Buddhist Fundamentalism and Minority Identities in Sri Lanka

Edited by Tessa J. Bartholomeusz & Chandra R. de Silva

Subjects: Buddhism
Paperback : 9780791438343, 212 pages, July 1998
Hardcover : 9780791438336, 212 pages, July 1998

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Table of contents


1. Buddhist Fundamentalism and Identity in Sri Lanka

Tessa J. Bartholomeusz and Chandra R. de Silva

2. Conflicts of Identity and Interpretation in Buddhism: The Clash between the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement and the Government of President Premadasa

George D. Bond

3. The Plurality of Buddhist Fundamentalism: An Inquiry into Views among Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka

Chandra R. de Silva

4. The Impact of Land Reforms, Rural Images, and Nationalist Ideology on Plantation Tamils

Oddvar Hollup

5. In the Shadow of Violence: "Tamilness" and the Anthropology of Identity in Southern Sri Lanka

Pradeep Jeganathan

6. Sufi and Reformist Designs: Muslim Identity in Sri Lanka

Victor C. de Munck

7. Sinhala Anglicans and Buddhism in Sri Lanka: When the "Other" Becomes You

Tessa J. Bartholomeusz

8. Catholic Identity and Global Forces in Sinhala Sri Lanka

R. L. Stirrat

9. Buddhist Burghers and Sinhala-Buddhist Fundamentalism

Tessa J. Bartholomeusz

10. The Persistence of Political Buddhism

John Clifford Holt

Select Bibliography



This examination of Sri Lanka's ethnic and religious minorities links the past with the present through a treatment of Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalist development in the late nineteenth century and its hegemony in the late twentieth.


Buddhist Fundamentalism and Minority Identities in Sri Lanka explores Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalist ideology and its power to shape the identities of Sri Lanka's ethnic and religious minorities. Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalists in contemporary Sri Lanka share an ideology that asserts a vital link between the island of Sri Lanka and the Sinhala people, especially in their role as curators of Buddhism, and often at the exclusion of the minorities. Minority responses to Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism are manifold, ranging from assimilation to the formation of rival fundamentalisms. The authors provide views of history markedly different from most scholarly reflections on Sri Lanka; thus, the history of shifting perceptions of Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism offered here constitutes an important contribution to the subaltern history of Sri Lanka. By treating both the development of Sinhala-Buddhist fundamentalism in the late nineteenth century and its hegemony in the late twentieth, this study links the present to the past.

Tessa J. Bartholomeusz is Associate Professor of Religion at Florida State University and has written Women under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka. Chandra R. de Silva is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Old Dominion University and has published several books, including Sri Lanka: A History.


"It is a superlative collection of essays on an extremely important subject, one that will be of interest to readers from all sorts of disciplines: history, sociology, religious studies, and political science. The topic is significant from several perspectives: 1) it is arguably the single most important issue facing Sri Lanka today, and 2) it is the 'tip of the iceberg,' so to speak, of a phenomenon that is increasingly encountered both in the region and in the world at large, notably religio-ethnic communalism. This book will be a standard reference for years to come. " — Bruce Matthews, Acadia University