Spatialising Politics: Culture and Geography in Postcolonial Sri Lanka brings together essays on the theme of spatial politics of Sri Lanka. Space is an important factor in the ongoing ethnic conflict fuelling Sri Lanka's continuing civil war. Claims and contestations over the integrity of island space and the control of northern and eastern territories are central to the violently contested dispute. The editors view space from a different perspective. They argue that space is important through a number of registers less frequently invoked in dominant approaches to understanding postcolonial Sri Lankan nationhood, identity and difference. The book examines and historicizes the role of spatialities often occluded within the debates on Sri Lankan politics such as, cities and built-space, diasporic productions and imaginations, commodity cultures and their concordant networks, knowledge spaces and ‘foreign’ intervention, landscape and sacred space, as well as geographical knowledge.

Situated at the intersection of human geography and postcolonial studies, the book signals the ways that postcolonialism and geography are intimately linked and how their intersections evoke the social, spatial and political effects of enduring colonial discourse and representation. In developing its argument, Spatialising Politics also gestures towards alternative spatial imaginations, possibilities and representations, at a time when spaces for alternative discourses on Sri Lankan politics are fast shrinking.

The Imagined Spaces of Empire

The Imagined Spaces of Empire

The imagined spaces of Empire

The united luxuries of Europe and Asia are displayed in superfluous abundance.

(Cordiner 1807: 111)


When Ceylon became part of the British Empire, its material cultures underwent a drastic but selective transformation. New products that entered the market, were immediately consumed or took root in the living spaces of some sections of the Ceylonese population. These new objects and artefacts surrounded them, and possibly redefined their dream world, transformed their bodies, and reshaped their lives and those of their descendants. Since they were purchased and used, we can assume that some of these objects—although they were not fabricated in Ceylon—reflect (directly or indirectly) their beliefs, or at least a shift in their beliefs in time. Indeed, objects consumed ...

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