UNP government of 1977 therefore looked towards the United States for help in reconstructing favorable conditions for capital in Sri Lanka. Here, the government anticipated a US and west European interest in the EPZs and continued to depend on the W orld Bank and the IM F for loans to support necessary adjustments. The M ahaweli Project and the housing programs, for example, were largely funded by European and US sources,61 and in 1980, eight out of eighteen companies engaged in commercial production in the EPZ were west European and US.62 W estern capital, especially from the US and European companies and banks, has been reluctant to invest in a country with strong socialist and nationalist movements and governments. Despite the 1977 government weakening those radical movements, the former image of Sri Lanka among “western” transnational


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corporations and banks has not been completely transformed. Instead of supporting the “brave” move of the government of 1977, and those following, to create conditions conducive to foreign investment, therefore, multinational lending agencies have attempted to capture this opportunity in order to dictate their conditions and incorporate state programs into their own. For example, although the government has privatized a large proportion of state corporations and agencies, 63 the International Monetary Fund continued to demand further privatization, the devaluation of the currency, and the curtailing of welfare as conditions for the granting of loans. In the meantime, the changes in the basic orientation of the UNP as well as world regions has drawn their attention to east Asia. Even before the elections, Jayawardene indicated that, if elected, he would bring Sri Lanka the economic expansion and prosperity that Singapore has been enjoying for decades. 64 Nonetheless, it was larger changes such as the new British focus on Europe, the weakening of US economy and power worldwide, the inflow of capital from South Korea and Taiwan, the importation of commodities from Japan, and the entry of banks from the Middle East and M alaysia that have done much to reorient Sri Lanka towards east Asia. 65 In regard to the immediate region, although Sri Lanka and India have maintained good political and economic relations, south Asian cooperation has been limited. One major constraint has been the role of Pakistan as a US ally and its rivalry with India. Rizvi observes, “The prospect of external powers extricating themselves from South Asia following their detente has opened up new opportunities for improved relations between India and Pakistan, and in the region generally.” 66 From the late 1980s, however, not only is the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation functioning, but those countries have become closer. Shifts in the orientation of Sri Lanka demonstrate as well as constitute new east Asian and south Asian world-regions. Although the exports of south Asia still go to the United States and Europe, increasingly what they export are industrial products, and not plantation products. The Diversification of Architecture and National Representation Sri Lankan architecture and built forms have also been diversified in the post1977 period, but within a particular unity. Instead of a single source, such as the state-run departments, the agencies involved in architectural production began to diversify, as did their approaches. The role of both Sri Lankan and foreign private architectural firms was expanded. Increasingly, diversity was introduced into the built environment, the new buildings of the central business district, the Parliament complex, the Mahaweli Development Project, and the housing programs all exhibiting a variety of designs and styles. They all, however, were united within the objectives of the government. In regard to the built forms employed, the most glaring contrast can be seen between the central business district and the seat of government. As discussed


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FIGURE 6.6 A new national identity: The new Parliament complex at Sri Jayawardhanapura Kotte. above, emulating the dominant global and regional capitalist centers, the Urban Development Authority opted to develop the new central business district in the Fort area in so-called “International Style” architecture. Yet at the same time, in building a monument for himself and an architectural identity for the nation, the President employed the critical vernacular architecture of Sri Lanka, discussed in Chapter Five. W ithin the transformation of the built environment between 1977 and 1994, here I examine the construction of the national Parliamentary complex. (figure 6.6) Although the critical vernacularists of Sri Lanka have not claimed their architecture to be national, the government’s appropriation of its architecture by commissioning Bawa to design the Parliament complex portrays it as national. The parliamentary complex is not, however, inherently national, nor is it the only possible national representation. A building is a signifier and does not carry meaning in itself, but depends on the construction of a discourse and its reiteration. The potential of multiple interpretations of architecture is, therefore, fundamental to the construction of an architectural representation of the nation. On the one hand, the critical vernacularists could have chosen different sources to draw on and devised a different architectural vocabulary. They could have also produced a different composition of the same spatial and architectural elements they have used, creating a different language. Vale’s observation that Bawa’s Parliament complex is more a summary of a complex architectural history of Sri Lanka than a critical synthesis suggests that it is just one possible approach to national representation among many others.67 On the other hand, the state might have employed a different language, such as the direct replication of historic building forms as the British did In constructing an independence hall, or another discourse such as architectural modernism, as in the case of Brasilia and Chandigarh. 68 It was, therefore, an arbitrary but calculated decision of the government not to employ modernist or proto-Public W orks Department types of architecture but critical vernacularism.


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The project of constructing an architectural representation of the nation presupposes that it can stand as a trope for the nation. It has not only to create a distinctiveness for itself in the international arena and provide accommodation for diverse social and cultural representations within the “nation,” but also to articulate itself in the dimension of time. Although not constructed as a national architecture, critical vernaculars had already negotiated these conflicts above and below the national level. Rejecting the colonialist rupture of local histories, post-colonial societies have often attempted to reconstruct a historical continuity, and an identity within it, referring to a conception of national or proto-national history for their symbols and ichnography. This symbolism is certainly one of those “invented traditions.” According to Hobsbawm, “ <Invented tradition’ is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past.” 69 It is in this context that the 1977 government appropriation of critical vernaculars can be explained. Such representation also depends on the construction of a narrative around what is signified in the architectural symbolism and the reiteration of this narrative. This is precisely what was undertaken in President Premadasa’s Gam Udawa exhibition, held annually in different parts of the country to popularize his Ministry’s housing program, which included a domestic-scale replica of the Parliament. In a country where watching television is not so widespread as in a “developed” country and where television does not constantly promote the image of the Parliament but of the President himself, bringing the Parliament and the message to its inhabitants for their visual consumption constitutes the construction of a nationalist discourse around this architectural symbol of government and nation. It is pertinent to ask, why a national representation in the late 1970s and not immediately after independence? The institution of aspects of national representation such as the national flag, the national anthem and the national emblem,70 with independence illustrates the significance of these and the relative insignificance of an architectural representation during that period. As discussed above, post-independent nation-builders were more concerned about their own identity, position, and the future of the state, particularly its development and modernization, but not with tradition or history in any significant way. Even in the states that consciously attempted to construct a nation, and therefore an identity, the architects did not make any conscious attempt to produce an architectural representation of the nation. This is evident in the employment of imported ideologies and forms to represent nations, such as in Brasilia and Chandigarh, and national leaders inviting leading “Modernist” architects of the W est, such as Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, and Jorn Utzon, to design nationally significant cities in India, Pakistan (Bangladesh), and Kuwait. W right notes that the stylistic issues are by no means minor considerations today, and throughout the world, questions of “appropriate style” have recently come to the fore. 71 This phenomenon is, however, much more than a style, and in


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the case of post-colonial states, an issue of identity and representation. The urge to produce society-specific architecture, apparent from the 1970s, can be explained by the increasing consciousness of the world becoming “a single place” and the need to establish differences in order to construct an identity. Moreover, the failure of the developmentalist discourse has undermined the hegemony that modernization had achieved, opening up a space for difference. The different approaches adopted in building the central business district and the parliamentary complex demonstrates the Sri Lankan desire to keep political, economic, and cultural goals and their representations separate. The Parliament complex is only one group among many elements that constitute the national capital. Others include the location, the master plan, and the narratives built around it. Since the post-1977 governments were fighting a war against separatism, the selection of Kotte would inevitably raise the issue of its relationship to anti-separatism, and the desire of the government and the President to govern a unified state. The master plan also demonstrates a conscious attempt to depict the capital as a Sinhalese Buddhist center, locating Buddhist stupas around the lake on which the island Parliament was created. 72 Constructing a monument for himself, and elevating him to royalty, within a royal discourse that he was constructing, President Jayawardene also talked about moving the Tooth Relic to Jayawardhanapura.73 The construction of a discourse of the new capital within a Sinhalese-Tamil conflict not only makes the Tamils oppositional, but also other ethnic groups such as the Muslims are marginalized. If the critical vernacular architecture of the Parliament constructed an equivalence across various cultural groups in Sri Lanka, the master plan and the politics of its discourses have the potential of defeating this. The appropriation of the critical vernacular language to represent the nation entails its institutionalization, the implications of which are yet to be seen. For example, the (top-down) recirculation of a discourse of national architecture may well privilege a particular type of architecture and exclude and marginalize other architectural practices and languages from their claims to be national. However, we have yet to witness how the national discourse will be reformulated in a way suitable to deploy this proto-national architecture for political purposes by the state, and how various ethnic (particularly Tamil), religious, and other cultural groups, and also architects, negotiate such conflicts. The period between 1977 and 1994 was, therefore, marked by a transformation in both the fabric and the meaning of Sri Lanka’s society and space and Colombo’s landscape. Responding to the transformations caused by previous nationalistsocialist regimes as well as the challenges of the JVP and Tamil separatists, the governments transformed the country, constructing a national identity, locating it within new zones in east and south Asia, industrializing it, and turning Colombo into a regional economic center. All in all, this has pushed Sri Lanka beyond the post-colonial period. Although the influence of British colonialism is still central to the understanding of the society and space of Sri Lanka, it is being overshadowed by contemporary transformations. These are making Sri Lanka a part of completely


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different world regions, laying another layer of influence on the already complex history of society and space. Notes 1. See Giovanni Arrighi, Terence K. Hopkins, and Immanuel Wallerstein, Anti-Systemic Movements (London: Verso, 1989), 97-115. 2. Ibid, 114. 3. See Block, The Origins of International Economic Disorder, 62, 109, 115. 4. Susan Strange, Casino Capitalism (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), 22. See also Andrew Glyn, Alan Hughes, Alain Lipietz, and Ajit Singh, “The Rise and Fall of the Golden Age,” in The Golden Age of Capitalism. Reinterpreting the Postwar Experience, ed., Stephen A. Marglin and Juliet B. Schor (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 99, 101; Frieden, 84. 5. John Walton, “Urban Protest and the Global Political Economy: The IMF Riots,” in Michael Peter Smith and Joe R. Feagin, eds., The Capitalist City (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), 366. 6. See John Connell and Robert Aldrich, “The Last Colonies: Failures of Decolonization?” in Chris Dixon and Michael J. Heffernan, eds., Colonialism and Development in the Contemporary World (London: Mansell, 1991), 183. 7. See “What Do People Want?” Hispanic Business (May 1993): 28. 8. Iliana Zloch-Christy, Debt Problems of Eastern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 1987), 29. 9. Robert Wood, “Making Sense of the Debt Crisis,” Socialist Review (May-June 1985): 11. 10. André Gunder Frank, Dependent Accumulation and Underdevelopment (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979), 113-133. 11. Sassen, The Global City, 324. 12. See Jupp, Sri Lanka, 297. 13. Seventy-seven percent of the JVP suspects arrested in 1971 were between the age of 17 and 26 years. (A.C. Alles, The JVP 1969-1989 (Colombo: Lake House, 1990), 250) 14. See Michael Mitterauer, A History of Youth (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992), 235. 15. Simon Frith, The Sociology of Youth (Lancashire: Casueway Books, 1984), 1. 16. Mitterauer, vii. See also, Shirley Brice Heath and Milbrey W. McLaughlin ed., Identity and Inner-City Youth: Beyond Ethnicity and Gender (New York: Teachers College Press, 1993). 17. Charles Blackton, in Alles, 245. See also, Paul Casperz, Towards a Sociological Analysis of the Youth Struggle in Sri Lanka, 1971: A critique of Educational Effectiveness in a Developing Area (Thesis: Oxford University, 1973), vi, 113; Tissa Balasuriya, “Democracy in Sri Lanka,” Lagos 2 (1987). 18. Moore, The State and Peasant Policies in Sri Lanka, 2, 27, 164. 19. Ibid, 224. 20. Jonathan Spencer, “Writing Within: Anthropology, Nationalism, and Culture in Sri Lanka” Current Anthropology 31 (1990): 283. See also Gananath Obeyesekere’s comment on this article in the same volume pp. 295-6. 21. Here Kemper (The Presence of the Past, 224) draws on Clifford Geertz, “The Integrative Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics in the New States,” chapter in The Interpretation of Culture (New York, Basic Books, 1973), 255-310.


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22. Marshall Sahlins, Islands of History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 144, quoted in Kemper, 224. 23. A. Jeyaratnam Wilson, The Break-Up of Sri Lanka: The Singhalese-Tamil Conflict (London: C. Hurst and Company, 1988), xii. 24. Jupp, 157. 25. See Gellner, 1. For what the Federal Party claimed, see Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi, The Case for a Federal Constitution for Ceylon, (Colombo: Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi, 1951) 26. V. Suriyanarayan, “Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka,” in Urmila Phandis et al., eds., Domestic Conflicts in South Asia (New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, 1986), 132; Robert N. Kearney, “Politics and Modernization,” in Tissa Fernando and Robert N. Kearney, eds., Modern Sri Lanka; A Society in Transition (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1979), 78; Mohan Ram, Sri Lanka: The Fractured Island (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1989), 48. 27. See Rajan Hoole, Daya Somasundaram, K. Sritharan, and Rajani Thiranagama, The Broken Palmyra (Claremont, CA: The Sri Lankan Studies Institute, 1990), 199. 28. Shirley Brice Heath and Milbrey W. McLaughlin, “Identity and Inner-City Youth,” in Heath and McLaughlin, eds., Identity and Inner-City Youth, 1. 29. See University Teachers for Human Rights, 11. 30. See K. Indrapala, Chola Inscriptions of Ceylon (Jaffna: University of Jaffna.); University Teachers for Human Rights, 11: 6-7. 31. H.N.S. Karunaratna, The Accelerated Mahaweli Programme and its Impact (Colombo: Center for Demographic and Socio-Economic Studies, 1988), 31. 32. Jaap Jan Speelman and G.M. van der Top, “Down Stream Development in the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme.” Economic Review 11 (1985): 37. 33. Speelman and van der Top, 37. 34. Marga, 152, 166. 35. J.F.C. Turner and R. Fichter, Freedom to Build (New York: Macmillan, 1972); J.F.C. Turner, Housing by People (London: Marion Boyars Publishers limited, 1976); “Issues in self-help and self-managed housing,” in Self-Help Housing. A Critique, ed., P.M. Ward (London: Mansell, 1982) “From central provision to local enablement” Open House International 8 (1983): 99-114. 36. In regard to Sri Lanka policy, see, Nabeel Hamdi et. al., Housing Options for Sri Lanka: A Programme of Opportunities for Settlement Design (Cambridge, MA/Colombo: MIT/NHDA, 1983); Susil Sirivardana, Reflections on the Implementation of the Million Houses Program (Colombo: National Housing Development Authority, 1986). 37. Turner, Housing by People. 38. Susil Sirivardana, A Small Housing Loan - Ingenuity and Method: An Inquiry Into a Sri Lankan Implementation Experience (Colombo: National Housing Development Authority, 1984). 39. Sirivardana, A Small Housing Loan. 40. Monica Ruwanpathirana and S. Tilakaratne, Study of the Nawa-Gamgoda Housing Scheme Survey Report Prepared for the NHDA (Colombo: Unpublished, 1985), 10. 41. In Edward Robbins, “Culture, Policy, and Production: Making Low-Cost Housing in Sri Lanka,” in Low and Chambers, eds., 60. 42. A. Portes and J. Walton, Labour, Class and the International System (New York: Academic Press, 1981), 90. 43. Manuel Castells, The Informational City: Information, Technology, Economic Restructuring, and the Urban-Regional Process (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989)


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44. Portes and Walton, 1981. See also, Joan Smith, “Non-Wage Labor and Subsistence,” in Joan Smith et al., eds., Households and the World-Economy (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1984), 65; Kathie Friedman, “Income-Pooling Units,” in Ibid, 44. 45. Robert N. Kearney, The Politics of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973), 136-7. 46. Dennis Shoesmith ed., Export Processing Zones in Five Countries: The Economic and Human Consequences (Hong Kong: Asia Partnership for Human Development, [1986]), 22. 47. “K.C. Vignarajah, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Garments Manufacturers Association, in an interview with T.B. Karunaratna of the Peoples Bank, Research Department” Economic Review 8 (June 1982): 24. 48. Shoesmith, 49. 49. Ibid, 237. 50. “K.C. Vignarajah”: 24. 51. Shoesmith, 25. 52. Shoesmith, 24; Michael Davenport and Sheila Page, Europe: 1992 and the Developing World (London: Overseas Development Institute, 1991), 95-6. 53. Shoesmith, 50. 54. Kemper 24, 127-8; James T. Rutnam, “A Legacy of Tambi Mudliyar,” Tamil Times (June 1985) 12-15, in Kemper, 129. 55. See Charles Wright Mills, Power, Politics, and People: The Collected Essays of C. Wright Mills (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963). 56. See Perera, “Exploring Colombo.” 57. See Senarat Panawatta, “A Glimpse Into the History of Sri Jayawardenapura,” The Sunday Observer (Colombo) (March April, 1982); Vale, 203. 58. “Some Major Projects in Colombo,” Economic Review 6 (1980): 8; Steinberg, 538. 59. See Norman I. Fainstein and Susan Fainstein, “Regime Strategies, Communal Resistance, and Ethnic Forces,” in Fainstein et al. eds., Restructuring the City, 259. 60. P.G.K. Fernando, “The Foreign Element in Construction: A Review 1978-1988” Economic Review 14 (1988): 18, 19. Unhappy about the award of design and construction commissions for large projects to foreign firms, Sri Lankan architects bitterly complained and lobbied the government. (See Ibid, 18) 61. See Karunatilake, The Accelerated Mahaweli Project. 62. Shoesmith, 49. 63. See United Nations, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 1992 Part I: Recent Economic and Social Developments (New York: United Nations, 1993), 44. 64. Kemper, 166. 65. See Perera, “Exploring Colombo.” 66. Gowher Rizvi, South Asia in a Changing International Order (New Delhi: Sage, 1993), 166. 67. Vale, 283. 68. See Holston, The Modernist City; Ravi Kalia, Chandigarh. 69. E.J. Hobsbawm, “Introduction: Inventing Traditions,” in E.J. Hobsbawm and T.O. Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 1. 70. See Hobsbawm, “Introduction,” 6. 71. Wright, The Politics of Design, 311.


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72. New Capital Project Division UDA, Master Plan for Sri Jayawardenapura (Colombo: Urban Development Authority, nd); Vale 203; Karel Roberts, Wilfred M. Gunasekara, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Glory that was -and is- Sri Jayawardenapuraâ&#x20AC;? Sunday Observer (Colombo) (25 April 1982). 73. Kemper, 6.


Conclusion: Society and Space in Sri Lanka The most important conclusion of this study is to recognize the absolute centrality of the historical experience of European, and especially British, colonialism in the economic, political, and cultural construction of Ceylon, first, as a “modern,” though colonial state and subsequently, as the independent nation of Sri Lanka. It was external colonial forces which, over a span of three centuries, transformed a variety of kingdoms, principalities, and port settlements in the island into a single social and spatial entity. It was this entity, defined by its coastal boundary and held together by a hierarchical urban system subjugated to a central authority in Colombo, that the rulers of an independent nation-state inherited in 1948. The overwhelming influence of the city, of urban organization, as well as the European world-economy and a Euro-centric culture, on the making of this particular society and space, is uncontestable. In the following pages, I elaborate on the power of the colonial imprint in Sri Lanka as well as its limits, and also draw some important conclusions regarding society and space as a field of study. Colonial Colombo, developed as a result of “external” processes as part of European empires and not through organic processes “internal” to Lankan society, was the crucial spatial instrument in colonizing Lankan kingdoms and subsequently, creating the territory and society of Ceylon. Under the Portuguese, Colombo gained its significance not simply as a free trading port in the Indian Ocean--which it had been previously--but as a strategic node in their much larger seaborne Empire, within Indian Ocean space, and as the seat of the Viceroy. From this time on, and for the larger part of its history, Colombo has always been part of a much larger society and space than what the restricted island space of either Ceylon or Sri Lanka could offer. The construction of Ceylon was a long, gradual process--starting with Colombo, and then subjecting Kandy, destroying its identity by conquest, cultural and environmental destruction, and replacing Lankan identities with the development of a new system of provinces, districts, and capitals to form a new English-speaking administrative and political system. Colonial penetration into adjacent territories largely took the form of imperial powers constructing colonies around the principal port cities and expanding their authority through the extension of imperial urban networks into the interiors. The colonial urban network, originally produced for military and revenue purposes, provided the structure for the territorial organization 185


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of political, administrative, and social institutions and processes; it also laid out the infrastructure for the introduction of new economic and cultural systems such as the plantations and the English education system. W ith the introduction of these, however, the meaning of the urban systems would also begin to change. The creation of an economic space compatible with that of the larger European world-economy was fundamental to enable Ceylon to participate in the imperial economy. W ith the introduction of plantations, a new economic system was thus developed in Ceylon through a vital transportation link between Colombo and Kandy transforming Colombo into the economic command center and the Kandy area into the locus of production for the imperial market. In this way, Ceylon was both simultaneously “modernized” and underdeveloped. It was transformed into a monoculture “economy,” a coffee producer for the European world-market, creating a subsistence, informal, and unpaid labor force, particularly from rural villagers, urban poor, women, and children. Colonialism first meant a period of disorientation for the Lankans, especially with the defamiliarization of what used to be their society and space. Yet they soon began to be recruited as subjects of new colonial social and spatial structures. Early attempts by missionaries to convert the Ceylonese to Catholicism were followed by more concerted efforts of the colonial state to educate them within the framework of European history and culture, first in Portuguese and Dutch, but later, and more significantly in terms of its linguistic imperialism worldwide, in English. This created a space for the emergence of a more colonized elite from the Low Country. These Lankans would envy the colonial aura and emulate high economic and political status of the British. In this way, the social and political leadership in Ceylon shifted away from the Up Country aristocracy to the new elite of the southwestern quadrant, making the Low Country the heartland of Ceylon, both in terms of cooperation within and struggles against the colonial system. All these developments began from Colombo. Yet the significance of the city was far greater than was warranted just as the political and administrative center of Ceylon. It was also a pivot within the imperial urban system and a center for the channeling and diffusion of economic, social, cultural, and political flows. W ithin the larger imperial urban system, it was through Colombo that the political dominance of the imperial power was transmitted to Ceylon, capital accumulation was channeled to the metropole, and metropolitan cultures were diffused to the colony. Although the establishment of a plantation economy and the incorporation of Ceylon into the European world-economy were critical for the transformation of Colombo from a foreign military outpost into the political, economic, and cultural center of Ceylon, it is strikingly evident from maps and colonial guide books of the early twentieth century that Colombo was a major hub in the entire British imperial urban system. As discussed in Chapter Three, Colombo’s financial and commercial infrastructure, the size of its harbor, and its entire built environment, were all much larger than what Ceylon alone, and its colonial community, would ever require as the capital of the country. The Europeanized and colonialized landscape of


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Colombo, therefore, can only be understood through its crucial position as a node of the British imperial economy and polity, its communication system, as an essential coaling station, and as a crucial port of call for the ships that plied the Indian Ocean linking South Africa, India, and Australia to Britain. Despite the loss of this position with independence, it is this colonial history that the political leadership of Sri Lanka has striven to capitalize on in attempting to re-establish Colombo as a financial center in south and southeast Asia since the late 1970s. These larger world and imperial spatial structures are, therefore, crucial for the understanding of both Colombo and Ceylon. At its most fundamental level, the aim of this book has been to investigate the principal social and spatial transformations in Ceylon and Sri Lanka initiated by major west European powers from the 1450s to the 1990s as part of the expansion of their political, economic, and cultural systems and, in relation to these changes, to explore the historical development of society and space in Sri Lanka. In this context, what I have called â&#x20AC;&#x153;world-spaceâ&#x20AC;? becomes an important analytical category. Although the entire world was never subjected to the expanding European social and spatial systems, I have argued that this trajectory peaked in the late nineteenth century when a large proportion of the globe was principally organized in terms of states and empires around imperial and colonial urban structures, both of which were centered in western Europe. These massive spatial constructions, however, fragmented from the turn of the twentieth century; the decline of the authority of the core powers escalated in the 1930s and again from the late 1960s. Despite the decline of these world-scale spatial structures, world-space continues to be a central analytical category for the understanding of contemporary formations and transformations of society and space, as recent scholarship on world-systems, globalization, and world cities suggests.1 The cultural impact of colonialism has been powerful and long lasting. Colonial agencies not only built cities, but also taught their indigenous inhabitants how to use and take care of them, in this way constructing whole new discourses of urban problems and urban planning. They not only exported urban and built forms, but also transmitted specific discourses of space, located within a west European history, and re-constructed within an imperial/colonial context. The architecture of the grand administrative buildings, reflecting an admiration for Roman imperialism within a larger west European imperial history, was apparently equally attractive to both the post-colonial rulers and the emerging body of Ceylonese architects. Following British example, the elite not only moved into colonial suburbs, but also adopted the ritual use of hill stations and the Galle Face promenade. In the immediate post-colonial era, therefore, Sri Lankan political, administrative, economic, and professional leaders continued the European history with which they were familiar, further dehistoricizing Sri Lankan society and space. The continuing cultural hegemony of Euro-US cognitive frameworks is evident, for example, in the fact that the radical movements of the 1970s through 1990s, Janata Vimukti Peramuna and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, proposed no alternative to the colonially created spaces or spatial structures.


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The society and space of colonial Ceylon, however, cannot be totalized. British subjection of Ceylon did not lead to the complete eradication of all former Lankan social, political, administrative, and cultural institutions. It was carried out through the selective superimposition of a larger colonial system, marginalizing the rest. The interaction of social and spatial elements was intense and complex, especially through the coming into contact of two or more radically different social and cultural systems. The complexity is evident in the changing ways in which colonial strategy projected its own image; as paternalistic and concerned for its subjects at the end of the nineteenth century--revitalizing ancient irrigation schemes--and projecting the power of its authority by building massive neo-classical buildings in the early twentieth century. The interactions become even more complex when indigenous responses to colonialism are taken into consideration. Such responses varied from out and out resistance to complete accommodation, and included partial resistance, indifference, apathy, ignorance of the situation, and partial accommodation. It is within this incomplete social and spatial order that, for example, the practices and institutions of Buddhism were reorganized, and the nature and forms of villages, education and language, as well as numerous other social and spatial spheres, were transformed. The most intriguing outcome for the consideration of the spatial disciplines is the drawing up of historic spatial concepts and elements by certain architects to create an architecture appropriate for a postcolonial society, and the later appropriation of this critical vernacular architecture by the state to construct a national mode of representation. This “incompleteness” in the process of colonial cultural control enabled postcolonial Sri Lankans to develop specific cultures and perceptions of their own. As in the case of post-colonial European cultures and histories, these are also both European (as much as Christianity is Roman and not west European) and Sri Lankan (as much as its forms of Christianity are west European and not Roman). Despite “revisionism,” post-colonial cultures and perceptions have provided the basis for a “new” era of Sri Lankan history and culture. The fact that, in large part, the contemporary society and space of Sri Lanka can be explained with reference to its colonial past, therefore, should not detract from its real and extensive postcolonial transformations, as well as the long and complex histories that preceded these. In a mere four decades after independence, Sri Lanka’s capital has been shifted from colonial Colombo to Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte. The speed with which this has taken place becomes significant particularly when compared to the continuing colonial sites of London (as Londinium) and Paris (as Lutetia) as capitals of Britain and France two thousand years after Roman colonization. Moving the seat of government has not only released the Fort area for the development of an internationally competitive economic command center, but also represents the relocation of Sri Lanka within a post-Cold W ar world-space, and within the new economic zones of Asia. Although Sri Lanka’s economy is still predominantly determined by its colonial plantations, industrialization has emerged as a prominent and viable alternative development strategy. The replacement of tea plantations by


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the garment industry as the leading foreign income earner in the mid-1980s has not only made industries more important than agriculture, it has also shifted the locus of production (for a world market) from rural plantations to urban export processing zones. Striving for a new identity sums up the real and attempted post-colonial transformations of Sri Lanka. The construction of a new capital also embodies the concern of the leaders for an identity that goes beyond the former colonial one. Its location in Kotte indicates their wish to construct a new Sri Lankan history with connections to a Lankan history. Although the elite have been very content with their colonial identities, average Sri Lankans constitute theirs from a combination of class, political party, caste, age, ethnic group, gender, region, or religion, whether they really practice the high rituals of each group or are just sympathizers or supporters. As shown by their participation in the construction of the Non Aligned Movement from the 1950s and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in the 1980s, Sri Lankan leaders have also been actively concerned about their identity and alliances. As much as by “nationalisms,” the concern for identity has also been promoted by economic concerns such as tourism, one of the highest foreign exchange earners by the 1970s. If the nationalism and tourism of the 1970s produced a split cultural space in Sri Lanka, in which new Sri Lankan cultural sites were represented as quite distinct from older colonial ones, especially due to the increased attention given to indigenous histories, we are currently seeing the selective retrieval and appropriation of indigenous and colonial cultures to produce a particular historical narrative. These developments, however, have not resolved the conflict between a single state and the multiple societies brought under it by colonial regimes. Like other post-colonial states, the question of separatism has put to the test the question of how long the present form of territorial organization can continue in Sri Lankan society and whether the society (and the state) still has the capacity to build locally acceptable alternatives to existing social and spatial structures. The Tamil separatist attempt to construct a separate state of Tamil Eelam is just one episode within a much larger division of subject groups, and the pressure they exert in attempting to splinter previously colonial and imperial spaces are endemic to many modern states. The Sri Lankan capacity to launch another phase of its history demonstrates that west European colonialism is only one stage in the long and diverse history of Lankan societies. Yet the predominance of colonially transmitted concepts of linear history which highlight the need to follow a W estern path of industrialization and Eurocentric frameworks of time represented in labels such as “pre-industrial/ industrial/ post-industrial,” or “pre-colonial/ colonial/ post-colonial,” undermine the dynamic histories of non-European societies by simply freezing their particular historic trajectories within imperial European frames of time and space defined by the “colonial,” the “industrial,” or the “modern.” This is especially evident, for example, in Gideon Sjoberg’s usage, four decades ago, of the category “preindustrial city” as a universal ideal type supposedly valid for societies across


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the world. 2 This is not to deny that any study of contemporary urbanism requires an understanding of its colonial past and that the history of a particular city is closely related to the history of a system of cities. 3 It is rather to highlight the need for more sophisticated concepts to examine the socio-spatial transformations of cities in the post-Cold W ar period.4 This study also underlines the importance of understanding long term changes and large spatial systems in the comprehension of specific societies and spaces developed within and as part of these larger structures. The wide scope of studies undertaken within such a framework also requires the knowledge of a number of disciplines, limiting the ability of the scholar to carry out so-called “thorough” regular scientific studies. Yet a “thorough” study of a particular phenomenon without the “context,” which also transforms independently along with the phenomenon itself, is also incomplete. The transformation of Ceylon into a plantation economy is part of the same historical process that created an industrialized Europe. It is directly related to the changing attitudes towards and uses of various beverages in western Europe as well as the emancipation of slaves in the Caribbean. T he separation of these historical events would provide only a partial understanding of any spatial phenomenon in Sri Lanka. The significance of the larger spatial and temporal frameworks, however, should not lead us to relying on broad generalizations. As Michael Peter Smith has argued in regard to the United States, It is the historically specific social and political processes through which economic forces must work rather than general laws of capitalist economic development which best account for the uneven pattern of urban development in the United States. This is why the particular forms of uneven development--sprawling suburban development, widespread urban fiscal stress, extreme class segregation of residential communities, and pronounced population deconcentration of affluent communities to the hinterlands--are not found in this same form in other advanced capitalist countries.5 W hat I have argued here is the need to focus on specific developments, but within a larger single field of society and space. Space is a social relationship. Social, political, economic, and cultural spheres of society and various scales of space operate both independently as well as being related to each other, and are not simply determined by each other. Although political, economic, and cultural processes and their constituent spaces are not necessarily congruent, and are also conceptualized at different levels of abstraction, these spaces can and do converge, creating specific nodes. In Ceylon, for example, the spaces of the colonial economy represented in the plantations, command centers, and the communication links between these, were not necessarily congruent with the state’s administrative space, constituted by the colonial administrative center of Colombo, the district capitals, and their particular institutions and structures. Nevertheless, the colonial political, economic, and cultural systems did indeed converge in the colonial port city of Colombo, making it the prime colonial as well as capitalist center in Ceylon. It was


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also in Colombo that the colonial space of Ceylon and the larger imperial space of the British Empire both converged and fused into a single entity giving access, on one hand, into the external world of empire and, on the other, for some at least, the interior world of the colony. Space is whole and broken, global and fractured, at the same time. 6 As much as social spheres, space also can be conceptualized at various “scales” and “levels”--of world-space, empires, states, city structures, landscapes and in terms of urban and architectural design, in regard to the political, economic, and cultural construction of these. As I have argued in Chapter One, the Ibero-Papal spatial practices--such as the division of the world between the Portuguese and the Spanish, and the mounting of expeditions to the same place in two opposite directions using a particular perception of the extra-European world--in effect, constructed for Europe a world-space that was knowable and controllable. Although what the Portuguese actually created was largely limited to a seaborne space across and around the Indian Ocean, marked by military and trading outposts, the Dutch, British, and French, displacing them, constructed a world wide system of states and empires that was centered on western Europe. In making this investigation, I have emphasized the multivalence of meanings of social space by addressing its transformations across various spatial scales, social spheres, and through the lenses of different disciplines. Thus, the restructuring of Colombo--particularly the destruction of fortifications, and the creation of a marine promenade and the suburb of Cinnamon Gardens--in the late nineteenth century is equally a political, economic, and cultural phenomenon, a response to, as well as being a part of, both a global and “national” restructuring of space between the 1860s and 1890s. Addressing the multiple meanings of the factors behind the production of space and the built environment is not a new scholarly endeavor; nonetheless, the attention placed on economic or cultural primacy, and assumed in many studies of social space, has tended to downplay the politics of its construction, reproduction, and institutionalization. Going somewhat further, this book has attempted to demonstrate that what is often seen as the primacy of the economy in a capitalist system is also a particular construction of that same system. Hence, more attention should be focussed on the phenomena of politics and culture in the construction of society and space. A further conclusion emerging from this study is that, despite the political, economic, and cultural intentions generating the production of space, the decisions of various agencies regarding what spaces to produce and when and where to produce them are frequently the outcome of cultural decisions. These are only facilitated and modified by social, political, and economic systems, physical constraints, and the availability of resources and technology. This is evident in, for example, the Iberian construction of “India,” the Portuguese construction of the “Moors,” and the factories and forts in Asian ports based on perceptions brought from the metropole. In regard to the B ritish, this process is exemplified by the cognitive and spatial familiarizing of both Colombo and Kandy, the physical as well as mental and cultural construction of the residential suburb of Cinnamon Gardens,


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the establishment of the culturally distinctive hill station of Nuwara Eliya by the colonial community, and the production of urban and housing problems in the 1920s within a broader perception of the industrial city and its problems developed in the metropole. This is where the notion of “worldview” becomes useful for the analysis of society and space. To put it simplistically, “worldviews” provide the broader cosmic and culture-specific space-time contexts that social groups perceive themselves to be occupying and operating within, and also a foundation for the basing of new ideas. Since different social classes, groups, and communities have different worldviews, “pure” analytical frameworks and single “totalizing” vantage points of inquiry provide only partial explanations of spatial transformations. Particularly in regard to this position, many mainstream theories are less than adequate to address contemporary socio-spatial phenomena. Concepts such as “empire,” “world-economy,” or “global city,” are only capable of capturing and conceptualizing the dominant and hegemonic representations of particular complex spatial systems. One cannot use these concepts that depend on the center for their meaning and at the same time also decenter the authority. Although the construction of world-space and its centralization can be better observed from the center, the fragmentations of that space and its subsequent transformations are better revealed when seen from the peripheries. 7 This selectivity inevitably eliminates, subjugates, and/or marginalizes “other” cultural views and processes. W orldviews also cannot be neatly separated into such binary categories as those of the colonizers and colonized, of core and periphery, since these “zones” have-directly or indirectly--culturally influenced each other for at least two thousand years. This is clear if we consider the most profound influences brought by the colonizing powers to Ceylon--whether we refer to Roman Catholicism and RomanDutch Law, or to the neo-classical buildings of the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British, all of which have their origins and referents in the Greek and Roman empires. These can all be conceptualized as part of a post-colonial culture of western Europe, in which the “classical” civilizations of Greece and Rome still continue to play a prominent role. Moreover, there has also been a profound input of Asian and African influences on the production of European knowledge and perceptions. W orldviews are therefore complex. The worldview of each community in Sri Lanka is made up of a combination of elements provided, for example, by religion (B uddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and their influences on each other), cosmography and astrology, “traditional” architectural perceptions (vastu vidya) and, not least, contemporary notions of “nationality,” of being “modern,” as well as people’s own ethnicities. Similarly, former Lankan institutions, already influenced by other societies in the region, have also been influenced by Europe. In this context, acknowledging their dominance over the last couple of centuries, I have consciously employed what may be seen as conceptualizations taken from worldviews external to Sri Lanka, such as concepts of world-systems and colonial urbanism, as examples of particular theoretical and organizing worldviews


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emanating from what, arguably, may seem as Eurocentric political and economic structures and as points of departure for the investigation of others’ responses to these as well as other worldviews. All these points suggest that there is sufficient material and ample intellectual room for the development of society and space as a broad single discipline that cuts across conventional disciplinary boundaries, yet focusses on specific levels and spheres of space. W e have passed the stage of talking about geography and chronology as simply physical invariants rather than highly fluid social and cultural creations. A whole range of disciplines, including architecture, urban planning, urban studies, sociology, geography, cultural studies, often speaking different languages, have begun to bring the issues of society and space to a common understanding. The time is ripe to loosen disciplinary boundaries and encourage more dialogue across them. Notes 1. See, for example, Knox and Taylor, eds., World Cities in a World-System. 2. Gideon Sjoberg, The Preindustrial City (New York, Free Press, 1960). See also, Thomas Angotti, Metropolis 2000: Planning, Poverty and Politics (London: Routledge, 1993), 16. 3. See King, Urbanism, Colonialism, and the World-Economy, ix; Harvey, Social Justice and the City, 250. 4. See Perera, “Exploring Colombo.” 5. Michael Peter Smith, City, State and Market: The Political Economy of Urban Society (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1988), 6. 6. See Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 356. 7. See Perera, “Exploring Colombo.”

Decolonizing ceylon  
Decolonizing ceylon  
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