Becoming the State: Territorializing Ceylon, 1815 – 1848

Becoming the State: Territorializing Ceylon, 1815 – 1848
by
Ajay Parasram

Becoming the State: Territorializing Ceylon, 1815 – 1848
by
Ajay Parasram
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral
Affairs in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
in
Political Science with specialization in Political Economy
Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario
Unceded Algonquin territory
© 2017 Ajay Parasram

Abstract:
This dissertation studies the political, economic, and cosmological processes through which the idea of “total territorial rule” at the core of the modern state came into being in the context of British colonial rule on the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) between 1815 – 1848. It develops a decolonial theoretical framework informed by the idea of a “pluriverse” of multiple ontologies to show the empirical and imperial avenues through which the idea of the modern/colonial state became normalized in Ceylon. Specifically, I discuss the rajamandala system and its long history in Buddhist South Asia as an
approach to organizing political society that is ontologically distinct from British approaches.
The process of “Buddhification” enabled foreign rulers to naturalize into the rajamandala system; it provides a context within which to better understand the importance of British rule across the island, traditionally marked as beginning with the 1815 Kandyan Convention. I present the Convention as a moment of sovereign ontological collision where two ontologies of sovereignty conflicted. The ontological conflict manifested in different forms of violence locally, regionally, and imperially,
through insurrections, religious politics, and political economic transformations. By drawing attention to Europe’s externalization of violence in modern state formation, we must rethink the characterization of 1815 – 1914 as “peaceful” as the European peacefulness of this period depended on the violence of colonial state formation. Relatedly, though historians of South Asia tend to mark the rise of the British
Raj in 1858 India, one of the empirical contributions this dissertation makes is showing
that the period between the 1815 Kandyan Convention and the 1848 Matale Rebellion in
Ceylon and the associated contestations between colonizing and anti-colonizing vectors
iii
over land, sovereignty, economy, and spirituality should be considered an earlier site of
imperial state (trans)formation.
The dissertation contributes to decolonial international relations, global history, and global political economy by emphasizing one important manifestation of modernity/coloniality: the territorial state. Relatedly, it intervenes in peace and conflict studies by insisting that making sense of postcolonial crises involving territory in the 21st century, we must first understand the historical and conceptual processes that naturalized “total territorial rule.”
iv
Dedication:
I dedicate this dissertation to Mat Nelson, who died on Jan. 17, 2017. I met Mat
in a 2006 graduate seminar at the Institute of Political Economy entitled “Other Worlds,
Other Globalizations,” and have benefitted enormously from his generous and thoughtful
presence over the last decade. We spent much of our time intellectually invested in the
19th century, with our feet grounded in the 21st. We were classmates in study, friends in
life, comrades in activism, co-conspirators in independent journalism, and finally,
colleagues in academia at the boundaries of our student lives. He carried the burden of his
genius with considerable grace, generosity, curiosity, and fierce commitment to working
across disciplines. His passing is a loss not only to those who knew him, but also to future
generations of scholars and students, now denied the critical insights his work promised.
v
Acknowledgements
I have the greatest respect for my dissertation committee; without the
intersectional, trans-disciplinary guidance of Hans-Martin Jaeger, Cristina Rojas, and
Chinnaiah Jangam, I would not have been able to research and write this dissertation. Dr.
Hans-Martin Jaeger’s critical guidance over the last seven years has been an anchor and a
model of how to be an intellectual. I mean this not only in his capacity as my supervisor; I
and other graduate students have come to respect his perpetual intellectual curiosity and
the depth to which he engages ideas. As my supervisor, he has engaged my work in its
most raw and incoherent forms, playing a steady and inspirational role in its gradual
refinement. The amount of academic writing he has received from me pales in
comparison to the volumes of verbose, panicked emails he has always taken care to
respond to with lightning-fast speed, or the unannounced and lengthy visits to his office
after which I have always left feeling challenged, inspired, and more intelligent.
Without Dr. Cristina Rojas, this dissertation would simply not have been possible.
Through Cristina’s constant, generous mentorship and enormous social network, I first
learned about pluriversality and decolonial studies, as well as how to be an international
colleague. Cristina’s humility, precision, and exciting writing and research has driven me
(nearly) to learn Spanish to enter her world of research more completely. Beyond her vital
feedback on this dissertation, she has also been instrumental in my understanding of
publishing and has given valuable eleventh-hour feedback on manuscript revisions.
Dr. Chinnaiah Jangam has also been a critical juncture in my intellectual and
professional life. Aside from saving my project when I was denied travel documents to
Sri Lanka by urging me to take my research in a more historical direction, he has always
seen, several steps ahead of me, the broader, real-world benefit of the research. Every
vi
meeting we had left me excited, and in the early days, I did not realize that this turn
towards history would ultimately lead to a faculty position in the Department of History
and International Development Studies at Dalhousie University. My committee’s
collective contribution to this dissertation and to my life cannot be overstated.
I have benefitted from a vibrant intellectual community at Carleton University,
particularly the Postcolonial/Decolonial Reading Group that Cristina and I started a few
years ago. This trans-disciplinary group of professors and graduate students from
Carleton, University of Ottawa, and Queens University has been intellectually and
socially important for us all. Special thanks to: Xiaobei Chen, Daniel McNeil, HansMartin Jaeger, Maggie Fitzgerald Murphy, Manvitha Singamsetty, Jennifer Matsunaga,
and William Felepchuck, who has taken over my role as co-facilitator since I left Ottawa.
I’d also like to acknowledge my inspiring colleagues from Migration and Diaspora
Studies: Daniel McNeil, Johnny Alam, Jay Ramasubramanyam, James Milner, Alejandro
Hernandez, and Ying-Ying Tiffany Liu.
I am grateful to the Leveller newspaper for inviting me to their editorial collective
in my first year of doctoral studies. Being a part of this publication has been invaluable
and provided a crucial, practical refuge through my doctoral studies. The vibrant graduate
community at the Institute of Political Economy has, over the years, permeated nearly
every part of my life in Ottawa, not least of all the Critical Social Research Collaborative.
Special thanks to Robyn Green, Ryan Katz-Rosene, Gulden Ozcan, Mandy Joy, Amanda
DiVito Wilson, Chris Hurl, the late Mat Nelson, J.Z. Garrod, Vladimir Diaz-Cuellar, and
of course, Donna Coghill, who has been at the centre of this Institute. My first peerreviewed publication, which was the catalyst for this dissertation, came out of a nerveracked graduate conference at the Institute of Political Economy in 2011. I am also
vii
grateful to Brookes Fee, who has always acted like an advocate for us graduate students
in Political Science over the years.
Many professors have made lasting impacts on my scholarship at Carleton. They
have encouraged my publications, rocked my intellectual foundations, and shown me new
ways to think. What more could one hope for from graduate school? These people include
Fiona Robinson, Jill Vickers, Radha Jhappan, Jeremy Paltiel, Achim Hurrelmann, James
Milner, Elliot Tepper, Simon Dalby, Trish Ballamingie, Laura MacDonald, Linda
Freeman, Randy Germain, Abdulghany Mohammad, Brian Schmidt, Gopika Solanki,
William Walters, Jai Sen, and Martin Geiger.
I deeply appreciate and will always fondly remember the intellectual,
inspirational, and life support of dear friends in Ottawa: Andy Crosby, Rachel ArieyJouglard, Edward Zvekic, Adam Gassner, Trevor Sewell, Lucille Villasenor-Carson,
Rana Elhassan, Samira Dualeh, Alana Roscoe, Colin Cordner, Pablo Mendez, Fiona
Jeffries, Jennifer Ridgely, Gustavo Morales, Chris Dixon, Maseeh Haseeb, and Alexis
Shotwell. I’m particularly grateful for the long-term mentorship and friendship of JeanMichel Montsion, and William Biebuyck. From dusty offices to library corners, to pubs
and oak trees, and all over this continent, William and Jean-Michel have always been
generous, supportive, challenging, and strong pillars of my time as a graduate student.
While these people have long nourished my soul and mind, special thanks go to Ranjan
and Tamara at Ceylonta restaurant, who have nourished my body for more than ten years.
I have benefited enormously from the audacity, generosity, and camaraderie of
friends, colleagues, and mentors in the Global Development Section of the International
Studies Association: Robbie Shilliam, Gurminder Bhambra, Lisa Tilley, Olivia
Rutazibwa, Heloise Weber, Martin Weber, Siba Grovogui, and Meera Sabaratnam.
viii
I appreciate the guidance of archivists at the British National Library, British
National Archives, and the missionary archives of the Wesleyan Methodist Church held
at SOAS. Early inklings of this research appeared in different forms in the pages of
Geopolitics and The Caribbean Journal of International Relations & Diplomacy. I am
grateful to Dr. Andy Knight and Dr. Matt Bishop of the Institute of International
Relations at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad for the opportunity to lecture on
the subject of the coloniality of the state where I benefitted enormously from the
perspective of scholars who had lived through the transition of late colonialism and early
independence. In particular, I appreciate the critical insights and cautions of Dr. Anthony
Gonzales and Sir Sridath Ramphal.
Though I did not have this vocabulary for much of my life, it is clear to me in
hindsight that decolonial thought has been the central foundation of my upbringing.
Through their lived experiences and limitless love and support, Jaipersad and Seromanie
Parasram have been lifelong teachers, instilling inherently political and anti-colonial
values in me and my three brothers. They are a constant source of guidance and
inspiration. I would like to offer deep respect to my brothers, Shiva, Amit, and Jivesh, all
of whom have been fellow travellers in our collective efforts to decolonize, even if we
might call it something else. Much love also to Heather, Aurora, and Lisa.
Nothing is possible without Fazeela Jiwa. She has been my partner in politics,
friendship, love, journalism, academia, and life. We met, shoeless and idealistic in a
vegetarian food line up half a life ago, and through her friendship I have learned to
appreciate the poetry in daily life. She is, as Rumi suggested, an entire ocean in a drop.
Financial support for this research is greatly appreciated from the Canada-India
Centre for Excellence, SSHRC, OGS, and the Ontario Public Interest Research Group.
ix
Preface: A Canary in the Archives
Working in colonial archives is a lot like working in a coal mine – without constant
attention to the canary that judges the quality of air one is breathing and when one might
need to resurface for fresh air, one could easily fall victim to the noxious fumes. I have
learned an enormous amount about this time period from the scholarship of late-colonial
and postcolonial historians, some whose work did not ultimately make it into the final
copy of this dissertation. Studying colonial state formation has had the unexpected side
effect reflecting on the context of first and second-generation scholars who were
“postcolonial” before it was a term, venturing into the archival coalmines without
canaries. When coming up for air from the reading rooms, it was a humbling experience
to find myself sitting in “Torrington Square” near the British National Library in London,
thinking of the young historians from the late-colonial and early post-colonial periods
whose primary and secondary accounts I have benefitted from reading. In their time, they
had to first make the case to their professors that they even belonged in the university.
My positionality informs this research. I was born on the territories of Arawak and
Carib peoples in the South of modern day Trinidad & Tobago, but ultimately raised and
educated on the territories of the Sikepnekatik-Mi’kmaq (“Halifax”), Odawa-AnishnabekAlgonquin (“Ottawa”), and Musqueam-Coast Salish (“Vancouver”) peoples in what is
legally recognized as “Canada.” Like other immigrant Canadians, I was taught to keep
quiet, plug into an “authentic” white Christian culture, and thrive within it. In school I
learned lavish half-truths about the “founding nations” of France and England in Canada,
but curiously little of the processes of colonial destruction and genocide that created
Canada until, as an adult, I sought out these histories from survivors. Colonial power is
one of the central points of continuity in my personal genealogy. This is not to say that
x
the colonial projects in South Asia, the Caribbean, and Turtle Island were the same, only
that they were plugged into the same global web administered in some fragmented form
from Downing Street in London. In the three months I spent researching at the British
National Archives, the British National Library, and the Missionary Archives at the
School of Oriental and African Studies, the legacy of colonial power within that city’s
monuments, museums, and daily life was disorienting. Indeed, sitting directly outside the
Asia and Africa reading room of the British Library is a bust of W.M.G. Colebrooke, a
British military officer who oversaw the legislative and geographic restructuring of
Ceylon in the late 1820s and early 1830s, but who also had extensive experience in India,
Java, the Caribbean, and British North America. I regularly ate lunch in Torrington
Square – a constant reminder of Lord Viscount Torrington III, Governor of Ceylon during
the Matale rebellion discussed in this dissertation. The movement of colonial knowledge
and power through embodied colonial officers is a topic for future study, but an important
point to note nonetheless.
Embodied presence matters in research, not just for the purposes of conducting
interviews, but also for the context the researcher brings to their data collection and
analysis. Over the years of developing this project, most people I discussed it with
presumed me to be a Ceylon-Tamil. A few surmised that I might be Sinhalese, and many
others that my heritage is Tamil from southern India. If I have any biological connection
to Sri Lanka or southern India, I am unaware of it. In my particular case, my body and
ideas about my identity helped to establish boundaries that has affected the focus of the
dissertation because I was denied research travel documents to enter Sri Lanka at the end
of 2013. I had originally planned a four-month research trip to the island that would have
involved semi-structured interviews with activists, government officials, and researchers,
xi
alongside archival study in Colombo and Kandy. Sympathetic contacts within the Sri
Lankan community in Ottawa helped me “read between the lines” to see that foreign
researchers were being blocked en masse from entering the country, as much of the
world’s attention was on Sri Lanka amidst growing condemnation of human rights abuses
and the then-upcoming (December 2013) Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
(CHOGM). The Canadian prime minister at the time, Stephen Harper, had decided to
boycott the CHOGM, driving Canada-Sri Lanka relations to an all-time low. Journalists
who were entering the country as tourists were being arrested and deported, and the
government was cracking down on any group or association of people that might have
had some connection to the ousted Tamil Tigers. In practice, since the Tamil Tigers had
de facto control over much of the North and East until losing the war in 2009, this
government crackdown had been silencing people and organizations all over the Jaffna
peninsula. Since the war’s end, the government has been accused of standing idly by or
even being complicit in the violence, as the inertia of triumphant Sinhalese-Buddhist
nationalism turned from the Tamil/terrorist trope to the island’s Muslim population.
My inability to physically enter the territory that I am writing about heightened
my already considerable anxiety of being a “Westerner.” I am, of course, a “Western”
researcher, but simultaneously, I have some experiential knowledge of South Asian
culture and history learned from growing up as part of a “double diaspora.” Being raised
with a nominal “Hindu” ontological starting point has helped me see and think through
key differences between “South Asian” and “Western” worlds I inhabit. The “double”
diaspora is an important context because my grounding in culture comes via Trinidad &
Tobago, and that has meant that, growing up in Canada, I was a very different kind of
diasporic South Asian from others who were born in South Asia or who had direct ties to
xii
a South Asian country. During previous research trips to India, my identity as a diasporic
Indian from Canada via the West Indies elicited considerable interest in me by the people
I met with and interviewed (for unrelated projects).
My embodied presence thus positions me as a simultaneous outsider/insider. I am
an insider because my genealogical heritage is marked by the colonial encounter in South
Asia very directly, and my upbringing, body, and ontological starting points in navigating
life are less tethered to the canon of Western Enlightenment texts and tradition. I am an
outsider because my entry point to South Asian culture is not geographically grounded in
South Asia and I do not adequately speak South Asian languages. In this way, I have little
in common with South Asian diasporas within Canada that hail directly from South Asia,
and no ability to read Tamil and Sinhalese sources unless in translation. Perhaps most
significantly, I am an outsider because I have received a quarter century of formal
education in Canada, and am now working as a faculty member in the very institution in
which I began my post-secondary studies, trying to teach in a way that at times conflicts
dramatically with how I was trained. Being engaged in de-colonial politics and learning
from indigenous traditions that have always existed outside of the mainstream narrative
of settler-colonialism has been a refuge for thinking and working against powerful
assumptions, as has the process of researching and writing reflexively. The process of
researching and writing this project necessitates a constant struggle to read against and
between sources that come largely from the missionary and colonial governmental point
of view that fits all too neatly into much of my formal education in the West.
xiii
Table of Contents
Abstract: ii
Dedication: iv
Acknowledgements: v
Preface: ix
Table of Contents: xiii
List of Illustrations: xiv
Introduction: 1
Time Period: 7
Territory: 17
Nation and State: 21
The State of the State: 25
Rajamandala, Galactic Sovereignty, and the Modern State: 28
Methodology, Archival Sources, and the Problem of the “Pre-political”: 36
Archiving in relief and its limitations: 36
The problem of the “pre-political”: 41
Chapter Progression: 52
Chapter One: The Coloniality of the State: 55
Section One: Coloniality, State, Sovereignty, and Territory: 60
The Postcolonial Moment in South Asia: 60
Coloniality and the Violence of Universality: 63
Section Two: State Formation and Decolonial Thinking: 78
Externalizing Violence, Relational State Formation, and Empire: 78
Sovereignty and Territory: 84
Empire: 94
Relational State Formation: Imperial or Transcendent Sovereignty?: 98
The Telescope of Statist History: 102
Conclusion: 107
Chapter Two: The Coloniality of Sovereignty: Religious Politics and Sovereign
Encounters: 116
Section One: Political Ontology and Religious Politics: 122
An Historical Sketch: 122
Christian Subjects, but Not Only Christian Subjects: 134
Modern/Colonial Religious Education: 139
Section Two: Galactic Sovereignty: 146
xiv
Becoming Kandyan through “Buddhification”: 154
Section Three: Political Ontology and the Pluri-verse: 160
Political Ontology: 160
Multiple Ontologies vs. Multiple Modernities: 166
The Kandyan Convention as Political Ontology: 169
Conclusion: 180
Chapter Three: The Political Economy of Improvement: 185
Section One: Mercantilist to Liberal Rationalities: 192
Pre-colonial Economy: 192
Coopted Rajajariya Paving the Way for Plantations: 197
Liberal Colonialism in the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms: 201
Improving Land, Improving Colonialism: 206
Section Two: Imperial Political Economy: 216
The West Indian Connection: 216
Free Trade vs. Private Property: 222
Colonial Liberalism and the Rise of Commercial Coffee: 226
Resisting the Plantations: 232
Taxes, Roads, Mandatory/Voluntary Labour: Liberal Colonial Difference: 234
Conclusion: 238
Chapter Four: The Coloniality of the Archives: 240
Section One: Towards the Modern Science of History: 242
Elite Histories and the Coloniality of the Archive: 242
Section Two: Archiving in Relief: 252
Uva Rebellion: 253
Age of Insurrections:1830s – 1840s: 263
Conclusion: 274
Conclusion: 276
Appendix A: 291
Appendix B: 297
Bibliography: 299
List of Illustrations:
Figure 1: Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies Colliding (Time 1): 175
Figure 2: Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies Passing Through (Time 2): 176
Figure 3: Galactic Convergence: 284
1
Introduction1
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared victory over terror on May 18, 2009
and invited the world, embroiled in a so-called global war on terror, to be his pupil in
counter-terrorism.2 Rajapaksa won the 2005 presidential elections in Sri Lanka with a
promise to bring about an end to the island’s longstanding civil war between the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that effectively controlled a large crown of
territory in the North and East of the island, and the Sri Lankan government based in the
Southwest. The central government, based in the current capital and former colonial fort
city of Colombo, appealed to two powerful but related discourses anchored to the
international community’s defining norm of state sovereignty: the right to defend the state
from terror on the one hand, and the right of post-colonies to exercise total territorial rule
on the other. Armed with these political tools in the international arena, Colombo
skilfully manoeuvred Chinese diplomatic, military, and financial assistance to prevent the
international community from violating the government’s sovereign right to re-assert total
territorial rule over the island.3 At the height of the “counter-state” of Tamil Eelam’s
power, it operated a judiciary, bank, army, navy, air force, and government that, at times,
rivalled and exceeded the efficiency of the Sri Lankan state in the South. Even
temporality was territorialized in LTTE territory, as they instituted a thirty-minute time
zone difference that distinguished Eelam and Lankan time. After more than a decade of
varying degrees of semi-autonomy in Tamil Eelam, Colombo’s ability to isolate the
LTTE by blocking naval transportation routes and extra-territorial financing networks

1 Revised portions of this introduction come from my 2012 article: “Erasing Tamil Eelam: De/Re
Territorialization in the Global War on Terror,” Geopolitics 17/4 (2012): 903 – 925
2
“LTTE’s defeat is victory for country: Sri Lankan President,” India Today, May 19, 2009,
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/specials/asiangames2010/Story/42765/LTTE.
3 Ajay Parasram, “Erasing Tamil Eelam: De/Re Territorialisation in the Global War on Terror.” Geopolitics
17/4 (2012): 903
2
forced LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran into a dangerous gamble. He wagered the
international community would not stand by while Colombo’s aggressive and
anachronistic military campaign into Tamil Eelam continued to escalate.
The result of that gamble puts to rest any lingering post-cold war ambiguities
about whether “human” sovereignty can challenge “state” sovereignty. Despite
international concern and mass mobilization of the global Tamil diaspora, the discursive
power of sovereign state legitimacy was deemed more important than the lives of
internally displaced, kidnapped, or generally terrorized civilians. The military drove the
LTTE from their “defacto”4 capital of Kilinochchi by January 2, 2009 and contained
them, along with thousands of civilians, into approximately 250 sq. km of coastal forest
terrain.5 The details of the dramatic end to the war are disputed by the government,
international humanitarian organizations, media, and Tamil sources, but according to The
Economist, the war ended when two LTTE leaders and their cadres agreed to lay down
arms and return to the negotiating table.6 As the cadres raised white flags and crossed the
battlefield with their families, the military cleared the field with machine guns. Most of
the LTTE leadership was crushed amidst the last physically defendable assertion of the

4 Fiona McConnell distinguishes “de jure” from “de facto” sovereignty, where the prior describes a legal
status, and the latter describes how a political entity engages in practices normally associated with a
territorial state without legal recognition. McConnell uses the example of the Tibetan government-in-exile
as an example of a “geopolitical anomaly” that does not conform to what Murphy (2009) calls the
“dominant political territorial ideal” or the legal state. Though what I describe as “Tamil Eelam” is arguably
a type of geopolitical anomaly, I do not develop this particular line of reasoning in this dissertation. For
more on de-jure/de-facto sovereignty and geopolitical anomaly, see: F. McConnell, “De facto, displaced,
tacit: The sovereign articulations of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile” Political Geography 28/6 (2009):
343 – 352; F. McConnell, “The Fallacy and Promise of the Territorial Trap: Sovereign Articulations of
Geopolitical Anomalies” Geopolitics 15/4 (2010): 762 – 768; A.B. Murphy, “The sovereign state system as
political-territorial ideal: historical and contemporary considerations” in T. Bierstreker and C. Weber (eds.)
State sovereignty as Social Construct (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 81 – 120.
5 V.S. Shekhawat, Sri Lanka: The Politics of Tamil Eelam (Jaipur: Ram Kishore Sharma, 2010): 208.
6
“After the Slaughter: Tamil Tigers Contemplate Life without Prabhakaran” The Economist, May 28, 2009,
http://www.economist.com/node/13754093.
3
geopolitical anomaly of Tamil Eelam. Prabhakaran’s corpse, his forehead bearing a
bullet-hole, was displayed soon thereafter across state media.7
As the Sri Lankan military advanced into Eelam, small areas of land were designated “cleared” when political control shifted from Eelam to Lanka; the people caught between the warring factions were declared “liberated.”8 Those Tamil civilians in “cleared” zones would be ushered into guarded, open-air holding camps so that “terrorists” could be separated from civilians and the government in Colombo could plan its resettlement agenda. A key component of this resettlement, the Sri Lankan Guardian
reports, was aimed at establishing military and Sinhalese settlements alongside areas resettled by Tamils displaced by the war.
9 On May 19, 2006, President Rajapaksa of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka announced for the world to hear, “We are a government who defeated terrorism at a time when others told us that it was not possible.
The writ of the state now runs across every inch of our territory.”10

7 Colombo went to great lengths to block international media, though Al Jazeera was able to get pictures
and videos from what would later be called the “Killing Fields” in documentaries. Al Jazeera was punished
for their reporting and banned from covering Rajapaksa’s re-election on the basis of their coverage during the war.
8 The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence has an animated “Battle Progress Map” that allows visitors to zoom
in on particular battles and see how the military won battles through the Vanni region. It was last updated
on May 19, 2009. See: Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka, “Battle Progress Map” (2008), http://www.defence.lk/orbat/Default.asp.
9
N. DeVotta, “The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Lost Quest for Separatism in Sri Lanka”
Asian Survey 49/6 (Nov/Dec 2009): 1047-1048; “Plan to resettle Tamil IDPs in the midst of Army and
Sinhala Settlements” Sri Lanka Guardian August 24, 2009, http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/08/planto-resettle-tamil-idps-in-midst-of.html. This was not a new kind of plan, as “internal” colonialism, meaning
resettlement of pre-dominantly Sinhalese people into areas outside of their home villages (often in
predominantly Tamil areas), was a point of government policy since the 1920s at least. See: Crown land:
report on new system of allocation” Oct. 1930 – Aug. 1932. British National Archives, shelfmark:
CO/54/903/19, chapter IV.
10 “No Mention of Prabhakaran in Rajapaksa’s Victory Speech,” Times of India May 19, 2009,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/No-mention-of-Prabhakaran-in-Rajapaksas-victoryspeech/articleshow/4550436.cms; Amal Jayasinghe, “Sri Lanka shows rebel chief’s ‘body’, president
declares victory” news.com, May 20, 2009, http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/rebel-chiefs-bodyshown-on-tv/story-e6frfku0-1225713513715
4
Rajapaksa’s second sentence catalyzed this doctoral dissertation, ultimately
leading to a series of connected studies about how the norm of “total territorial rule”
became naturalized through the colonial encounter. Why is it so important that the writ of
the state extend across every inch of territory? How did such a spatial ontology of
sovereignty grow to become the universal model upon which human political activity
ought to be ordered in the modern, (post)colonial world?11 In short, in this dissertation I
ask: how has the process of becoming the modern, territorial, state worked to legitimize
one expression of sovereignty, while de-legitimizing all others? In the four substantive
years I spent researching this question between 2012 and 2016, I was struck by how the
21st century Sri Lankan government at times mirrored the military strategies of the British
colonial government in the early 19th century, especially in territorializing land with
military settlements in a deliberate effort to prevent ethnic enclaves. Of course, mass
atrocities were also committed by the LTTE in pursuit of establishing a “pure” Tamil
state in the contested “post-colonial,” or perhaps more accurately, “post-British” phase of
modern history, including the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the early 1990s,
conscription of child soldiers, and collective punishment of civilians insufficiently loyal
to the military cause of sovereign independence: total territorial rule over the claim of
Eelam. My concern in this dissertation is not with whether Eelam or Lanka ought to
practice “total territorial rule” over their piece of land; rather, I am concerned with how
the norm of total territorial rule became a requirement for existence as a post-colony in a
world that remains animated by the tensions of modernity and coloniality.

11 I dwell on the prefixes “uni” and “pluri” throughout the dissertation to draw attention to the singularity
and multiplicity of the main essence of the word: “verse.” Similarly, the grammar of postcolonial vs. postcolonial is important. When used as a single word, it connotes the ongoing conditions and consequences of
the colonial encounter, while hyphenated it speaks to a temporal period. See: Joanne Sharp, Geographies of
Postcolonialism (London: Sage, 2009): 3 – 5.
5
Most scholarly accounts of the origins of the Sri Lanka/Tamil Eelam civil war
start with the struggle for political independence from the British – including my own
early account. I joined others in situating the conflict’s origins in the rise of SinhalaBuddhist nationalism, which was related to the victory of the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike
government in 1955 and its subsequent institutional biases and contestations that stratified
Ceylon along ethnic lines, gradually giving rise to militant resistance when civil
disobedience proved ineffective.12 However, in the course of researching this dissertation,
it became clear that the root of the problem can be traced to the rise and naturalization of
total territorial rule, which as a political project, takes on its modern/colonial implications
in the early to mid 19th century. As Manu Goswami argues, with reference to India, there
is a need to study the sociocultural, political, economic, and global contexts within which
national space is produced:
The very idea of India as a bounded national space and economy, as first
elaborated in the last third of the nineteenth century, has made possible both a
universal language of national unity and development and engendered terrifying
violence and social conflict. 13
The same is true of Ceylon, but whereas the primary object of analysis for Goswami is
the nation broadly defined, I argue that the making of the territorial state requires the

12 Cf.:A. J. Wilson, Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: Its Origins and Development in the Nineteenth and
Twentieth Centuries (Vancouver: UBC Press 2000); Sankaran Krishna, Postcolonial Insecurities: India, Sri
Lanka, and the Question of Nationhood (New Delhi: Oxford University Press 1999); A. Wijimanne, War
and Peace in Post-Colonial Ceylon1948–1991 (New Delhi: Orient Longman Limited 1996); N. DeVotta,
“The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Lost Quest for Separatism in Sri Lanka,” Asian Survey 49/6
(Nov/Dec 2009): 1047–1048; C. R. de Silva, “Sinhala Tamil Ethnic Rivalry,” in R. Goldman and A. J.
Wilson (eds.), From Independence to Statehood: Managing Ethnic Conflict in Five African and Asian
States (London: Frances Pinter 1984): 127–132; K. M. de Silva, “University Admissions and Ethnic
Tensions in Sri Lanka: 1977–1982”, in R. Goldman and A. J. Wilson (eds.), From Independence to
Statehood: Managing Ethnic Conflict in Five African and Asian States (London: Frances Pinter 1984): 97-
110; N. DeVotta, Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka
(Stanford: Stanford University Press 2004); Ajay Parasram, “Erasing Tamil Eelam: De/Re Territorialisation
in the Global War on Terror” Geopolitics 17.4 (2012): 903 – 925.
13 Manu Goswami, Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space (Chicago: Chicago
University Press, 2004): 5.
6
same kind of historical and political economic study because prior to the rise of
nationalism in the late nineteenth century, the state was first normalized. To understand
the rise of contaminated14, modern, universalistic religion – be it Hindutva in India or
‘protestant Buddhism’ in Ceylon, is to explore the making of the epistemic and material
tensions of normalizing total territorial rule out of which the cultural, pedagogical, anticolonial nationalists would target their discursive framing. Said simply, if the spatial
organization of sovereignty in Ceylon enabled a situation of multiple sovereignties prior
to the British period, there is something particularly important about the transformations
during the British period within which a singular, uni-versal conception of sovereignty
became the object of desire for national movements by the late 19th century. This
dissertation is not a history of Sri Lanka, Tamil Eelam, Ceylon, Sinhalese nationalism, or
Tamil nationalism – all of which would comprise worthy studies in excellent company
amidst the many studies consulted in the preparation of this dissertation. While I draw on
these texts as well as colonial archival materials, this dissertation is a story of becoming a
modern state through the colonial encounter, which is one that is woven into the global
economic and imperial system of the 19th century. It is a story of transformations and
counter-transformations that have normalized and universalized a Western spatial
ontology symbolized in the modern territorial state. This limits the range of political
possibilities about how we understand the past, present, and future in postcolonial places
In this dissertation, I argue that that the process of becoming the modern,
territorial state, and with it the contemporary requirement to extend the “writ of the state”
to “every inch of territory” emerged out of a series of colonial and anticolonial struggles

14 The word “contamination” in this context comes from earlier comments from Chinnaiah Jangam on this
dissertation, in which he used the word “o describe the process of sovereign transformation in the British
period.
7
that was already global by the mid 19th century. The chapters comprising this study pick
up on threads connecting imperial political economy; the ontological and cosmological
differences separating British and native understandings of sovereignty; and the
territoriality of economic, pedagogical, and spatial politics that worked to naturalize the
modern state-nation overtop of indigenous spatial practices like a palimpsest. By titling
this dissertation “Becoming the State” I do not suggest that South Asian spatial
organizations with thousand-year plus histories of practice are insignificant. The
distinction is to draw attention to the modern/colonial encounter that disciplined many
ways of existing into the mould of the territorial state through the universalization and
normalization of Eurocentric “sovereignty.” As such, this dissertation is an attempt to
engage closely with one important manifestation of the modern, colonial condition: the
territorial state.
Time Period
The island known today as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has had many
names, including Lanka in ancient South Asian accounts, Serendib in Arabic accounts,
and eventually, Ceilāo in the Portuguese accounts. The British described the territory as
Ceylon, and it remained so named until a generation after independence when, in 1972, it
was once more renamed as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Over the
course of much of the island’s 26-year long civil war between the government in the
South and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the North, the northern and eastern
crown of the island was organized into a de facto sovereign territory called Tamil Eelam.
(See Appendix One for maps outlining the shifting political boundaries of Ceylon and
Kandy.)
8
Historically, I draw on events beginning in the early 19th until approximately
1850, with the bulk of the dissertation focusing on the years between 1815 and 1848. The
chapters do not advance chronologically, rather, they are thematic engagements with
different aspects of state formation across the 33 year period, examining religious and
cosmological politics (chapter two), political economic transformations (chapter three)
and direct resistance and insurrections (chapter four). This was not a transformative time
only in Ceylon, but also across much of the globe. The “Concert of Europe” brokered
what is broadly historicized as one of the most “peaceful” periods of international history.
The violent events unfolding in Ceylon, and the colonial world more generally offer a
counterpoint to the false narrative of peace within the historical international relations
literature, a point I return to throughout the dissertation.
15 I emphasize this period because
while the latter half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century has much to offer
those interested in the development of ethno-religious nationalism and institutional
development, in my reading, these issues were already operating by the late 19th century
within an ontological framework in which the idea of “total territorial rule” under a
central government goes unquestioned. Emphasizing the contamination of South Asian
sovereignty, the story of the state takes three main forms in this dissertation. In the first
instance and prior to the arrival of the British (yet overlapping with Portuguese and
Dutch) is the rajamandala system that has developed over the last ca. 2200 years in South
Asia. The period of British presence in Ceylon, and the main emphasis of this
dissertation, in the early to mid 19th century, marks the period of sovereign contamination
or ontological “collision” as I describe in chapter two. The third discernible period of
state formation follows the mid to late 19th century, after total territorial rule is

15 Tarak Barkawi, “Decolonising war,” European Journal of International Security 1/2 (2016): 199-214.
9
normalized, and the project of anticolonial activism takes on the familiar historical path
of nationalism aimed at displacing and taking over the reins of the territorial state. It is in
this most recent period, from the late 19th century onwards, that the calcification of
modern identities, including formal institutional religious identities, begins to be
leveraged to defeat the colonial occupiers at their own game, that is, through using the
liberal/colonial institutions of the state against the British. I develop a metaphor,
beginning in chapter two to which I return in the conclusion of the dissertation, modelled
on paralleling these three historical periods with scientific projections of what will
happen when our Milky Way galaxy collides with the nearby Andromeda galaxy.
The “middle” period of galactic, ontological collision, is the main focus of the
dissertation, and I emphasize the 1815 Kandyan Convention, though in an unconventional
way. The Kandyan Convention was an agreement signed by the main chiefs of the
independent kingdom of Kandy, and the British government represented by Governor
Robert Brownrigg. In most historical accounts, this convention marks the period of
British rule over the entirety of the island of Ceylon, and with good reason, as this was
the main subject of the Convention. I detail the events and diplomatic intrigue leading to
the Kandyan Convention in chapter two, but my point of intellectual departure with the
secondary histories of the Convention is that rather than seeing it as the birth of British
rule, I instead see it as the beginning of a deep ontological contestation of the meaning of
sovereignty, represented in a Kandyan-Buddhist genealogy of sovereignty conflicting
with a British-Christian genealogy of sovereignty. 16 Signed on March 2, 1815, the

16 Though there is a general consensus that 1815 marks the beginning of total British rule because of the
Kandyan Convention, some scholars also privilege the 1832 Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms, which marked
a significant shift in governance approaches based on the liberal inclination of Commissioners Colebrooke
and Cameron. David Scott, and scholars working in the camp of “colonial governmentality” in particular
10
Convention was the formal end of a longer process of removing the reigning monarch,
Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. In essence, this was an internal, elite, Kandyan feud between the
monarch and the aristocracy that extends at least to the diplomatic intrigues that led to the
installation of a teenaged Rajasingha to the throne of Kandy with the guidance of Pilima
Talauve in 1798.17
The Maha-adikar, or Prime Minister to the king in the lead up to the Convention
was a man named Ehelapola Wijayasundara Wickramasinghe Chandraskara Amarkoon
Wasala Ranamuka Mudiyanse, or Ehelapola Nillame for short. Ehelapola was the nephew
of Pilima Tauve, who had occupied the position of Maha-adikar until being put to death
for treason in 1811. 18 Ehelapola succeeded his uncle as Maha-adikar, and continued
communication with the British government through their chief translator, John D’Oyly.19
The king’s policies were increasingly alienating him from the aristocracy, and the delicate
balance of power at the elite level that helped Vickrama Rajasinghe fend off attempts to
dethrone him in the past were severely compromised when he issued an arrest warrant for
Ehelapola, seizing his wife and children and ultimately having them put to death in a
most heinous fashion. It was Ehelapola, who had fled south to British territories, who
then brokered passage for the British forces under Brownrigg through the Kandyan

follow this line of reasoning. While both dates are logical choices, because the focus of analysis in this
dissertation is on how the process of state formation universalizes a single understanding of sovereignty, I
see both of these dates as important components of a longer process of colonial state formation and
normalization. See: David Scott. Refashioning Futures: Criticism after Postcoloniality (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1999).
17 G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Centre, 2005[1952]): 19 – 22.
18 Tennakoon Vimalananda, Sri Wickrema, Brownrigg, and Ehelepola : being letters addressed to the
Home Government from 1811-1815 by Major General John Wilson and Lieut.-General Robert Brownrigg,
Governor of Ceylon. (Colombo: Gunasena, 1984) British National Library, shelfmark: V 26078.
19 Ibid.
11
provinces, unchallenged by Kandyan soldiers, and ultimately into the capital city.20 It is
unlikely that without Ehelapola’s assistance, the British would have either been interested
or able to pursue their total rule over the entire territory of the island, as past attempts had
failed miserably, and guidance from the Colonial Office in London was to avoid
interference in the affairs of Kandy.21
I emphasize the middle period of sovereign ontological collision of British and
Kandyan sovereignties in order to a.) demonstrate that universal representations of
sovereignty fail to capture the pluri-versal character of sovereignty prior to the violence
of the modern, colonial encounter, and b.) because despite the fact that Kandy interacted,
warred with, and at times brokered diplomatic relations with other European powers,
neither the Portuguese nor the Dutch ever succeeded in controlling the interior of the
island. The maps in Appendix A illustrate multiple sovereign arrangements, albeit
tenuously, even in the presence of European colonizers. But as the Figure Four in
appendix A showing the political boundaries after 1832 demonstrates, it was only in the
early to mid 19th century that we could truly talk of total territorial rule in the modern
sense.
Colonial powers more generally did not operate within South Asia through direct
and alien sovereign rule initially, rather different colonial states and state supported
corporations (like the British or Dutch East India Companies) sought to understand

20 “The Case of Ehelapola Maha Nilime, A Kandyan Chief detained at Mauritius as State Prisoner” letter
submitted to His Majesty’s Commissioner of Inquiry, Jan. 17th, 1828. British National Archives, shelfmark:
CO/416/20
21 Chandra Richard de Silva, Sri Lanka: A History (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1987); Tennakoon
Vimalananda, Sri Wickrema, Brownrigg, and Ehelepola : being letters addressed to the Home Government
from 1811-1815 by Major General John Wilson and Lieut.-General Robert Brownrigg, Governor of
Ceylon. (Colombo: Gunasena, 1984) British National Library, shelfmark: V 26078.; K.M. de Silva, A
History of Sri Lanka (London: C. Hurst & Company, 1981); Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the
Modern Age: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).
12
regional geopolitical dynamics and exploit them for economic and administrative
purposes. At the same time, since the 1757 Battle of Plassey through which the British
East India Company (BEIC) firmly asserted itself on the subcontinent by defeating the
Nawab of Bengal and his French allies, the BEIC invested scholarly and administrative
efforts towards language and cultural learning to systematize and adjust administrative
tactics to reflect British understandings of South Asian history. BEIC official presence in
Ceylon was extremely brief, between 1796 and 1802. A system of dual rule operated
from 1797 to 1802 in which Britain, through its governor in Colombo administered the
territories politically, and the BEIC looked after economic and trade affairs with the
promise of monopoly control of cinnamon. “Ceylon,” until 1815, described territory little
more than 20 kilometres from the coast and was comprised largely of mercantilist trading
forts, eventually administered with some centrality out of the fort-town of Colombo in the
Southwest. Only after 1815 was the island even conceptually thought of as being a single
political entity, though as I argue in chapters two and four, the degree to which this was
agreed upon is exaggerated when taking into consideration the rebellions and everyday
acts of non-cooperation defining the early period of British rule. I argue that the struggles
over the meaning of territory and sovereignty that defined the first four decades of British
rule created the territorial foundations from which anti-colonial nationalism and nationbuilding would emerge in the latter portion of the 19th century.
Within the period of contamination, monumental transformations occur, from the
forced labour construction of early military roads, to the privatization and enclosure of
Kandyan land, to mass demographic and economic transformations that integrated Ceylon
definitively into the rapidly developing imperial political economy of the 19th century.
Alongside these physical, political, and economic changes, missionary education created
13
a political need for secularism as Christian-educated pupils begin to use their education to
calcify and discipline the philosophical practices of Buddhism and Hinduism into
“religions” that could meet colonial and spiritual aggression on common terms.22 Similar
to the Orientalist scholarship of the late 18th century in India, European Orientalist
scholars were interested in Buddagama, which they translated and rationalized in early
19th century Orientalist European scholarship as “Buddhism.” As scholars of religion
have argued, in attempting to rationalize “Buddhism” and “Hinduism” with a
monotheistic sensibility, the historical figure of the Buddha needed to be placed into the
general narrative of historical events as understood within an Abrahamic worldview,
thereby leading early Western scholars to hypothesize that the Buddha may be Noah,
Moses, or other Biblical figures.23 British support for Christian schools and institutions at
the expense of other religious education, especially in the latter half of the 19th century,
gave rise to the association of the “Buddhist revival” with anti-British nationalism.24 As
interesting as these issues are, they too become possible in a milieu wherein anti-colonial

22 The question of religion is an issue of considerable scholarly and political attention in South Asia. On one
hand, Buddhists and Hindus lay claim to having the oldest living religions on the planet, with sacred books
and practices spanning some five to seven thousand years into the past. On the other hand, if religion is
understood as being an institution for the “administration of grace” and secularism to be the positioning of
the state as a neutral institution separating various organized religious points of view, it is historically
suspect that “religion” in the tradition of the tribes of Abraham had much meaning in ancient South Asian
traditions. While Islam, as part of its genealogy, does have the conception of a global umma, the birth of a
central, authoritative bureaucracy for the administration of issues of faith required ontological separation of
spiritual and manifest domains. What scholars have called “protestant Buddhism” emerged to challenge the
particularly aggressive forms of colonial Christianity that had been openly tolerated in the heartland of
Buddhist spirituality. It might instead be seen as the birth of Buddhism as a “religion” comparable to
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As discussed in chapters two and four, these divisions and the need for
secularism to manage differences are arguably the outcome of British missionary attempts to rationalize
Buddhism in the early 19th century, and Buddhist/Hindu attempts to mobilize the now normalized
apparatuses of the colonial secular state to defend indigenous spirituality against Christian aggression. See
Rev. Spence Hardy The British Government and the Idolatry of Ceylon (1839) SOAS Missionary Archives,
shelfmark: MMSL S123; Phillip C. Almond, The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1988).
23 Elizabeth Harris, Theravada Buddhism and the British Encounter (London: Routledge, 2006): 15 –19.
24 Neil DeVotta, Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004): 29-30.
14
activists began to use the apparatus of the liberal colonial state of Ceylon to make claims
on it, rather than organize against it.
As noted above, much scholarly attention considers the early 20th century and the
nationalist movements that ultimately led to independence in South Asia, but
comparatively less attention has been devoted to the meeting of British and South Asian
expressions of sovereignty, or the ensuing clashes that gave meaning to the state. While
the late 19th century and early 20th century are periods of enormous importance to
understanding the development of ethno-religious nationalism, when looking for the
processes that led to state naturalization, that period represents a time when the peoples of
Ceylon articulated their resistance to colonialism through organizing to challenge the
newly established assemblage of colonial religion, schools, and state institutions; the
“state” in this period was already formed, even if the “nation” was still very much taking
shape.
25 In contrast, the tumultuous period under study here brings to light the
contestations over land, sovereignty, economy, and spirituality, at times spanning the
empire, that eventually normalized the political territorial foundations over which ethnonationalism would later make its claims. In other words, the material and ontological
contestations from 1815 to 1848 are the basis upon which the modern/colonial meaning
of state territory took shape in Ceylon, as part of an expansive assemblage of global
colonial violence that characterized the period of alleged “great peace” in the
international realm.
Most secondary literature on Sri Lanka marks the origin of the Eelam-Lanka
conflict to a few important events in the early independence era; specifically, the

25 Nihal Perera, “Indigenising the Colonial City: Late 19th century Colombo and its Landscape” in Urban
Studies 39/9 (2002): 1703 – 1721.
15
disenfranchisement of a subset of the Tamil-speaking community based in the central
highland area, the 1956 Sinhala-Only language Act, and university testing designed to
give an advantage to Sinhalese students over Tamils.26 These events were important, but
they are merely symptomatic of a greater catalyzing influence. In a more general sense,
the civil war was about the modern limits of what it meant to be “sovereign” in the 21st
century. The colonial encounter27 in Sri Lanka, as well as across South Asia, did not
introduce exploitation and difference, but it did produce a revolutionary new scale of
exploitation that reformulated and hardened existing kinds of differences, such as caste,
race, and gender. Engaging the colonial past to understand how the colonial encounter
produced the modern state as a normal spatial entity is central because through doing so,
we see the many faces of colonialism beyond administrative rule: ideas about human
progress, the separation of material and spiritual realms, distinctions between land and
body, and the “refrain” of territorial contestations that have produced material and
ideational structures like the nation-state today. As Walter Mignolo explains, global
modernity has a co-constitutive “dark side” that has always existed, but has rarely been
factored into scholarly consideration: coloniality.28
For the purposes of this research, one issue of investigation is the way the “state”
as a territorially complete geographical and political unit with its associated components

26 K.M. de Silva, “University Admissions and Ethnic Tensions in Sri Lanka: 1977 – 1982” R. Goldman and
A.J. Wilson (eds.), From Independence to Statehood (London: Frances Pinter, 1984) p. 107; N. DeVotta,
Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka. (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 2004).
27 There is an important distinction between “colonialism” and the “colonial encounter.” The latter implies
multiple actors engaged in a struggle or contestation of an ideational and material nature. The prior is a unidirectional exercise of power that is marked by a mute victim and audible aggressor. Though not mutually
exclusive, the colonial encounter is a more accurate way to understand the ordinary enactment of politics in
everyday life that has textured the development of the state as we understand it today.
28 Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. (Durham:
Duke University Press, 2011).
16
such as race and nation has been read backwards in time as if it existed prior to the
colonial encounter in postcolonial places. As R.A.L.H. Gunawardana notes, there exists
no equivalent word for “race” in either Sinhala or Tamil until the modern/colonial era.29
In situations in which formal independence has been followed by ethnonationalist civil
war, such as the Sri Lankan case, the ontological assumptions that serve particular
nationalist purposes in the present day are extremely important to consider. Benedikt
Korf, for example, traces the impact of ethnonationalism in the scholarship of Sinhalese
geographers in Sri Lanka.30 Relatedly, E. Nissan and R.L. Stirrat speak to the hardening
of ethnic identities in social science approaches to engaging with the past, challenging the
apparent stability of Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic homogeneity. Their research highlights
the presence of Tamil influence in the Sinhalese-dominated South and centre of the
island, as well as Sinhalese presence in the Tamil-dominated North and East. In their
words,
in the pre-modern states of Sri Lanka, there could not have been signs of incipient
Sinhala-Tamil conflict as understood today because these categories did not bear
the nationalist connotations that they now bear. The ‘state’ of the past and that of
the present are very different; only the latter is associated with the idea of the
‘nation’, an idea which is too often projected back in time.31
My objective in this dissertation is not to identify a defining origin moment that could
explain the ethnonationalist violence of the current day; rather, I am interested in better
understanding the conceptual and historical processes that have, through the colonial

29 R.A.L.H. Gunawardana, “The people of the lion: Sinhala identity and ideology in history and
historiography” in Jonathan Spencer (ed.) Sri Lanka: History and the Roots of Conflict (London: Routledge,
2004 [1990]): 45.
30 Cf.: Benedikt Korf, “Cartographic Violence: Engaging a Sinhala kind of geography” in C. Brun and T.
Jazeel (eds.) Spatializing Politics: culture, politics, and geography in post-colonial Sri Lanka (New Delhi:
Sage, 2009): 100 – 121.
31 E. Nissan and R.L. Stirrat. “The generation of communal identities” in J. Spencer (ed.) Sri Lanka:
History and the Roots of Conflict. (London: Routledge, 1990): 26
17
encounter, created, universalized, and normalized a single, Eurocentric way of organizing
“sovereign” territory.
Territory
Within political science, the consideration of colonialism has focused on the foreign
acquisition, exploitation, and governance of an indigenous territory, usually employing
tactics to exacerbate existing differences within indigenous societies to divide and rule.
Forceful application of European ideas such as “terra nullis” and papal decrees
concerning the natural inferiority of non-white non-Christians facilitated barbarous
strategies of domination aimed at imposing their will and then controlling territory and its
“resources” through that imposition .
32 Marxist accounts, particularly in World Systems
Theory and Dependency approaches, have been concerned with the ways in which the
structure of the international system perpetuates neocolonial relations after independence,
but generally have little to say on the relevance of territorial transformation and the state
itself. Rather, the state remains an ontologically assumable geographic entity within
which resources can be exploited for the “core” or for the “periphery,” the satellite the
owners of the means of production or the workers themselves. Marxist accounts generally
accept the historical-economical explanation that “traditional” agricultural society gives
way to the technological improvements of industrial society, out of which class
hierarchies are consolidated and become the engines of social change. 33
Strategies to

32 Stuart Hall “The West and the Rest” in Bram Geiben and Stuart Hall (eds.) The Formations of Modernity
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993): 275 – 332; Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism trans. Joan Pinkham
(New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000 [1955]); Antony Anghie, “Francisco de Vitoria and the Colonial
Origins of International Law,” Social and Legal Studies 5/3 (1996): 321 – 336.
33 Cf.: Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1 trans. Ben Folks (Toronto: Penguin
Books, 1990 [1867]); Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System 1: Capitalist Agriculture and the
Origins of the European Economy in the Sixteenth Century (London: University of California Press, 2011
18
conquer and hold foreign territory include, but have not been limited to, ethnic cleansing,
exploitation of internal divisions, slavery, incarcerations, displacement, and forced
migration. Generally speaking, the study of colonialism in the “modern” world has been a
narrative about European crown corporations and eventually colonial satellite-states using
various techniques at their disposal to control and administer territory that was previously
controlled by others.
This narrative rests on many assumptions. It assumes that prior to the colonial
encounter, territory was constituted in a way that is sufficiently comparable to today’s
understanding of territorial nation states. Where that was not the case, European legal
thinking supposed that since indigenous people did not have the “common sense” or
rationality to understand that they were in possession of “natural resources” in need of the
labour of human work to cultivate value they could not be seen as capable of exercising
“ownership” over that land.34 Furthermore, the narrative of land and property requires an
ahistorical understanding of territory and territoriality in which the structure and social
meaning of the state is read backwards in time. In making that assumption, an
understanding of territory as something that can or should be possessed, used, improved,
and protected is universalized without due appreciation for the contested ways through
which concepts such as private property and state territory have historically advanced a
project of European domination over much of the world. In the Eurocentric literatures, the
birth of ownership over land tends to be related to the historical enclosures in England

[1974]) ; A.G. Frank, ‘The Development of Underdevelopment’ Monthly Review 18/4 (1966): 17 – 34;
John Beverley, “Dependency theory and the aporias of modernity: lessons from Latin America” Patrick
Manning and Barry K. Gillis (eds.) Andre Gunder Frank and Global Development: Visions,
Remembrances, and Global Development (New York: Routledge, 2011): 142 – 152.
34 Cf.: John Locke, Second Treatise on Government, accessed May 14 2010,
http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/authors/locke: 10 – 18. For an alternative explanation in the context of
Spanish colonialism in contemporary Latin America, see: Antony Anghie, “Francisco de Vitoria and the
Colonial Origins of International Law,” Social and Legal Studies 5/3 (1996): 321 – 336.
19
that pushed serfs off of land that belonged to lords, but was conventionally understood to
be “common” land for everyone’s use in exchange for unpaid labour.35
The origins of sovereignty are taken up more centrally in chapter one of this
dissertation; however, by way of introduction it is useful to draw out some basic
connections between the value of territory and its historical role in shaping an
exclusionary understanding of territory and sovereignty. The European origins of the
word “sovereignty” itself are related to the authority of a monarch, though in medieval
Europe boundaries were blurry and kinship meant more than steadfast borders. 36

Following Stuart Elden, the word “territory” derives from the Greek khora and the Latin
terra and later, the classic Latin term territorium. The scale at which territorium
described land that was owned however, Elden says, was always small:
It was understood as a possession, of relatively small scale, rather than as an
object of political rule. It is only in the mid-fourteenth century, with the
rediscovery of Roman law in the Italian city-states, that the notion of territorium
became explicitly tied to that of jurisdiction.

37 Barry Hindess discusses the etymology of territory starting from the same place as Elden;
however, he notes the disputed character of the word, arguing from the Oxford English
Dictionary that while the origin of territorium could be terra meaning “land,” the word
could also come from terrere meaning “to frighten” via territory, or “frightener.”38 The
disputed etymology, Hindess argues, offers hints to the political significance of the shared
origins of both territory and terror:
While terror may sometimes pose a threat to the territorial order of states, the
possibility that territory and terror derive from the same Latin root suggests that it

35 Karl Polyani The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of our Times (Boston:
Beacon Press, 2001 [1944]).
36 John Agnew, “The Territorial Trap: The Geographical Assumptions of International Relations Theory”
Review of International Political Economy 1/1(1994): 60.
37 Stuart Elden, “Thinking Territory Historically” Geopolitics 15/4 (2010): 758.
38 Barry Hindess, “Terrortory” Alternatives 31/3 (2006): 244.
20
might also be an integral part of this order’s functioning. When we refer to the
territory of a state, a tribe, a people, a domestic cat, or a colony of ants, it is
always associated with the threat of violence towards those who do not belong.39
Nicholas Onuf’s conceptual history of sovereignty complicates the above etymological
approach in Elden and Hindess, but drawing attention to the fact that sovereignty as we
understand it today is a composite term emerging out of three pre-modern antecedents:
majesty, rule, and popular sovereignty. For Onuf, sovereignty is the modern fusion of
these three antecedents, and when it is sufficiently challenged, can unravel into its
composite parts.40 As it will be demonstrated through discussions in the chapters, the use
of terror and counter-terror has been an important dynamic that gave shape to state
territoriality in the early to mid 19th century Ceylon. More generally, the threat of
violence against those who do not belong gets to the heart of the modern dialectic of
nationalism and counter nationalism that animate claims to total territorial rule. In the
post-independence period of Sri Lankan politics, this has been especially true of the
process of essentializing an outsider to fit the historical narrative. In determining the
boundary that isolates the national other, one simultaneously produces a national self. As
Simon Dalby describes,
The exclusion of the Other and the inclusion, incorporation and administration of
the Same is the essential geopolitical moment. The two processes are
complementary; the Other is excluded as the reverse side of the process of
incorporation of the Same. Expressed in the terms of space and power, this is the
basic process of geopolitics in which territory is divided, contested and ruled…the
“Other” is seen as different if not an enemy. “We” are “the same” in that we are
all citizens of the same nation, speak a similar language, share a culture. This
theme repeatedly recurs in political discourse where others are portrayed as
different and as threats; it is geopolitical discourse.41

39 Ibid.
40 Nicholas Onuf, “Sovereignty: Outline of a Conceptual History” Alternatives 16 (1991): 425 – 446.
41 Dalby, cited in Gearóid Ó Tuathail, Critical Geopolitics: The Politics of Writing Global Space
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996) (note 39): 180. See also: S. Dalby, “Geopolitical
Discourse: The Soviet Union as Other” Alternatives 13/4 (1988): 417 – 418; S. Dalby, “The ‘Kiwi
21
Dalby’s concept of geopolitical discourse describes in general terms the problematic
competitions and negotiations that occur in pursuit of the norm of total territorial rule.
The development of the norms of territory and sovereignty that arguably still encapsulate
most thinking and doing of politics in the 21st century have their origins in Latin and
Greek, and as Elden notes, their political development occurred in the Italian city-states
of the fourteenth century and, later, the rest of Europe.42
Nation and State
Within the body of literature on nationalism, explanations for the link between nation and
state vary. Some pursue lines of reasoning wedded to economic modernization, such as
Ernest Gellner’s contention that societies gradually move through stages of economic
organization that later produce the ability to develop national ideology to master state
territory, or Benedict Anderson’s thesis that the nation-state is a limited sovereign
territory held together by an imagined and largely symbolic sense of social solidarity that
is proliferated by the modern mechanisms of “print capitalism” and national culture.43 In
his 1986 book, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World, Partha Chatterjee argues that
nationalism in the colonial world has taken the form of a derivative discourse of
European ideas about social progress. He discusses the recurrent theme of relativism
versus rationalism in social science in the context of the study of nationalism: rationalists
normalize their particular epistemic standpoint, accusing relativists of eschewing cross-

Disease’: geopolitical discourse in Aotearoa/New Zealand and the South Pacific” Political Geography 12/5
(1993): 437-456.
42 Stuart Elden, “Thinking Territory Historically” Geopolitics 15/4 (2010): 757 – 761.
43 Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1983); Benedict Anderson,
Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983).
22
cultural science, while relativists accuse rationalists of simply asserting that the
assumptions they begin with objectively reflect “reality.” Chatterjee argues that “this
paradoxical situation is in fact an accurate reflection of the spurious philosophical
premises on which the [nationalism] debate has been conducted in Anglo-American
social science.”44 He discusses at great length what he calls “liberal and conservative
bourgeoisie-rationalist” approaches to nationalism, as well as their Marxist counterparts.
While recognizing Anderson’s infusion of the ideational and linguistic as valuable
determinants of nationalism, Chatterjee observes that, “instead of pursuing the varied, and
often contradictory, political possibilities inherent in this process, Anderson seals up his
theme with a sociological determinism.”45 Chatterjee specifically takes up the arguments
of Gellner and Anderson to conclude that while each takes a different approach, there is
little substantive difference between them. It should come as little surprise then, that in
The Nation and Its Fragments, Chatterjee seeks to “claim for us, the once colonized, the
freedom of our imagination to reject the modular manifestations of sovereignty exported
from Europe.”46
The differences between Gellner and Anderson are significant. Gellner and
Anderson are both clearly informed to differing degrees by historical materialism, but
Gellner’s approach bears much more resemblance to the lineage of stage-theory and
modernization theory that was particularly influential in early post World War II
comparative politics.47 Anderson’s model of nationalism is more relationally defined in

44 Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1986):14
45 Ibid., p.21
46
Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1993):11
47 Cf.: Ernest Gellner Nations and Nationalism (1983); W.W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A
Non-Communist Manifesto, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960).
23
the sense that Imagined Communities advances the thesis that national consciousness
actually developed experimentally in the colonies before taking on significance in
Europe, a position shared by Stuart Elden in his recent work on territory.48 Gellner suffers
from the methodological problem of looking for ideal types and generalizable
explanations informed by a belief that the making of the modern capitalist world is best
seen from the changes in the means of production, which reduces complexity to economic
determinism.49 I believe that the sentiment Chatterjee is arguing for from a postcolonial
perspective can be alternatively understood in light of the last twenty years of
postcolonial and decolonial research as diagnosing a problem of universalism located
within Eurocentric reason, be it in the “ideational” (Anderson) camp or the “structural”
(Gellner) camp. The point is more obvious in the case of Gellner, but is worth dwelling
on in the case of Anderson. Even within the Anderson’s more ideational approach to
understanding the rise of national consciousness, he sets up universal, cosmological
conditions as pre-requisites for the rise of modern nationalism. In describing a general,
and universal understanding of history and cosmology, Anderson argues that print
capitalism enabled people to separate themselves from a sense of political authority
deriving from divine hierarchy and toward a more inclusive and horizontal understanding
of solidarity.50 Marxist apprehensions about the falseness of cosmological realms texture
Anderson’s analysis. My problem with his analysis is that he overly homogenizes
cosmology and its relationship with sovereignty in this formulation, presuming that the
coexistence of cosmology and history does not allow for the rise of modern nationalism

48 Cf. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (1983); Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 2013): 245.
49 Ernest Gellner Nations and Nationalism (1983):10 – 37.
50 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (1983): 22 – 36
24
within an imagined community. In this way, Anderson, like Gellner, indeed does present
a universal state of being and understanding of linear temporality through which societies
must move in order to arrive at modern national consciousness. In so doing, there remains
only a single, universal experience of history with cultural manifestations of false
consciousness that more or less produces similar spatial outcomes. As will be seen in
chapters two and four in particular, two ontologically distinct notions of sovereignty do
interact in Kandy, and the eventual rise of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism in the late
colonial period demonstrates: a.) Buddhist spatial ontology is not the same as Abrahamic
ontology, b.) nevertheless, the conflict over sovereignty did produce a universal notion of
territory, even if it did not produce a universal notion of nation. The point then, which
will become more clear in chapter one, is that a pluriversal approach, calibrated to study
multiple ontologies, offers a different kind of narrative than a universal lens grounded in
either structural (Gellner) or ideational (Anderson) notions of historical movement.
Through a positivist lens, calibrated to see the generalizable, sociological characteristics
of the phenomena of the state, even when the colonial question emerges in the study of
the rise of nation or the rise of state, the concept of nation or state remains firmly
Eurocentric. This gives rise to the problem Dipesh Chakrabarty identifies as doing
European history in non-European parts of the world, harkening back to Ranajit Guha’s
critique of Hegel’s universalizing understanding of the state that has been seminal to
modern sociology since the 19th century.51 It is worth highlighting how the conception of
territory that emerges from postcolonial and subaltern studies as advanced by Guha and
Chatterjee remains highly modernist, caught (as are so many studies of the state) between

51Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000); Ranajit Guha
History at the Limits of World History (New York: Colombia University Press, 2002).
25
a juxtaposition of Marxist vs. Weberian approaches.52 Exploring the way that postcolonial
approaches have described the arrival of colonized places into “World History” is thus an
important moment for understanding the normalization of Eurocentric “universals” that
have played a role in sustaining the coloniality of the state, as we will see in the sections
below.
The State of the State
Social science research aimed at peace and conflict studies and state failure in
postcolonial areas tends to look for explanations based on institutional collapse, the
“curse” of having volatile natural resources, and the existence of too many ethnic nations
or tribes within a sovereign territory. Most of these studies have no significant
engagement with the colonial foundations upon which these postcolonial territories were
established. The literature might be broadly categorized as those seeking universal
explanations vs. seeking multiple explanations for state failure. Both however, take the
prior existence of the state for granted. More nuanced studies point to the need to de-link
from overly positivistic explanations, arguing that political reality cannot be reduced to
generalizable theories. R. H. Bates exemplifies the positivist approach to postindependence states within political science, positing that ruling elites in Africa are
“specialists in violence” who will maintain political order so long as they can protect their
privileged place at the helm of the state. 53 At face value, this might seem a logical
category through which to analyse the Sri Lankan state as I have described it in the first

52 Peter Evans et. al. (eds.) Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985): 3 –
44; 347 – 367.
53 R. Bates, “The Logic of State Failure: Learning from Late-Century Africa,” Conflict Management and
Peace Science 25/4 (2008): 297 – 314.
26
pages of this introduction; however, in taking an approach like this, all the nuances that
gave rise to modern territorial orders are jettisoned as concerns exogenous to the
ahistorical presence of the contemporary state. Relatedly, Paul Collier starts with the
independence period, suggesting that state institutions need to be solidified soon after
independence through facing external pressure. The inability to solidify sovereignty in
many post-colonial states leads Collier to suggest that the United Nations (UN) ought to
take over sovereignty in resource-rich areas of Africa until African states can “scale up”
their ability to exercise sovereignty.54 More insightfully, Martin Doornbas argues that a
singular understanding of sovereignty and the state can lead to contemporary policy
prescriptions whereby the only way to have a “successful” state is to have a neoliberal
economic-incentive structure. Thus, contemporary state collapse provides an
“opportunity” to establish market-principles and enable states to jumpstart modernity,
which is an aspect of the policy solutions to keep postcolonial states together identified
by Bates (2008), Collier (2009), and A. Ghani and C. Lockhart (2008).55 On a slightly
different trajectory, Stephen Krasner has proposed “sharing sovereignty” in a limited and
institutionalized way in order to facilitate the growth of democratic governance in failed
or failing states.56
These studies exemplify the problem of taking the history and sovereign
ontologies underlying the postcolonial state for granted, as the range of political and
economic possibilities to resolve political problems remains far too limited. Not all work
in this area is so narrowly envisioned; Tobias Haggman and Markus V. Hoehne (2009),

54 Paul Collier, “The Political Economy of State Failure” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 25/2 (2009):
219 – 240.
55 Martin Doornbas “State Collapse and Fresh Starts: Some Critical Reflections,” Development and Change
33:5 (2002): 797-815; A. Ghani and C. Lockhart, Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a
Fractured World (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008): 169-231.
56 Stephen Krasner, “The Case for Shared Sovereignty” Journal of Democracy 16/1 (2005): 69 – 83.
27
for example, draw attention to the distorting effects of assuming that the “state” ought to
be the primary organizer of political life. They consider the international community’s
emphasis on restoring sovereign power and capability to the Somali capital city of
Mogadishu rather than building upon the indigenous practices of sovereignty that have
begun to reassert themselves in the absence of state power in places like Somaliland or
Puntland.57 The fixation with reifying the Westphalian boundaries that are normal to the
modern nation state in the peace-building and state failure literatures is so central that, at
times, it would appear as though the restoration of peace is marked not by the end of
violence, but when a sovereign government can convince another sovereign government
and the international community to coerce refugees to return “home” so that aid dollars
can begin to flow again.58 Such strategies lead to policy prescriptions aimed at “fixing”
postcolonial quagmires by simply patching up who controls sovereignty rather than
substantively re-considering how the foundations upon which political order is meant to
rest might be the source of the problems. The popular catch-phrase, “AfPak” in Western
security circles, which reduces the historical colonial relations out of which modern
Pakistan and Afghanistan emerged to a balance-of-power oriented Western coalition of
interests without regard for the regional geopolitics and substantive issues of
decolonization, is a prime example.59

57 Tobias Hagmann and Markas V. Hoehne, “Failures of the State Failure Debate: Evidence from the
Somali Territories,” Journal of International Development 21:1 (2009): 42-57.
58 Ajay Parasram, Michael Spacek, and Martha Chertkow, “Refugees and Peacebuilding in Africa: A
review of two-decades of cases” (paper presented at Canadian Association for Forced Migration and
Refugee Studies conference, Montreal, Quebec, May 11-13, 2011).
59 Ajay Parasram, “Regionalizing ‘AfPak’ in the Graveyard of Hubris” (paper presented at the Canadian
Asian Studies Association conference, Vancouver, B.C, Oct. 8 – 11, 2009); Ajay Parasram, “Call In the
Neighbours: Indian Views on Regionalizing Afghanistan Strategies” Asia Pacific Bulletin May 14, 2009.
https://goo.gl/8urzW0.
28
The above studies look to explain the many crises of postcolonial sovereignty as
failures of institutional accommodation, “lacking” in sovereign ability or experience,
and/or an inability to manage ethnic rivalries across “every inch” of sovereign territory. I
maintain that answers to post-colonial crises like Tamil Eelam-Sri Lanka, but also ISIraq, pipeline politics in Turtle Island (North America), and across much of the
(post)colonial world require a deeper consideration of how the colonial encounter
produced the physical possibility for “total territorial rule” to displace other forms of
organizing human societies. The chapters of this dissertation are thematic, multi-scalar
engagements that connect very local empirical data to broader imperial networks,
highlighting the importance of reading anti-colonial and colonial activism as
simultaneous rather than sequential or dialectical processes. I maintain that in order to
make sense of the many postcolonial crises involving territory in the 21st century, we
must first understand the historical and conceptual processes that naturalized “total
territorial rule.” Before examining this process however, it is relevant to say a few words
about the organization of politics on the island and in the Southern Asian region.
Rajamandala, Galactic Sovereignty, and the Modern State
Different genealogies gave rise to spatial organizations of political life before becoming
entangled with still-developing European ideas about territory and sovereignty, subjects I
take up more substantively in chapters one and two. I apply the galactic sovereignty
model in chapter two, but here will introduce the concept to provide a historical context
for appreciating how territorial politics functioned in the many centuries prior to
European arrival in Ceylon. The term “galactic polities” or “galactic sovereignty” has
29
been advanced in English language scholarship concerned with South and Southeast Asia
to better describe spatial organizations of power and will be discussed throughout.
The Mauryan Empire, which spanned much of South and Southeast Asia between
322 and 185 BCE has had a long-term effect on the practice of political association within
that large region, particularly under Emperor Ashoka. Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah describes
Buddhist rule in Sri Lanka prior to the colonial encounter with Europeans with the
concept of “galactic sovereignty” derived through the rajamandala (circle of kings)
theorized by Kautilya, advisor to the Mauryan emperor Chandragupta in the fourth
century BCE.60 Galactic sovereignty, following Tambiah, refers to the concentric circles
of sovereign authority emanating from a small kingdom outwards. Pre-colonial Sri Lanka
had overlapping kingdoms in the North (Jaffna), centre (Kandy) and South (Kotte) and at
the “galactic limits” of sovereignty, ordinary people would identify with a kingdom based
on who was asking the question rather than an essential relationship to the centre.
Tambiah as well as Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne use the concept of galactic sovereignty
to describe the Kandyan kingdom in central Ceylon; in the dissertation, I use the concept
to describe the territorial politics of rajamandala’s encounter with British understandings
of sovereignty.61
Building on the metaphor of galaxies to understand the politics of territorial logics
coming into contact, we can imagine the gravitational impact of galactic collisions. Our

60 Stanley Jeyaraja. Tambiah, “The Galactic Polity in Southeast Asia,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic
Theory 3/3 (2013): 503 – 534; S.J. Tambiah “The Galactic Polity: The Structure of Political Kingdoms in
Southeast Asia,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 293/1 (1977): 69 – 97; Bruce Kapferer,
Legends of People, Myths of States: Violence, Intolerance, and Political Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia
(New York: Berghan, 2011).
61 Nira Wickramasinghe Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities (London: Hurst,
2006); Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmographical
Terrain of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhist Tradition” in A. Wagner et. al. (eds.) Law,
Culture, and Visual Studies Volumes 1 and 2 (United States: Springer Publishing, 2013): 578 – 580.
30
own “Milky Way” galaxy will collide with our neighbouring “Andromeda” galaxy in
approximately four billion years, and once more about a billion years after that. The
collision is not so rigid as two bricks colliding; rather, it is porous and will transform both
the Milky Way and the Andromeda.62 Similarly, the coming together of genealogies of
sovereign practice through the colonial/modern encounter represents this kind of
collision, one that will change both. These collisions are not unique – spatial
organizations have been colliding long before, and will continue long after, the temporal
frame of reference that is today. Galactic collisions radically transform the colliding
entities in ways that might be astronomically predictable; however, sovereign collisions
are not scientifically determined and the outcome is not a question of one model
dominating another, rather, the issue is about transformation and the production of
something new, albeit on unequal terms. Used differently, James C. Scott applies the idea
of galactic systems to describe the relationship between the hill peoples of upland
Southeast Asia and the lowland peoples who lived as subjects of states. Though hill
peoples were not subjects of the states that exercised sovereign authority through the
projection of state-space around them, Scott says,
they were active participants in the economic system of exchange and in the even
wider cosmopolitan circulation of ideas, symbols, cosmology, titles, political
formulas, medical recipes, and legends… this cultural buffet allowed hill societies
to take just what they wanted from it and put it to precisely the use they chose.63
In Scott’s use of the term and its regional application to the spatial limits of Sino or Indic
empires, the “galactic system” is a political arrangement that facilitates the inclusion of
people beyond the sovereign limits of a kingdom, yet gives those people a great deal of

62 See this short video designed using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, projecting what might happen
when these galaxies collide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4disyKG7XtU
63James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2009): 305 – 306.
31
agency in engaging with chosen aspects of statist life.
Scott’s understanding of the spatial organization of political life in Southeast Asia
differs considerably from the kind of spatial developments documented by Charles Tilly
in his consideration of the development of the state in Europe. Tilly’s thousand-year
macro-history of state development in Europe charts the simultaneous development of
three technologies of rule: roving armies, the city-state, and the empire. What made the
city-state central to the later development of nation-states, by Tilly’s reckoning, was the
ability to construct walls and moats that could be used to outlast attacking enemies within
fortresses.64Although, as Eric Wolf notes, no human society develops in isolation, the
sovereign “galactic neighbourhood” affects the development of spatial organizations.65
Similarly, although spatial organizations in South Asia have had long relations with the
rest of Southeast Asia, ancient Greece, and Africa, South Asian and, later, Islamic
influences played greater roles in the historical development of spatial organizations in
South Asia until the colonial encounter with the British. Nevertheless, reviewing the
monologues of liberal colonialists in the latter portion of the 19th century, it would seem
as though British imperialism was the only influence worthy of having, a
developmentalist inevitability necessary for the betterment of lesser peoples around the
world. As the barrister Coleman Phillips, writing in Aoteara (New Zealand) in 1875
observes,
By a curious chain of circumstances, we [British] have assumed the position of
protectors of native tribes and suppressors of slavery. We are trying to elevate the
East Indian; we are appealed to from Africa; and even the inhabitants of Polynesia
petition us for protection. It appears as if those races of the human family,

64 Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States: AD 990 – 1990 (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell
Publishers, 1990).
65 Eric Wolf Europe and the People Without History (Berkley: University of California Press, 1982): 3 –
22.
32
inhabiting the tropical lands of the earth, actually required the protection of such a
Northern Power as ourselves, not only for the present, but for the centuries to
come. Those races are constitutionally unfit to cope with more Northern races,
and England may have conferred a very great boon in assuming the position
which she has done. True enough, by doing so we have unintentionally pledged
ourselves to look to the welfare of hundreds of native and savage tribes, and we
must continue to do so. Not only shall we have to regard their welfare, but also
their protection from civilized and uncivilized invasion.66
Europe in general, and Britain in particular, from the vantage point of those engaged in
the project of colonization, was the universe within which all the races of the world could
reach for civilization. “Elevation” cannot come via an indigenous political system like the
galactic mandala system, or any other indigenous socio-political order that would be unfit
to “cope” with Northern peoples. The colonial archives are littered with accounts that reenforce Phillips’ point of view on the subject of British colonialism. Re-engaging the
colonial past is not important for disproving such obvious mistruths/myths/fantasies about
bringing the savage world into civilization; rather, it is important because through it we
better understand how ideas like empire become de-politicized and normalized. The
normalization of ideas that crowd out, silence, or otherwise denigrate other ways of being
and knowing in the world is one of the most pervasive and long-term implications of the
colonial past and postcolonial present. Frantz Fanon captures the problem well with
reference to ontology:
Ontology – once it is finally admitted as leaving existence by the wayside – does
not permit us to understand the being of a black man. For not only must the black
man be black, he must be black in relation to the white man…His metaphysics, or
less pretentiously, his customs and the sources on which they were based, were
wiped out because they were in conflict with a civilization that he did not know
and that imposed itself on him. 67

66 Coleman Phillips (Barrister-at-Law, New Zealand). British Colonization and British Commerce (London:
Edward Stanford, 55, Charing Cross, S.W., 1875. Price, One Shilling). British National Library, shelfmark:
8154.e.1.(9.)
67 Frantz Fanon. Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Lamm Markmann. (London: Pluto Press, 2008
[1952]): 82.
33
The identification of oneself through the boundaries of the colonial state is in some ways
a practical necessity today because the past cannot be undone. However, giving too much
ontological weight to colonial categories of “separation” is a dangerous urge, either
applied to states established through genocide and settler-colonialism (such as those in
the so-called “new world”) or through “natives” seeking approval and membership in
structures of colonial modernity. Reclaiming uncolonized “pasts” instead of colonial
histories is important work if de-colonial futures are to be realized.68
Towards enriching a debate of spatial possibilities for post-war Sri Lanka/Tamil
Eelam, Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne develops Tambiah’s galactic sovereignty in its
application to the central Kandyan kingdom in Ceylon. By drawing attention to the
importance of virtual sovereignty practiced through ritual and architectural symbolism at
the ideational level, and the spatial structure of political order as replication of the
galactic centre in managing and integrating difference, Wijeyeratne makes a compelling
case for bringing together traditional and modern aspects of sovereignty.69 Wijeyeratne is
mostly interested in exploring the ontological starting points of Theravada Buddhism that
made galactic understandings of sovereignty possible in pre-British Ceylon, but he begins
his essay discussing the civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the predominantly
Sinhalese-Buddhist South. He argues that the civil war was largely about the inability to
organize space based on a highly fetishized modern understanding of territorial
sovereignty mapped backwards onto much more complex models of spatial organization

68 Robbie Shilliam The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles, Oceanic Connections (London:
Bloomsbury, 2015): 1 – 34.
69 Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmographical Terrain
of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhist Tradition” in A. Wagner et. al. (eds.) Law, Culture,
and Visual Studies Volumes 1 and 2 (United States: Springer Publishing, 2013).
34
that defined what he instead calls the “mandala” state prior to the production of colonial
state-space.
70 As Nira Wickramasinghe notes, there were no clear boundaries between the
three predominant kingdoms (Jaffna/Kandy/Kotte) that were in existence in the early days
of the colonial encounter. The very practice of what we understand today as
“sovereignty” was different, animated by local rituals as much (and perhaps more) than it
was by exercising political rule directly.71 Nevertheless, there is a universalizing tendency
in the “modern era” through which conceptions of land, territory, sovereignty, and
national identity have all become interwoven. As Derek Hall observes, despite the many
different genealogies and traditions of sovereign practice all over the world, modern
sovereignty
gives understandings of territory a peculiar precision: this piece of land two
meters inside the country’s border is our territory, to be defended to the death,
while that piece two meters outside the border is no concern of ours.72
As will be explored in the subsequent chapters of this dissertation, the legal document
that passed between the marine territories between the Dutch and the British in 1796
might suggest a logical continuity of rule over territory, but there was no agreement about
what the relationship between the Dutch and the Kandyan kingdom even was, as the
Kandyans saw the Dutch as their subordinates; also the process of incorporation and
writing of modern state territory was never uniformly applied or exercised throughout the
island. To treat the island as a single territorial entity would be to commit the very kinds
of ontological and epistemic crimes I seek to critique within this project.

70 Ibid.
71 Nira Wickramasinghe. Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities (London: Hurst &
Company, 2006): 8 – 9.
72 Derek Hall, Land (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013): 13.
35
The point of considering the above sampling of spatial organizations is to
demonstrate to the reader the diverse genealogies of this modern thing we call “the state.”
My objective in this dissertation is to consider different pathways through which the
spatial organization we call the modern territorial state came to be in one postcolonial
place, Sri Lanka, drawing on elements of the region’s history to raise important questions
about the politics of “total territorial rule” and its normalization via the colonial
encounter. This raises questions about the continuities of colonial violence into the “post”
colonial period. Through the colonial encounter, it is not only the case that the norm of
total territorial rule became the only territorial option available to freedom-seeking
people; the experience of colonially administered modernity also worked to provoke a
kind of spatial “forgetting,” or perhaps more accurately, “fetishizing” of national
histories.
By the 1940s, the colonies of South Asia and elsewhere had not only endured
hundreds of years of indirect and direct colonial rule, they had also endured Britishengineered famines and their peoples had travelled across continents to serve in colonial
armies fighting so-called “Great Wars” to feed the hubris of inter-European geopolitical
expansionism amidst an evolving “balance of power.” Much effort was exerted, much
blood spilled, and many diplomatic rhetorical performances made in the long struggles to
resist European occupation and rule over the various territories that comprise
contemporary South Asia. Indeed, this narrative played out in different theatres across
South Asia, continental Africa, and the Caribbean. Over the many generations of
anticolonial organizing, colonialism came to be personified – perhaps even essentialized
– in the body of the outsider as “true” geopolitical discourse.
36
The subject of this dissertation is of broad interest to scholars concerned with the
incubation of colonial violence in the day-to-day practices of being a modern nation state.
Working in the theoretical and empirical tradition of postcolonial and decolonial social
science, I aim to contribute to social science research de-naturalizing the territorial
stability of the modern nation-state in order to draw attention to the unfinished (and
perhaps unfinishable) business of territorializing spatial organizations. Building a greater
understanding of the social construction of state territory, especially the social
construction of postcolonial territory, will help us understand the tremors and earthquakes
shaking 21st century global security in Sri Lanka/Tamil Eelam, as well as elsewhere in the
region and beyond. Rajapaksa’s demand to control “every inch” of territory is a logical
outcome of the exercise of universalized, modern, state sovereignty, but the inability to
think beyond the limits of this single spatial pathway reflects the paucity of ideas about
how to organize society in the 21st century.
Methodology, Archival Sources, and the Problem of the “Pre-political”
Archiving in relief and its limitations
This research is designed to contribute methodologically and conceptually to de-centering
Eurocentric ontological assumptions and epistemic approaches in the study of
postcolonial place. De-centering is important, as it does not mean rejecting or moving
past ideas of a Eurocentric ilk; Europe is a part of the world, but its localized experiences
and ways of making sense of the world have been over-privileged in social science
research concerning the nature of the world and the human condition. In order to tell
stories about Europe, scholars un-focus the “periphery” in order to focus on what we
imagine to be the “core.” I un-focus Europe in this dissertation. The result of doing so
37
makes a geographical region that is very familiar to Western-trained readers seem, at
times, over-simplified. This is not because I think that I can collapse the many intricate
processes and practices that give meaning to British expressions of sovereignty by the
19th century, for example, when I conflate them as “Christian/British” ontologies of
sovereignty contrasted with “Buddhist/Kandyan” ontologies of sovereignty in chapter
two. In historical research, moving beyond the biases of the colonial archives and the
epistemic colonialism inoculated in secondary literature, one must purposefully un-focus
Europe in order to focus on something else. Larissa Lai, working from G.C. Spivak’s
work on “reading against the grain,” describes the process of postcolonial research as
“reading official documents for the truths that might emerge in their gaps, counter to their
intended purpose and thus counter to their overt framing.”73 Histories of colonialism talk
about colonial territory as if Ceylon (as a pre-configured and already existing political
entity) simply “fell” to the British from the Dutch, despite the knowledge that Kandy was
long independent and operating upon its own sovereign system. That both of these
conditions coexist in historical records speaks not to a lack of knowledge about territorial
diversity on the island, rather, it speaks to an agreement that this diversity does not
matter. I disagree, and this project seeks to demonstrate why the pre-colonial
pluriversality of sovereignty matters for understanding state formation on the one hand,
but also for informing contemporary peace and conflict studies in former colonies which
became modern states before nations through the modern, colonial encounter. The
archival research conducted in the preparation of this dissertation speaks to the fact that
colonial archives were not only disinterested in what ordinary people thought and did,

73 Larissa Lai, Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s
(Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2014): 14.
38
colonial administrators and missionaries were, at times, unaware of the significance of
their actions. The archives can only take us so far; there are necessary, albeit speculative,
leaps that must be made to connect the dots in order to glimpse the agency of colonized
people. It is telling of the limitations of colonial knowledge that instances of criminality,
in colonial archives that were designed to aid in the bureaucratic administration of
colonialism, are perhaps the best way to perceive political agency of colonized peoples.
Methodologically, I practiced “archiving in relief,” which is a sculpting metaphor
applied to archiving: when a sculptor carves their piece in relief, it gives the impression
that the sculpted material has been raised above the background. Yet, to carve in relief,
the sculptor starts with a flat surface, and chisels away the background to elevate the
carving. To “archive in relief,” is to use elevated historical artefacts (government
ordinances, legal reforms, correspondences, diaries, missionary publications, newspapers,
court martials, etc.) to better understand the background that has been discarded in
mainstream historical accounts that have been collected to consciously or subconsciously
serve a vested political interest.74 The archivist, like the sculptor, chisels away the parts of
the material that are not relevant to the dominant historical narrative, and these are the
parts s/he studies in order to see the background more clearly. In other words, liberal
historiography that speaks directly to concerns of statecraft valorises sovereigns, raising
narratives concerning kings and states. But around these elevated objects, a background is
still visible. By examining the background in particular, I strive to understand how the
colonial encounter helped produce Sri Lanka’s “ethnic trouble.” This is related to the

74 I am grateful to Fazeela Jiwa for naming this methodology after countless hours of conversation on the
subject.
39
subaltern studies project, specifically Spivak’s reminder to look for consequences of
epistemic violence while “reading against the grain.”
There are important limitations to archiving in relief that are especially central to
this study. The most important limitation is the fact that only colonial archival sources
were consulted in the preparation of this dissertation. The timing of my research
coincided with diplomatic problems between the Rajapaksa led government in Sri Lanka,
and the Harper led government in Canada making it impossible to secure the research
visa needed to complete my planned studies in 2013 in Sri Lanka. As a next best
alternative, I travelled instead to London, where I split my time between the Colonial
Office holdings at the British National Archives and the British National Library on the
one hand, as well as the archives of the Wesleyan Methodist Church held at the School of
Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. The British Library’s
expansive Asia-Africa reading room offered access to English language newspaper
coverage of Ceylon which was of particular importance to shaping chapter four, but also
afforded extremely useful publications of primary texts prepared by Sri Lankan
historians. Through consulting these sources, I was able to narrow my focus initially to
key flashpoints of territorial contestations, though the list quickly became far too vast to
contend with in a dissertation. By identifying key moments of concern, like the Kandyan
Convention, the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms, and in particular the shifting focus of
anti-colonial activism in the late 19th century away from fighting the state directly, I was
able to prioritize recurring figures within colonial discourse, and follow up on important
local events while identifying points of overlap from different archival sources.
I spent my first month at the British Library, and then the next two months
between the British National Archives and the Missionary archives getting thinner, more
40
bureaucratic and administrative data at the prior, and thicker social and personal accounts
at the latter. Within all of these archives, but particularly within the Missionary archives, I
read “horizontally,” as looking in adjacent boxes, diaries, and incomplete manuscripts to
trace events and people. While in London, I was a visiting Research Fellow at Queen
Mary, University of London, where I had five substantive research meetings with
Professor Robbie Shilliam, half of which were concerned with the coloniality of archives
and methods of reading against the archives. His suggestion to read horizontally and to
“come up for air” periodically yielded both rich and unexpected findings, and much
needed conceptual clarity.
Much of this rich data was not able to make it into the final version of the
dissertation, but have nonetheless shaped and directed the search for the pieces of data
that ultimately do make it into the final copy. Originally, I had not planned on religion
nor ontology being especially important to my research, but the archival research in
progress led to the development of chapter two and the ultimate refocusing of the
dissertation toward understanding the politics of sovereignty as ontological conflict.
Importantly, while I was on occasion able to find original Sinhalese and Tamil sources in
the archives consulted, I am not able to read, write, or converse in these languages.
Consequently, any representation of ordinary people that I am able to consult comes
either through colonial translations in newspapers and government gazettes, or through a
reliance on Sri Lankan historians. This language barrier is itself an ontological limitation,
the violence of translation is immediately apparent as outlined in the pages below. This is
the reason, however, that I do not claim in this dissertation to speak for or on behalf of
any particular interest, Tamil, Sinhalese, or any other local population. This presents a
kind of ontological horizon beyond which I cannot reach, however, by focusing on the
41
structural aspect of state formation as a critical juncture in modern, colonial history, I am
able to meaningfully discuss the main concern of this research, which is the violence of
universal reason applied to the formation of the modern, territorial state. By keeping the
focus of the dissertation on the question of sovereign ontological transformation, the key
objective of this study lies in explaining the diverse contestations that gave rise to the
modern nation state and the associated norm of “total territorial rule” that is at the heart of
sovereignty in the state system as we know it, but of particular importance to postcolonies who know better than most what it means to live under the sovereignty of
colonizers.
The problem of the “pre-political”
The epistemic violence within historical research and the idea of the archive as a
container of facts about the past takes on important implications in the writing of postcolonial histories. In this final conceptual section of the introduction, I discuss some of
these assumptions in terms of preponderant dating of the moment of state formation, as
well as the normalization of developmentalist reasoning as it relates to state formation. As
noted above, most secondary literature identifies the 1815 Kandyan Convention or the
1832 Colebrooke-Cameron reforms as the central issues of concern to the consolidation
of British administrative rule. 75 The Colebrooke-Cameron reforms were extremely
important in terms of the reorganization of the colonial government as well political,
juridical, and geographical transformations on the island.76 They were steeped in both

75 Cf. G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Centre, 2005 [1952]): 13 –
24; 52 – 58; Chandra Richard de Silva, Sri Lanka: A History (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing, 1987): 146 –
157
76 G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952]): 56 – 58
42
liberal and colonial values: liberal in the establishment of a legislative council to advise
the governor and centralizing of the administrative hub of the island in the coastal
colonial fort-city of Colombo,
77 and colonial in the powerlessness of the “unofficial”
members of that assembly. These unofficial positions were reserved for three “native”
members representing Sinhalese, Burgher, and Tamil people respectively. As unofficial
members, they were unable to compel changes in the legislative agenda that were not first
agreed to by the Governor. Another particularly colonial and liberal attribute of the
reforms was the attempt to chip away at Kandyan autonomy by administratively
incorporating the interior into the Maritime Provinces and the overarching administrative
capital in Colombo.78 This is evident in the new provincial boundaries established in
1832, as shown in Appendix A.
While dates are often used in the writings of Histories as a kind of aid to the
reader to imagine great shifts or “critical junctures,” such moments speak to the broad
array of contradicting forces that manifest, often in hindsight, as the pivotal change in
affairs.79 My problem with stating that 1815 or 1832 are the birth of the centralized
colonial state under British authority is that this ignores the importance of political

77 As Mendis argues, however, the motivation for the administrative changes came from the Colonial Office
and not from the administrative headquarters in Ceylon. The legislative councils were not intended to
introduce representative democracy so much as they were to serve as forms of checks and balances from the
absolute authority of the Governor.
78 While the overarching philosophical motivation guiding colonial governance as articulated in the
Colebrooke-Cameron reforms can be considered “liberal” in terms of promoting institutions and law and
order, the inclusion of an assembly of “natives” to advise the governor should not be confused with
ambition for gradual representative government. As K.M. de Silva writes, “The Colonial Office, like
Colebrooke, did not regard it [legislative council] as a representative assembly in embryo, but looked upon
it as a check upon the Governor in the sense that it was an independent and fairly reliable source of
information for the Secretary of State who would otherwise be dependent on the Governor alone for
information with regard to the colony and its affairs.” See K.M. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka (London:
C. Hurst & Co, 1981): 262. See also: Chandra de Silva Sri Lanka: A History (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing
House, 1987): 149.
79 Michael Hardt, “Sovereignty,” Theory & Event 5/4 (2002), accessed October 23, 2016.
http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_and_event/v005/5.4hardt.html
43
agency and fundamental equality of the people involved in the creation of state territory,
albeit under extremely unequal terms. Politics, as Jacques Rancière argues, is not a
conflict within the arche; it is a rupture in the logic of that arche, the re-inscribing of
meaning into social relations that comes from rejecting the logic of the existing order.
Though Rancière’s thinking developed in the socio-political context of 1968 Paris, this
approach to understanding the nature of politics offers an important lens through which to
rethink the 30-year period of colonial state formation in Ceylon, because the secondary
history only conceives of ordinary people as “looking backward” to pre-political times.
The secondary historical literature on the early to mid-19th century in Ceylon is
forthcoming about the obvious crimes committed by the British against the indigenous
populations, but the authors tend to accept many of the subtler normative assumptions
about the placement of the British as being further along in historical
development/accomplishment. 80 Rancière’s conception of politics insightfully focuses
analytical attention on a non-hierarchical understanding of politics that breaks with
conventional histories (both South Asian and Western) of this time period that historicize
ordinary people as “pre-political” or, in Rancière’s terms, the demos who are not meant to
speak or are unable to speak sensibly.81 I agree with Rancière that “politics is first and
foremost an intervention upon the visible and the sayable,” 82 which, requires close

80 Partha Chatterjee addresses this to some degree by distinguishing between an “internal” and “external”
understanding of nation, where the external nation belies a homogenous kind of solidarity, and the internal
aspects of the nation remain fragmentary and contradicting. For Chatterjee, this is a defining difference of
the postcolonial context. See: Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1993)
81 As Rancière explains in his fourth thesis on politics, the term democracy was invented by its opponents,
and is meant to refer to those who are lacking the requisite skills to participate in politics. See Jacques
Rancière et. al., “Ten Theses on Politics,” Theory & Event 5/3 (2001): 6. See also: Davide Panagia,
“‘Partage du sensible’: the distribution of the sensible,” Jacques Rancière Key Concepts. Edited by JeanPhillippe Deranty (Durham, Acumen, 2010): 95 – 104.
82 Jacques Rancière, “Ten Theses on Politics” Theory & Event 5/3 (2001): 10.
44
attention to how “natives” appear in the colonial archives.83 Like Rancière’s description
of the demonstration that resists the police order to “move along, there’s nothing to see
here,” disturbances, arrests, and failed attempts that have occurred and are visible – at
least when archiving in relief – ought to be interpreted as democratic politics that shaped
the evolution of anti-colonial political organizing and the colonial state that was
compelled to respond to these everyday threats. My point differs from Rancière’s in that I
am not proposing a binary opposition in which elite interests serve as a kind of police
power; I mean instead to argue that elites and ordinary people respond to one another in
tandem and that relationship produces something new, in this case, a satellite state
embedded in a broader network of British imperialism.
It is possible to re-read colonial archives “in relief” through looking for the
enactment of “politics” in the way Rancière describes, because as policies and taxes were
often discussed between London and Colombo, the fear of rebellion was part of the policy
approach taken by the colonial government.84 The thirty-year period covered in chapter
four represents the “passing through” and reformulation of two ontologies, out of which
the norm of total territorial rule emerged. Although only the Uva (1817-1818) and
Matale (1848) rebellions have been historicized as being relevant because of the actions

83 For the purposes of this study, the emphasis of representation of “natives” in 19th century Ceylon is
sufficient. However, as historians of Europe have long maintained, a similar problem of exclusion exists
with the representation of peasants and women within Europe, giving rise to the project of “history from
below” as a strategy to correct or mitigate the severity of these exclusions. See E.P. Thompson, The Making
of the English Working Class (New York: Random House, 1966 [1963]); Fredrick Kranz (ed) History from
Below (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988); Eric Hobsbaum, On History (New York: The New Press, 1997);
Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (Brooklyn:
Autonomedia, 2004)
84 Cf: “A Few Remarks Upon Colonel Forbes’ Pamphlet on recent Disturbances in Ceylon in a letter to Sir
R. Peel, Bart, M.P. & C by Colonist, April 12th 1850” British National Library, shelfmark: 8023.cc.7.(1.);
see also the collection of exchanges between Governor Torrington and the Earl Grey: K.M. de Silva (ed.)
Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 1850, the administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the
private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount
Torrington (Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965). British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
45
they compelled out of the colonial authorities, smaller scale protests and interventions
occurred as well. They represent “dissensus,” by interrupting the normal order of society
by “making visible that which has no reason to be seen.”85
In this way, Rancière’s radical
egalitarianism, though steeped in Western thought as it is, is useful in making visible
“subaltern” politics that have influenced the normalization of Eurocentric stateness.
Indeed, the secondary literature and the archival material on which much of this is based
take as their frame of reference the material accomplishment or official failure of a
military action as the marker of importance. Rancière’s definition of politics as
interruption helps us to take more seriously the impact of failed attempts, as they
influenced the culture of governance and the expected order/predictability of resistance in
this period of colonial state formation. Not only did they inflect the development of police
power (broadly speaking), but they arguably laid the ground for a democratic politics that
eventually became subsumed by more institutional (and thus, less radical) forms of
resistance through the state by the second half of the 19th century. 86 Amidst these
transformations, a generation of youth were coming of age in the context of watching
their relatives being forced to labour to construct military roads under brutal conditions,
struggling to find a place in a society that was rapidly globalizing and integrating into
broader imperial economic networks (as explained in chapter three). Though not directly
accounted for in secondary histories, this is surely political education to young
generations of colonized youth, many of whom would be the adults of the next generation
resisting colonial rule, and whose children would subsequently become the ones fluent

85 Jacques Rancière, “Ten Theses on Politics” Theory & Event 5/3 (2001): 10 – 13.
86 Nihal Perera, “Indigenising the Colonial City: Late 19th
-century Colombo and its Landscape.” Urban
Studies 39/9 (2002): 1703-1721.
46
enough in colonial governance and schooling in the late 19th century to begin organizing
within the institutions of the state to take over, rather than dismantle, the colonial state.87
When words spoken by “natives,” be they elite or non-elite, were translated into
English language newspapers, military court martials, or government documentation,
words like “pretender to the throne” were used. When colonial administrators and their
assistants tasked with preparing reports, letters, and despatches created documents
ostensibly for the purpose of objectively recording events that had transpired, these
documents were already steeped in discursive representational power. The very
terminology of naming rebel leaders “pretender” implied a legitimate sovereign entity
(King George of England) and an imposter sovereign, whose success in swaying public
opinion was always taken to be evidence of the “pre-political” or “backward” character of
a pre-modern population that was not qualified to differentiate truth from fiction. As
Marisol de la Cadena describes, the
historical ontology of modern knowledge both enables its own questions, answers,
and understandings and disables as unnecessary or unreal the questions, answers,
and understandings that fall outside of its purview or are excessive of it.”88
The question of translation of meaning is thus a central blinder, though not one that I am
qualified to deal with, as I am not fluent in Sinhalese or Tamil. Methodologically,
however, de la Cadena’s point speaks to the importance of not treating the archive as an
objective stock-pile of “facts” from which one might piece together different narratives.

87 As mentioned in chapter three, see also the request from J.W. Bennet, a colonial officer, to the Governor
for compensation for the families of the men and boys forced to labour under the British government’s cooption of Rajakariya to build roads connecting Colombo to Kandy following the brutal Uva Rebellion. See:
J.W. Bennet, Ceylon and Its Capabilities: an account of its natural resources, indigenous productions, and
commercial facilities (London: W.H. Allen & Co., 1843). British National Library, shelfmark: 793.m.15
88 Marisol de la Cadena, Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds (Durham: Duke
University Press, 2015): 13
47
The reification of a universal or objective past that can be explained ‘as it was’ is an
expression of colonizing epistemology.89
As Dipesh Chakrabarty observes, the challenge of writing history is in breaking
the cycle of writing European history in different parts of the globe:
It is that insofar as the academic discourse of history – that is “history” as a
discourse produced at the institutional site of the university – “Europe” remains
the sovereign political object of all histories, including the ones we call “Indian,”
“Chinese,” “Kenyan,” and so on.90
Chakrabarty is referring to the structure in which the historical narrative takes place. For
scholars who have tried to do postcolonial or decolonial historical research using colonial
archives, there is a constant need to resist the unacknowledged biases and implicit claims
to universal knowledge that allow “experts” working from within a Eurocentric
intellectual and ontological frame of reference to document the struggles, progress, and
problems of subject peoples in what is assumed to be (in the most generous of terms) a
slow and coerced march to eventual civilization. As Julian Crawquill, a British resident
living in Ceylon and writing in the Colombo Magazine in 1839 observed:
And why can England alone of the many nations of the earth, point with pride to
her flourishing colonies? Because she has followed out wise and well-matured
plans in a Christian-like spirit. She has endeavoured to conciliate and to enlighten
wherever she has gone. She has made those amongst whom she settled partakers
of her laws, of her arts and of her religion. She carried with her and disseminated,
the seeds of Christianity and Civilization, and she has reaped the fruits of
prosperity.91
Crawquill’s statements were obviously ideological and easy to identify. He was also
writing at a time when missionary pressure was mounting to convince the British colonial

89 Andreas Boldt, “Ranke: objectivity and history,” Rethinking History 18/4 (2014): 457 – 474; Helen
Liebel Weckowicz, “Ranke’s Theory of History and the German Modernist School,” Canadian Journal of
History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire, 23/April (1988): 73 – 93
90Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000): 27.
91 Julian Crawquill, “Colonies and Colonization” The Colombo Magazine 1/1 January, 1839: pp. 16 – 18.
British National Library, shelfmark: 8023cc7.
48
government to sever its institutional, financial, and legal relationship with the Buddhist
tradition.92 While there may not be such a clearly stated or acknowledged civilizing
project in the documents of colonial administrators, many of whom often laid claim to
trying to “keep the peace” or do what was in the objective best interest of the colony and
its peoples, these claims rested on a certain a priori agreement about what progress was,
who “lacked” it, and how best to resolve “problems.” As a consequence, when the
ordinary people of Ceylon are found in colonial archival accounts, they often appear as
criminals or misled children incapable of understanding the error of their ways. Ordinary
people and the importance of their political actions can only appear like ghosts within the
limits of modernist historical accounts because, like a spectre, they are hard to perceive,
and glimpsed translucently as if from another world.
De la Cadena, drawing on Ranajit Guha’s reading of Aristotle, reflects on the
boundaries or limits of what fits within the modern:
…And borrowing from Ranajit Guha, the limit would be “the first thing outside
which there is nothing to be found and the first thing inside which everything is to
be found” (Guha 2002: 7, emphasis added). Yet this “nothing” is in relation to
what sees itself as “everything” and thus exceeds it – it is something. The limit
reveals itself as an onto-epistemic practice, in this case, of the state and its
disciplines, and therefore a political practice as well. Beyond the limit is excess, a
real that is “nothing”: not-a-thing accessible through culture or knowledge of
nature as usual. 93
The idea that ordinary people were pre-modern and thus outside of the limit of the
modern lens is an onto-epistemic problem in the writing of official documents, but also in
the narration of secondary histories prepared by Sri Lankan historians as well. In terms of
the writing of colonialists themselves, for example, Governor Torrington places the blame

92Rev. Spence Hardy, The British Government and the Idolatry of Ceylon (1839) SOAS Missionary
Archives, shelfmark: MMSL S123.
93 Marisol de la Cadena, Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds (Durham: Duke
University Press, 2015): 14 – 15.
49
on the disturbances associated with the Matale rebellion largely on the shoulders of an
Irishman in Colombo referred to at different times as a Mr. or Dr. Elliot. Elliot is accused
of importing Irish political radicalism into the local newspapers and urging the KandyanSinhalese masses to rise in protest of government tax hikes without meaningful political
representation; the possibility that “natives” would have their own political wherewithal
is not part of Torrington’s perception of reality.
94 Sir James Emerson Tennent, Colonial Secretary of Ceylon from 1845-1850, did not share the view common to the British public and governor that the press played a central role in inciting rebellion, and was questioned to this effect in the parliamentary proceedings investigating the events. In response to a
direct question concerning the role of the press, he answers, “I cannot help thinking that
perhaps too much importance has been attached in Ceylon to the direct influence of the
press; but I cannot avoid the equal and even more strong conclusion, it did produce a
mischievous and prejudicial effect at that time.”95 Pressed further on the circulation of the
seditious articles and their presence in the areas of Kandy in which rebellion ensued, he
continues: copies reached those districts, and were publicly read in the temples, or to
assemblages of the people on their arrival in the district; but I do not attach the
same importance to those articles as many do; I believe they were mischievous in
their effect; but to assign them as one of the leading causes of the rebellion, would
be to attach much more weight to them than in my opinion they merit.96

94 “Viscount Torrington to the Earl of Grey Nov. 15, 1847,” in K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters on Ceylon 1846 –
1850, the administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the private correspondence of
the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington (Kandy:
K.V.G. de Silva, 1965). British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
95 James Emerson Tennent, “Tennent to Committee.” Minutes of Evidence Taken Before the March 25

  1. Third Report from Select Committee on Ceylon (Session 1850): 168. https://goo.gl/MeYCyM.
    96 Ibid.
    50
    For Tennant, it was not the vexing words of the Irish newspaper man so much as it was a
    longer term simmering insurrectionary culture connecting the Isle of France 97 and
    conspirators from France to overthrow the British in Ceylon. 98 It is not ever, in the
    archival account, a question of the political agency of the Kandyans, but there is an
    ontological knowledge that the Kandyans have been too long isolated from the modern
    world to be capable of entering into real politics or history. It is this “knowledge,” that
    they are not true political agents, that bleeds into post-colonial accounts as well.
    This has led to an uncomfortable problem that is as much political as it is
    methodological. Much of the early historical research done on Ceylon on this time period
    accepted the condition of the archive as a collection of facts about the past out of which
    new, better, nationalist histories could be written, but has not gone through the process of
    decolonizing the ontological assumptions necessary to conceive of “pre-modern” people.
    This has produced a tension in postcolonial historical research and its entanglement in
    Western academia. On the one hand, postcolonial national elites have, as Chakrabarty
    notes, been quick to reject the Hegelian idea of “lack” and the Rousseauian idea that the
    masses must be properly educated in order to exercise political citizenship; yet at the
    same time, they hold onto Eurocentric ideas which continue to structure the shape of
    histories since Ramram Basu’s 1802 Raja Pratapadiya-Charit.
    99 Consider the
    representation of what would prove to be the beginning of the Matele rebellion in this
    dispatch to the Colonial Office in London sent from Governor Torrington in Colombo:

97 Mauritius, which became a British colony following the 1814 Treaty of Paris and subsequent destination for exiled political prisoners from Ceylon.
98 James Emerson Tennent, “Tennent to Committee.” Third Report from Select Committee on Ceylon
(Session 1850): 167. https://goo.gl/MeYCyM> 99 Ranajit Guha, History at the Limit of World History (New York: Colombia University Press, 2002): 11.
51
In endeavouring to obtain a census of the population, a report was about that 30
new taxes were to be put on, and women and children were to be taxed and
women’s breasts measured. Proper means have been adopted to explain the
intentions of government to the people and Tennent has gone to Kandy and will
see the Chieftains there and at other places and point out the advantages they will
derive. I am happy to say that the Headman and Chiefs have shown no symptoms
of uneasiness – indeed the whole of the disturbance at Kandy was caused by a
rascally Malabar (who says he is going to be King) going amongst the ignorant
villages, and perhaps a rather wicked thou[ough] clever letter in the Observer
Ceylon Papers which was published in Cingalese, and tho[ough] it pretends to
disagree with [us] it [is still] sufficiently ably put to mislead many. It is hardly
worth taking up all your time with this, but I feel it necessary to watch all these
matters, and use every precaution, and my Malabar king will be punished when
caught [illegible] as a vagrant.100
In this quotation, the representation of collecting census data and educating the “ignorant”
masses about how taxation for the state is in their best interests presumes a national
interest that can or must be led from a centre capable of perceiving the national interest.
In this case, it is the British government that is positioned to offer this guidance, and
though the native assembly was never intended in this period to be a government in
waiting, one can see the presence of the idea of creating an improved class of natives
based on their proximity to and familiarity with British ways, which might bring them
closer to the direction of true, universal, History. 101 Academically, the writing of
scientific histories resulted in the production of nationalist histories in the late colonial
and postcolonial period that drew from the colonial archives with meticulous empirical
detail, but were often complacent with the representation of ordinary people as primitive

100
“Torrington to Grey July 5, 1848,” in K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 1850, the
administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the private correspondence of the Third
Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. (Kandy: K.V.G. de
Silva, 1965), British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
101 Benedict Anderson describes the process of the Anglicization of British India as an effort to create a
national culture through bringing Indians closer to the ideal of Britishness. He cites a complaint by Bipin
Chandra Pal, in which Pal laments the impossibility of being truly treated as an Englishman while being
Indian. The same character is explored by Chatterjee to highlight the internally fractious nature of
nationalism and the externally homogenous representation of the nation. See: Benedict Anderson, Imagined
Communities (London: Verso, 1983); Partha Chatterjee The Nation and Its Fragments (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1993).
52
which did not interfere with the project of writing nationalist, state-centric histories in the
20th century.102 As Guha, reflecting on the problem of Eurocentric statism and the impact
it has had on the discipline of Indian history, observes:
The statism so firmly entrenched in South Asian historiography is an outcome of
this narratological revolution which has, by its very success, prevented us as
historians from apprehending it as a problem. Incorporated in World-history, we
owe our understanding of the Indian past, our craft, and our profession as
academics to this very revolution. We work within the paradigm it has constructed
for us and are therefore far too close and committed to it to realize the need for
challenge and change. No wonder that our critique has to look elsewhere, over the
fence so to say, to neighboring fields of knowledge for inspiration, and finds it in
literature, which differs significantly from historiography in dealing with
historicality.103
The coloniality of archives is revisited most substantially in the fourth and final chapter
of the dissertation. I have spent only a fraction of the time in archives that the scholars
and practitioners I critically engage with in chapter four have, and my criticism is not
meant to denigrate their work in any way. I mean only to highlight the ways through
which the coloniality of archives continues to texture the narrative of history, and how
theory can help us begin decolonizing the ontological assumptions that lay dormant
within the archives.
Chapter Progression
The dissertation proceeds as follows: chapter one develops a decolonial, pluriversal
theoretical argument aimed at bringing to light how the violence of universal thinking has
effectively “colonized” academic attempts at understanding the development and spread

102 Benedikt Korf raises the issue of nationalism within scholarship in the context of more contemporary
geographical scholarship within Sri Lankan geographers. See: Benedikt Korf, “Cartographic Violence:
Engaging a Sinhala kind of Geography” in C. Brun and T. Jazeel (eds.) Spatializing Politics: Culture and
Geography in Postcolonial Sri Lanka (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2009): 100-121
103 Ranajit Guha, History at the Limit of World History (New York: Colombia University Press, 2002): 5.
53
of “total territorial rule.” After sketching the historical mood of the postcolonial period in
which the logic of the state is already entrenched, I take up the historical development of
concepts centrally concerning the dissertation’s project of explaining the naturalization of
universal notions of state, territory, and sovereignty. I trace the differences between
postcolonial and decolonial approaches via the lens of pluriversality, and then apply this
lens to key interdisciplinary literatures with a view to establishing how a decolonial
approach, which takes as its starting point the simultaneous existence of multiple
ontologies, offers the best path forward for decolonizing accounts of the past and delinking from the universe of modern reason for the future.
In chapter two, I introduce the concept of “political ontology” from decolonial
anthropology in order to discuss the ontologies of sovereignty clashing together in the
lead-up to the 1815 Kandyan Convention. As discussed in brief above, the Kandyan
Convention is widely marked as the essential moment of “total territorial rule” under the
British. Empirically, chapter two details the history of sovereign practice in Kandy as
well as the court intrigue that led to the capitulation of Kandyan nobility to the British in

  1. Opposite colonial history, my reading focuses on the people of Kandy rather than
    the British. The chapter also describes the significance of ritual/virtual sovereignty and
    material sovereignty in the “galactic sovereignty” organization of politics, building off
    the rajamandala structure of sovereignty as it developed in the context of Buddhist
    Southeast Asia. I emphasize the importance of “Buddhification” as a means through
    which foreigners, including kings, were integrated into the existing system as a means of
    drawing attention to the intense ontological conflict arising from mismatched British and
    Kandyan expectations arising from the 1815 Kandyan Convention.
    54
    In chapter three, I describe the pre-colonial political economy of the Kandyan
    kingdom, and highlight how the liberal/colonial transformations and debates concerning
    both early capitalism and colonialism were transforming in light of the discourse of
    “improvement.” Imperial level legal reforms, particularly the equalization of duties on
    coffee as well as the more general turn towards breaking down monopoly protection of
    plantation owners in the West Indies in favour of open completion created the imperial
    economic conditions to incentivize the further dispossession of Kandyan territories at
    precisely the time that the British government in Ceylon was trying to pacify the
    rebellious interior. Drawing on archival discussions of political economy in Ceylon and in
    the empire more generally, I emphasize how the violence of universal thinking applies to
    imposing a Eurocentric logic of land and ownership as a means of improvement that
    operated on different ontological terms than before.
    In chapter four, I make the argument that even influential and rich secondary
    historical accounts of 19th century Ceylon internalize key universal assumptions about
    modernity that are in need of decolonizing. I argue against the characterization of 1820 –
    1840s as being a relatively calm period by instead revisiting archival sources to paint this
    time period as a relatively constant period of radical politics amidst the important
    institutional and liberal/colonial changes taking place on the island, in the 1830s in
    particular. Taken together, these chapters constitute a rigorous engagement with the
    colonial “past” through which the assemblage of modernity/coloniality becomes visible in
    the multifaceted construction and normalization of state territory.
    55
    Chapter One: The Coloniality of the State
    Let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions, and societies that
    draw their inspiration from it. Humanity expects other things from us than this
    grotesque and generally obscene emulation … if we want humanity to take one step
    forward, if we want to take it to another level than the one where Europe has placed
    it, then we must innovate, we must be pioneers.
    Frantz Fanon104
    This chapter considers the theoretical and historical basis for identifying the structure of
    the modern nation state itself as a crisis of the ongoing modern, colonial period. In
    comparative social science, contemporary crises related to questions of sovereign
    legitimacy and ethnonationalist belonging tend to be studied with reference to former
    colonies lacking the time and experience to mature as nation states economically,
    politically, and historically.105 Thinking along these lines takes for granted a naturalized,
    developmental, and universal logic to the state as a structure. While there is no shortage
    of literatures concerned with the state, its particular constitution as a function of the
    colonial encounter remains comparatively less researched.
    I argue that contemporary contestations over postcolonial territory, such as the Sri
    Lanka-Tamil Eelam civil war, can be interpreted as the fallout of failing to address the
    constituent colonial violence associated with the history of modern state formation in
    former British colonies. I trace, in greater detail, the empirical basis for this argument in
    chapters two, three, and four. In this first chapter, I draw on insights from postcolonial
    and decolonial theory, as well as interdisciplinary approaches to studying state formation,
    to argue that the (re)presentation of the modern nation state as the single, universal option

104 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Groves Press, 2004
[1961]): 239.
105 Cf. Martin Carnoy, The State & Political Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984); Dipesh
Chakrabarty Provincializing Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000); Andre Gunder Frank,
“The Development of Underdevelopment,” Monthly Review 18/4 (1966): 17-34; Martin Doornbas, “State
Collapse and Fresh Starts: Some Critical Reflections,” Development and Change 33/5 (2002): 797 – 815.
56
to which formerly colonized people must aspire jettisons the diversity of possible ways of
organizing society in favour of an “obscene emulation” that privileges a Eurocentric
understanding of sovereignty, territory, and state. By exposing the “coloniality” of the
state as a starting point, social science might begin to consider how decolonial approaches
can open up pasts that have been ignored within modern/colonial studies. This can
expand the range of viable solutions and strategies for reorganizing socio-political life in
a way that need not pass through the sieve of Eurocentric modern thinking to be viable.
With this context in mind, I seek to present in this chapter a theoretical framework
juxtaposing universality and pluriversality and in so doing, argue that generations of
modernist, universal thinking about state, sovereignty, and territory within social science
have contributed to the epistemic and ontological colonization of scholarly approaches to
studying the state, forming it as an inevitable, rather than historically contingent, end
point for organizing life. In arguing for the adoption of a pluriversal perspective to
studying state formation, I am making a double move of sorts: the first move is
conceptualizing the pluriverse as an alternative to the universe, as the “pluriverse” speaks
to the simultaneous existence of multiple ontologies. This is implied in the prefix “pluri”
as an alternative to the prefix “uni” in the term itself. Importantly here, pluriversal is not
the same as pluralistic. While pluralistic implies many discrete possibilities and can be
likened to a kind of cultural relativism, pluriversal logic challenges the modern and
Eurocentric notion of universalism, which, I will argue here, is little more than the
generalization of a particular, European form of relativism. Pluriversal as a concept posits
that the only way to conceive of universal is through multiple different ways of knowing
and being that are entangled with one another through the “colonial matrix of power,”
which operates as a kind of intersectional web of oppressive relations through which
57
European domination is replicated along the axes of race, patriarchy, and capitalism.106 In
other words, while universal thinking implies many ways of understanding a single reality
that is objectively true, pluriversal thinking implies multiple and simultaneous worlds that
rest on ontological assumptions that speak to other realities that may include, but
ultimately stretch beyond the limit of a universal, modernist, perspective. This is an
important condition, because the existence of multiple ontologies does not mean that the
many “worlds” do not interact with one another – to hold this opinion would be only to
replace one conception of the universe with another, in the way that socialism has
positioned itself as a universal alternative to capitalism. Ontologies, as I will elaborate
upon in chapter two, rub up against one another and reformulate one another, especially
in terms of how different ontological starting points come into connection with one
another through the modern, colonial encounter. The pluriverse of multiple ontological
starting points is apparent in the distinct evolution of sovereignty discussed through the
rajamandala system and the sovereign system from Europe that interact in chapter two,
but is also quite apparent in the juxtaposition of indigenous economies prior to British
contamination of the Kandyan highlands as explored in chapter three.
The second move that I seek to make is the application of pluriversal thinking to
the issue of territorial formations that today appear as the “universal” modern, territorial
state. My objective in this chapter is not to chart out the many different ontologies of
territory, sovereignty, and state that exist; rather, it is to draw attention to the colonial
violence of representing the modern state as a universal model. This is not at all to say
that things that look similar to modern notions of “state” or “nation” did not exist prior to

106 Walter Mignolo, “On Pluriversality.” October 20, 2013. Accessed July 12, 2011.
http://waltermignolo.com/on-pluriversality/; Walter Mignolo The Darker Side of Western Modernity:
Global Futures, Decolonial Options (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011): 213-251.
58
the modern/colonial encounter. As G.C. Spivak usefully remarks, human societies have
always had “something like nations, collectivities bound by birth, that allowed in
strangers gingerly.” 107 My point in this chapter is only that the modern, colonial
encounter in the 19th and 20th centuries has effectively colonized and presented a universe in the form of the territorial sovereign state within which all life must be organized
in order to exist within the international system.
Modernity is understood to be a temporal period as well as a way of thinking,
though it is worth remembering that as a temporal period, it differs depending on the
colonial worlds in question. For Latin American scholars, the modern colonial encounter
begins with the conquistadors of the 15th century, and they draw attention to the defining
characteristics of racism and genocide to the constitution of modernity.108 In Sri Lanka,
the modern colonial encounter began shortly thereafter with the arrival of the Portuguese
in 1505 and the establishment of Colombo by 1515. To mark the “end” of the era with the
formal political independence of a country however, is to overlook the coloniality
associated with the process of transforming different kinds of indigenous territories with
distinct ontologies of land into something that can be recognized as modern state
territory. The colonial encounter then, is not something that can be thought of as existing
“in the past” or something that came to a conclusion with the achievement of political
independence. The consequences of the violence of universal, modern thinking are more
than an academic concern because they limit the range of politically perceivable
alternatives to universal sovereignty and the state in the postcolonial period that might
contribute to the decolonization of both the South and the North. As I will explain later in

107 G.C. Spivak, Nationalism and the Imagination, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010): 13-14.
108Anibal Quijano, “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America” Nepantla: Views from South
1/3 (2000): 534 – 535.
59
this chapter, state formation in the 19th century was not a discrete process of complete
European states creating colonial states, rather, the predominant structure of empire in the
19th century was key to understanding the inherently relational process of state making
between the archetypal European states and their colonial satellites. In other words,
European states are, by extension, colonial creations as well. Representations of the state
as either a natural evolutionary attribute of human development on the one hand, or as an
institution incubated within Europe and then exported to the rest of the world on the
other, encodes epistemic violence into the study of state formation by ignoring or writing
out of history the simultaneous constitution of imperial/colonial and national territories.109
My concern in this dissertation is not with the origin of sovereignty or the state; rather, it
is with the universalization of the modern territorial state as the only legitimate spatial
organization through which independence and freedom from colonial rule could be
articulated in South Asia, specifically Ceylon. In other words, I am concerned with how
one way of understanding the world came to be the only legitimate way of seeing the
world, and a standard to emulate that prevents colonized people from being the
“pioneers” that Fanon demands.
The chapter proceeds as follows: section one briefly sketches the political mood of
the immediate post-independence era in South Asia, problematizing the way that national
elites have interpreted decolonization to mean taking possession of the nation-state. It
introduces the concept of “coloniality” and explains the violence of uni-versal thinking,

109 The state as an “inevitable stage” thesis is exemplified in modernization theory, whereas the somewhat
related thesis that the state developed in isolation in Europe is more exemplified in mainstream social
science, with important exceptions. For examples that fall in line with the gradual movement of history
approach, see: W.W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1960); Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Malden: Blackwell
Publishing, 1983). For the Europe as incubator of the state approach, see: Anthony Giddens, The NationState and Violence (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1987); Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and
European States: AD 990 – 1992 (Malden: Blackwell, 1992).
60
discussing key concepts of relevance to the chapter and broader dissertation, including
state, territory, and sovereignty. Section two expands the conversation about universal
and pluriversal perspectives to review social science literatures concerned with state
formation, territory, and sovereignty.
Section One: Coloniality, State, Sovereignty, and Territory
The Postcolonial Moment in South Asia
In the context of 1940s and 1950s South Asia, newly independent governments, many of
which were comprised of national elites groomed in subordinate advisory legislative
councils to the former British government, took up the reins of government and embarked
on projects to “modernize” in order to catch up with the colonial-turned-“developed”
countries of the “first world.”110 Colonial ontologies underscoring these values remain
under-interrogated. This is especially transparent in modernization theory’s linear account
of social progression, as well as in some accounts of the development of nationalism.111
This is not a problem of Western scholars alone; it reflects the “geopolitics of
knowledge,” a point I will return to below, but for now can be seen as highlighting the
centrality of location to theorizing. 112 To be invested in a Eurocentric philosophical
understanding of reality and of the world does not require one to be European; many
scholars from the South are intellectually invested in the ontological and epistemic
frameworks of continental philosophy. The reverse is true as well, as many scholars

110 Gurminder K. Bhambra Connected Sociologies (London: Bloomsbury, 2014): 26; Andre Gunder Frank,
“The Development of Underdevelopment,” Monthly Review 18/4 (1966): 17-31.
111 Cf. W.W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1960); Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Malden: Blackwell
Publishing, 1983).
112 Cf: Walter Mignolo, “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference,” The South Atlantic
Quarterly 101/1 (2002): 65 – 66.
61
located in the North are not invested in Eurocentric philosophy – the distinction of
“North” and “South” is problematic for reasons long noted by postcolonial feminists, but
in the context of the geopolitics of knowledge, the distinction can be treated as heuristic
device to highlight the hegemonic influence of Eurocentric philosophy in the last half
millennium.113 The importance of scholars’ investment in the lens of universal modernity
cannot be understated, however, as organizing pasts into statist histories reifies a
conceptual lens that reflects a condition that James C. Scott has aptly described as our
collective hypnosis by the state.114 As Karena Shaw reminds us, the structure of modern
sovereignty today relies on a shared ontological foundation established in Thomas
Hobbes’ first book of Leviathan. This conception of state and territory has ordered
modern time in a linear fashion, representing systems of organization that are
ontologically otherwise from the modern, colonial condition as “pre-political,”
representing thus the colonization and transformation of diverse lands into modern states
as inevitable, rather than highlighting the profound violence of that transformation.115 The
necessity of being a state in charge of a bounded territory in contemporary IR has created
havoc across much of the formerly colonized and still colonized world, producing some
of the most pernicious forms of ethnonationalist violence in pursuit of total territorial rule
in recent memory, not least of all the Sri Lanka-Tamil Eelam civil war discussed in the
introduction of this dissertation.
At the anticolonial Bandung conference in 1955, leaders of the former colonies
met to discuss the meaning of decolonization and freedom from colonial rule, as well as

113 Chandra Mohanty, “‘Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anti-Capitalist
Struggles,” Signs 28/2 (2003): 506 – 507.
114
James C. Scott The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2009): 5.
115 Karena Shaw, Indigeneity and Political Theory: Sovereignty and the limits of the political. (New York:
Routledge, 2008) pp. 25 – 34
62
strategies of anticolonial solidarity, economic modernization, and strategies to ensure that
re-colonization by Europe was preventable.116 Formal possession of state sovereignty was
understood to be a strategy that, when paired with nationalism, could lead to the
rehabilitation of denigrated nations and races, while at the same time enacting bordering
practices and international experimentations like the Non Aligned Movement designed to
keep former colonies out.117 Challenging the legitimacy of sovereignty was not part of the
political project at Bandung, nor was it part of the many struggles across the British
Empire for freedom from colonialism. The postcolonial state, and the integration of
formerly subject peoples into a liberal, modern/colonial legal and sovereign global order
within the fledgling United Nations, was fundamental to asserting the vital components of
internal sovereignty, characterized as autonomy within established borders, and external
sovereignty, characterized by non-interference and mutual recognition in the international
system.118 In pursuit of that essential material goal – that is, the institutional expulsion of
direct British rule – the newly independent states could inhabit the state and go about
“catching up” to the former colonial states that were beginning to shed the identity of
colonial rulers for “civilized” and “developed” states instead. As Fanon’s work makes
clear, inhabiting sovereignty and nationalism was seen as a politically useful strategy for
the time, but it was not uniformly seen as an endpoint.119
Part of what I am trying to show is that in the context of colonial state formation,
the state is prior to the modern nation. Nationalism became important later in the 19th

116 Christopher Lee, “Between a Moment and an Era: The Origins and Afterlives of Bandung” in
Christopher Lee (ed.) Making a World After Empire: The Bandung Moment and its Political Afterlives
(Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010) pp. 1 – 39; Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Legacies of Bandung:
Decolonization and the Politics of Culture” in Christopher Lee (ed.) Making a World After Empire: The
Bandung Moment and its Political Afterlives (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010) pp. 45 – 68.
117Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox. (New York: Grove Press, 2005 [1961]).
118 Anthony Giddens, The Nation State and Violence (Berkley: University of California Press, 1985): 282.
119 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth. (2004 [1961]): 97 – 145.
63
century after the norm of the colonial satellite state was already established, and the
institutions of the state became effective tools for political mobilization and articulation
of grievances.120 Though nationalism is not the main focus of this research, it has played
an important role in historicizing pasts, which is very important for this dissertation’s
inquiry into the process of becoming the modern state. Loyalty to the nation and popular
nationalism was important in achieving political independence, but it was only one of
many ways through which colonized South Asians resisted colonialism. Political
independence, particularly in British South Asia, was accomplished through a variety of
means, including direct violent struggles, civil disobedience, and national mobilization
over the course of the late 19th to mid 20th century in particular. Importantly, South Asian
revolutionary thinkers and activists were global thinkers, engaging with Western and
Eastern philosophy and movements as well as identifying radical points of overlap
through which their anticolonial politics could be articulated and translated. 121
Coloniality and the Violence of Universality
Postcolonial national elites as well as those in the former colonial centers who represent
the modern nation state as the single, universal option which formerly colonized people
must aspire to as an “end” point mask the ontological, epistemic, and material violence
that went into attempts to dismantle other ways of being in service to naturalizing and
universalizing a particularly Eurocentric understanding of state and territory in the 19th
century. This universal state, conceived of as a “container” that possesses sovereignty,

120 Nihal Perera, “Indigenising the Colonial City: Late 19th
-century Colombo and its Landscape” Urban
Studies 39/9 (2002): 1703 – 1721.
121 Maia Ramnath, Decolonizing Anarchism: An Antiauthoritarian History of India’s Liberation Struggle.
(Oakland: AK Press, 2001): 155 – 161; Bhagat Singh, The Jail Notebook and Other Writings, Bhupinder
Hooja and Chaman Lal (eds.) (New Delhi: LeftWord, 2011).
64
houses nations, and accumulates wealth and power, is at the heart of International
Relations (IR) and associated disciplines; it continues to limit the range of what appear to
be viable political solutions to postcolonial crises of sovereignty in the 21st century.122 It
does so because it fails to draw upon the global range of ideas and possible solutions
available, which have been violently punished, contaminated, and transformed through
the modern state under the liberal justification that this pluriversal reality needed
ordering, simplification, and conformity in order to realize the fruits of modern
development, which continued much of the economic, political, and cosmological work
of colonialism into the “post” colonial age. As Nicholas Onuf has argued, “Liberalism is
modernity’s core ideology, capitalism its paymaster, and the state its highest social
realization, primary agent, and paramount problem.” 123 This is particularly important
because in many ways, state sovereignty was meant to be a strategy to border and
monopolize violence, as Shaw describes it, sovereignty as represented in Hobbes
constructs the space of the state as the space of identity and meaning. It sets up
sovereignty as the answer to all that ails, an answer meant to minimize violence
and enable men to pursue their desires. It sets the terrain for the rest of his
thought.124
To be sure, in the everyday world of IR as constituted by the mid 20th century,
sovereignty was an important concept and tool, reflecting, as David Blaney explains,
the value placed on autonomy in international society; it stands as a claim about
the right of each political community (conventionally organized as a state) to rule
itself and, concomitantly, a denial of any political authority above states.125

122 Peter Taylor, “The State as Container: Territoriality in the Modern World System,” Progress in Human
Geography 18/2 (1994): 151-156.
123 Nicholas Onuf, “Sovereignty: Outline of a Conceptual History” Alternatives 16 (1991): 426.
124 Karena Shaw, Indigeneity and Political Theory (New York: Routledge, 2008): 37
125 David Blaney, “Reconceptualizing autonomy: The difference dependency theory makes” Review of
International Political Economy 3/3 (1996): 462 – 463.
65
This conception demonstrates the centrality of normative analysis to sovereignty, its
dynamic and evolving nature, and also to the multiple motivations for wielding
sovereignty in the present day. 126 As Robbie Shilliam rightly maintains, “it is not
possible to think about a ‘decolonial project’ in the abstract,”
127 which is why my
emphasis in this dissertation is on the violence of the colonial encounter and how that
encounter relied on attempts to erase ways of being in the making of the modern world.
The universal approach is challenged by bringing to light the decolonial notion of
“coloniality,” which Ramón Grosfoguel argues, “allows us to understand the continuity of
continued forms of domination after the end of colonial administrations, produced by
colonial cultures in the modern/colonial capitalist/patriarchal world-system.”128 To name
this chapter the “coloniality of the state” is to articulate the thesis in the title: the modern
territorial state is itself an expression of coloniality, as the state and state system which
came into being from the 19th century onwards is one that requires a decidedly modern,
Eurocentric structure that required the violent ontological suppression of other ways of
organizing sociopolitical life. To borrow from Grosfoguel once more,
part of the Euro-centric myth is that we live in a so-called “post” colonial era and
that the world and, in particular, metropolitan centres, are in no need of
decolonization.129
The colonial encounter was, as Walter Mignolo explains, the “flipside” of the modern
encounter, and either modernity or coloniality is inconceivable without the other. The
rapid proliferation of state sovereignty in the 19th century, overlapping as it did with the

126 On the problem of “static” conceptions of sovereignty in systemic IR theorizing, see John Ruggie,
“Continuity and Transformation in the World Polity: Towards a Neo-realist Synthesis,” in Robert Keohane
(ed.) Neorealism and Its Critics (New York: Colombia University Press, 1986).
127 Robbie Shilliam, The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles and Oceanic Connections (London:
Bloomsbury, 2015): 8.
128 Ramón Grosfoguel, “The Epistemic Decolonial Turn: Beyond Political Economy Paradigms” Cultural
Studies 2/3 (2007): 219 – 220.
129 Ibid., 221
66
age of late empire, cannot be explained in either the colonies or the colonizing states
without a relational approach, which I seek to offer in section two. When the colonies
stopped being colonies, they became the “third world” and “developing” countries, the
empirical details of which are well documented in World Systems Theory and Marxist
accounts of neo-colonial capitalism.130 Karl Marx himself reflected on the problem of
South Asia’s131 integration into the imperial economy and the violence of that colonial
integration through the destruction of South Asia’s productive capacity due to the
encounter with the British.132 When I speak here of the coloniality of the state, I invoke
the systems of knowledge that have informed long histories of spatial organizations in
different parts of the world, and specifically how these ways of being are ignored and
denigrated under the lens of “universal” reason that is a defining characteristic of
modernity. In addition to the epistemic aspect, there are of course many material relations
that demonstrate how the making of European states was fundamentally linked to
imperial and colonial expansion. People, knowledge, resources, and approaches to
governance circulated in ways that make conceiving of modern Western Europe in
general, and the United Kingdom in particular, inconceivable outside of modern, colonial,
co-constitution. As David Blaney observes, reflecting on the turn to post-development
thinking in the 1990s, one key limitation to dependency theory’s approach has been

130 Andre Gunder Frank, “The Development of Underdevelopment” Monthly Review 18/4 (1966): 17 – 31;
Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European
World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York: Academic Press, 1974).
131 Marx and his contemporaries refer to “India” but the cities and areas that he names in his writings on
India speak to contemporary South Asia more broadly. In the course of archival research on 19th century
Ceylon more generally, I was struck by the lack of distinction between “Ceylon” and “India” in terms of
ethnic, social, religious, and political categories Some of this, particularly in the early 19th century, reflects
the fact that the Madras presidency in southern (contemporary) India “controlled” the island of Ceylon
remotely from 1796 to 1802, but culturally and socially, European missionaries, planters, and bureaucrats
routinely conflated Ceylon, India, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Malay people into interchangeable terms.
132 Karl Marx, “The British Rule in India” New York Daily Tribune June 25, 1853 reprinted in On
Colonialism: Articles from the New York Tribune and Other Writings by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
(New York: International Publishers, 1972): 40.
67
expressing itself in modernist terminology, which obfuscated the inherently relational
production of both metropole and satellite through the logics of capitalism and
sovereignty.133
As Aníbal Quijano maintains, there was no greater genocidal violence in the
known history of our planet than the one enacted upon the Aztec-Maya-Caribbean and the
Tawantinsuyana (Inca) of Latin America with the coming of the conquistadors after
1492; sixty-five million people died as a result of microbial genocide and military and
economic violence in less than half a century.134 Cristina Rojas, working from Anthony
Pagden and Karena Shaw, shows that the development of European concepts like “natural
rights” was always fundamentally premised on the racial superiority of Europe drawing
on the work of John Locke, a co-author of the North Carolina constitution.
[Locke] rationalizes enslavement of African peoples and the expropriation of
Native Americans’ land with the argument that the failure to cultivate the land
was a sign of their inability to claim it.135
Such interventions draw attention, though not explicitly, to what Argentinian philosopher
Enrique Dussel (1977) has named the “geopolitics of knowledge.” The geopolitics of
knowledge describes the disproportionate and hegemonic influence of ideas that are
situated and deeply grounded within a European epistemic and ontological context;
however, as a consequence of this grounding and the empirical histories of colonial
modernity, it has been presumed that Western intellectualism is universally valid overtop
of different societies that have been scripted as inferior through the colonial encounter by

133 David Blaney, “Reconceptualizing autonomy: The difference dependency theory makes” Review of
International Political Economy 3/3 (1996): 459 – 497.
134 Aníbal Quijano, “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality” Cultural Studies 21/2-3 (2007): 170
135 Cristina Rojas, “Contesting the Colonial Logics of the International: Towards a Relational Politics for
the Pluriverse,” International Political Sociology 10/4 (2016): 369 – 382. Quoted from pre-publication
manuscript, quote does not appear in published version.
68
Europeans.136 As Donna Haraway has long noted, the idea of a universal and objective
perspective relies on an ideology of science that no real scientists believe is possible in
practice. 137 Advancing the ideas of “feminist objectivity” and “partial perspectives,”
Haraway argues that the only objective point of view is a partial one, because a universal
view is an illusion or “god trick.” 138 This geopolitical, epistemological grounding of
European thought takes on material meaning because the influential philosophies that
have informed the modern period exist within a system of knowledge in which it is
deemed possible and desirable to make abstract generalizations about universal
experiences, using intellectual and empirical points of reference of relevance to Europe,
to explain the rest of the world.
As a revolutionary intellectual and political project within Europe, it is important
to recognize that European political thought and philosophy with its
“degovernmentalization of the cosmos” and corresponding invention of raison d’Etat and
European scientific reason attempted to assert themselves as secular, universal
alternatives to the universalizing world views of Christian139 theologies in the context of
the scientific revolution and age of Enlightenment.140 With reference only to Europe, we
can see the project of modernity and Enlightenment in the familiar way in which it is
represented in the Western academy: a period of intellectual emancipation, where ideas
grounded in rationality, progress, and objective evidence offered a new universalizing
lens through which to experience and study the one reality that existed. As Mary Lousie

136 Ramón Grosfoguel, “The Epistemic Decolonial Turn: Beyond Political Economy Paradigms,” Cultural
Studies 21/2-3 (2007): 211.
137 Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privileging of
Partial Perspective” Feminist Studies 14/3(1988): 581.
138 Ibid.
139 and to a lesser extent, Islamic and Jewish
140 Cf. Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977 – 1978
trans. Graham Burchill. (New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2009).
69
Pratt as well as Enrique Dussel have argued, the emancipatory intellectual discursive
appeal to scientific exploration and discovery has long hidden the underlying violence of
conquest.141 Gurminder Bhambra argues that part of the founding myths of European
modernity has been the belief that important events like the Renaissance, the French
Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution were somehow endogenous to Europe without
regard for the inherent interdependences that demand a global understanding of
modernity from the onset.142 Dussel has described the totalization of European knowledge
as “eurocentrism,” which, according to Rojas:
halts the possibility of an exchange of knowledges. Moreover, this myth [of
modernity] hides the other side of history: Europe’s centrality was built upon a
colonial project premised upon conquest of the Americas (and, of course, Africa
and parts of Asia). Accordingly, there is no modernity without coloniality.
143
Part of the blindness of Western epistemology is its investment in the “‘ego politics of
knowledge’ over the ‘geopolitics of knowledge’ and the ‘body-politics of knowledge,’” a
point I will explore more fully in chapter two.144

In the context of outlining the significance of coloniality for this chapter, however,
it is most relevant here to return to the “post”-colonial 20th century, and the discourse of
development and modernization. In this context, post-colonial states were understood to
be on a socialist or capitalist path towards arriving as equals on the international stage,
yet both U.S. capitalism and U.S.S.R. socialism shared universal and totalizing views of

141 Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York: Routledge, 2008):
15 – 35; Enrique Dussel, The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of “the Other” and the myth of Modernity
trans. Michael D. Barber (New York: Continuum, 1995).
142 Gurminder K. Bhambra, Connected Sociologies (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014): 40-44. See
also Go, Julian, “For a Postcolonial Sociology,” Theory and Society 42/1 (2013): 25 – 55.
143 Cristina Rojas, “Contesting the Colonial Logics of the International: Towards a Relational Politics for
the Pluriverse” International Political Sociology 10/4 (2016): 375.
144 Nelson Maldonado-Torres, “On the Coloniality of Being,” Cultural Studies 21/2 (2006): 240 – 270;
Ramón Grosfoguel, “The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities: Epistemic Racism/Sexism
and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century,” Human Architecture: Journal of the
Sociology of Self-Knowledge 11/1 (2013): 73 – 90.
70
the world predicated on the inevitability of linear progress. Both saw the existence of
ways of organizing life that existed prior to the European encounter as “pre-modern” or
“traditional” based on a shared belief in linear temporality. As indigenous scholars and
decolonial researchers have long noted, other-than-modern peoples have organized
themselves based on different ontological starting points about the world and their
contexts within it, such as through relational ontologies, or unified material and
cosmological realms.145 Working to dispel the largely ahistorical but nonetheless common
assumption that states serve as natural “containers” in which humans have always lived,
and instead considering the particular processes that have relationally produced state
territory in colonial places like Sri Lanka/Ceylon, brings to light the violence encoded
with the early consolidation of the territorial state as the possessor of legitimate
sovereignty domestically, and how that violence maps onto the emerging international
system. By the time freedom-seeking subjects of the British Empire succeeded in ending
British rule in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean in the mid/late 20th century, generations of
having been modern, satellite states plugged into the formal imperial political economic
networks had long since normalized the state as a natural, or at least inevitable, spatial
arrangement with universal legitimacy. Possession of the state, the institutional, social
“Leviathan” through which one could “be” was the primary political mandate of
independence movements in Ceylon and South Asia more generally. Conversely, one
could not “be” within an international fraternity of states unless organized as a state.

145 Glen Coulthard, Red Skins White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 2014): 60; see also Vine Deloria Jr., God is Red: A Native View of Religion
(New York: Putnam Publishing Group, 1973); Marisol de la Cadena, Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice
Across Andean Worlds (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015); Robbie Shilliam, The Black Pacific: AntiColonial Struggles and Oceanic Connections (London: Bloomsbury, 2015); Ajay Parasram 2016,“We Nah
Want No Devil Philosophy: A Note on the Decolonial Science of The Black Pacific,” The DisOrder Of
Things Symposium on The Black Pacific. February 1, 2016. https://goo.gl/L3SPL5; and chapter two of this
dissertation.
71
The process of social, economic, and political territorial transformation that
produced modern states depended on the violent denial and active dismantling of
alternative methods of organizing social, economic, and political life that took on
particular characteristics depending on indigenous groups and colonial powers, the
territories in question, and the time period of the colonial/anticolonial encounters.
Following Rojas’ work on the violence of representation, the presentation of the state as
the universal way to exist in the modern/colonial world can be understood through the
lens of a “regime of representation,” which Rojas explains “extends in time and space
through the construction of meanings that are relatively fixed and distinct, so that the
present can be differentiated from the past, and the self differentiated from the other.”146
Rojas’ study of post-colonial 19th century Colombia demonstrates the importance of the
“will to civilization” as the hegemonic lens through which liberal and conservative
reformers contested how to go about civilizing Colombian artisans, indigenous and Afrodescendent peoples either through the liberal push for laissez-faire individualism or the
conservative push for strong state management.147 Through this lens, we can see that the
violence of state formation is much more than the material politics of what was physically
done in the 19th century to produce states, (i.e. road construction, expansion of
administrative bureaucracy, integration into imperial political economy, etc.); it very
centrally extends to the ontological conflicts and epistemic violence of what counts as
knowledge and viable political options for a world that is always changing.148 While the
literature on state formation varies in terms of when, and by which means, state

146 Cristina Rojas, “Identity Formation, Violence, and the Nation-State in Nineteenth-Century Colombia,”
Alternatives 20 (1995): 196.
147 ibid.; Cristina Rojas, Civilization and Violence: Regimes of Representation in Nineteenth Century
Colombia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002).
148 Mario Blaser, “Ontological Conflicts and the Stories of Peoples in Spite of Europe: Towards a
Conversation in Political Ontology,” Current Anthropology 54/4: 547 – 568.
72
sovereignty emerges, it is more or less in agreement that the state is principally a
European model, infused with a particular genealogy of thought that includes key
European philosophers that extend all the way back to the ancient Greeks.149
The violence of universality, in terms of the representation of the state as the only
viable means of political organization, speaks to the research interest of the
Modernity/Colonialty/Decoloniality (MCD) research group, which seeks to prioritize “another way of thinking” based on the dual strategies of “de-linking” and “epistemic
disobedience” in order to fracture the hegemonic intellectual influence of Eurocentric
scholarship and broaden the intellectual starting point for scholarly research.150 This is a
shared political project with some variants of postcolonial theory, as Gurminder Bhambra
explains. Following Homi Bhaba’s call for interrupting Western discourses of modernity
with narratives of subalternized and otherwise excluded perspectives and experiences,
Bhambra argues that:
The issue is more about re-inscribing “other” cultural traditions into narratives of
modernity and thus transforming those narratives – both in historical terms and
theoretical ones – rather than simply re-naming or re-evaluating the content of these
other “inheritances.”151
The postcolonial objective can be thought of as broadening the limited range of
Eurocentric modernity – seeking to provincialize the “insufficient but indispensable”
place of European and Eurocentric philosophy – but it remains firmly grounded in the

149 Stuart Elden usefully identifies the importance of genealogy in tracing the development of territory,
stipulating that his 2013 book should be understood as one that is particular to the European development of
territory and not easily or advisably transplanted to other regions of the world. See Stuart Elden, The Birth
of Territory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).
150 Cristina Rojas, “Contesting the Colonial Logics of the International: Towards a Relational Politics for
the Pluriverse” International Political Sociology 10/4 (2016): 377; Walter Mignolo, “Delinking: The
rhetoric of modernity, the logic of coloniality and the grammar of de-coloniality,” Cultural Sudies 21/2
(2007): 449 – 514; Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial
Options (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011): 121-122
151 Gurminder K. Bhambra, “Postcolonial and decolonial dialogues,” Postcolonial Studies 17/2 (2014): 116.
73
idea of a single modern existence that needs to be pluralized.152 This overlaps with what
Rojas has critiqued as the epistemic orientation of the MCD group, in terms of outlining
an intellectual project through which “other” ideas are integrated into the modern
framework in order to improve that framework. As she explains, “Notwithstanding its
progress in decolonizing knowledges and making visible alternative ways of knowing and
thinking, the MCD program still privileges knowledge over practice and over worldsotherwise.”
153 Similar to critiques of South Asian subaltern studies, the issue here is the
privileging of ideas and thinkers that are squarely part of modern, Western, systems of
knowledge; including intellectuals from the Global South but only those who are working
within the confines of the (post)modern academe. In the language of decolonial thinking,
this is Dussel’s geopolitics of knowledge; in the language of South Asian subaltern
studies and its critics, it is the problem of using abstract continental philosophy to
understand a Global South that remains an empirical testing ground for Western scholars,
who remain the chief producers of knowledge.154 In both cases, the heart of the matter is
an under-problematized intellectual investment with the broader applicability of
philosophy that is grounded in a Eurocentric, universal philosophy, its application to the
rest of the world, and the ways this kind of commitment silences other possibilities.
This can give rise to two important kinds of problems: the first is the emphasizing
of post-structural and post-modern Eurocentric theorizing as the main tool used by

152 Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000): 6. In a
forthcoming publication with Lisa Tilley, we take up Chakrabarty’s defense of enlightenment ideals in his
influential “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” See: Lisa Tilley and Ajay Parasram, “Global
Environmental Harm, Internal Frontiers, and Indigenous Protective Ontologies” in Robbie Shilliam and
Olivia Rutazibwa, Routledge Handbook of Postcolonial Studies (New York: Routledge, forthcoming 2017);
Cf. Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses” Critical Inquiry 35/2 (2009): 197 – 222.
153 Cristina Rojas, “Contesting the Colonial Logics of the International: Towards a Relational Politics for
the Pluriverse” International Political Sociology 10/4 (2016): 376 – 378.
154 Vinay Lal, “Walking with the Subalterns, Riding with the Academy: The Curious Ascendency of Indian
History,” Studies in History 17/1 (2001): 101 – 134.
74
scholars from the Global South to chip away at the hegemony of Eurocentricity within the
modern academe (as in the South Asian and Latin American schools of “subaltern
studies”)155, and the second is what Aymara sociologist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui calls the
“political economy of knowledge” through which ideas that originate from outside of the
modern framework are “exported as raw material returning regurgitated in a grandiose
mix as a final product.” 156 Thus, even when MCD scholars seek to use indigenous
concepts in their academic writing, it is assumed that the difficult work of “translation” is
credibly done by the academic professional who applies the concept within a modern
academic framework. This is, to some degree, an unavoidable complication, but it draws
attention to the incompleteness and impossibility of “pure” translation of ideas between
pluriversal “worlds.”
The violence of universality then, is something that is not at all reserved to
colonial thinkers of the 15th
– 19th centuries; it continues as the coloniality of knowledge
production in the academe. The epistemic work of subaltern studies, postcolonial studies,
and the MCD has done a considerable job of exposing the exclusionary nature of modern
academia, a point I will revisit in section two. But in outlining the distinction between
universal and pluriversal thinking, it is important to note that highlighting the “lack” of
Eurocentric modernity as an attempt to arrive at a single story is insufficient for

155 I do not mean to imply that post-positivist (to use the categorization from IR) research more generally is
somehow free from colonial intellectual investments, rather, only to say that within the academe, critical
approaches offer comparative more intellectual space. As Pal Ahluwalia has forcefully argued, postmodernism and post-structuralism are counter-discourses emerging from within the boundaries of
modernism itself, whereas post-colonialism is a counter-discourse seeking to destabilize Western cultural
hegemony. Although Said’s Orientalism is widely regarded as the academic launch of post-colonialism,
Ahluwalia notes that Said quickly moved beyond his investments in French post-structural theory.
Following Ahluwalia, understanding post-structuralism requires addressing post-structuralism’s silence on
the question of French colonialism. See: Pal Ahluwalia, “Out of Africa: Post-structuralism’s Colonial
Roots” Postcolonial Studies 8/2 (2005): 137 – 154.
156Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, quoted in Cristina Rojas, “Contesting the Colonial Logics of the International:
Towards a Relational Politics for the Pluriverse” International Political Sociology 10/4 (2016): 377.
75
pluriversal politics.157 In the context of colonial state formation, to consider the diverse
options that have informed social and political life requires both epistemic and
ontological disobedience, as historical accounts and archival collections cannot be
understood as objective records that are separate from the ideology of those who formed
and informed records and collections. By “fracturing the modern episteme,” decolonial
approaches that are committed to understanding ontological difference and putting those
differences into practice – and through practice, which is necessarily much deeper than
scholarly writing – open up new possibilities for enacting a pluriverse of possibilities.158
The fracturing has led to many tributaries, some favouring epistemic maneuvers that
contest the singularity of “modernity” with the call for multiple modernities or “our”
modernity,159 and others informing the “ontological turn” in which the project of rethinking modernity requires putting into practice ontological starting points that are not
situated within the scope of modern thought.160 The violence of universality, within the
regime of representation through which the modern nation state has been imagined as an
emancipatory end unto itself, is precisely the reason that fetishizing “total territorial rule”

157 Robbie Shilliam, for example, has attempted to counter the violence of universality by taking the process
of “delinking” from modern expectations of academic scholarship further, and putting other-than-modern
concepts grounded in their own genealogical traditions (specifically the Mãori whakapapa and the
Rastafarai grounation as methods of discovering deep relations and history-sharing between peoples and
cultures) into practice to reject what he calls “colonial science” in favour of “decolonial science.”
Following Shilliam, decolonial science seeks to turn over and engage with “pasts” using other-than modern
frames of reference. It is possible to critique the modern/colonial practices of history and science, but also
to engage in the reconstructive work of decolonial politics by putting into practice what is reclaimed and relearned through the process. See: Robbie Shilliam, The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles and Oceanic
Connections (London: Bloomsbury, 2015): 1- 11; 43 – 58; 167 – 181.
158 Cristina Rojas, “Contesting the Colonial Logics of the International: Towards a Relational Politics for
the Pluriverse” International Political Sociology 10/4 (2016): 374 – 378.
159 Cf.: S.N. Eisenstadt, “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus 129/1 (2000): 1 – 29; Partha Chatterjee, Our
Modernity (Dakar: SEPHIS & CODESRIA, 1997).
160 Arturo Escobar. “Thinking-Feeling with the Earth: Territorial Struggles and the
Ontological Dimensions of the Epistemologies of the South.” Revisita de Antropologia Iberoamericana
11/1(2015): 11 – 32. ; Glen Coulthard, Red Skins White Masks (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 2014); Mario Blaser, “Ontological Conflicts and the Stories of Peoples in Spite of Europe:
Towards a Conversation on Political Ontology” Current Anthropology 54/5 (2013): 547 – 568.
76
remains central to postcolonial conflicts today. Following Isabelle Stengers, universal
thinking was, at the onset within the philosophy of science, a way of compartmentalizing
and narrowing the range of who counts as speaking with authority and thus possess the
capabilities of having and producing knowledge. In a recent keynote lecture at St. Mary’s
University in Halifax, Stengers explains that the well-established tradition of publishing
in academic journals for other narrowly focused experts could be a self-conscious
strategy of continuing to exclude unqualified voices on a range of issues of global
concern.161
By examining coloniality as the constitutive flipside of modernity, the
intertwining of deeply entrenched Eurocentric ideas about the linear movement of human
history and spatial developments with the modern nation state as a “natural” end becomes
clear. The power of this pervasive statist discourse, I argue, has blocked formerly
colonized peoples from charting pluriversal decolonial pathways that challenge the
universal singularity of the Eurocentric, territorial nation-state as the only game in town.
While critical theory rightly identifies the ways in which capitalism in the Global South
has served neo-colonial interests, I contend that in addition to capitalism, both the state
and the system of states in which we are embedded are symptoms of the broader problem
of colonial modernity. In the time and place of the 1940s and 1950s, especially
considering the nationalist movements and institutional organizing that had created the
conditions through which independence was brokered in Ceylon, self-rule was indeed the
logical starting point of decolonization. Ceylon is a fine example, however, of a country
that, by this time, was seen by the international community to be a model example for

161 Isabelle Stengers, “Cosmopolitics: Learning to Think With Sciences, Peoples, and Natures.” Keynote
presentation of “To See Where it Takes Us” series, Halifax, Nova Scotia. March 5, 2012.
http://goo.gl/4Pt4du.
77
modern post-colonial leadership because of good economic fundamentals and elite-level
cooperation of different ethnic groups within the country. Even when the first government
of J.S. Senanayake passed legislation to disenfranchise a subset of the island’s Tamil
population – the descendants of the migrant labourers from the rise of coffee plantations
in the Kandyan interior – it was not met with disapproval from the Tamil leaders in the
North on the basis that these migrant labourers were understood to be outside of the body
politic, or fledgling Ceylonese national identity.162
The failure to recognize the inherent structural, colonial violence associated with
becoming modern nation states works to naturalize the ahistorical assumption that the
“state” is the same in the Global North and the South without due regard for how it came
into being through relationships of power. By this I do not mean that all states are
identical, but that the modern nation state as a concept relies on ontological assumptions
that may have resonance in the European genealogy of thought, but that have only been
enforced through the modern/colonial encounter as being “universally” applicable around
the world. Social science has largely dealt with the fissures arising from the ontological
distinctions (see chapter two) by relegating to the realm of “culture” or “mythology” the
practices that have given and continue to give territory meaning in different parts of the
world as lacking in truth or validity.
163 Put another way by Walter Mignolo,
Modernity has its own internal critics (psychoanalysis, Marxism, postmodernism), but
in the Third World the problems are not the same as in the First, and therefore to
transplant both the problems and methods from the First to the Third World is no less a

162 I have discussed some of the details of the immediate postcolonial transition elsewhere, and will write on
this subject in the future in light of recently acquired archival documents from this period; however, with
this dissertation’s focus on the question of the process of becoming the modern nation state, I roll back the
clock to the early 19th century to explore the tensions out of which the norms and structures of the modern
territorial state first came to be accepted. See: Ajay Parasram, “Postcolonial Territory and the Coloniality of
the State,” Caribbean Journal of International Relations & Diplomacy 2/4 (2014): 51 – 79.
163 Robbie Shilliam, The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles and Oceanic Connections (London:
Bloomsbury Academic, 2015): 128 – 129.
78
colonial operation than transplanting armies or factories to satisfy the needs of the First
World.164
While I disagree with Mignolo about the equivalences of military and intellectual projects
in practice – Cortez with a quill would not likely have been as destructive as Cortez with
arms – there is good sense in differentiating between intellectual attacks from “within”
modernity and those “outside” of modernity. 165 With the context of coloniality,
pluriversality, and universality in mind, I turn now to the literatures on state formation to
examine their contributions and limitations in terms of the dissertation’s emphasis on
becoming the state.
Section Two: State Formation and Decolonial Thinking
Externalizing Violence, Relational State Formation, and Empire
In this section, I seek to demonstrate that the European nation-state is as much a product
of the colonial encounter in the 19th century, as the conditions of “internal” peace in
Europe represent only the “modern” side of the coin. Its colonial flipside however, speaks
to the experience of externalized violence through transformation and attempts to erase
logics of land, cosmology, and economy, the empirical stories of which I will elaborate in
the rest of the dissertation.
Scholars of state formation are divided about the origins and most significant
causes of the rise and spread of the modern nation state, but generally speaking, this tends
to be placed sometime during the lead up to the Treaties of Westphalia in the 1640s, the
transformation of property relations and rise of Britain as the first modern state, and the

164 Walter Mignolo. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options (Durham:
Duke University Press, 2011): 239.
165 A sentiment shared, and well-articulated by Pal Ahluwalia as well. See: Pal Ahluwalia, “Out of Africa:
Post-structuralism’s Colonial Roots,” Postcolonial Studies 8/2 (2005): 137 – 154.
79
rise of the 19th century Balance of Power marking the alleged 100 years of peace between
the fall of Napoleon and the rise of World War I.166 The modern, colonial state, as this
section will argue, is not a naturally occurring structure, but is rather a particularly
important formulation of modern, colonial power. The violence of universal thinking that
enables the rise of the state as a universal container, however, is of older vintage. The
violence of universality and its silencing of pluriversal traditions through the exercise of
material and discursive power in the colonial encounter is not only a British imperial
phenomenon. As Antony Anghie observes, writing on the colonial origins of international
law in the work of the 15th/16th century legal theorist Francisco de Vitoria, the seemingly
progressive granting of rational human status to Indians167 perversely legitimized Spanish
aggression against them by integrating the Indian into a system of natural law that
insisted on a common ontological configuration of land and territory. Anghie writes,
The universal divine law administered by the Pope is replaced by the universal
natural law system of jus gentium whose rules may be ascertained by the use of
reason. As a result, it is precisely because the Indians possess reason that they are
bound by jus gentium.168
Rojas, drawing on Anghie and Pagden, argues that it was the recognition of indigenous
peoples as equal to the Spanish, but only through a Spanish reasoning and cultural,
spiritual, and legal knowledge that came with its own ontology of land as something
separate from humanity and in need of being conquered/mastered, which justified the

166 Jordan Branch, “Mapping the Sovereign State: Technology, Authority, and Systemic Change,”
International Organization 65/1 (2011): 1 – 36; Benno Teschke, “Theorizing the Westphalian System of
States: International Relations from Absolutism to Capitalism,” European Journal of International
Relations 8/1 (2002): 5-48; Stuart Elden The Birth of Territory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
2013) 310 – 315; Peter Taylor, “The State as Container: Territoriality in the Modern World System”
Progress in Human Geography 18/2(1994): 151 – 162.
167 by which he meant the indigenous people of contemporary Latin America and the Caribbean.
168 Antony Anghie, “Francisco de Vitoria and the Colonial Origins of International Law,” Social & Legal
Studies 5/3 (1996): 325.
80
genocidal politics of the colonial encounter. The failure of the “Indians” to recognize the
universal validity of Spanish values was evidence, for the Spanish, of racial inferiority.169
Vitoria’s assertion of universal reason thus denies the distinctiveness of indigenous
ontologies of “sovereignty,” and through integrating indigenous people into a legal
framework that developed genealogically within Europe (but always with reference to an
“outside”), could justify the dispossession of indigenous peoples while extending the
European imaginary that its ideas carried universal validity. 170
The violence of universality is not always so obvious, however. As Bhambra has
recently argued, seminal work on state formation within comparative historical sociology
has ignored the imperial context and relationality and transnationality inherent to state
formation which counters the methodological utility and influence of “ideal types” of
states that can be compared across historical and geographical contexts. This is not a
problem of left- or right-leaning intellectuals; rather, it is part and parcel of a commitment
to a modern, scientific form of reasoning in the study of state formation, encoded in the
canonical works on the subject by Max Weber, Karl Marx, or more contemporarily,
Charles Tilly or Anthony Giddens.171 Though she does not frame it as such, Bhambra
appears to be in agreement with John Agnew’s famous call to avoid the “territorial trap”
which, in IR in particular, is a trap that has enabled an erasure of the complex sociologies
and geographies that have given rise to the now universal state.172 While Agnew is not
necessarily in disagreement with the general approach of Tilly’s triumph of the state

169 Cristina Rojas, “Contesting the Colonial Logics of the International: Towards a Relational Politics for
the Pluriverse” International Political Sociology 10/4 (2016): 372.
170 Karena Shaw, Indigeneity and Political Theory: Sovereignty and the limits of the political (New York:
Routledge, 2008): 17 – 39.
171 Gurminder K. Bhambra, “Comparative Historical Sociology and the State: Problems of Method,”
Cultural Sociology 10/3 (2016): 335 – 351.
172 John Agnew, “The Territorial Trap: The Geographical Assumptions of International Relations Theory,”
Review of International Political Economy 1/1 (1994): 53 – 80.
81
model and its mobster-like use of strategic violence, 173 or Stuart Elden’s call for
genealogical specificity in territorial formations where Europe is indeed but one site of
inquiry, Bhambra’s methodological critique outlines the impossibility of thinking about
state territory in the postcolonial world in the absence of its direct relation to European
empire, and vice versa.
174 Though Bhambra’s concern is with the methodological implications of this problem for comparative historical sociology, her intervention highlights the importance of thinking about state formation in the colonial world as a fundamentally global, or at least imperial, project, which helps to expose the violence of universality in scholarship that does not engage with the colonial question in seeking
explanations for socio-political developments in Europe. This is a point that Benedict
Anderson has spoken to in the context of “nation” formation rather than state formation,
referring specifically to the origins of the European “nation” in Latin American
nationalism and postcolonialism in the 19th century. Anderson also shows the relationality
of modern nationalism and empire in his distinction between “official” nationalism,
which is a dialectical response to the rise of popular grassroots nationalism and thus an
elite attempt to consolidate sovereign authority in the state. This approach, as Anderson
demonstrates, was not unique to Europe, and Japanese nationalism took on a particularly
modern and imperial structure.175
In addition to the empirical and methodological point that Bhambra’s article
draws attention to, she also demonstrates the way insightful research invested in modern

173 Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States: AD 990 – 1992 (Malden: Blackwell, 1992);
Charles Tilly, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime” in Peter B. Evans et. al., (eds.)
Bringing the State Back In, 169-191. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).
174 Gurminder K. Bhambra, “Comparative Historical Sociology and the State: Problems of Method,”
Cultural Sociology 10/3 (2016): 335 – 351.
175 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983); Cf. Rabindranath Tagore,
“Nationalism in Japan.” The Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore. Accessed August 20, 2013.
https://goo.gl/32uj72.
82
thinking can often be blind to what ought to be obvious points, as they relate to the
colonial encounter. For example, Anthony Giddens’ thoughtful work on the relationship
of violence and the modern nation-state nevertheless obscures the two-way relationship
through which state formation influenced both Europe and the colonies. He uses the term
“nation-states” to refer to European states, and flips the concept to “state-nations” to
describe post-colonial states with special reference to those emerging from the British
imperial system. I agree with Giddens’ categorization of “state-nations” in identifying the
fact that the normalization of the “state” predates the tenuous nation in British South
Asia, but he overstates the discreteness with which states formed.176 Giddens fits into the
methodological critique Bhambra offers of presenting ideal types that miss the inherent
relationality of state formation, as his study clearly positions the birth of states in an
“original, i.e., Western habitat.”177
Giddens, building off of Foucault, advances the idea that a defining characteristic
of modern nation-states in Europe has been the gradual diminishing of the use of violence
as a means of coercion within the boundaries of the state.178
Acknowledging that the degree and effectiveness of internal pacification varied throughout Europe and that its success in Britain was remarkably quick, he explains that the development of industrial
capitalism played a decisive role in altering the use of force within European states.179
Building off of Marx, Giddens argues that, “‘dull economic compulsion,’ plus the
surveillance made possible by the concentration of labour within the capitalist work-place

176 Here, Partha Chatterjee’s distinction between an externally performed or represented homogenous
nationalism towards the rest of the world, and an internally fragmentary and contested understanding of
nationalism for “insiders” is useful. See: Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments (Princeton,
Princeton University Press, 1993): 1 – 15.
177 Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1987): 5.
178 Ibid., 187
179 Ibid., 189 – 191
83
replaces the direct possibility of coercion by the use of force.”180 Thus, the internalized
disorder that preceded the rise of industrial society in Europe was one that relied on the
blunt application and threat of force, in which rogues and robbers ruled the highways and
the application of force and threat to take life was the only guarantee of safety. Demilitarization of the state is an essential component of coercion by commercial means for Giddens, and this view echoes the views of early 19th century writers like Benjamin Constant, that commerce and capitalism marked a separation between a pre-modern past of violence and war, and a modern present of “civilized” conduct through which the incentive structures of commercial society would render war anachronistic.181
I will return to Constant through Anthony Pagden’s discussion of “divided sovereignty” later in this chapter, but for now, the point to draw attention to is that the claim that internal pacification through demilitarization with modern industrial capitalism in Europe, fails to recognize that at the same time, one sees the externalization of European violence in the colonies. In the case of Ceylon, as I will explain in chapters two to four, liberal colonial reforms only transformed violence, they did not pacify subject
populations even though from the point of view of colonial officials and missionaries, the
population was pacified. Colonial capitalist and administrative reforms did not demonstrate a diminished use of force, rather, they were predicated on the necessity of dismantling ontologically distinct ways of organizing life and replacing them with a satellite commercial relationship to other hubs of the imperial economy.182 Siba Grovogui masterfully demonstrates how any internal conditions of peace within Europe in the 19th

180 Ibid., 191
181 Cf. Anthony Pagden, “Fellow Citizens and Imperial Subjects: Conquest and Sovereignty in Europe’s
Overseas Empires,” History and Theory 44 (2005): 28 – 46.
182 I discuss this in reference to the pre-colonial Kandyan political economy in chapter three.
84
century were predicated on applying the rules of international relations differently.
Grovogui notes that through the colonial encounter, African sovereigns were downgraded
from being seen as equal to Christian/European modes to necessarily inferior, which
presented “failed” African states under the 19th century balance of power as raw fodder
upon which “failed” European states like Belgium could thrive through expropriation.183
An obscure state like Belgium, following Grovogui, was viable only because the tacit
agreement of the so-called Great Powers externalized violent accumulation to the Congo
which exemplifies the inherent racial foundation to primitive accumulation as well as
advanced capitalist industrialization.
Sovereignty and Territory
The externalization of British violence to its colonies in the 19th century invites a number
of important considerations about the meaning of sovereignty, its relationship to state,
territory, and empire. In this section I draw selectively on some of the vast literatures
concerned with questions of this nature, with the main objective of highlighting why a
pluriversal and decolonial perspective contributes to discussions concerning sovereignty.
There are no easily acceptable definitions for what “sovereignty” means, though
few would contest that the most conventional use of the term reflects its pairing with the
structure of the “state,” specifically referring to the absolute autonomy of the state to do
as it will within the confines of its borders. Following Max Weber, the state can be
defined as a “human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate

183 Siba Grovogui, “Regimes of Morality: International Morality and the African Condition,” European
Journal of International Relations 8/3 (2002): 315 – 338.
85
use of physical force within a given territory.”184 There are many assumptions within this
formulation of the state, including the presumption that territory and people are discrete
entities, that human communities are the logical point of departure for organizing life, and
that violence is a legitimate means of achieving order. I will take up the question of
ontologies of “sovereign” practices in chapter two, but for this chapter’s emphasis on the
coloniality of the structure of the modern state, I wish to dwell on the conventional
grafting of state and sovereignty. Here I seek to outline the epistemological and
ontological aspects of historical research on sovereignty and territory, situating them
within a European genealogy that becomes globalized through the age of empire(s). By
bringing a pluriversal lens to bear on this literature, I aim to bring into focus the need to
understand sovereignty and territory as pluriversal notions with histories in different parts
of the world which come into contact through the externalization of violence in the
modern, colonial encounter.
The common account of sovereignty in much 20th century structural IR
scholarship emphasized the critical juncture that the signing of the Peace Treaties at
Westphalia in 1648 had for wedding sovereignty to internally and externally recognized
territorial boundaries, as well as the philosophical importance of Grotius, Bodin, Hobbes,
and Rousseau in particular. 185 Many IR scholars argue that 1648 has been a time of
exaggerated significance, perhaps even giving rise to a “myth” of the Westphalian

184 Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation” (1919):1. Accessed August 20, 2103. http://anthroposlab.net/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Weber-Politics-as-a-Vocation.pdf.
185 Cf: Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory (Chicago University Press, 2013): 279 – 321; Nicholas Onuf,
“Sovereignty: Outline of a Conceptual History” Alternatives 16 (1991): 425 – 446; Jacques Maritain, “The
Philosophical Attack” in W.J. Stankiewicz (ed.) In Defense of Sovereignty, 41 – 64, (London: Oxford
University Press, 1969); Joseph A. Camilleri, “Rethinking Sovereignty in a Shrinking, Fragmented World,”
in R.B.J. Walker and Saul H. Mendlovitz (eds.) Contending Sovereignties: Redefining Political Community,
13 – 44, (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990).
86
argument sketched together long after the fact and then read backwards into history.186
John Ruggie reminds us that while systems of rule have always been about the
organization of power, systems of rule have not always been territorially fixed, exclusive,
and at times, they have not been territorial at all.187
When, and where, then, does territory
and sovereignty fuse together?
Following Nicholas Onuf, the “standard” IR definition of sovereignty refers not to
a political community, so much as it does to a defined territory. The eminent classical
realist, Hans Morgenthau, dates sovereignty to the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648,
defining sovereignty as a political “fact” of supreme power.188 This implies an implicit
internal and external dimension of sovereignty. In his genealogical account of sovereignty
however, Jens Bartelson argues that it is important to avoid the ontological and historical
mistake of tying sovereignty and anarchy together:
the ontological primacy accorded to the state in international political theory
implies the givenness of sovereignty as its defining property; sovereignty signifies
what is inside the state, either constituted by the fall from a primordial unity, or
simply taken for granted at the level of definition. In either case, sovereignty is
constituted as a primitive presence from which all theorizing necessarily must
depart, if it is to remain international political theorizing. 189
Assuming dividing lines between internal and external sovereignty exemplifies a form of
presentism through which a late modern (and Eurocentric) understanding is projected into
the past, removing from inquiry the ways through which these notions of internal and

186 Cf: Andreas Osiander, “Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth” International
Organization 55/2 (2001): 251 – 287 ; Turan Kayaoglu, “Westphalian Eurocentrism in International
Relations Theory,” International Studies Review 12 (2010): 193 – 217.
187 John Ruggie, “Territoriality and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations”
International Organization 47/1 (1993): 148 – 150.
188 Onuf, Nicholas. “Sovereignty: Outline of a Conceptual History” Alternatives 16 (1991): 430.
189 Jens Bartelson, A Genealogy of Sovereignty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995): 24
87
external sovereignty took route. 190As Stephen Krasner observes, the tendency to see
sovereignty as merely an attribute synonymous with the state has long since required
problematizing. The fact that “final authority” within a given territory has always, in
practice, if not in theory, been challenged throughout the history of the state system
provides evidence to this effect.
191 Belief in the durability of Westphalian sovereignty
persists, argues Krasner, notwithstanding its constant violations.192 The assumption of
sovereignty meaning absolute rule over a given territory is well rehearsed and persistent,
but as Ruggie in particular has argued, tied up with this assumption is a necessarily static
understanding of sovereignty, which in turn is both a historical and conceptual fallacy.193
Such a fixed conception of sovereignty, argues Onuf, presents “internal sovereignty” as
something that “enables modernity to fulfil its many possibilities within states.
Meanwhile, “external sovereignty” denies the possibility of any such change in the
relations of states.”194In his conceptual history of sovereignty, Onuf argues that state
sovereignty is a modern phenomenon and conceptual innovation made possible by the
decline of the Roman church in the temporal sphere, alongside a decline in nominal
empire, rise in autonomy of principalities and importantly, the international relations and
diplomacy between these small units unhindered by the larger scale authority of either
church or empire. 195 Sovereignty is a modern, conceptual innovation for Onuf, with

190 Jens Bartelson, A Genealogy of Sovereignty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995): 60
191 Stephen Krasner, “Sovereignty: An Institutional Perspective” Comparative Political Studies 21/1 (1988):
88; David Armitage, Foundations of Modern International Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2013): 215.
192 Stephen Krasner, Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999): 9.
193 David A. Lake, “The New Sovereignty in International Relations” International Studies Review 5/3
(2003): 308; John Ruggie, “Continuity and Transformation in the World Polity: Towards a Neorealist
Synthesis” in Robert Keohane (ed.) Neorealism and its Critic, 131 – 158. (New York: Colombia University
Press, 1986); Jens Bartelson, A Genealogy of Sovereignty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995):
61.
194 Onuf, Nicholas. “Sovereignty: Outline of a Conceptual History” Alternatives 16 (1991): 432.
195 Ibid., 434
88
antecedents including the Latin majestas, imperium, and a sense of the “populace.”196 In
the modern age, “nationalism gave rise to the principle that every nation needs and
deserves the protective shell of a sovereign state in order to fulfil its potential.”197
The political philosopher and theologian, Jacques Maratain argues sovereignty
cannot be divorced from the spiritual context out of which the concept emerges. Applying
sovereignty to an embodied leader, group of people, or territorially bounded political
institutions is a philosophical misconception based on misunderstanding the genealogy of
the term itself. Maritain discusses the problems arising from imprecise translation of
Greek words in Western philosophy, which give rise to what he sees as the “original sin”
that enabled philosophers like Hobbes and Rousseau to appropriate the concept of
sovereignty and apply it to an embodied leader, or general population respectively.198
Maritain takes issue with the translation of the Greek “civitas” to the English “state,”
arguing that the word should more appropriately be understood as “commonwealth” or
“body politic.” Similarly, “the words pincipatus and suprema potestas are often translated
with “sovereignty,” the words kurios or princeps (“ruler”) with “sovereign.”199 Critiquing
Hobbes’ application of sovereignty to the body of the “Mortal God” within Leviathan, as
well as Rousseau’s grafting of sovereign power onto the people in the general will,
Maritain strives to show how both attempts forget that the etymology of “sovereign”
implies the transference of power and authority from the people to a transcendent

196 Ibid.
197 Ibid., 439
198 Jacques Maritain, “The Philosophical Attack” in W.J. Stankiewicz (ed.) In Defense of Sovereignty, 41 –

  1. (London: Oxford University Press, 1969).
    199 Jacques Maritain, “The Philosophical Attack” in W.J. Stankiewicz (ed.) In Defense of Sovereignty,
    (London: Oxford University Press, 1969): 43. See footnote 9 in particular, where Maritain elaborates upon
    the specifics of the translation of these words in Aristotle and Aquinas. The question of translation is also
    fundamentally a question of ontological starting points, as I will elaborate upon in chapter two’s discussion
    of ontologies of sovereignty in the meeting of British and Kandyan genealogies of sovereignty.
    89
    sovereign that is necessarily separate from the people. Hobbes introduces a conception of
    “the state of nature” as a way to describe the arbitrary violence that prevails in the
    absence of order, arguing that rational men will seek to leave that state of nature and
    secure protection through the willing sacrifice of their liberty to a sovereign in exchange
    for living within the sovereign territory.200 While the immediate context of the Thirty
    Years War in Europe was clearly on Hobbes’ mind when penning Leviathan, it is worth
    noting the considerable irony of Hobbes’ situation of brutish violence as being
    characteristic of “uncivilized” existence, given the genocides and subjugation of
    indigenous peoples as a result of early contact with Europeans in the 150+ years leading
    up to the publication of his book.
    201 From a pluriversal perspective, ontologically
    assuming a relationship between territory and sovereignty presupposes that all people
    relate to territory in the same way, which as Karena Shaw argues in her reading of
    Hobbes, creates not only a natural division between an inside and outside, but an outside
    within which there is an absence of order, lawfulness or justice.
    The ‘outside’ is awful. Life ‘there’ is not pleasant. But it is also more than that: it
    is brutish. There is no account of time, no way to give one’s life meaning, no way
    to change one’s condition, no way to create or relate to a collective, a community.
    There is no progress. Thus sovereignty is marked not only by peace, but by an
    entire – quite specific – attitude towards time, history, meaning.202
    The very premise of a state of nature that is “outside” of political order reserves for
    Europe alone the ability to possess and inhabit order. The ontological point to emphasize
    here, is not whether Hobbes was right or wrong, rather, it is that the metaphor he develops
    has been further developed and emerges within a context of indigenous dispossession and

200 Martin Carnoy, The State & Political Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984): 15 – 17.
201 Pat Moloney, “Hobbes, Savagery, and International Anarchy,” American Political Science Review 105/1
(2011): 189 – 204.
202 Karena Shaw, Indigeneity and Political Theory: Sovereignty and the limits of the political (New York:
Routledge, 2008): 32.
90
active attempts by European colonizers to dismantle ways of being without ever
understanding the ontological basis of different notions of territory and cosmology.203
The political and spiritual context of European “sovereignty” at the time when
Hobbes was writing was an imperial one grounded in a secular (temporal) emperor and a
spiritual emperor in the form of the Pope within the Holy Roman Empire. It was a
conception of sovereignty that is absolutist in essence, which, Maratain contends, is a
contradiction because a power that is absolute cannot be territorially bounded. Territory
in Europe, however, was not yet a requirement for sovereignty, which is a point
developed by Stuart Elden in his genealogical account of the concept. 204 Political
geographers in particular have drawn attention to the way that social science has used the
term “territory” to mean various different things such as land, or terrain, which has
created the illusion that territory could be seen to be a “passive spatial recipient” of the
state.205 The resulting “trap” of territory has interestingly not been that scholars have
ignored the centrality of place and space in the formation of territory; rather, as Agnew
argues, “social science has been too geographical and not sufficiently historical, in the
sense that geographical assumptions have trapped considerations of social and politicaleconomic processes into geographical structures and containers that defy historical

203 Working from Marx and Fanon, Glen Coulthard develops a concept of “grounded normativity” in which
he draws on a Dene placed-based ontology of land to argue that primitive accumulation leading to the rise
of modern capitalism depended first and foremost on indigenous dispossession and the denial of indigenous
ontologies. See: Glen Sean Coulthard, Red Skins White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of
Recogntion (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).
204 Stuart Elden, Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press 2009).
205 Cf: A. Brighenti, “On Territorology: Towards a General Science of Territory,” Theory, Culture, and
Society 27/1(2010): 52 – 72; John Agnew, “Still Trapped in Territory,” Geopolitics 15/4 (2010) 779 – 784;
Stuart Elden, Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press 2009): 161 – 169.
91
change.”206 Stuart Elden clearly links territory to history and power, arguing in his 2013
book on the subject that “Territory comprises techniques for measuring land and
controlling terrain. Measure and control – the technical and the legal – need to be thought
alongside land and terrain.” 207 A historical and political analysis of territory, then,
becomes very centrally related to the state; however, Elden’s specific definition of the
term is not uniformly accepted. For example, Saskia Sassen argues that Elden’s definition
of territory is overly limited, and thus gives meaning to territory only truly through the
state, when territory perhaps could and should be more abstractly defined to help
understand configurations of social power prior to the rise of the state. 208 Sassen’s
critique of Elden’s conception of territory is important in terms of challenging the
universality of Eurocentric definitions of terms and the trade-off between specificity and
ability to explain, as it opens up the possibility for pluriversal explanations grounded in
history.
Maritain’s claims about the absolute meaning of sovereignty is not unprecedented,
but it does fall victim to John Ruggie’s criticism that sovereignty is held to be static when
it should be understood as an evolving concept – one which, as Onuf suggests – takes on
its full meaning only in the modern (colonial) world. Thinking pluriversally about the
development of “sovereignty” not so much as a static term, but rather, as a way of
organizing life related to different notions of territory, I would suggest that Maritain
correctly identifies and traces a an understanding of sovereignty that emerges out of the
Christian European experience. As Bartleson insists,

206 John Agnew, “The Hidden Geographies of Social Science and the Myth of the ‘Geographical Turn,’”
Environment and Planning D: Society & Space 13 (1995): 379 – 380.
207 Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory (Chicago University Press, 2013): 323.
208 Saskia Sassen, “Making territory work analytically beyond its connection to the state” in Stephen Legg,
“The Birth of Territory: A Review Forum.” Journal of Historical Geography 50(2015): 109 – 188.
92
We cannot demand, however, that the history of thought should supply us with
solutions to our own problems… we must learn from the past: the alien character
of past beliefs is what constitutes their relevance to our present, since our own
concepts nevertheless evolved out of them. 209
I agree with Bartleson, but also insist that the genealogies of “sovereignty” are evidence
of a pluriverse of multiple ontologies and ways of relating, within which the Eurocentric
understanding of territory, religion, and authority is just one among many others.
Sovereignty, if it is to be understood historically, cannot be divorced from its geographic,
cosmological, and historical configuration. The “standard account” and the preponderant
understanding of what this means reflects the violence of universal state formation in the
19th century, as this is the period of imperial expansion through which Europe sought
most actively to dismantle other ways of organizing life within a given region, using
techniques grounded in Eurocentric ontologies of land. “Territory” then, needs to be
separated from its Eurocentric roots if we are to be able to study the process through
which one form of territory was made to yield to another form of territory through 19th
century empire. Sassen offers a more general description of territory, saying it should be
seen as a
complex capability with embedded logics of power (which in our western
modernity found its most accomplished form in the modern state) and embedded
logics of claim-making (which again, in our western modernity found its most
accomplished form in today’s understanding of citizenship).210
Following Sassen, territory is untethered from its Eurocentric origins, and as we will see
in chapter two, opens pluriversal space to understand ontologically distinct notions of
territory and spatial organizations.

209 Jens Bartelson, A Genealogy of Sovereignty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995): 65.
210 Saskia Sassen, “Making territory work analytically beyond its connection to the state” in Stephen Legg,
“The Birth of Territory: A Review Forum.” Journal of Historical Geography 50 (2015): 115.
93
Sassen’s point does not, however, undermine the importance of Elden’s emphasis
on understanding the historical significance of the evolution of territory within Europe.
This is precisely the point of looking at the historical and ontological context associated
with the development of notions of sovereignty in different parts of the world. As Pat
Moloney has argued, written into Hobbes’ assumptions that “savages” living in a state of
nature presupposes that there are not other manifestations of sovereignty, and so called
savages live in anarchy, which we know to be historically incorrect. 211 According to
Elden, an important and understated aspect of Hobbes’ contribution to the development of
territory and sovereignty is the specific referencing to boundedness within his writing.
The context of sovereignty before Hobbes was one in which sovereignty, like Maritain
reminds us, was limitless, universal, and vested in the spiritual realm. According to
Elden, Hobbes is
still trying to work with an earlier model: his aim is for absolute sovereignty – that
is, sovereignty without limits – which is what we previously understood as
temporal power but without a counterbalance of spiritual power. Yet in other
respects his arguments break new ground. The notion of the empowered sovereign
being constituted from the individuals who authorized it is a powerful notion. As
Hobbes suggests, “The Multitude so united in one Person, is called a COMMONWEALTH, in latine CIVITAS. This is the Generation of that great LEVIATHAN.”212
The point is that in forming the great Leviathan as a literal body politic, the sovereign
surveys a bounded Christian territory as represented in the famous illustration on the front
cover of the book. This is an important break in political theory, where the centrality of
territory to sovereignty becomes important.213 Reading Hobbes through his responses to
Bellarime, Elden argues that Hobbes “suggests that a plurality of Christian sovereigns had

211 Pat Moloney, “Hobbes, Savagery, and International Anarchy,” American Political Science Review 105/1
(2011): 189 – 204.
212 Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013): 301
213 Ibid., 302 – 303
94
rights of sovereignty in their multiple territories, and that the pope does not have civil
power except in the territories he directly controls.”214 This fragmentation of universal
sovereign power across all land vested in the pope as Christ’s representative on earth, and
then further down to territorially bounded Christian monarchs, is arguably a central
component to the development of sovereign territory at the heart of the much later,
modern, territorial state.
Empire
Although most accounts of the rise of sovereignty and its meaning of absolute rule over a
bounded territory is traced to Westphalia or 19th century imperialism, Anthony Pagden
argues that it is a much older concept originating at least with the age of Cicero. For
Pagden, classical notions of empire onwards required a moral justification of defence in
order to justify what is in every case, a violent conquest as empire expands. When
European powers were expanding overseas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
Pagden argues that there was“considerable anxiety as to what kind of rights, if any, they
might have in the territories they occupied. The debates to which this anxiety gave rise
turned inevitably on the question of how wars of occupation and dispossession could be
presented as wars of defense.”215 The resolution of these questions, at least from the
vantage point of debates in international law as discussed in Rojas’ and Anghie’s work on
Vitoria in the above, saw the violence of universal thinking in forcing indigenous people
into Spanish categories that precluded their ability to engage in just war and justified
Spanish violence against them. Sovereignty, from the time of the Spanish conquistadors

214 Ibid., 301
215 Anthony Pagden, “Fellow Citizens and Imperial Subjects: Conquest and Sovereignty in Europe’s
Overseas Empires,” History and Theory 44 (2005): 30.
95
onwards in the Eurocentric understanding of the term, had neo-Aristotelian roots,
meaning “perfect community” that implied undividedness.216
This indivisibility was not a constant for empire however, and Pagden argues that
it was precisely the change in thinking of sovereignty as something that was divisible,
particularly in the aftermath of Napoleon’s attempt to build empire from within
continental Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century, that enabled a shift into a
second period of modern colonial “empire,” – what Pagden calls “empire two.” In the first
period of modern empire, which ended between 1776 – 1830, sovereignty followed a
logic of indivisibility. In the late 18th and early 19th century in particular, the differences
and overlap between the nature of settler-colonial empires in contemporary North
America and those parts of the empire like South Asia which were not settler-colonies,
created internal imperial debates on the asymmetric treatment of the two. The application
of singular sovereignty meant, for late 18th century thinkers like Adam Smith and
Edmond Burke, that empire ought to mean a single sovereign state across disparate
territories in which everyone was a citizen.217 Burke was very critical of the British East
India Company (BEIC) in particular, because clearly, company rule in India did not offer
subjects and citizens equal rights. Pagden marks this period as ushering in a new
generation of colonial officials who saw reformation and liberal, colonial, forms of
inclusion as the ultimate goal of the British in India – they were not yet present in Ceylon.
This cohort of reformers were informed by the more classical Orientalist scholarship of
their BEIC predecessors who sought to translate and integrate Hindu, Muslim, and British

216 Ibid., 32; Antony Anghie, “Francisco de Vitoria and Colonial Origins of International Law” Social and
Legal Studies 5/3 (1996): 329.
217 Anthony Pagden, “Fellow Citizens and Imperial Subjects: Conquest and Sovereignty in Europe’s
Overseas Empires” History and Theory 44 (2005): 33 – 34.
96
legal traditions. Creating a universal law out of the pluriversal legal tradition within India
ultimately failed because Hindu codes, Islamic Shari’a, and English codes could not be
reconciled. As Pagden writes:
But for all his enthusiasm and Jones’s genuine and deep respect for (at least
ancient) Indian culture, the distances between, on the one hand, a code based on
custom sanctioned by usage, as was the common law, and on the other, those
based on the supposed utterances of gods, as were both the various “Hindu” codes
and the Shari’a, were irreconcilable. Ultimately, if non-Europeans were to be
“citizens” of the empires that had engulfed them and not merely their subjects,
they could only become so by accepting the undivided legislative authority of
their distant sovereign.218
This is important for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly from the
perspective of pluriversal “sovereignty” is the point that when faced with the
irreconcilability of ontologically distinct legal systems, the result of that irreconcilability
remains universalizing a single system, understood to be a superior one. Second, it
demonstrates a clear break in the nature of empire by the early 19th century if we are to
accept Pagden’s date range. We see the rise of the moral discourse of colonialism in this
generational shift, as I discuss in greater detail in chapter three in the context of Ceylon.
Third, and relatedly, we see a moral demarcation between an older “empire 1” and an
“empire 2” in which Napoleonic forces are in decline. Drawing on Benjamin Constant, a
critic of Napoleon, Pagden shows that in Constant’s view, the “modern” world of the 19th
century was one ruled by commerce, which made men “gentle” in their actions.
What the invention of commerce had achieved, entirely despite itself, was a
radical change in the calculation of interest. “War, then, comes before commerce,”
he wrote. “The former is all savage impulse, the latter civilized calculation.” And
in the new world of calculation trade had taken over from empire, since the
“infinite and complex ramifications of commerce have placed the interest of

218 Anthony Pagden, “Fellow Citizens and Imperial Subjects: Conquest and Sovereignty in Europe’s
Overseas Empires” History and Theory 44 (2005): 35.
97
[individual] societies beyond the frontiers of their own territories.” Modernity, in
other words, cannot be other than peaceful and global.219
From a purely Eurocentric point of view, perhaps Constant was correct, until the
assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. As explained earlier however,
the internally pacifying nature of commerce was predicated on the externalization of
violence, taking the form of attempting to destroy ways of relating to and with land that
did not fit within the ontological assumptions of modern capitalism and the modern state
across the other-than European world. Within approaches that consider the role of empire
spreading and universalizing sovereignty, it is the critical juncture after which rule by
empire and commerce come together in the 19th century under a normative framework of
internal (European) pacification, reliant on an externalization of violence of an
ontological and material nature in the colonies, ostensibly in service to a changing
rationality of liberal improvement by the early 19th century. In Pagden’s “empire 2”
differentiation and indirect rule was the method of achieving this form of control, and it
came with the assumption that the ultimate goal of colonial rule was to give up rule to a
graduated population of “less civilized” others who, under European tutelage, learn the
values of capitalism, development, and centralized governance. As Jordan Branch
maintains, it was only in the 19th century that “rule came to be defined exclusively in
terms of territories with boundaries between homogenous spatial authority claims.”220

219Ibid., 36-37.
220 Jordan Branch, “Mapping the Sovereign State: Technology, Authority, and Systemic Change”
International Organization 65/1 (2011): 6.
98
Relational State Formation: Imperial or Transcendent Sovereignty?
Elden believes that within IR literature, broadly speaking, revisionists tend to undersell
the importance of Westphalia and its legacy in the development of modern notions of
both sovereignty and territory, but he agrees that traditional readings of Westphalia
overstate its importance. Following Elden, Westphalia was the codification of an already
existing, internal European imperial logic rather than a radical redefinition of territory and
sovereignty. The word “sovereignty” only appears in the English translation of the Treaty
of Münster. The Latin version of the Osnabrück Treaty refers to “iure territorii et
superioritatis [territorial right and superiority]”221 and Elden notes that the rights defined
in these foundational texts are articulated with reference to the Latin “Statibus Imperii” or
“states within the empire.”222 This seems consistent with Hobbes’ characterization of
Christian rulers: “Every Christian Soveraign [sic] be the Supreme Pastor of his own
Subjects…in their own Dominions,”223 Although the terms of the Osnabrück and Münster
treaties did enable states that were contracting members of the treaties to raise standing
armies, form diplomatic and military alliances, and raise taxes to support their
endeavours, these conditions were preconditioned by the fact that these treaties could not
lead to forming alliances against the empire.224 As Elden explains,
This is indeed the key point: the treaties codified and reinforced an already
existing state of affairs rather than distributing a wider set of rights. The elements
within the empire were not yet states, because these rights came with their status
as constituent parts of the empire. Nonetheless, taken together, these two points
can be seen as crucial stages in the assertion of the state as laying claim to the
monopoly of physical violence, both within the polity and as the means by which
it would exceed its borders.225

221 Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013): 313.
222 Ibid., Elden’s translation.
223 Thomas Hobbes, cited in Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory (2013): 301.
224 Ibid.
225 Ibid.: 314.
99
Elden continues to note that the German word within these treaties that have been
translated into English to mean “territorial sovereignty” is “Landeshoheit,” which,
following Andreas Osiander, ought to be considered “territorial jurisdiction” instead.226
As Turan Kayaoglu argues, the Westphalian centrality was arguably something that took
on its contemporary importance to IR’s understanding of state sovereignty only in the 19th
century, when German historians drew out of the Peace at Westphalia the narrative of
“mutual independence, political tolerance, and the balance of power”227 in the political
context of Napoleonic imperialism within Europe. Importantly, as Kayaoglu explains,
Nineteenth-century jurists added an external dimension to the Westphalian
narrative: lacking a Westphalia-like arrangement, non-European societies
remained in political disorder and religious intolerance. When these societies
“fulfilled” the so-called “standards of civilization” the European states then
“admitted” them into “international society.”228
Kayaoglu’s account draws attention to the historical construction of what Osiander has
called the Westphalian ‘myth.’229
For Maritain, the political transformations of sovereignty do not free the concept
from its essential meaning, and he proposes that a new concept altogether may be
necessary.230 The confusion in thinking of sovereignty as something possessed by a state
or a people is that such approaches (in Hobbes and Rousseau) imply that sovereignty
resides either at the hierarchically ordered top of the political community, or else

226 Andreas Osiander “Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth,” International
Organization 55/2 (2001): 272.
227 Turan Kayaoglu, “Westphalian Eurocentrism in International Relations Theory” International Studies
Review 12(2010): 195.
228 Ibid.
229 Andreas Osiander “Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth,” International
Organization 55/2 (2001): 251-287
230 Jacques Maritain, “The Philosophical Attack” in W.J. Stankiewicz (ed.) In Defense of Sovereignty,
(London: Oxford University Press, 1969): 61.
100
entrusted to the body politic as they assemble to deliberate and decide. But in order to be
true to its history, sovereignty means rising above the body to exercise the transcendent
authority of sovereignty:
Either Sovereignty means nothing, or it means supreme power separate and
transcendent – not at the peak but above the peak (“par dessus tous les sujets)” –
and ruling the entire body politic from above. That is why power is absolute (absolute, that is non-bound, separate), and consequently unlimited, in its extension
as well as in its duration, and not accountable to anything on earth.231
Maritain’s historical and philosophical intervention highlights that the original context in
which “sovereignty” enters Europe, but treated in this way, the concept lacks a dynamic
quality, which, as Pagden’s views on ancient to modern empire demonstrates, involves
considerable change in terms of sovereignty and territoriality.
What is compelling about Maritain’s intervention is that he highlights the
fractious nature of sovereignty, even within the European Christian/secular tradition.
Nevertheless, it bears remembering that Hobbes, Locke, Mill and other seminal European
philosophers were still theorizing about Europe in a way that was fundamentally related
to non-European parts of the world, though they rarely acknowledged this explicitly. The
distinctions, and the conflations, of terms like “state,” “sovereignty,” and “territory”
introduce important questions about the development of these concepts, but also about the
political importance of applying territorial conceptions of sovereignty to bounded places
globally. As Bhambra notes, the extra-territorial extension of European sovereignty to the
colonies in the context of the 19th and 20th centuries relied on a largely assumed
ethnic/racialized understanding of “nation” which, in turn, made imperialism a
constitutive part of economic and political nationalism in Europe in the 19th and 20th
centuries:

231 Ibid., 47.
101
The nation, for Weber, is defined in ethnic terms. It is defined against the Polish
people who may have lived within the borders of the Prussian and then the
German state for centuries and it is defined against all other nations. This
understanding of the nation is simply naturalized – there is no recognition of the
historical complexity or contemporary contradiction – and it is established as the
fundamental value within which social science should operate…I want to argue
that it is perhaps better to reverse this formulation and, instead, see Weber’s
political value system as central to his conceptualization of the nation. It is only
this reversal that enables us to account for his concept of the nation-state failing to
take into consideration his commitment, otherwise, to Germany being a world
power, that is, an imperial state. What we commonly understand as the nation –
and as the concept of the nation bequeathed to us by Weber – was actually an
imperial state. While Weber elides the concept of the nation with imperial power,
what enables the concept to gain traction in its own terms is the omission of
German imperialism from what are presented as “national” histories.232
Using Germany as an illustrative example, Bhambra explains that the concept of
“nation,” and the application of the national well being as being wedded to imperial
expansion in the non-European parts of the world is evidence that the organization of
sovereignty and state had imperial foundations in the practice of state and empire-making
in the 19th century. Nations were united in shared political destinies, which extended to
becoming global powers, scripting the “backward” parts of the world as mere empty land
within which qualified European nations could exercise their national will. Whereas
Hobbes’ universal decree of the “state of nature” strips the world of its pluriversal
practices of what we might crudely translate in English as “sovereignty,” Weber opens
the possibility of incorporating these “savage” places into a national project as part of an
internal Western struggle “to become a world power through overseas expansion.”233
Following Pagden however, this imperial impulse is hardly new, as ancient Rome, the
expansion of territory for the purpose of glorifying, protecting, and growing the nation,

232 Gurminder K. Bhambra, “Comparative Historical Sociology and the State: Problems of Method,”
Current Sociology 10/3 (2016): 341 – 342.
233 Gurminder K. Bhambra, “Comparative Historical Sociology and the State: Problems of Method,”
Current Sociology 10/3 (2016): 343.
102
was very much a part of imperial calculation. 234 From a territorial point of view,
Bhambra’s point is very important, as it demonstrates the inherent transnational function
of 19th century European state formation, and the centrality of colonialism to making that
international system function.
The Telescope of Statist History
The centrality of the state as a vehicle of colonial improvement earns its philosophical
and methodological guidance from G.W.F. Hegel in the early 19th century. Hegel was
instrumental in linking colonization to a moral project by positioning the state as a
universal hierarchical marker of human civilization. With Hegel, the earlier
Enlightenment dictum, “people without writing are people without history,” evolved into
“people without the state are people without history.” The existence of “the state” became
a marker of civilization, understood to be a hierarchal model of social evolution, which
enabled the logic of European supremacy to take on institutional forms.235 That Hegel
saw the state as a marker for social evolution makes sense if one reads him in the context
of growing European imperial power in the late 18th and early 19th century. As Ranajit
Guha notes, “Considered in the light of his evolutionary idea of progress it is a Darwinist
theory somewhat ahead of its time, but one with no pretension at all to scientific
neutrality.”
236 Hegel, as Sidney Hook has argued, understands history in divine terms, and
sees it as the “autobiography of God.” 237 The temporal place of a mortal can only
understand a tiny fraction of the larger universal, absolutist purpose of history within a

234 Anthony Pagden, “Fellow Citizens and Imperial Subjects: Conquest and Sovereignty in Europe’s
Overseas Empires” History and Theory 44 (2005): 28 – 46; Anthony Pagden, European Encounters with
the New World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).
235 Ranajit Guha, History at the Limits of World History. (New York: Colombia University Press, 2002): 41.
236 Ibid.
237 Sidney Hook, From Hegel to Marx (New York: Colombia University Press, 1950): 36
103
Hegelian framework. 238 For Guha, whose work emphasizes Indian history, India and
Indians entered Hegelian World History in 1802 (and by extension, exited the prehistorical world), when Ramram Basu, a Bengali in the employment of the British East
India Company wrote an account of the region that sought to translate the past into a
historical narrative recognizable to the British East India Company. 239 Liberal
historiography was a foundational intellectual and practical expression of British colonial
power, the outcome of which was “history written by Indians themselves in faithful
imitation of the Western statist model.”240 Once South Asians were brought into Hegelian
World History, state education, and Western academia, they embraced it and took up the
practice as a way of proving to the world the worth of “India” and “Indians” through a
statist lens. Part of the motivation for doing this, especially in the late colonial era, was to
show that people of colour could “play the game” as well as or better than the European
colonialists, but the downside is that through accepting the “rules of the game” as
established under modern liberal historiography, structures like state sovereignty,
territorial homogeneity, and large-scale export agriculture have become markers of
political, social, and economic advancement.
By the end of official, institutional colonialism, territorial borders created to
protect delicate imperial negotiations between warring imperial European states who had
dragged the world into “world war” for a second time were at times challenged (for
example, by the partition of India/Pakistan), but the logic of total territorial rule over a
bounded territory in a Weberian sense was, at this point, an accepted norm of global

238 Ibid.
239 Ranajit Guha, Dominance Without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India. (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1997.): 182.
240
Ranajit Guha, History at the Limits of World History (2002): 45.
104
political existence at the elite level. This is not to suggest, however, that this was a
universally shared perspective amongst the people. It is not the case that the hegemony of
the state meant the obliteration of alternatives to total territorial rule, as Maia Ramnath’s
work on South Asian anarchism cited earlier suggests. The point here is that by the time
of formal political independence, the many possible political possibilities about how to
organize territory were already shrouded in darkness, leaving the modern nation state
glimmering in the sun, embedded within a system of states that embodied Eurocentric
ontologies of territory and sovereignty made to fit overtop of other-than-modern
ontologies.
I argue in chapters two and four that the most important period of contention in
the case of Ceylon, where the visibility of pluriversal understandings of these concepts
gave way to the universal state, occurs between ca. 1815 and 1850. The point is not that,
should indigenous ontologies of territory be the ones informing the logic of the territorial
organization, there would be no conflict – my point is only that the force-fitting of
Eurocentric understandings of territory and sovereignty creates a particular kind of
modern, colonial, constellation that defines contemporary territory in universal ways
today. Indigenous ontologies of land have also been fractious, resulting in conflicts,
resolution of conflicts, and the effective management of sociopolitical life in diverse
ways, and why should it be any other way? For example, the galactic mandala system
that underscores pre-colonial state operations in South and Southeast Asia, or the
Haudenosaunee Law of Peace which managed international relations on eastern Turtle
Island for more than 800 years while informing the fledgling American constitution, were
not perfect systems, but they were systems that reflected the genealogies and ontologies
105
of territory and rule within the areas in which they arose.241 Part of the colonial violence
of universality is in the denial of other-than-modern ontologies and cosmologies, and
consequently, part of the work of decolonizing social science lies in reaching into
“uncolonized pasts” and using them to inform decolonizing projects intellectually and
materially.242
Standard/conventional historiography’s writing, coopting, and knowing of a
“scientifically” modernist model of the past is a reflection of the ideological power of
narrating the past using territorial frames of reference that look like states. If one were to
think about social science as a telescope, that scope is calibrated with a view to Europe.
As a consequence, it provides (perhaps) a clearer picture of the socio-political dynamics
of Europe; however, when that scope is swiveled to the east or the west, the calibration no
longer captures the most meaningful picture. Of course, History is always a narrative,
which necessarily means that elements of a much more complex past are curated out in
order to advance a particular master narrative. My point is not that an objective history is
either possible or desirable, only that the process of history-ing in modern social science
is deeply invested in projecting a universal, Eurocentric, understanding of “sovereignty”
and “territory” that limits the scope of possible questions we might ask about how past
organizations of “territory” might better inform decolonial futures.

241 I explore the meeting of ontologies and galactic sovereignty centrally in chapter two. For more on the
Haudenosaunee, see: Susan Hill, “‘Travelling Down the River of Life Together in Peace and Friendship,
Forever’: Haudenosaunne Land Ethics and Treaty Agreements as the Basis for Restructuring the
Relationship with the British Crown” in Leanne Simpson (ed.) Lighting the Eight Fire: The Liberation,
Resurgence, and Protection of Indigenous Nations, 23 – 44, (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2008);
Donald A. Grinde Jr. and Bruce E. Johansen, Exemplar of Liberty: Native America and the Evolution of
Democracy (Los Angeles: American Indian Studies Centre Publications, 1991).
242 Robbie Shilliam, The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles and Oceanic Connections (London:
Bloomsbury, 2015): 1 – 33.
106
By the time of the famous meeting of recently independent states at Bandung in
the 1950s, IR and related fields of social science saw, through the lens of developing
modernization theory, that there was not one inevitable path of “catching up,” but two.243
The Soviet Union and its representation as the alternative path to capitalist modernization
further entrenches modernist reasoning, as the genealogy of Marxism and Leninism
emerges firmly out of a European philosophical and political tradition with a view to
universalism, albeit of a somewhat different economic variety.244
More than just political
colonialism and the state are intertwined, the foundation of the capitalist system and
Western epistemology is invested in this matrix as well. As Mignolo explains,
The expansion of Western capitalism implied the expansion of Western
epistemology in all its ramifications, from the instrumental reason that went along
with capitalism and the industrial revolution, to the theories of the state, to the
criticism of both capitalism and the state.245
Efforts to justify these processes were philosophically linked to the intellectual project of
modernism and the Enlightenment, which has had lasting structural effects across the
social sciences, empowering discursively produced notions of the rational, European self
over the “profane” Oriental other.246As Robbie Shilliam notes,

243 Gurminder K. Bhambra, Connected Soiologies (London: Bloomsbury, 2014): 19 – 39.
244 It is important to acknowledge that anarchism also emerges out of a European genealogy of thought,
especially as I have proposed South Asian engagements with philosophical anarchism as a possible avenue
for charting alternatives to the state earlier in this chapter. As Ramnath argues, there is a difference between
the local lived experiences of organizing society outside of the structure of the state, broadly defined, and
this “small ‘a’ anarchism” cannot be wedded to a single intellectual tradition. James C Scott makes a
similar argument in his work on Southeast Asian peoples actively seeking to live beyond the limits of the
state in uphill Southeast Asia. See: Maia Ramnath, Decolonizing Anarchism (Oakland: AK Press, 2011).
245
Walter Mignolo, “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference.” The South Atlantic
Quarterly 101/1 (2002): 59.
246 Robbie Shilliam, “Non-Western thought and international relations” in Robbie Shilliam (ed.),
International Relations and Non-Western Thought: Imperialism, Colonialism and Investigations of Global
Modernity (New York: Routledge, 2011): 2-3; 13; Martin Munro and Robbie Shilliam, “Alternative sources
of cosmopolitanism: nationalism, universalism and Créolité in Francophone Caribbean thought” in Robbie
Shilliam (ed.), International Relations and Non-Western Thought: Imperialism, Colonialism and
Investigations of Global Modernity (New York: Routledge, 2011): 159-177; see also Edward Said
Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1978).
107
It is within this context that European scholars of the comparative tradition could
assume a universal standard of civilization modeled upon an idealized Western
Europe to define modernity tout court, and thus relegate all other peoples and
cultures in the world to an object of inquiry rather than as thinking subjects of and
on modernity.247
While efforts to “provincialize” Europe have been pursued in postcolonial studies,248
provincialization within a framework of container-states imbued with what are, in reality,
Eurocentric understandings of sovereignty and territory represented as universal
characteristics of human social organization, still misses the violence of universality
encoded in the proliferation of the modern state-nation. Giorgio Shani draws attention to
the fact that the inter-state system cannot be understood as free from the structural
reverberations of the colonial encounter. In an essay concerning the future of international
relations theory (IRT), Shani argues that “the ontological premises of western IRT need
to be rethought not merely ‘enriched by the addition of new voices’ from the global
South.”249 Like Agnew’s warning to avoid the “territorial trap,” Shani’s point warns of
the importance of working through a “coloniality trap” within the inter-state system.
Failure to decolonize the ontological assumptions that hide the co-constitution of
modernity and coloniality further limits our ability to engage the past, and build better
futures.
Conclusion
In this chapter, I have argued that a pluriversal perspective contributes effectively to the
study of state formation because it exposes the co-constitution of modernity, with its

247
Robbie Shilliam, “Non-Western thought and international relations” (2011): 2-3.
248
Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference.
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).
249
Giorgio Shani. “Towards a Post-Western IR: The Umma, Khalsa Panth, and Critical International
Relations Theory,” International Studies Review 2008, 10/4: 723. Emphasis in original.
108
particular notions of state, territory, and sovereignty, in relational terms to “coloniality,”
its co-constitutive ‘dark side.’ This is the violence of universalism applied to territory,
because treating “state-nations” the same as “nation-states” both ignores the centrality of
the colonial encounter to the development of imperial states in Europe, and denigrates
alternative ways of understanding what we must, due to the limits of the colonial English
language, problematically identify here as state, territory, and sovereignty. In this chapter,
I have sought to expose the hidden “coloniality” of the state structure, and to make a case
for a pluriversal approach to re-engaging with pasts in service to better understanding the
processes that worked to artificially universalize Eurocentic notions of territory,
sovereignty, state, and history. If, as I have argued, the universal territorial state is indeed
a manifestation of coloniality, then the ability of Eurocentric concepts to become
universally accepted norms speaks to the de-politicization of “state,” “territory,” and
“sovereignty.” By “de-politicized” I am referring to the naturalization of these concepts
as universally applicable to the colonial world, and of specific use to better understanding
the process of state formation in colonial Ceylon, which is the subject of the remaining
chapters of the dissertation. I am not arguing that the methods of mass mobilization and
nationalism used to articulate a state-centric anti-colonialism in the 19th and 20th century
were not “political;” rather, I am arguing that by the time national movements claiming to
represent the total territorial “writ” of the island of Ceylon began mobilizing in the latter
half of the 19th century, the terms of the struggle for sovereignty, state, and territory had
already been forfeited to a Eurocentric, universal view of what these terms ought to mean
in the modern world. In other words, the process of colonial state formation was
predicated on the violent erasure, or attempted erasure, of other-than-modern ways of life.
As I will elaborate in chapter two, this does not mean that a discrete European
109
understanding of sovereignty destroyed indigenous notions of sovereignty, it is precisely
the ongoing conflict of differing ontologies and cosmologies of “territory” and
“sovereignty” that comprise the colonial assemblage of the modern territorial state in
Ceylon/Sri Lanka, and relationally to the rest of the international system as well. Thus it
is not just that the state of Sri Lanka is an expression of coloniality; the international
system that developed relationally with states itself encompasses the universalizing
colonial violence of state-formation as well.
Pluriversal politics and a decolonial agenda is thus necessarily a global project –
the “West,” broadly speaking, is also in need of decolonization precisely because of the
fact that the modern state and state system is inconceivable without the imperial/colonial
encounter. Understanding modernity and coloniality as being two sides of the same coin
intellectually and practically means the colonial matrix is, as Mignolo says,
a structure not only of management and control of the non-Euro-American world,
but of the making of Europe itself and of defining the terms of the conversations in
which the non-Euro-American world was brought in.250
Following this line of reasoning shows that the development of European territory and
nation-states was not separate from, prior to, or dialectically related to the colonized
places of the world; rather, the constitution of metropolitan-colonial and colonized
territory/place was simultaneously linked in practice. 251 Thinking about the state in
pluriversal terms means thinking decolonially about the development of the state as a
multi-scalar project unfolding locally, imperially, and globally. In this dissertation,
chapters two and four focus on the local scale in the context of Ceylon’s encounter with

250 Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options (Durham:
Duke University Press, 2011): 66-67.
251 Gurminder K. Bhambra, “Comparative Historical Sociology and the State: Problems of Method,”
Current Sociology 10/3 (2016): 335 – 351; Siba Grovogui, Sovereigns, Quasi-Sovereigns, and Africans:
Race and Self Determination in International Law (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1996).
110
the British in the early 19th century, while in chapter three I emphasize the imperial/global
political economic linkages unfolding within which Ceylon and Britain were embedded.
Emphasizing the colonial side of modern territory brings to light the centrality of slavery,
genocide, coerced migration and disruptive geographical transformations of indigenous
places into extractive plantations plugged into the world capitalist economy as servicing
satellites to more advanced industrial states.252 Europe, especially the territorial units of
Spain, England, France, Holland, and Portugal, is inconceivable without reference to
genocide, slavery, coerced migration, and state geo-graphing over the top of indigenous
spatial systems. These processes have given institutional shape to the post-independence
territories across the Global South that have been incorporated into the global system of
states. Re-politicizing territory necessitates moving outside of modern/colonial pathways,
engaging with other-than-modern ideas about state, territory, and sovereignty, and
bringing these ideas into conversation with European ideas. In this way, there is clear
overlap in the core motivations of the postcolonial and decolonial projects as I have
explained them above, though the radical potential of re-politicizing territory cannot be
done using the language and conceptual limitations of modern social science alone.
As rain falls and water moves along a particular trajectory, the earth surrounding
the moving water erodes, creating grooves, drains, tributaries, and even canyons. Over
time, it can be difficult to imagine that water ever ran another way, especially from the
temporal scale of reference of a human being who does not experience this historical
process completely. Like the natural movement of water, rivers and streams change form
and direction over time. But, unlike moving water, the statist “grooves” in which we find
ourselves constricted are not the products of “natural” human development; they are

252 Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (London: Andre Deutsch Limited, 1964 [1944]): 126–154.
111
rather more closely likened to a colonial damming of free-flowing water. These dams
have disciplined movement in a way that has provoked an understanding of the state from
today’s temporal standpoint as being the natural way to exist as a human collectivity, but
in the longue durée, that which appears static is far more fluid.
Re-politicizing territory means destroying the colonial dams and releasing the
decolonial waters to find their many paths to exist. This will be a turbulent and violent
process, just as the destruction of a dam will necessarily be a turbulent and violent
process because creatures embedded in a system respond to the cues of that system. If
towns have been built on stolen land around a dammed river, for example, those towns
may need to be swept away. There is no theorizing in the abstract alone, as indigenous
scholars on Turtle Island working in the indigenous resurgence tradition have long noted,
decolonization is a profoundly material process that is grounded to land.253 It is a radical
project, so attempts to integrate “decolonization” into liberal projects, including the
United Nations and/or attempts at truth and reconciliation in different colonial contexts
remain toothless if they do not mean significant transformation of systemic privilege and
dismantling the “universe” of Eurocentric understandings of the world.254
In the early postcolonial period, there was greater attention paid to colonial
continuities. While earlier manifestations of regionalism emerging out of the historic
Bandung conference in Indonesia, the West Indian Federation, or the Non-Aligned

253 Glen Coulthard, Red Skins White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minnesota:
University of Minnesota Press, 2014); Leanne Simpson (ed.) Lighting the Eight Fire: The Liberation,
Resurgence, and Protection of Indigenous Nations (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2008); Taiaiake
Alfred, Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1999);
Bonita Lawrence and Kim Anderson, “Introduction to ‘Indigenous Women: State of Our Nations’”
Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture, and Social Justice 29/2 (2005) 1-8; Bonita Lawrence and
Enakshi Dua, “Decolonizing Anti-Racism” Social Justice 32/4 (2005): 120 – 143.
254 Jennifer Matsunaga, “The Two Faces of Transitional Justice: Theorizing the Incommensurability of
transnational justice and decolonization in Canada,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 5/1
(2016): 24-44.
112
Movement all had a better understanding of the fundamental link between colonialism
and the world system, time has made these connections far less clear than they were in the
1950s. At Bandung, where leaders from the recently liberated regions of Africa, Asia, and
the Caribbean met in 1955, a much broader understanding of how colonial power mapped
the world was being debated. For example, the Ceylonese Prime Minister, Sir John
Kotelawala provocatively attacked the Soviet bloc, asking,
if we are united in our opposition to colonialism, should it not be our duty openly to
declare our opposition to Soviet colonialism as much as Western imperialism?
Finally, if we are against both these forms of colonialism, we must also make it
clear that we are opposed to any form of colonial exploitation by any power in the
past or in the future. Unless our own conscience be clear in this respect and our own
hands clean, how can we expect the world at large to heed us when we pronounce
colonialist abuses elsewhere? Any such pronouncements cannot but sound hollow
unless we are prepared to practice ourselves what we preach to others.255
Kotelawala’s comments were received with contempt from his Chinese and Indian
colleagues and although his criticism was one based on foreign rule over an undisputed
territorial entity, his call for practicing anti-colonialism within a post-independent world
remains chilling and important. Although it was not his intent, his comments can draw
attention to the violence of universality, through which the false choice of anti-colonial
paths are articulated as socialism or capitalism, both of which rely on ontological
assumptions about linear human development. Again, it is not that these approaches are
invalid or unimportant – my point is that the pluriversal possibilities that reflect
intellectual and practical contributions of the globe are not mobilized within either a
capitalist or a socialist understanding and articulation of decolonization, because they fail
to acknowledge that which is beyond the limit of modernity’s ontological horizon.
Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, ultimately failed to pursue de-colonial spatial strategies beyond

255 “Reports and minutes of meetings of Asian prime ministers in Ceylon: proposed Afro-Asian Conference
in Djakarta, later held in Bandung,” British National Archives, shelfmark: FO 371/116981.
113
the limits of a single territorial state, and the particular coming together of multi-scalar
geopolitical influences in the South Asian island produced a twenty-six-year-long civil
war out of which a triumphant ethno-nationalist Buddhist politics proudly lays claim to its
superior capacity to enforce the writ of the state as it sees fit.256
I have sought to show that the shaping of postcolonial territory cannot be
separated from the colonial encounter that has normalized and de-politicized state-centric
modernist thinking. By de-politicized, I do not mean that states are uncontested entities, I
mean that the structure of the state as a natural “container” of modern life remains the
boundary within which and across which politics is supposed to occur. While this has
been a subject of considerable discussion in IR and related fields, adopting a pluriversal
perspective calibrated to view transformative aspects of “ontological collision” through
which cosmologies interact and conflict in the 19th century makes an important
contribution to the study of state formation, and also decolonial studies aimed at both
historical and contemporary research. A pluriversal critique of the state is important
because it shifts the debate from squarely within modernity beyond the limit of
modernity. It regards other forms of sovereignty that do not operate along principles that
fit with the existing state system as equals, which reflects the violence of state-making in
the modern, colonial encounter.
By historicizing “state,” “territory,” and “sovereignty” in the context of relational
state formation, I have aimed to illustrate why intellectual and practical engagements with

256 Ajay Parasram, “Erasing Tamil Eelam: De/Re Territorialization in the Global War on Terror”
Geopolitics 17/4 (2012): 903-925. In the broader context of peace and conflict studies, human security
also takes second or third tier importance relative to the significance of state-level interests. Refugee
populations are often forced to return “home” so that development and aid money can begin to flow
to/through the state because peace tends to be quantified through the global governance apparatus when
refugees return home. See: Ajay Parasram, Michael Spacek and Martha Chertkow, “Refugees and
Peacebuilding in Africa: A review of two-decades of cases.” Paper presented at Canadian Association for
Forced Migration and Refugee Studies conference, Montreal, Quebec, May 11-13, 2011.
114
postcolonial crises of sovereignty need to break free from the universe of modern reason
and draw upon the pluriverse of multiple ontological starting points in order to expand the
range of possible avenues for decolonizing politics today. In the process, I have
emphasized how work in social science concerned with state formation has made
important contributions, especially in terms of drawing attention to the centrality of
history and relationality in understanding how states have formed not only in the postcolonies, but also fundamentally through imperial relations in the 19th century. The
remaining chapters of the dissertation explore in specific details the processes through
which multiple ontologies of sovereignty “collided” in the early encounter between the
Kandyan Kingdom and the British government.
The impact of a few hundred years of colonial modernity has also universalized a
particular reading of “history” – a point that has been well criticized in postcolonial and
decolonial studies in particular. Universalizing History has led to excluding intellectuals
who ought to have been engaged as equals, but has also colonized the territorial
frameworks upon which philosophical and political debates can occur. This is the value
of pluriversal politics: different ontologies are always interacting and transforming,
though the violence of universality continues to miss great opportunities as a result. The
remainder of this dissertation picks up on only one manifestation of colonial violence in
the multifaceted norm of “total territorial rule” in the 19th century. The contemporary
significance of modernity/coloniality, then, is truly a global problem that exists not only
in history, but in the unquestioned ways through which institutions of colonially
administered modernity continue to dictate the limits of what is and is not seen as
politically possible. The success of colonial domination over subject peoples
consisted/manifested itself in being able to convince us all that our freedom ultimately
115
rests in our ability to control the systems of government that were used to establish and
normalize uni-versal modernity in the first place. As Fanon observed, “how could we fail
to understand that we have better things to do than follow in that Europe’s footsteps?”
257

257 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 2004 [1961]): 236.
116
Chapter Two: The Coloniality of Sovereignty: Religious Politics and Sovereign
Encounters
The same day we dined with our Baptist friends and in the evening saw the
Governor come in from the Kandian [sic] country, where he had been to organize
the newly-acquired territory. You will have heard of the overthrow of that system of
tyranny and cruel despotism which has for so many years prevented European
intercourse with the interior of this island. God understood the cause, and gave their
cruel King into the hands of the Governor, together with all his territory, without
the loss of any of our troops. Now the way is open for the Gospel into the interior.
Elizabeth Harvard of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society,
in a letter to her parents, March 26, 1815 (Colombo)258
The Religion of Boodhoo [sic] professed by the Chiefs and inhabitants of these
Provinces is declared inviolable, and its Rites, Ministers and Places of worship are
to be maintained and protected.
Clause 5 of the Kandyan Convention, signed on the second day of March,
in the year of Christ 1815 and the Cingalese [sic] year 1736259
The diary of Elizabeth Harvard, missionary of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, captures
the cognitive dissonance of the early British colonial project in Ceylon. From the above
quote, one might expect evidence of Christ Himself riding into battle to protect the noble
British crusaders in their mission to cleanse the frontier of the scourge of idolatry and
heathenism. Harvard was just the latest in a longer chain of Christian crusaders invested
in the spiritual cleansing of the island. Indeed, according to Nira Wickramasinghe, the
coming of the Catholic Church as the ideological apparatus of Portuguese colonization
was so destructive in its aggressions against Buddhism and Hinduism that it ushered in a
‘dark age,’ out of which the distinctions between “Buddhists” and “Hindus” began to take

258 William Harvard, Memoirs of Elizabeth Harvard, Late of the Wesleyan Mission to Ceylon With Extracts
from her Diary and Correspondence by her Husband (London: John Mason, 1833). British National
Library, shelfmark: T.1587.(7.)
259
“The Kandyan Convention Proclamation of 2 March 1815” in G.C. Mendis (ed.) The ColebrookeCameron Papers: Documents on British Colonial Policy in Ceylon 1796 – 1833 Volume Two (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1956): 227 – 230.
117
on significance.260 It came as a surprise to the early Christian missionaries that Kandyan
Buddhist priests had historically offered shelter and protection to Catholics fleeing
persecution by Dutch Protestants in the Maritime regions.261 A colonial diary can only tell
us what was believed to be true from one standpoint, and from reviewing Harvard’s diary,
it appears clear that British Governor Sir Robert Brownrigg gave her cause to believe that
evangelism had a role to play in the early consolidation of colonial territory. As discussed
in chapter one, universal conceptions of territory and sovereignty have genealogical
linkages to the European, intellectual tradition rooted in Christianity, and it should
perhaps not be too surprising to see Christian evangelism serving a role in colonial
statecraft. The problem, which is fundamentally part of the story of colonial state
formation, is that “organizing the newly acquired territory” meant entering into the
Kandyan Convention earlier that month in a lavishly performative ceremony of sovereign
handover, in which King George of England, protector of the Anglican faith,
simultaneously became a Bodhisattva king and protector of the Buddhist faith.262 I return
to this in the conclusion by way of comparison with the Royal Proclamation of Nov. 1,
1858 in India.
There are many layers of rich contradictions that could be explored in the
juxtaposition of these two statements, but for the purpose of this chapter’s work, I aim to

260 Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities (Honolulu:
University of Hawai’i Press, 2006): 20 – 22.
261 S.G. Perera, The Jesuits in Ceylon (Madura: De Nobili Press, 1944): 144.
262 The genealogy of kingship in the Kandyan Buddhist tradition shows that by the late 18th century, the
sovereign’s role in the symbolic rule of territory positioned him as a Bodhisattva, or person capable of
attaining Nirvanic enlightenment but choosing to remain in the cycle of birth and rebirth to serve. It is a
position within the Buddhist hierarchy just below Buddhahood, in which one escapes the cycle of birth and
rebirth. I discuss this later in the chapter, but see also: S.J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics,
and Violence in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); James Duncan, The City as Text:
The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1990).
118
focus on the pluriversal significance of the conflict between ontologically distinct
genealogies of “sovereignty,” as well as the politics of religion that surrounded this
conflict and textured the early consolidation of “British Ceylon.” Conventional historical
accounts mark the beginning of British “total territorial rule” to March 2, 1815 – the day
the Kandyan Convention was signed.263 To the British elites, the Kandyan Convention
meant ousting the reigning monarch of this large native kingdom in the centre of the
island, thus ending nearly two decades of simmering warfare. To the Kandyan
aristocracy, it meant a temporary alignment with yet another European power in order to
oust a dynasty hailing from South India. From the Kandyan point of view, there was
every reason to believe that the British would do what the Dutch and the Portuguese
before them had done – arrive in the central highland areas, burn some villages, and then
retreat to the coast. The British had recently lost two wars with the Kandyans, the last of
which led to the massacre of an entire British regiment, and although the Kingdom had
been bled economically since the Dutch were able to cut off its access to the sea in the
18th century, one can understand why the Kandyans saw themselves in a position of
strength.
The reason this dissertation looks to the British period to understand processes of
territorial transformation culminating in the normalization and de-politicization of nationstate territory is that, unlike previous waves of foreigners to the island, the British period
saw the first de jure as well as eventual de facto establishment of a central political
administration in the Southwest, made possible in part by bringing the hitherto “foreign”

263 It is true that a British presence on the island began in 1796 in the Maritime Provinces, and that a
Governorship began in 1802. But the surrender of Kandy to Britain on March 2, 1815 marked the first time
all parts of the island were believed to be under foreign rule.
119
interior territories into legible, recognizable, British space. 264 The Dutch and the
Portuguese colonial powers that preceded the British in the modern/colonial period never
succeeded in controlling the entire island, which makes the British encounter specifically
important for this dissertation’s emphasis on the middle period of colonial transformation
into the modern state-nation. Unlike in India, where British officials were able to learn
about the functioning of the Mughal imperial state system through first hand knowledge,
the case of Ceylon was considerably different. As Bernard Cohn observes, concerning the
first fifteen years of Governor General Warren Hastings’ career:
he was stationed up-country near the court of the last of the effective nawabs of
Bengal. There he acquired first-hand knowledge of how an Indian state functioned
and could not totally share the prevalent British ideas that Indian rulers were
despotic, corrupt, and extortionate. He believed that Indian knowledge and
experience as embodied in the varied textual traditions of the Hindus and Muslims
were relevant for developing British administrative institutions.265
Following a 1772 act of the British parliament, Hastings was appointed to the new
position of Governor General, and set about blending his knowledge of Indian and British
statecraft. As Cohn rightly maintains, one cannot study British and Indian modern state
formation separately, as techniques and practices from one affected and were applied in
both directions. 266 This pre-existing Orientalist knowledge of “India” from late 18th
century would have borne only confusion; one, I argue, that stems from the ontological
distinctiveness of the rajamandala system and its genealogy. The Kandyan sovereign
system after all, was based on a very different premise than the imperial state system of
the Moghuls. The Kandyan Convention, prepared in English and Sinhalese, was the legal

264 Nihal Perera, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1998): 48 – 57; 185 – 195.
265 Bernard S. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (New Jersey: Princeton
University Press, 1996): 60 – 61.
266 Ibid., 3 – 4.
120
basis through which the British believed they exercised “total territorial rule,” yet as this
chapter strives to show, the differing genealogies of sovereignty that had been normalized
in the British tradition versus the Kandyan tradition meant that this document had
different meanings for each party. What would eventually, over the course of the 19th
century, develop as a unitary sovereign colonial satellite state floating off the coast of the
expansive British Raj on the South Asian subcontinent did not materialize in the way
either contracting party thought it would. The dynamics of religious politics and the
ontological meaning of sovereignty in the Kandyan-Buddhist and Christian-British
traditions produced a clash of ideas that spurred the Uva Rebellion of 1817-1818, and
though the next major rebellion would not break out until 1848, a simmering fear of
attempts to drive the British out of Ceylon remained during the thirty years between the
two.
267
This chapter draws on S.J. Tambiah’s work on the galactic mandala system to
discuss a genealogical tradition of South Asian sovereignty, beginning with Buddhist
ontological assumptions and situated historically within the development of the mandalastate in the context of the island. I argue, based on the politics of religion and the politics
of sovereign ontological conflict, that the standard historical account that identifies the
Kandyan Convention of March 2, 1815 as the moment the British consolidated rule over
Ceylon needs to be rethought. The Kandyan Convention can better be understood as the
moment of sovereign ontological collision, where two genealogical traditions infused
with their own ontological starting points and cosmological frameworks came into
conflict.

267 There were attempted rebellions in 1817 – 1818; 1823; 1824; 1833; 1843 and 1848. See chapter four for
details.
121
The chapter proceeds as follows: in section one, I offer an historical account of the
island’s colonial/modern history, discussing the religious politics and the ontological
collisions of Christian missionaries and Buddhist/Hindu peoples drawing on archival
missionary accounts. The section outlines the early relationship between education,
evangelism and colonization, dwelling on how an inability to move beyond a universal
ontological framework limited the missionaries’ ability to perceive the context of the
‘natives’ they sought to colonize. In section two, I sketch out the historical development
of “galactic sovereignty,” and the role of “Buddhification” as a means of integrating
foreigners in pre-European Ceylon. Drawing on the work of Sri Lankan anthropologists
S.J. Tambiah, and Gananth Obeysekere and legal scholar Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne,
this section highlights the important place-based practices that played a central role in
defining what sovereignty meant in the Kandyan region. This was not, I argue, merely a
function of the kingdom’s backwards isolation, as influential historical accounts describe
it268; rather, it was a pulsating spatial politics that was capable of integrating external
influences into the fold and addressing social, political, and economic affairs with close
attention to balancing both cosmological and material realms of existence. In section
three I draw upon the work of Mario Blaser, to explain the concept of ontological
conflict, a position that cannot be adequately studied through the lens of “universality” as
explained in chapter one. In this section, I lay out the conceptual tools necessary to see
the value of a pluriversal framework, one that considers multiple ontologies, in exposing
the fundamental disagreements grounded in greater cosmologies that are historically

268 Cf. G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952]; K.M.
de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka (London: C. Hurst & Company, 1981): 224 – 226; K.M. de Silva (ed.)
Letters on Ceylon, 1846-50, the administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the
private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey and Viscount Torrington. (Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965)
British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
122
distinct. Finally, in section four I apply the pluriversal framework of ontological conflict
and the historical account to re-interpret archival materials and secondary literature on the
Kandyan Convention. I argue in this section that Buddhist-Kandyan and British-Christian
understandings of sovereignty conflicted, in large part due to the latter’s inability to
reconcile the realities of pluriversality within the uni-versal orientation of BritishChristian understandings of sovereignty. I elaborate on the significance of these religious
politics, drawing on archival reports and diaries from missionaries and colonial officials
present in the period and at the Convention itself to highlight the ontological conflicts that
defined the early 19th century encounter with the British in Ceylon.
Section One: Political Ontology and Religious Politics
An Historical Sketch
The island’s written history spans thousands of years in which spatial orders rose, fell,
converged, and adapted.269 The Bay of Bengal has been a site of trade, migration, and
politics for thousands of years. Europe joined in by the early 16th century, becoming a
domineering player by the mid-to-late 18th century in the regional geopolitics of South
Asian ocean-space. When the British took the Dutch Maritime Provinces of Ceylon in
1796, they administered it out of their Madras Presidency in the south of modern day
“India” until 1802.270 As Nihal Perera argues, the institutional politics of Ceylon would

269 James Duncan, The City as Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990): 25 – 34; Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern
Age: A History of Contested Identities (London: C. Hurst, 2006).
270 I place India within quotation marks because at this time, “India” did not truly exist. There were a
plethora of sovereign native Hindu/Muslim kingdoms, centres of European power around the coast
(Dutch/Portugese/French/British) and enormous areas of adivasi territories not meaningfully part of any of
this. Though the Moghul empire did centralize much of the administration of the territory between the 16th
and 18th centuries, “India” as we know it today is a geographical imaginary negotiated with diplomatic and
123
have followed a very different trajectory had the 1802 Treaty of Amiens gone differently,
as the Dutch then sought to have Ceylon returned to them and incorporated into the shortlived Batavian Republic. 271 In colonial geographic terms, Ceylon could have been
incorporated into what would become British India to the north, or what would become
Indonesia far to the west. Much colonial correspondence from this era and well into the
19th century between missionaries to their organizations and families back home made no
consistent distinction between India and Ceylon. The early missionaries usually came to
Ceylon via British-India, and from their point of view, there was little reason to think the
native populations of “idolatrous Oriental heathens” were significantly different; they
were equidistant from “true religion.”
272 Ceylon was, at times, understood to be both a
key to converting the entire subcontinent to Christianity or as a necessary obstacle to
overcome toward this goal.273 Even without European interference, it is conceivable that
the island may have been incorporated into a spatial organization involving parts of
Dravidian South Asia; the reality of this has always been a major source of postcolonial
insecurity for ethnic Sinhalese, who comprise a majority on the island but are very much
a minority in relation to the Tamil population in neighbouring continental South India.

coercive force in the mid 20th century and is constantly being renegotiated based on internal and regional
political pressure.
271 Nihal Perera, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1998): 30
272 European scholarship on South Asian cosmologies at the time demonstrated some familiarity with
selective readings of Hinduism, but there was a paucity of European knowledge of Buddhism, complicated
by the many shared characteristics between the two religions. Coming from an Abrahamic ontology,
grasping the Hindu notion of jiv-atma and param-atma (transcendental soul and divine essence) or the
Buddhist disinterest in the existence of a single creator-God was difficult. The development of European
knowledge of these practices that have now come to be disciplined by the textual boundaries of “religion”
moved through waves of shock, rage, secularization, and patronizing sympathy in the politics of the 19th
century. See Elizabeth Harris, Theravada Buddhism and the British Encounter: Religious, missionary and
colonial experience in nineteenth century Sri Lanka (London: Routledge, 2006).
273 In addition to Harvard, see the Letters, Memoirs and Papers of Rev. James Lynch, 1808 – 1858,
Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, Archive Special Series (H-2723) Box 628 (1) Ceylon. J. Lynch
1808 – 1814 No. 991.
124
The significance of these possible sovereign configurations is that one should not see
physical geography as a natural bordering process or a limitation to political possibilities
As discussed via Elden and Agnew in chapter one, territorial formulations are
historically, geographically, and philosophically specific.274
Although South Asian sovereigns had historically and symbolically laid claim to
the entire island in the past, none in over a thousand years had ever materially done so.275
As scholars of the island have well established, the historical imaginaries projected by
modern political actors, be they Sinhalese or Tamil, tend to read the contemporary unitary
state ahistorically into the past.276 The spatial organization of power on the island prior to
British rule was not centralized; at the time of Portuguese arrival in 1505, there were
three overlapping areas of political control based around a Northern Tamil kingdom in the
Jaffna region, and two Sinhalese kingdoms in Kandy and Kotte. In 1521, the once
powerful Kotte fractured into three territories, Kotte, Rayigama, and Sitavacam, with
Kotte becoming a client state of Portugal.277 Although Portuguese rule was unable to
extend far behind any coastal region, their influence in Kotte was significant enough that
the King of Kotte converted to Roman Catholicism and bequeathed the kingdom to the
King of Portugal. This marked the first time a Sinhalese king of Lanka was not Buddhist
since the conversion of King Devanampiyatissa in 250 BCE, and the outrage in

274 Stuart Elden, “Land, Terrain, Territory,” Progress in Human Geography 34/6 (2010): 799 – 817; Stuart
Elden, The Birth of Territory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).
275 See Appendix A, figure two for map illustrating different kingdoms within the island in the early-mid
16th century.
276 Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne,“Appendix B: Violence, Evil and the State in Sri Lanka: Revisiting an
Ontological Approach to Sinhalese Nationalism” in Bruce Kapferer, Legends of People, Myths of State:
Violence, Intolerance, and Political Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia (New York: Berghahn Books,
2011): 309; Benedict Korf, “Cartographic Violence: Engaging a Sinhala Kind of Geography” C. Brun and
T. Jazeel (eds.) Spatializing Politics: Culture & Geography in Postcolonial Sri Lanka (New Delhi: Sage,
2009).
277 James Duncan, The City as Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990): 31.
125
neighbouring kingdoms forced Kotte’s king to seek refuge in the Portuguese fort of
Colombo from his rival, the king of Sitavaca.278 The perceived political opportunities
offered by alliance with Christianity reached even into Kandy, where the reigning kings
in the 1560s – 1580s converted to Christianity.279
Part of the complexity of South Asian
polities was that exact boundaries were not clearly defined, and Kandy was a relatively
recent independent kingdom that left Kotte in the 15th century. Neither the Portuguese nor
the Dutch were able to centralize their rule over the island.280
The short-lived Treaty of Amiens in 1802 settled the territorial dispute from the
perspective of Holland and England, but neither possessed any deep knowledge of the
island at this time. Not only did the British know little of Ceylon and the regional
dynamics and migrations that textured its history, there is little evidence to suggest they
cared to know much about it in the early days; they were not wedded to keeping the
Maritime territories nor controlling the entire island. 281 European geopolitics was the
primary motivation for acquiring the territory and using the harbour in Trincomalee as a
way of fortifying the Madras Presidency on the mainland from incursion by Napoleon’s
France.282 This geopolitical vantage point was crucial to British interest in the region, “the

278 Ibid.; 31, 27.
279 Elizabeth Harris, “Memory, Experience, and the Clash of Cosmologies: The Encounter Between British
Protestant Missionaries and Buddhism in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka,” Social Science and Missions 25
(2012): 270.
280 Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities (London: C.
Hurst & Co, 2006): 9; Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The
Cosmographical Terrain of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhist Tradition” in A. Wagner et al.
(eds.) Law, Culture, and Visual Studies, 573 – 598. Volumes 1 and 2. (United States: Springer Publishing,
2014).
281 Elizabeth Harris Theravada Buddhism and the British Encounter: Religious, missionary and colonial
experience in nineteenth century Sri Lanka (London: Routledge, 2006), especially chapter six on
Missionary Scholars.; see also discussion of the Cleghorn Minute in the introduction to this dissertation.
282 Geoffrey Powell, The Kandyan Wars: The British Army in Ceylon 1803 – 1818 (London: Lee Cooper,
1973): 180 – 181.
126
real key by possession of which alone you can hold the naval superiority of India,”283 in
the words of Britain’s second Governor, Sir Thomas Maitland. Dispatches from the
Colonial Office (CO) to Maitland and his predecessor, Fredrick North, clearly outlined
that London had no ambition of pursuing total territorial rule in the early days. There was
disconnecting policy between the CO and Governor North, however, who actively
pursued military expeditions into the interior with consistently negative outcomes. 284
When North was removed (at his own request) from the post of Governor, the CO
communicated to Maitland that efforts to centralize political rule should not be pursued:
Abstracted from every principle of Justice, there does not appear any principle of
Policy which ought to induce Great Britain to wish the entire subjugation of that
Island, as the advantages derivable from such a Possession could not be
commensurate to the Expense of maintaining it; but when the Principles of Justice
are combined with those of Policy (and on all occasions they ought to be
inseparable), I feel satisfied that there is no ground for our desiring greatly to
extend the territory we acquired by just Rights from the Dutch…285
The policy should not be confused for benevolence, as it is the outcome of several
botched military attempts and considerable paid espionage to destabilize the Kandyan
Kingdom since the British came to Ceylon in 1796.286
To the British, Kandyan territories were a frontier; it described what British
territory was not and when crossing into that frontier, danger was always a lurking threat

283 Sir Thomas Maitland, cited in Sir Charles Jeffries Ceylon: The Path to Independence (London: Pall Mall
Press, 1962): 14
284 North’s orders upon taking office granted him authority to disarm and deport people aiding the enemies
of the crown as well as military action in self-defence of the colony, but explicitly (clause 24) forbid the
commencement or declaration of war without prior approval. See “Royal Instructions to Governor North”
in G.C. Mendis (ed.) The Colebrooke-Cameron Papers: Documents on British Colonial Policy in Ceylon
1796 – 1833, Volume II, 70 – 79 (London: Oxford University Press, 1956); Powell, 1973: 175 – 178.
285 Secretary of State for War and the Colonies to incoming Governor Maitland, 21 Feb., 1805. Cited in
Powell, The Kandyan Wars, (1973): 179.
286 Geoffrey Powell, The Kandyan Wars: The British Army in Ceylon 1803 – 1818 (London: Lee Cooper,
1973).
127
from the tropical jungle itself as well as locals skilled in guerilla warfare.287 While maps
from this era (see appendix A) illustrate the shifting territorial boundaries of control,
according to Simon Cassie Chitty (1972), the physical territorial claim of British
“Ceylon” and Kandy prior to the 1815 Kandyan Accord was 10,520 and 14,144 square
miles respectively, making “Kandy” the majority of the island, encircled by British
Ceylon.288 It was presumed in the colonial writing to be a kingdom with a tyrannical and
savage king at the helm, which served to legitimize the British “intervention” on behalf of
the Kandyan people in 1815 as well as to fuel contemporary Sinhalese-Buddhist
nationalism concerning the corrupting influence of the Nayakkar Tamil dynasty that
brought about the end of the independent Kandyan kingdom.289 Perceptions of inherent
native inferiority relative to Britain clouded the fact that Britain had not been able to
actually hold any territory conquered in military expeditions, in large part because of an
active anti-road politics pursued by the Kandyans which prevented the easy movement of
British troops and equipment into the interior. 290 To the Kandyans, the terrain itself
represented the most important line of defense against external aggression. The jungle,
mountains/cliffs, and rivers in the rainy season enabled Kandyan soldiers to integrate the

287 Part of the justification for Brownrigg’s eventual campaign to bring Kandy under British rule was the
recent mutilation of British pioneers who had ventured beyond the frontier in 1815. James Duncan also
explores the perception of nature as a degrading and dangerous force to Europeans in his excellent study, In
the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race, and Biopower in Nineteenth Century Ceylon (Aldershot:
Ashgate, 2007).
288 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). Cited in Nihal Perera, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial
Identity in Sri Lanka (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998): 41, note 23.
289 Anonymous, A Narrative of Events which have recently occurred in the Island of Ceylon, Written by a
Gentleman on the Spot. (London: T. Egerton Military Library, Whitehall, 1815). British National Library,
shelfmark: 583.f.14.(1.).
290 Thomas Metcalf offers a compelling explanation of British self-perception in the 18th and 19th centuries,
particularly in terms of how their liberal colonialism fuelled particularly ideological conceptions of what
British rule in South Asia offered subjects. See: Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi:
Cambridge University Press, 1998).
128
land into their military planning, forcing invading armies into passes so narrow that they
would need to move single file.291
As Governor Thomas Maitland, Ceylon’s second
Governor, wrote in a dispatch to the CO on Oct. 19, 1808, “I shall not enter into any
foolish expeditions; I will not throw away the Lives of His Majesty’s Subjects by Disease
in burning and destroying the defenceless [sic] Huts of the innocent Natives.”292 In the
colonial writing that would follow the eventual surrender of Kandy in 1815, the event is
historicized as a major military achievement that again shows the nearsightedness of the
colonial gaze, as the oft-touted fact that the British succeeded without suffering casualties
in 1815 was attributed to the people of Kandy’s desire for British governance rather than
the strategic diplomacy of the Sinhalese aristocracy seeking to oust a weak king in
Kandy. This is an especially important condition, in light of the insurrections that would
ensue in the coming decades.
The reigning monarch of Kandy in the British period was Sri Vikrama Rajasingha,
fourth in a dynasty of Malabar (Tamil) Kings who had been “indigenized” through
gradual marriages and rituals (discussed in the next section). It had been a practice of the
Sinhalese kings of Kandy to marry South Indian women, and when the last Sinhalese king
neared death without a male heir from his main wife, he decreed that his son by a
subordinate Malabar wife would succeed him to the throne. The period of consolidating
the dynasty was not without difficulty, and it involved careful attention to the rituals and
symbolism of Buddhist sovereignty by the Malabar rulers. Vikrama engaged in lavish
beautification projects of the capital, many of which remain to this day, but at a time

291 G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952]); Patrick
Peebles, The History of Sri Lanka (London: Greenwood Press, 2006): 29.
292 Maitland to Camden, 19 Oct. 1805 CO/64/18. Cited in Geoffrey Powell, The Kandyan Wars: The British
Army in Ceylon 1803 – 1818, (London: Lee Cooper, 1973): 184.
129
when the economic pressure of being cut off from marine trade routes by the British led
to considerable strain and inflation within the kingdom. He accomplished these projects
by extending the reach of rajakariya, or king-service, from the general population that
had historically been used for irrigation and agricultural purposes to include
beautification, which was unpopular. 293 Vikrama grew increasingly distrustful of the
Kandyan Sinhalese aristocracy with good reason: Pilima Talauvē, his long-time advisor
who had been instrumental to installing him to the throne in 1798 and who served as his
mahadikar 294 was plotting against him with the British Governor Frederick North.
Talauva sought to leverage a British deal to oust Vikrama – the 18-year-old nephew of
the former king, Sri Rajadhi Rajasingha – and convinced North to send an emissary to
Kandy to negotiate making the Kingdom a protectorate of Britain in 1800. North obliged
and sent General MacDowall to accomplish the task, but Vikrama, who was not
convinced allowing a garrison of British troops into Kandy would ultimately serve his
interests, dismissed him.
295 Nevertheless, MacDowall returned with useful intelligence
that would inform the British military strategy in future military episodes.296 In 1803,
North gave the order (without clear consent from the CO) for General MacDowall to send
an expeditionary force to Kandy. The Kandyans had seen this coming and had evacuated
the capital to regroup elsewhere while waging guerilla warfare. The British installed a
puppet king for a short time, but as K.M. de Silva describes,
When the monsoon set in, the elements, combined with disease, brought about the
destruction of the British troops in the Kandyan kingdom. With the loyalty of the

293 Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands, 1833 –
1886 (Berlin: Moutan, 1983).
294 Adikar is a senior government official, like a “minister,” and the “mahadikar” would be the First
Minister.
295 G.C Mendis, Ceylon Under the British, (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services 2005 [1952]): 17 – 19
296 K.M. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka (London: C. Hurst & Company, 1981): 224 – 226
130
Malay troops suspect and the lascarins deserting in droves, the British forces
attempted to evacuate the capital they had occupied.297
MacDowall himself had to retreat early to Colombo due to illness, leaving command to
Major Davies who, in turn, retreated before the order to do so came from North in
Colombo. As the remaining British troops sought to evacuate the capital, the Kandyan
forces intercepted them on June 24, 1803 on the banks at Vatapuluva. The puppet king
was swiftly executed, along with nearly all of the British forces, save Davie and three
others. Perhaps in part because of biased intelligence from Pilima Talauvē, the British
underestimated the fact that the people of Kandy supported Vikrama. 298As will be
explained in this chapter’s discussion of galactic sovereignty as sovereign ontology,
Vikrama held considerable symbolic power, but material power tended to remain in the
Sinhalese aristocracy, whose loyalty to the young king was openly disputed. Part of
Vikrama’s internal strategy to weaken the position of the Kandyan elites was to appoint
junior branches of Sinhalese aristocratic families to vacant posts, punishing chiefs who
were being oppressive to the people under their jurisdiction, and bringing back into
practice taxes on the chiefs. These internal policy changes within the Kandyan kingdom
in the early 19th century were operating within the expectations of caste order, but clearly
subverting the desires and power of the chiefs who Vikrama saw increasingly as plotting
against him. He encircled himself with his own Nayakkar relatives and began to alter the
geographic districts, which, for generations, had been under the material jurisdiction of
the chiefs. Long before the arrival of Governor Brownrigg and the eventual fall of Kandy
then, the galactic sovereign order was already beginning to fall out of its delicate

297 Ibid., 225.
298 Ibid.
131
balance. 299 In response, Pilima Talauvē conspired to assassinate Vikrama with a
Muhandiram (headman from the lower country) and some 60 Malay bodyguards, while
simultaneously raising a rebellion with the help of Headmen in Udunuvara and
Yatinuvara in 1808. The timing was out of sync, however, leading to a premature uprising
that was quelled before the bodyguards could kill the king. Vikrama stripped Pilima
Talauvē of his titles and authority and, following confession to the charges of treason, he
and other conspirators were executed in or around June of 1812.300
Vikrama appointed Talauvē’s nephew, Ehelepola, to the post of mahadikar, which
was likely an attempt to keep his enemies under closer surveillance. Like his uncle,
Ehelepola hailed from the southern Kandyan province of Sabaragamuva, where the king’s
influence was weaker than in the core central regions. The balance of spiritual power and
material power that had developed over more than 300 years of Kandyan sovereign
practice was disturbed when Vikrama extended his material powers to punish the regions
of his kingdom outside of the center. In Sabaragamuva, Ehelepola had long been in
correspondence with John D’Oyly, Chief Translator of the British Government in
Colombo who had held the post under Governors North, Maitland, and Brownrigg. In
letters shared between Ehelepola, Brownrigg, and D’Oyly, it is clear that the
destabilization of Vikrama’s Kandy was coming as rather unexpected news in Colombo.
Governor Brownrigg in Colombo took his orders from the CO seriously in terms
of not overtly seeking to interfere with the politics of the interior. Nevertheless, he

299 G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952]): 19 – 21.
300 Colvin. R. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation 1795 – 1833 Volume 1: Its Political and
Administrative Development (Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries’ Co., Ltd, 1953): 130 – 131.
132
simultaneously sought to ramp up his military resources in the event of conflict.301 In a
dispatch dated March 29, 1812, Brownrigg explains to the Secretary of War and Colonies
that since the capital punishment of Pilima Talauvē and some influential followers in the
failed rebellion, all appeared to be quiet in the territory. He assured the CO that John
D’Oyly, the Chief Translator, was in regular correspondence with the new mahadikar,
Ehelepola.302 What led to the merging of Kandy and British territory in 1815, however,
was the outcome of diplomacy conducted mostly between Ehelepola and Governor
Brownrigg through the translations of John D’Oyly. When open hostilities between the
aristocracy and the king broke out, Ehelopola refused to present himself upon royal
demand in 1814 for what might well have been his own arrest and execution. Instead, he
defected to the British, followed by other chiefs, which resulted in Vikrama exerting an
especially brutal punishment on Ehelopola’s family in the capital. The executions began
with his eight- and ten-year-old sons. As the general story goes, when the executioner
came to seize the elder boy, the child clung to his mother. According to many sources,
and in a moment memorialized to this day in Kandy, the younger son volunteered to be
killed first, following which the children’s mother was made to crush her own infant to
death with a large mortar. The female relatives of Ehehelopla were tied to stones and
drowned in the Kandy Lake.303
As this was transpiring, Ehehepola was with the British. Vikrama’s forces had
captured many of the chiefs of his province. This was the opportunity Brownrigg was

301 Brownrigg to Earl of Bathurst, June 28, 1814. in Tennakoon Vimalananda, Sri Wickrema, Brownrigg,
and Ehelepola: being letters addressed to the Home Government from 1811-1815 by Major General John
Wilson and Lieut.-General Robert Brownrigg, Governor of Ceylon. (Colombo: Gunasena, 1984) British
National Library, shelfmark: V 26078.
302 “Brownrigg to the Earl of Liverpool, March 29, 1812” in Vimalananda (1984).
303 Anonymous, “A Narrative of Events which have recently occurred in the Island of Ceylon, Written by a
Gentleman on the Spot,” (London: T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall, 1815). British National Library,
shelfmark: 583.f.14.(1.).
133
waiting for, and in January 15, 1815 he issued an order in council defending the decision
to wage war on Kandy in order to protect the Kandyans from their king:
But it is not against the Kandian nation that the arms of His Majesty are directed;
his Excellency proclaims hostility against that tyrannical power alone, which has
provoked, by aggravated outrages and indignities, the just resentment of the
British nation, which has cut off the most ancient and noble families in his
kingdom, deluged the land with the blood of his subjects, and, by the violation of
every religious and moral law, became an object of abhorrence to mankind.304
By the time the British began their invasion, Ehelepola’s replacement, Molligoda, along
with most of the remaining aristocracy had already defected and the Kandyans mounted
no defence. The next generation of colonial writing about this military “victory” would
laud the achievements of Brownrigg and D’Oyly, both of whom were rewarded with
baronet. The emphasizing of Brownrigg and D’Oyly over and above the contribution of
Ehehepola in the sacking of Kandy also highlights the loss in studying “modernity” in the
absence of “coloniality,” as it is arguably the diplomatic manoeuvres of the Kandyan
aristocracy and not the British that enabled the victory. The “military victory” of Kandy
that led to the de jure unification of the island under the British in the spectacle of the
Kandyan Convention of 1815, then, was really more a story of internal Kandyan court
intrigue than it was about superior British military tactics. Opposite the dominant
historical narrative of a “pre-modern” indigenous kingdom that could not keep up with
the times, the fall of Kandy should instead be seen as a confluence of forces that were
mainly driven by the internal dynamics of the indigenous spatial order beginning to fall
apart as the symbolic relationship holding king, adikars, and territory fell out of orbit. 305

304 Order in Council of Jan. 15, 1815. Transcribed in: “A Narrative of Events which have recently occurred
in the Island of Ceylon” British National Library, shelfmark: 583.f.14.(1.).
305 This is a somewhat controversial opinion. According to G.C. Mendis, it was only a matter of time before
the British occupied Kandy due to the “medieval” characteristics of the kingdom. This is a view shared by
K.M. de Silva as well. I take up the epistemic problem of these positions in chapter four. For contrasting
points of view, see: G.C Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005
134
Christian Subjects, but Not Only Christian Subjects
While British Protestant missionaries were only just beginning to learn about what they
would name “Buddhism,” South Asians who would later be described and then selfidentify as religious Buddhists and Hindus in Ceylon had a lengthy history of experiences
with Catholics and Protestants.306 Portuguese destruction of Hindu and Buddhist places of
worship in the mid- to late-16th century led to refugees taking shelter within, and then
retaliating with support from, the Hindu and Buddhist independent kingdoms of
Jaffnapatam and Kandy respectively.307 By and large, however, Christian missionaries
were confused by what they saw as a lack of direct resistance to their attempts to convert
the masses to Christianity in the first half of the 19th century. This was at times pitied in
missionary writing, perceived as evidence of primitive development and a consequence of
living in ignorance of universal, divine truth. In one account, the Wesleyan Missionary,
William Bridgalle, describes the Kandyan territories in which he is based in the 1820s as
“spiritually barren.” He continues to describe what he sees as a logical and gradual
decline of Buddhism:

[1952]): 16 – 28; K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters on Ceylon, 1846-50, the administration of Viscount Torrington
and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey and Viscount Torrington,
(Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965). British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
306 It is worth reiterating that the naming of meta-concepts such as “Hinduism” or “Buddhism” as a kind of
ordering strategy to translate hugely varying local practices extends even to geographical entities such as
islands and continents. The name “India” is itself a colonial invention, and while in the past sovereigns have
claimed large areas of (and beyond) what is today regarded as India/Pakistan/Bangladesh, the term India
was predated by “Hindustan,” which itself speaks to the pre-religious origins of the term Hindu. Before
Hinduism recast itself as a modern religion for reasons beyond the scope of this dissertation, the term Hindu
came from the Sanskrit word, “Sindhu,” which meant river, specifically the Ganges, and the ocean. The
concept, while appropriated by modern Hindu nationalists in the Hindutva tradition and mobilized as a
method of Hindu religious supremacy in contemporary India, is arguably more about geographical place
than structural religion. See: Satish Deshpande, “Hegemonic Spatial Strategies: The Nation Space and
Hindu Communalism in Twentieth century India” Public Culture 10/2 (1998): 249 – 283.
307 Elizabeth J. Harris, “Memory, Experience, and the clash of cosmologies: The encounter between British
Protestant Missionaries and Buddhism in nineteenth century Sri Lanka” Social Sciences and Missions 25
(2012): 270 – 272.
135
It must surely be regarded as somewhat ominous of the rapid decline of Buddhism
in the Kandian country to hear so many Kandian children, in the presence of
several of their parents and friends, join in saying after the missionary, “I believe
in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ His
only Son our Lord.”308
What Bridgalle and his contemporaries were not able to perceive is that to South Asians
emerging from South Asian cosmologies, moving through Christian motions while at
times continuing to practice indigenous customs and religions was not in conflict,
moreover, it served as an effective way to navigate the material conditions of the colonial
present.309
By the late 19th century, it was clear that association with Christianity and
knowledge of the English language offered material advantages in terms of government
employment, which tended to favour coastal regions of the island that had much longer
associations with Catholic Christianity since the early sixteenth century via the
Portuguese. 310 Yet even in the early 19th century, these benefits were present. At a
Congress of the Madras-based Wesleyan Methodist Mission in 1822, the Rev. James
Lynch offers a report on the progress of the mission to his brethren. In it, he notes that
since 1816, some 2500 children had been taught to read and to discuss Christianity in
their own languages, with 300 of the brightest advancing to learn English. In Trincomalee
(in the Northeast), he notes that sermons are routinely offered in both Tamil and English,

308 Bridgalle to Wesleyan Methodist Church, March 25 1828. Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society
(London) Archive Special Series (SOAS, University of London) Correspondence (H-2715) Box no.: 1814 –

  1. Ceylon: 446 – 1828. No. 108.
    309 As Marisol de la Cadena maintains, indigenous people (in her case, indigenous Quechua people in the
    Andean mountains) have always lived in multiple socio-cultural worlds. See: Marisol de la Cadena,
    “Indigenous Cosmopolitics in the Andes: Conceptual Reflections Beyond ‘Politics’” Cultural Anthropology
    52/2 (2010): 353.
    310 K. M. de Silva, “University Admissions and Ethnic Tensions in Sri Lanka: 1977–1982,” in R. Goldman
    and A. J. Wilson (eds.), From Independence to Statehood, Managing Ethnic Conflict in Five African and
    Asian States, 97 – 100. (London: Frances Pinter 1984); K.M. de Silva Social Policy and Missionary
    Organizations in Ceylon 1840 – 1855 (Plymouth: Longmans, 1965).
    136
    and that many young men who come out of their schools already, as of 1822, occupy
    important positions in the early colonial administration.311
    At the ontological and cosmological level, there is no particular conflict in being
    simultaneously Buddhist/Hindu and Christian coming from the standpoint of the prior. As
    scholars of religion and Sri Lanka have long noted, Buddhists and Hindus understood the
    process of formally embracing Christianity as more of a civic task than a spiritual one.312
    The simultaneous existence of other conceptions of cosmology was not an ontological
    problem within Buddhist and Hindu genealogies because the centrality of a god or many
    gods is not nearly as centrally important (or important at all, in the case of Buddhism) as
    it is in monotheistic traditions. In contrast, Judeo-Christian-Islamic genealogies of
    thought demand a uni-versal adherence to monotheism; it is not sufficient to acknowledge
    and accept the existence of the Christian god to satisfy the missionary, but one must deny
    the existence multiple cosmologies. Within the universal gaze of the monotheist British
    missionary, it is not possible to recognize pluriversality because evidence of pluriversality
    is confused to be “idolatry” or other such evidence of spiritual primitiveness.
    Colonialism, then, is also pedagogy, and its inculcation in the liberal-colonial era through
    schools and legal requirements of conversion for professional advancement produced
    incentive structures to at least perform Christianity if not genuinely become Christian.
    Schools, in particular, were understood to be fundamental to civilizing natives and this
    occurred in a highly gendered way. In a letter to her sister, Elizabeth Harvard, one of the

311 Proceedings of the Third Anniversary of the Madras Auxiliary Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society.
June 23, 1822. See: Letters, Memoirs, and Papers of Rev. James Lynch 1808 – 1858. Wesleyan Methodist
Missionary Society. (London). Archive Special Series (H-2723) Box Number.: 628 (1) Ceylon J. Lynch
1808 – 1814 No. 991.
312 Elizabeth Harris, “Memory, Experience, and the Clash of Cosmologies: The Encounter Between British
Protestant Missionaries and Buddhism in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka,” Social Science and Missions 25
(2012): 272
137
early generations of Wesleyan missionaries in Ceylon, identifies mothers as being
particularly recalcitrant sources of heathenism:
The importance of educating the native girls is very considerable. By the blessing
of God, a religious education will not only tend to the advancement of their own
salvation, but the [sic] better qualify them to act as wives and mothers, should
they be spared to fill those stations. The heathen females are the main support of
paganism. Some of our native converts have repeatedly confessed that their
almost unconquerable bias to idolatry arose from the example of their mothers,
whose attachment to heathenish worship and ceremonies was such as to lead them
to carry their children to the temples as soon as they were able to go out; and
while infants, to put their little hands together and teach them to bow before their
senseless images. If then we can succeed with the mothers of the next generation,
how much of this will be prevented! They will teach their little dears to bow to
Jesus instead of idols.313
Here, in the account of this Wesleyan who is based in the Colombo area in the earliest
period of de jure British rule, mothers are identified as the reason why attempts to
proliferate the universal Christian faith has been stymied. British missionaries are limited
by their universal ontological framework which prevented them from moving between
Christian and Buddhist worlds. Consequently, they lashed out at those who, as a result of
the multiplicity of their lived experiences, have some navigational tools to inhabit these
worlds.
The Wesleyans did not establish missionary centres in the Kandyan region, but the
Anglicans did. In their accounts, one can see quite clearly the ontological irreconcilability
of British-Christian cosmologies with Kandyan cosmologies. The Anglicans arrived in
Ceylon shortly after the Wesleyans in 1818, following the Kandyan Convention (1815)
and the Uva Rebellion (1817-1818). The interior, as Harvard notes in the introductory
epigraph to this chapter, was “open for the Gospel” and by 1833, the Church Missionary

313 Elizabeth Harvard to her sister Susan, Nov. 1817, in William Harvard, Memoirs of Elizabeth Harvard,
Late of the Wesleyan Mission to Ceylon With Extracts from her Diary and Correspondence by her Husband
(London: John Mason, 1833). British National Library, shelfmark: T.1587 (7.) Emphasis in the original.
138
Society established centres in Kandy, Nellore, Badalgamma and Cotta.
314 Speaking on the
subject of obstacles to the propagation of Christianity, the Rev. John Bailey, secretary to
the mission, notes that one of his greatest difficulties is the fact that Hindus appear to
make no separation between civil and religious matters:
One of the most obvious difficulties to be encountered, in the dissemination of
Christian Truth among the Hindoos, is the exclusive and unsocial nature of their
Institutions, both civil and religious. These are blended together in all their
endless ramifications; and they rest on the same authoritizes, viz., the shasters,
remote antiquity, and universal practice.315
Bailey continues to speak to the ontological difference in terms of understanding
cosmology in reference to Hindu regions of the island by arguing that Hindus simply
cannot grasp the truth of one god:
Another obstacle … [is] being obligated to employ terms which, from their
heathenish use and application, necessarily convey to the mind of the hearer ideas
different from those intended. Thus if God be spoken of, the Hindoo, unless he has
long been under Christian instruction, will probably understand by it some one of
his deities, who yields to the vilest passions, and allows his worshippers to do so
too.316
Education, then, was clearly seen by the missionaries as the path to correct thinking. As
Maldonado-Torres observed, we see the conviction of “others do not think, or do not
think correctly.” Bailey argues that the local stories and perceptions of divinity are
“monstrous,” and perhaps most importantly from the perspective of modern rationalism,
identifies as evidence of their primitiveness the lack of proof necessary in order to be
convinced. “With a people so credulous,” he writes, “the evidence arising from real
miracles has little weight.”317 That the good Reverend sees no complication in knowing

314 Statement of the Ceylon Mission of the Church Missionary Society for the Year M.DCCC.XXXII W By
the Rev. J. Bailey, Secretary to the Mission. (Ceylon: Cotta Church Mission Press, 1833)
315 Ibid., emphasis in original
316 Ibid., 33, emphasis in original.
317 Ibid.
139
how to correctly perceive “real miracles” based on nothing more than the ontological
assumption of his own universal cosmology draws attention to the limiting lens of
universality; perhaps it also highlights a fracturing within Western-Christian cosmology
and the tensions between universality within theology and universality within the rapidly
expanding project of scientific positivism of the 19th century and its Enlightenment
antecedents. Scientific thinking, following Thomas Metcalf, extended logically from
British self-perceptions. They never learned the lessons of ontological difference that
were being offered as described above, but rather, continued through the 19th century
grafting a pseudo-science of superiority onto their initial assumptions of their own
inherently superior cosmology that took the form of education. As Metcalf observes of
the Victorian era, a generation after the period under study in this dissertation:
No longer a product of mere assertion, in the manner of James Mill, Western preeminence was now demonstrated, or, more properly, assumed, as it underlay the
scientific structures that grew up around it. Victorian science, like its historicism,
thus necessarily if not always consciously fitted India into a hierarchical
relationship with Europe and provided the firm footing of legitimacy which the
British sought for their Raj.318
A generation earlier, one can see a similar logic unfolding in Ceylon.
Modern/Colonial Religious Education
Aside from launching into ignorant misreadings and misrepresentations of Hindu and
Buddhist texts, Bailey more empirically observes that while Christian education can offer
a way out of incorrect beliefs, parents themselves remain belligerent obstacles to their
children’s betterment. While some locals across the geographic spread of their missions
are willing to accept missionaries as friends and part of the community, adults remain
irritatingly disinterested in their messages about “true” and “correct” religion. Bailey

318 Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1998): 67
140
notes that particularly in Kandy, attendance in school is highly irregular. Parents keep
children, he says,
at home frequently without any good reasons; and always when they can make
any use of them. In harvest-time, and at other seasons when the assistance of the
children is of importance to the parents, no objection is made to their being absent
from school.319
Where missionaries were not able to convince people to adhere to their universal
precepts, Bailey hoped to have a longer generational impact through schooling, requiring
that pupils memorize scripture: “the minds of a great many of them have become imbued
with the doctrines and precepts of Christianity, which, by the Divine blessing, may in
after life be found of incalculable advantage.”320 Missionaries of all stripes took schooling
very seriously, and the Anglicans of the 1830s filed daily reports from all of their schools
which were systematically analyzed in advance of weekly meetings where
superintendents would advise teachers individually and collectively. According to
unpublished papers prepared with the intent of writing a book on the Wesleyan mission in
Ceylon, authors of the manuscript note that “civil Christians” were a sufficiently large
population that the missionaries referred to them as the “Government Christians.” 321
Reading missionary reports and diaries shows constant swinging between feelings of
optimism that the whole of Ceylon would embrace Christ in the near future, and angry,
desperate frustration associated with what they saw as insincere or bad Christianity.
I maintain that this confusion arises out of the ontological irreconcilability of
universal thinking with pluriversal lived realities. The well-documented confusion on the

319 Ibid., 9
320 Ibid.
321 Unpublished notes for a manuscript on the Wesleyan Mission to Ceylon, prepared in 1950. See:
Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (London) Archive Special Series – Notes and Transcripts. Box No
570, fiches 90 – 93.
141
part of Christian missionaries in Ceylon in the 19th century is understandable on account
of the fact that belief in “a true god” takes on meaning in monotheistic traditions in ways
that do not compare with reverence or meaning within Buddhist or Hindu genealogies;
the existence or nonexistence of god(s) is simply not a central question.322 Recall that
within Europe, the dominant religions that vied to monopolize the administration of grace
were all monotheistic traditions that at least shared the Hebrew Bible in common:
Catholicism, Protestantism, and to a lesser degree by the 19th century, Islam and Judaism.
These religious traditions were accustomed to making their claims against one another
within a discourse that could at least agree on the necessity of one true god, while
disagreeing on their particular interpretations or where to draw the line concerning new
developments in how to interpret scripture or receive “prophetic” or messianic influences.
Jesus was a messianic figure for Christians, who emerged as a fissure within the Jewish
tradition after the fact. Mohammed was a prophet spoken to by god via the angel Gabriel
and meant to update and correct the tradition in his time and place. Islam, in turn,
splinters on questions of whether divine authority ends with Mohammad or continues to
his nephew Ali and Ali’s descendants. Christians splinter on the question of whether the
Church is the ultimate mediator of divinity on earth, or if the Bible ought to be engaged
with directly. The brutality of internal monotheistic battles gave rise to perceived needs to
“cleanse” Christian territory of Muslims and Jews on the one hand, but also gave rise to
the influential traditions of scientific rationalism and secularism in response to this
history grounded in the particular time and place of “Europe” as the continent and its ever

322 D.J. Gogerly (1863). “Buddhism in Ceylon” Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (London) Archive
Special Series (SOAS, University of London), Biographical (H-2723) Box664 (3) Various papers/Ceylon
1857/59/66. No. 1996; William Harvard, Memoirs of Elizabeth Harvard, Late of the Wesleyan Mission to
Ceylon With Extracts from her Diary and Correspondence by her Husband (London: John Mason, 1833).
British National Library, shelfmark: T.1587 (7).
142
changing political geographies were taking modern/colonial form. Despite the many
important differences within and across the monotheistic traditions of Christianity,
Judaism, and Islam, they all share a common (albeit distant) genealogy based in a belief
in a God separate from the Earth who, in the book of Genesis, creates the world and man
separately, with the former to serve the latter. As discussed in chapter one, this absolutism
and cosmological separation of man/land/God has been essential to the development of
“sovereignty” in the European context.
The birth of “religion” as a modern category capable of engaging with liberalcolonial states is beyond the scope of this chapter, but it will be sufficient for the purposes
of this dissertation to point to the ways through which the Christian-monotheistic
ontology worked to fit existing cosmologies into the category of “religion” for ease of
categorization and control.323 It is not the case that monotheistic traditions were alien to
South Asia. Islam had a robust history in the region for approximately a thousand years
and was the major imperial presence prior to the East India Company, and subsequent
British Raj, on the subcontinent. But the methods of spatial organization in the Mughal
Islamic tradition are distinct from European projects of colonialism; my point is not to
argue that cosmological distinctness determined the outcome of political ontology in early
British Ceylon, just that in the particular time and place, the ontologies of “sovereignty”
of the major actors (Kandyan and British alike) were informed by differing cosmologies
and a differing balance between civil and cosmological relations, as will be discussed in
later in this chapter. In order to rationalize South Asian cosmologies into a form that was

323 Sanjay Seth makes a similar point about the points of overlapping similarities that make it possible to
conceive of a broad concept such as “modern Western knowledge” by virtue of shared background
assumptions. See: Sanjay Seth, Subject Lessons: The Western Education of Colonial India (Durham: Duke
University Press, 2007).
143
more legible to 19th century European minds, British missionaries and scholars worked to
force-fit local customs and traditions into “religions” as they expected to find them, based
around one or many gods and philosophical propositions that could be rationally refuted
by “true” religion.324 Even secularism, as it developed in the Enlightenment, articulated
its grievance with theism based on a replacement of universal religious truth with
universal “scientific” rationality. Within cosmologies that are other-than-European, the
historical and political problems that gave rise to the need for a “secular” division (or
attempted division) between “church” and “state” did not happen, and there is no basis
upon which to conceive of such a break. “Church” is not a place-holder for the institution
of religion, though in the parlance of 20th and 21st century Western social science it often
is; the concept of “church,” like the concept of “state” are historically produced
institutions that reflect particular cosmologies and ontological starting points. Just as it is
incorrect to graft the state onto places that had their own spatial systems without
accounting for the historical processes that enabled the universalization of “state,” so too
is it a colonial manoeuvre to graft the concept of “church” onto systems grounded in
cosmology that are developed along their own trajectories.
What makes the colonial encounter so important from the standpoint of the
politics of “religion” or, more accurately, the ontological clash of cosmologies is not the
meeting of different ontologies; this has always happened. Islamic and Brahmanical
cosmologies met and interacted across South Asia and the Indian Ocean region more
generally long before the arrival of the British. For the purposes of this study however, it
is the meeting of different ontologies within a historical and political context in which
one (the Christian/British), in order to fulfil its internal requirements and expectations,

324Claims of “true” and “false” religion abound in the letters of missionaries throughout the 19th century.
144
must dominate the other, enlisting the 19th century institutions of state and developing
civilizing mission in its service. Aimé Césaire has elegantly exposed the parasitic ways in
which colonial relations with the rest of the world have unfolded. Aside from identifying
at the onset the hypocrisy of identifying Christianity with civilization and an all
encompassing “paganism” with “savagery,” he also offers a more subtle critique in
drawing attention to museums:
And the museums of which M. Caillois is so proud, not for one minute does it
cross his mind that, all things considered, it would have been better not to have
needed them; that Europe would have done better to tolerate the non-European
civilizations at its side, leaving them alive, dynamic, and prosperous, whole and
not mutilated; that it would have been better to let them develop and fulfill
themselves than to present for admiration, duly labeled, their dead and scattered
parts; that anyway, the museum by itself is nothing; that it means nothing, that it
can say nothing, when smug self-satisfaction rots the eyes, when a secret
contempt for others withers the heart, when racism, admitted or not, dries up
sympathy; that it means nothing if its only purpose is to feed the delights of
vanity; that after all, the honest contemporary of Saint Louis, who fought Islam
but respected it, had a better chance of knowing it than do our contemporaries
(even if they have a smattering of ethnographic literature), who despise it.325
Note Césaire’s point that the enemy that respects another ultimately better understands
the other than the one who despises, or looks down upon their enemy. As will be
discussed later in this chapter, it was precisely the oscillating balance between symbolic
and material “galactic” sovereignty that defined pre-European Kandy. It was the term
agama that missionaries would translate as an indigenous equivalent to “religion” as
understood in Europe, and the multiple ways through which Buddhism is referred to in
early Christian and colonial writings in Ceylon attest to the confusion.326 In a Buddhist or

325 Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism. Trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press,
1972): 20 – 21.
326 British administrators and missionaries would at times describe “the religion of the Boodoo,” at other
times understand Buddhism as being part of Hinduism, as well as engage in debates about the possible
divinity of the Siddharta Gautama himself. See also Kitsiri Malagoda, “Sinhalese Buddhism: Orthodox and
Syncretistic, Traditional and Modern,” Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Sciences (n.s.) 2/2 (1977):
145
Hindu genealogy, there is no contradiction with multiple, simultaneous expressions of
divinity. Indeed, in some Buddhist sutras, the Buddha converses with Hindu gods,
including Brahma, the god of creation. 327
All this is not to suggest that all converts to Christianity were employing
“weapons of the weak” in order to subvert European control. There are many reasons why
Christianity and its cosmology were genuinely appealing. In Elizabeth Harvard’s diary,
she describes what appears to be a very genuine conversion of a Buddhist priest to
Christianity, noting,
it never occurred to him that there was any great Creator; but he imagined that all
things came into existence by mere chance. Now he sees that it is only ‘the
foolish’ who think, in their hearts, ‘there is no God.’ May he more fully know
Him whom to know is life eternal, and become, to his benighted countrymen, a
useful minister of the Lord Jesus.328
Similarly, the fact that two high priests agreed to travel to England and give up their
privileges in Ceylon is taken as evidence of the ultimate victory for Christian worldviews
over heathenism and idolatry at the time.
329 The account notes that the two priests, upon
reaching England, communicated through broken Portuguese and ultimately came to
master English and “improve” their knowledge of religion. In the account, the author
proclaims that they did not know anything about writing because they merely wrote on
leaves in Ceylon, and was amazed at the speed with which they were able to master

246 – 270, cited in David Scott, Refashioning Futures” Criticism after Postcoloniality (New Jersey:
Princeton University Press, 1999): 57.
327 Bikkhu Bodhi (trans.) The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta
Nikaya, Vol II (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000).
328 Elizabeth Harvard, letter to her parents from Colombo. August 26, 1816. William Harvard, Memoirs of
Elizabeth Harvard, Late of the Wesleyan Mission to Ceylon With Extracts from her Diary and
Correspondence by her Husband (London: John Mason, 1833). British National Library, shelfmark: T.1587
(7.)
329 “Philoyenues,” letter to unnamed “sir” on the Baptism of two High Priests from Ceylon, Wesleyan
Methodist Missionary Society. (London). Archive Special Series Biographical. (H-2723) Box No. 628(1)
Ceylon Papers of A. Clark Var. Dates No. 1002
146
astronomy, geography, and religious precepts.330 My point in introducing this example is
not to suggest that the high priests did or did not genuinely become Christian; the more
important point is how within a universalizing view of modern/colonial British
Christianity, the highly skilled Buddhist scholars and priests were not seen as equals in
intellect already, and the confusion surrounding their abilities emerges from the failure to
recognize the pluriversality of cosmologies that enabled the encounter in the first place.
Though the details of internal cleavages within Christianity in Europe is well beyond the
scope of this chapter, it is worthwhile to note that in this time and place, the monastic
traditions that had given rise to Western philosophy and science were seen by the British
missionaries as being inherently more “true” than the systems of knowledge cultivated in
Ceylon and throughout Buddhist Southeast Asia more generally. To the missionaries, the
priests were understood to be uneducated, illiterate, and spiritually backwards only in the
universe of modernity; they were highly educated people, but educated otherwise.
Section Two: Galactic Sovereignty
With an understanding of the historical and political context within which British and
Kandyan “sovereignties” were about to interact in 1815, some further elaboration is
needed on how sovereignty in the galactic mandala tradition operated in order to more
fully appreciate the pluriversality of sovereignties interacting in the 19th century. The
power dynamics between the centre and periphery of Kandy depended on the balancing
of symbolic and administrative duties; sovereignty invested in the centre was largely a

330 Ibid.
147
virtual practice, in that the King’s power was vested in his role of maintaining
cosmological and material balance throughout the territory.331
S.J. Tambiah’s work on Southeast Asian Buddhist polities includes Kandy as a
key case study. Tambiah elaborates upon his adaptation of the rajamandala (circle of
kings) model of sovereignty that has its classical political philosophical origins in the
continental Mauryan Empire from the fourth to second centuries BCE. Its key
characteristic is its simultaneous centralizing and decentralizing tendencies, which define
the spatial organization of power. Applied to the Kandyan kingdom, the central capital
city was encircled by nine small rata (districts), which were functionally controlled by
officials. Collectively, these districts comprised the central domain. Around this central
area were twelve provinces of varying sizes, divided between the first and second adikars
in the South and North. The provinces further from the centre experienced the least
influence of the king, and also brought the Kandyan territories into more contact with
non-Kandyans. Moving outward, the centre’s gravitational influence waned and the
relative gravitational pull of the adikars increased over the smaller agents within their
sphere of influence. Think of how the Sun’s gravity, from the perspective of universal
modern science, animates the celestial bodies of our solar system, yet is in turn orbiting
the galactic core of the Milky Way – hence the adjective “galactic” to describe this
practice of sovereignty.
At the outer limits of the Kingdom in particular, strategies of accommodation and
integration were developed such that foreigners could be brought into the local Kandyan
order. This was especially important in post-colonial Sri Lanka, where Kandy was seen as

331 Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmological Terrain
of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhism Tradition” in A. Wagner et al. (eds.), Law, Culture
and Visual Studies, 573 – 596. Volumes 1 and 2, Springer Publishing Company, 2014.
148
an epicentre of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. Contrary to contemporary ethnonationalist
ideas that developed from the late 19th century onwards, incorporation of outsiders was a
crucial component of galactic sovereignty. Muslim traders, non-Kandyan Sinhalese, and
Tamils from the mainland were incorporated through a differentiation of work and caste
relations within the Kandyan galactic order. In practice and in ceremony, this was related
to work owed to the king based on caste and status (rajakariya). As Tambiah describes,
They elaborated the division of labor, and provided niches for immigrant groups,
or stranger groups of different “ethnic” origins and different “religions,” and
assigned special functions such as serving as mercenaries, conducting overland
trade, or making luxury artifacts…The mandala pattern of devolution and
replication could and did solicit and tolerate, positively place and mutually benefit
from the presence of and engagement with satellite principalities, specialized
minorities and sectarian or heterodox communities, waves of immigrants, and
groups of war captives all given niches and incorporated within the larger
cosmological and politicoeconomic framework. Indeed it was this galactic
blueprint that positively enabled the Sinhalization and Buddhicization of south
Indian peoples and gods to continue uncoerced.332
Galactic sovereignty was as much about fluidity in its incorporation of outsiders as it was
about rigid attention to ceremonies bridging the spiritual and manifest domains, the
significance of which will be explained below.
333
For Tambiah, there was nothing in any of the classical Anuradhapura and
Polonnaruva kingdoms that could adequately be described as a “state” in the modern
sense of the word. Drawing on South Asian sources of political theory, such as the
Arthashastra, Agganna Sutta (The Discourse on What is Primary) and the Cakkavatti

332 S.J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1992): 174 – 175.
333 By making this distinction using separation as a core component of colonial science from Shilliam 2015,
I do not mean to imply that the pre-colonial, galactic sovereign system is an example of “decolonial
science.”
149
Sinhanada Sutta (The Lions Roar of the Wheel-Turning Emperor),334 Tambiah describes
territory in flux, organized as “pulsating galactic polities”:
The polities modelled on mandala-type patterning had central royal domains
surrounded by satellite principalities and provinces replicating the centre on a
smaller scale and at the margins had even more autonomous tributary
principalities. The effective political arena extends beyond any single “kingdom”;
it is multicentric, with rival “kingdoms” jostling each other, changing their
margins, expanding and contracting, according to the fortunes of wars, skirmishes,
raids, and diplomacy.335
The local political spatial constellation was structured in an orbital fashion rather than a
ladder-like fashion. This does not mean there were no hierarchies; the point I am drawing
attention to is that the force holding indigenous polities in balance was animated more
gravitationally than through specific kinds of top-down accountability. Caste relations,
for example, played an important role in Sinhalese-Buddhist society, though, according to
Chandra R. de Silva, they did not occupy the same role nor have religious centrality as
they did in Hindu-India upon their introduction to the island during the Anuradhapura
period (377 BCE – 1017 CE). Nevertheless, caste identity did play an organizing role in
the exploitation of labour as well as determining the severity of punishments for
transgressions.336 This kind of structured and embodied privilege enjoyed by and taken
advantage of by upper caste chiefs in particular, was immediately missed upon
assumption of British rule in the Kandyan territories. A person’s caste determined their
role in society.
337 In part because the British relied on Dutch archival sources for much of
their early knowledge of Maritime Ceylon and the Kandyan interior, they importantly

334 Named precisely in Wijeyratne’s reading of Tambiah’s work. See: Roshan de Silva Wijeyratne, “The
Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmographical Terrain of Contested Sovereignty in the
Theravada Buddhism Tradition,” in A. Wagner et al. Sherwin (eds.) Law, Culture and Visual Studies,
Volumes 1 and 2, Springer Publishing Company, 2014.
335 S. J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka (London: University of
Chicago Press, 1992): 172.
336 Chandra Richard de Silva, Sri Lanka: A History (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1987): 50 – 52.
337 G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952]): 20 – 22.
150
misunderstood the dual meanings of “Sinhala” wherein a person could be culturally
Sinhalese, or politically Sinhalese, or both. When the Dutch discovered in the 18th
century, for example, that South Indian, occasionally Tamil speaking, Nayakkar caste
kings were ruling over Kandy, they (unsuccessfully) attempted to use this as an example
of “outside” rule to ferment disunity within the Randala nobility (subgroup of the farming
Goyigama caste) to press their interests in Kandy. The Dutch, and the British that
followed them, did not understand the dual meaning and purpose of Sinhala-ness, and
belonging to a cultural Sinhala identity did not have to be more important than a Sinhala
political and economic identity, which caste relations make clear. Upper caste elites
would have greater reason to relate with other upper caste elites more so than lower caste
workers, regardless of a cultural Sinhalese identity, so long as the political Sinhala
Buddhist relationships are held in balance.338
Sovereignty in Ceylon was often a contested terrain in which a European power
occupying a small patch of coastal land would proclaim dominance, while the inhabitants
of that area would continue their allegiance to another power, not dissimilar to the
multiple spiritual allegiances that confused Christian missionaries.
339 In the pre-colonial
Vanni region, for example, a region of mixed ancestry of Sinhalese, Tamil, and Vedda
(indigenous) peoples at the outer limits of Kandy’s (to the south) and Jaffna’s (to the
north) control, the sovereign boundaries fluctuated – but more importantly, they were
understood to be in flux. As Nira Wickramasinghe describes it, “Some of the Vanniar
chieftains, in the Vanni region in the East of the island, appear to have recognised the

338 John D. Rogers, “Early British Rule and Social Classification in Lanka,” Modern Asian Studies 38/3
(2004): 626-631; R.A.L.H Gunawardana, “The People of the Lion: The Sinhala Identity and Ideology in
History and Historiography” in Jonathan Spencer (ed.), Sri Lanka: History and the Roots of Conflict
(London: Routledge, 1990): 49 – 59.
339 Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities (Honolulu:
University of Hawai’i Press, 2006).
151
overlordship of the Kotte and Jaffna kingdoms equally and at times acknowledged both
simultaneously.” 340 The ontological understanding of sovereignty in its Buddhist
conception was certainly structured and hierarchical, but it was not characterized by
centralized or unitary rule. In contrast to a European hierarchical feudal model, Kandyan
sovereignty was based on devolving the practical aspects of governance to the periphery
rather than concentrating them in the centre, which was meant to mirror the spiritual
centre of the kingdom. Importantly, within South Asian spatial forms of organization
such as that of Ceylon, the norm of “total rule” existed in the symbolic and spiritual
realm, but did not manifest bureaucratically and politically. This is significant, because
the galactic sovereign order was already breaking down prior to the consolidation of de
jure British rule over the island in 1815, with the longer simmering tensions between the
Sinhalese aristocracy and the Nayakkar king leading to tensions within the balance of
power and order.341 It is within this Kandyan sovereign context that the interventions of
the British should be contextualized.
As James Duncan notes, the city of Kandy was meant to be “a heaven to the
kingdom as a whole.”342 The king, who symbolically represented the authority of Buddha,
did not engage in the details of administration, which was conducted by his adikars. In
spiritual terms there was a centralizing tendency, while in policy terms there was a
decentralizing tendency. The legitimacy and enforceability of policy came not from the
king, but required the signature of the adikars who were crucial in the devolution of
sovereignty. Adikars exercised judiciary and military powers, served as go-betweens for

340 Ibid., 9.
341 G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952]): 19 – 22
342 James Duncan, The City as Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990): 117.
152
the king and subjects, supervised the system of public works labour (rajakariya), and
signed off on state documents.343 There was thus an important system of checks and
balances in the Buddhist system of sovereignty that gave unlimited symbolic and
ritualistic power to the king, but severely limited the king’s ability to act materially
without the consent of the aristocracy. This spatial order, and Sri Vikrama’s falling out
with the Kandyan aristocracy in the final decade of his rule, is what ensured the fall of
Kandy, not any military or technological advantage of Governor Brownrigg or his
predecessors.
Symbolism and ritual has always been an important legitimizing component of
“sovereignty,” and Ceylon and Buddhist Southeast Asia more generally is no exception to
this. As Wijeyeratne describes,
The rituals of State were not only an intrinsic part of the symbolic glue that
contrived a form of virtual unity to a disparate and decentralised galactic polity
but also refracted the spatial division of the cosmic order within the order of
ritual.344
It was not so much that Buddhist sovereignty in the Theravada tradition required that the
spiritual and material realms be connected; rather, it was that within this ontology of
sovereignty, there was never a rupture that might artificially separate them. There are
several key ontological starting points for organizing sovereign rule that mark the
indigenous practice of sovereignty as distinct from European sovereignty. The first,
discussed above, is the pulsating expansion and contraction of rule in the rajamandala, or
galactic model. Rather than being organized through vertical differentiation of

343 Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne. “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmographical
Terrain of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhism Tradition” in A. Wagner et al. (eds.) Law,
Culture and Visual Studies, Vols 1 & 2, Springer Publishing Company, 2013.
344 Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmological Terrain
of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhism Tradition” in A. Wagner et al. (eds.), Law, Culture
and Visual Studies Volumes 1 and 2. (Springer Publishing Company, 2014): 575.
153
increasingly local duties, the practice of sovereignty was based on replication of the
“galactic core.” In a way, this is similar to a fractal relationship in that a fractal represents
the schematic of the whole, even within a small part. The next and related point is the
practice of sovereignty playing out at local levels in which lesser kings replicated the
spiritual and practical obligations of the sovereign in their smaller kingdoms. Part of the
duties of enacting sovereignty was careful attention to the spiritual and manifest domain,
held together in practice. This particular practice is what enabled the Kandyan kingdom
to view the coastal Dutch government as administering territory on its behalf through
much of the 18th century. Because of the centrality of symbolism to the practice of
sovereignty, it was possible for the Dutch and the Kandyans to each see the other as
subordinate; the decentralized and autonomous nature of politics allowed contradicting
virtual power relations to exist simultaneously in ways that they could not under a
centralized polity. Finally, starting from Buddhist sovereign ontologies within a galactic
model, there was no contradiction in a distant subordinate satellite territory exercising
considerable autonomy as explained above, nor was there any fundamental problem with
a person being a Christian, or Hindu, or a Jain, so long as they fulfilled the ritual
requirements of sovereignty alongside the material requirements. The further the distance
from the galactic centre, the greater the level of material/political autonomy that was
practiced. This spatial characteristic of organizing political power is what enabled
Ehelepola and his uncle, Pilima Talauvē before him, to plot with relative autonomy
against Vikrama, as they both hailed from Sabaragamuva, far from the centre and close to
the British coastal territories. By the time of European arrival in the 16th century, over a
thousand years of political history had already defined the spatial parameters of
sovereignty and the ebb and flow of power between territorial units on the island.
154
Becoming Kandyan through “Buddhification”
The urban geography of the city of Kandy illustrates the importance of symbolism to the
practice of sovereignty. It was constructed and ordered to physically represent hierarchies
of moral order in which the connection between the king-as-Bodhisattva was connected
as closely as possible to the Buddha in the spiritual realm in the East, while secular areas
were further to the West.345 Urban beautification and emphasis on symbols of sovereignty
was especially important to the last dynasty of Kandyan kings, the Nayakkars, because
unlike their Sinhalese predecessors, the Nayakkars were of South Indian ancestry and
thus needed to emphasize their relationship to Buddhism. In effect, the continental
Nayakkars had to “become-Kandyan” through demonstrating their ability to perform the
tasks of a Buddhist “sovereign” as well as their additional identity and family association
with Hindu Southern India. The mandala system’s ability to incorporate outsiders reflects
an ontology in which many cosmologies might co-exist in a way that would be very
problematic within a universal understanding of “sovereignty” as it developed in the
British/Christian tradition. Incorporation of foreigners, especially of Dravidian foreigners,
was an important part of Kandyan politics. Although since the formal independence of Sri
Lanka, Kandy has been imagined as a place of pristine Sinhalese anti-foreign influence,
even rich accounts of the late stages of the independent kingdom written by Sinhalese
nobles make no particular mention of Tamils or Malabars346 being a problem within the

345James Duncan, The City as Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom
(New York: Cambridge University Press,1990).
346 In the 19th century English language accounts, “Malabar” is most commonly used interchangeably with
Tamil. In the postcolonial period, it has been more or less accepted that references to Malabars specifically
refer to Tamils. But historically, this was not specifically a language issue, as Malabars (also describing a
geographic region in India) included Telugu speakers as well, some of whom also married into Sinhalese
royal families in the pre-colonial period. See Gananath Obeysekere, “Buddhism, Ethnicity, and Identity: A
155
kingdom. 347 Following the capture and exile of Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe, the Uva
rebellion of 1817/1818 was led in part by a Nayakkar Malabar of relation to Vikrama
named Wilbawe, who commanded considerable loyalty amongst the Sinhalese
aristocracy, as evident in transcripts of interrogation of Kohukumbra Ratteralle, a
Kandyan Chief.348
Ceremony was essential to legitimizing territorial rule in the Kandyan tradition,
and part of the process of what Tambiah describes as “Buddhification” of South Indian
sovereigns who rose to power. When the Sinhalese king Narendrasinha died in 1739
without a male heir, his Queen’s brother, Sri Vijaya Rajasinga was crowned king and
began the Nayakkar dynasty. Though it had been a tradition since the reign of King
Rajasinghe II (1635-1685) for Sinhalese kings to marry South Indian women of Nayakkar
lineage based in Madurai, Sri Vijaya’s identity as a South Indian ascending to the throne
and his subsequent marriage to a Nayakkar woman established a “foreign” dynasty of
South Indians to the Kandyan throne, which offended some of the Sinhalese chiefs and

Problem in Buddhist History” in Mahinda Deegale (ed.) Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka, 134
– 162 (New York: Routledge, 2006).
347 The beginning of the “ethnic” problems would come with the birth of the plantation economy of the
1830s onwards, and with it, the establishment and rampant proliferation of alcohol-selling taverns,
European planters, and migrant South Indian workers. Indeed, in a region well known for its intolerance of
alcohol, the fact that 133 arrack taverns opened between 1815 and 1848 and its associated social effects
speak to the transformation of the kingdom into an early capitalist “boom” town at a break-neck pace. In the
districts of Kandy, Udunuwara, Udapalata, and upper Bulatgama, consumption was as high as 2.2 gallons
per head in 1848. See: K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters on Ceylon, 1846 – 50, the administration of Viscount
Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of
State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. (Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965): 16, footnote

  1. British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
    348 There are different accounts of the leading figure in the Uva Rebellion, as will be discussed in greater
    detail in chapter four. According to newspaper accounts in the early stage of the rebellion, it was believed
    that one of the main instigators of the rebellion was indeed a Malabar relative of the ousted king named
    Wilbawe, but in later newspaper accounts and correspondence, this particular person is said to be living in
    exile in Madras under government arrest. According to these sources, it was a Sinhalese Buddhist monk
    posing as a Tamil/Malabar relation to drum up support for the rebellion, and allied with Keppetipola,
    nephew of Ehehepola, who defected from the British to join the rebels. More in chapter four, but see also:
    Ceylon Gazette May 16, 1818. British National Library, shelfmark: OMF/SM/126
    156
    aristocracy.349 Vijaya Rajasinha, having no male heirs of his own, was succeeded by his
    Nayakkar Queen’s brother, Kirti Sri Rajasinhe (1742-1782), who was in turn succeeded
    by Rajadhi Rajasinhe (1782-1798), who died of fever in 1798 and was also childless.
    There was considerable intrigue in the Kandyan court as to who would succeed
    Rajasinhe; following K.M. de Silva’s account, the most powerful person at court was
    Pilima Talauvē, the First Adikar. Muttusami, a brother-in-law of the recently deceased
    king, claimed he was named by the king as successor, and was jailed by Talauvē along
    with his sisters. An 18 year old Nayyakar protégé of Talauvē was ultimately crowned
    Vickrama Rajasinghe (1798 – 1815), and following de Silva, it was the intent of Talauvē
    to control Rajasinghe indirectly rather than attempt to supplant him and re-establish
    Sinhalese rule in Kandy. This is an important point, as de Silva notes that generations of
    practice had “indigenized” the Nayakkars to the point where there was no political will
    amongst the population to supplant them.350 The Nayakkars embraced the Buddhism of
    their new home, and especially under Kirti Sri Rajasinhe and Rajadhi Rajasinha,
    “identified [themselves] with the Kandyan national interest and blended the Nayakkar
    personality into the Kandyan background with consummate skill.”351 Although this did
    not sit well with the Sinhalese aristocracy, to ordinary Kandyans, the Nayakkars were
    accepted without noticeable concern. Indeed, the first major attempt to re-establish a
    Sinhalese dynasty came only in 1798, when First Adikar Pilima Talauvē installed the 18-

349 It is relevant to note that the two “pure” Sinhalese kings preceding Vijaya both had Nayakkar mothers.
See S.J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka. (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1992): 159.
350 K.M. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka (London: C. Hurst & Company, 1981): 221-222.
351 Ibid. It is worth drawing attention to de Silva’s use of “national” in this quote. de Silva’s primary
research interest is not the rise of nationalism, as he does not view this ostensibly as a characteristic of
modern or colonial society. In his earlier work however, he does differentiate between a Kandyan sense of
nationalism and a modern form of nationalism. I take this issue up more squarely in chapter four.
157
year-old Sri Vikrama, against whom he would later unsuccessfully rebel.352 Following
Roshan de Silva Wijeyratne’s reasoning, by the time of Vikrama Rajasinha’s coronation,
the contradiction of the galactic/mandala model of spatial organization of de-centralizing
sovereign authority outward already left the king powerless relative to the distant
provinces. As Wijeyratna explains,
Symbolic of the overwhelming power of the nobles who controlled the
administrative bureaucracy of the kingdom, in 1798 Pilima Talauvē “combined in
himself sixteen offices” of state. The king was the galactic sovereign par
excellence himself encompassed by the provincial bureaucracy, the galactic
centre turning into the galactic margin. Such was the multicentric nature of the
Kandyan polity that it was the king who in the absence of a developed monetary
economy remained dependent on the “loyalty of the disavas.”
353
The ritual of sovereign practice is the galactic mass that held together the fluctuating
centre, periphery and semi-periphery of the Kandyan state.354 By the fourteenth century,
the fertility ceremony of the Asala Perahera (procession) had developed into an
important spectacle of sovereignty. This procession was a powerful ritual through which
sovereignty was annually reaffirmed and performed for all to see; it dramatized state
power and further naturalized and entrenched a Buddhist ontology of how Kandy’s core
replicated cosmic balance and thus social order.
Part of the Nayakkar contribution to the development of the Asala Perahera was
making the dalada (tooth) relic the centrepiece of the Perahera.
355 The relic further

352 Ibid.; K.M. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka (London: C. Hurst & Company, 1981): 132; S.J. Tambiah,
Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1992): 160 – 161.
353 Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmological Terrain
of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhism Tradition” in A.Wagner et al. (eds.), Law, Culture
and Visual Studies Volumes 1 and 2, (Springer Publishing Company, 2014): 591.
354 Ibid.
355 S.J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka. (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1992): 162; Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka:
The Cosmological Terrain of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhism Tradition” in A.Wagner et
al. (eds.), Law, Culture and Visual Studies Volumes 1 and 2, (Springer Publishing Company, 2014): 593.
158
reinforced the balancing of cosmology and materiality, as it was said to come from the
Buddha’s funeral pyre and taken to symbolize the legitimacy of sovereign rule, a subject
of much controversy amongst Christian missionaries and British administrators in the
decades to follow. The Perahera, with the dalada front and centre, reinforced the King’s
symbolic function as a bodhisattva for his people, and ceremonially demonstrated the
centrality of the city of Kandy for the galactic kingdom. The procession ordered the entire
galactic polity. A state officer in charge of the register of land title led the procession,
which solidified how land was managed within the kingdom, and also the centrality of the
goyigama caste within the procession. The second and third parts of the procession, as
well as sections 23-28 represent the central government, such as the elephant department
and military. Sections 16-21 represented the religious functionaries of the state. 356
Although the material day-to-day operations of the state in practice empowered the
adikars and represented de-centralizing political tendencies, the overall legitimacy of
sovereignty was publicly rehearsed and performed through its mirroring of the spiritual
realm, both of which were united in the urban geography of the city of Kandy.357 Despite
the material autonomy of the periphery, the disavas (officials) in the periphery could not
miss the Perahera, along with other rituals of the state that held the mandala together.358
Gananath Obeyesekere, a colleague of S.J. Tambiah, has also written about
processes of Buddhification, drawing on historical texts as well as folk dramas.

356 Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmological Terrain
of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhism Tradition” in A.Wagner et al. (eds.), Law, Culture
and Visual Studies Volumes 1 and 2, (Springer Publishing Company, 2014): 593 – 594.
357 Ibid. See also Nihal Perera, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in
Sri Lanka (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998), which does an exceptional job of laying out the spiritual
significance of Kandy as well as the geographic strategies of colonization as they unfolded in the urban replanning of the city over the period of colonial rule.
358 Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmological Terrain
of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhism Tradition” in A.Wagner et al. (eds.), Law, Culture
and Visual Studies Volumes 1 and 2, (Springer Publishing Company, 2014).
159
Obeysekere rightly maintains that historical records would not include most migrants
entering Ceylon peacefully and integrating into local societies, but folk traditions can help
better understand these processes as well. Obeyesekere describes ritual dramas, in which
two performers play the role of Buddhist guardian deities at the gates of Lanka, blocking
entry to aliens attempting to enter:
These aliens speak a funny kind of Sinhala with a strong Tamil accent and they
constantly utter malapropisms, unintended puns, and spoonerisms. In their
ignorance they make insulting remarks about the gods at the barrier, they know
not Sinhala and Buddhist customs and the audience has a lot of fun at their
expense. Gradually, the alien visitors recognize their errors of speech and custom;
they learn to speak properly; they begin to properly worship the deities and
acknowledge the superiority of the Buddha. Then the gods open the barrier and
these aliens enter Sri Lanka.
359
This process mirrors the process of Buddhification described in more formal terms at the
regal level in the case of the Nayakkar dynasty. Obeyesekere argues that prior to
European colonization beginning with the Portuguese in 1505, there was an
understanding that at the village level, where people were long accustomed to receiving
Southern Indian immigrants, understanding integration into the social fabric as a process
of Buddhification made sense, as did the lack of differentiation between “Buddhist” and
“Sinhala.” While there would certainly have been individuals who would have seen them
as “Others,” the deference to Buddhism and respect for the genealogy of sovereign
practice did not make their Otherness more significant than the Otherness of Europeans,
who exhibited far less tact for 310 years prior to the Kandyan Convention of 1815. As
Obeysekere describes, “The universalizing of the unconditional identity,
Sinhala=Buddhist, with the primary emphasis on the first part of that duality, namely

359 Gananath Obeysekere, “Buddhism, Ethnicity, and Identity: A Problem in Buddhist History” in Mahinda
Deegale (ed.) Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka (New York: Routledge, 2006): 152.
160
being Sinhala, is the product of the colonial period.”360
In section three, I introduce the
theoretical concept of “political ontology” before applying this lens to the event of the
Kandyan Convention itself.
Section Three: Political Ontology and the Pluri-verse
Political Ontology
By the 18th and 19th centuries, starting assumptions about human nature and social
development were becoming increasingly “scientific” or pseudo-scientific, giving rise to
ideas about measurable degrees of civilization and the centrality of the state as a marker
of linear human development/accomplishment. Hegel was central to the state as a marker
of civilizational achievement.361 When the Spanish, for example, first encountered the
indigenous peoples of the “Indies,” their “lack” of writing was taken to be evidence of
civilizational immaturity. From within the universal lens of Spanish reason, the
organization and gross generational movement of knowledge through means that were
indigenous to what we today describe as South America and the Caribbean were
unperceivable. What they encountered was ontology otherwise, or outside/alongside their
own ways of knowing and being. But to Christian-Spanish eyes, how could scantily
clothed people without writing – people who seemed so close to the “state of nature”
discussed in chapter one – be equals? The question of whether “Indians” were human was

360 Ibid., 156.
361 Ranajit Guha, History at the Limit of World History (New York: Colombia University Press, 2002). My
point is not that British colonialists in the early 19th century were reading Hegel and applying his logic in
colonial endeavours. The point is that Hegel was observing and responding to the social and philosophical
currents within his world within the late Enlightenment in what was still not geographically configured to
be “Western Europe.” Hegel’s intellectual influence becomes more entrenched later, in the
professionalization of knowledge concerning the inevitability of the nation-state as a natural vehicle for
human collectives. The influence is perhaps most bare in expressions of modernization theory popular at
the formal end of institutional/political colonialism in the 1950s/1960s. See Gurminder K. Bhambra
Connected Sociologies (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).
161
a topic of intense debate in the Spanish world, and as discussed through Rojas and
Anghie’s engagement with de Vitoria, Spanish and Papal admission of “Indians” into the
human race was its own form of universalizing violence, as it served to legitimize the
expectation that humans possessing reason ought to be capable of recognizing their
inferiority. This was an ontological collision, because that which exists (the humanity, or
level of humanity of the Other) is called into question as the Spanish and the Taino, no
doubt, searched the recesses of their collective experiences to make sense of one another
and their relationships to land.362
Military, cosmological, and biological warfare were the means through which
land was acquired in the Caribbean and South America, but hundreds of years later,
colonizers could not ground their territorial claims to South Asia and the Middle East on
the basis of “lacking” written language. 363 In India, Orientalist scholars committed
considerable energy towards studying Sanskrit, and through their studies, were learning
about the Asokan era and beginning to discover the connections between ancient India
and ancient Greece.364 As Thomas Metcalf explains, this was an Enlightenment inspired
effort, aimed at understanding all cultures, and this ideology influenced the creation of the

362 The Valladoloid debate in 1550 – 1551 between Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepulveda
took up the question of how the “Indians” ought to be integrated into colonial life, with de las Casas
arguing that Indians and colonizers should be treated similarly and de Sepulveda arguing that the
unChristian ways of the Indians justified their subjugation by any means necessary. As Tzvetan Todorov
shows, even before this debate Christopher Colombus was making the case to Spain that a handful of
European soldiers could subdue and enslave the Indian population in the “new world,” while at the same
time making an evangelical case for sending missionaries across the Atlantic. The tension between the
Christian and the Colonizer was thus a subject of considerable debate in the decades following contact. See:
Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other, trans. Richard Howard (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1984).
363 While gold was the oft-noted reason for Columbus’ journey to the “Orient” that landed him in
contemporary South America and the Caribbean, as Todorov notes, a fundamental objective of his journey
was the aim of spreading the Gospel as well. In a letter to Pope Alexander VI, dated February 1502,
Colombus writes, “I hope in Our Lord to be able to propagate His holy name and His Gospel throughout the
universe.” Cited in Tzvetan Todarov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other, trans. Richard
Howard. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984): 10.
364 Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1998): 80 – 81.
162
Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1784. Under Governor General Warren Hasting’s patronage,
this organization was a hub of scholarly learning emphasizing translations from local
languages into English and the publication of the “uniquely influential journal, Asiatic
Researchers.” 365 As subaltern studies scholars have long emphasized, the BEIC
administration and its emphasis on bringing India into “world-history” through recasting
seemingly disordered narratives into statist narratives was central to the making of
modern, colonial India. 366 The modern state, instead of the written language, became a
symbol of modern civilization and played the role of providing “evidence” of indigenous
“lack” to legitimize the domination of “pre-historic” people, land, and cosmology,
ostensibly for the benefit, improvement, and development of “natives” themselves.367
What was different in the 19th century was that it was not only alleged civilizational
inferiority and divine providence that justified colonialism, but an aligning of ideas and
interests emerging into a “science” of racial inferiority, as well as linear, universal
temporality in which the structural presence of the state marked the border between
civilization and those lacking it.368
The ontological differences in starting assumptions have been outlined thus far,
but what remains to be considered is the consequences of ontological conflict and its
importance for understanding colonial state formation beginning with the Kandyan
Convention. Mario Blaser, working mostly in the area of indigenous studies in Latin and
North America, is a leading scholar of political ontology, and by way of explaining the
politics of ontology, I lean on his illustrative example. Blaser offers the example of the

365 Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1998): 9 – 11.
366 Ranajit Guha Dominance Without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India. (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1997): 182.
367 I elaborate on these themes in chapter three, which positions a liberal turn in governance and economy
as a way of softening and “improving” both colonialism and commerce.
368 Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1998): 80 – 92.
163
Mowachat/Muchalaht First Nation in what is commonly called British Columbia, Canada,
to illustrate the contemporary importance of ontological collision. When Canada’s
Department of Fisheries and Oceans tried to launch a plan to relocate a young orca whale
in 2012, the Mowachat/Muchalaht intervened on the basis that the whale was their
recently deceased chief, Ambrose Maquinna, who had promised to return to his people in
the form of a whale.369 The whale’s presence represented the chief’s desire to remain with
the people and should be respected, and as Blaser says,
This was not a conflict between two different perspectives on an animal but rather
a conflict over whether the “animal” of scientists, bureaucrats, and
environmentalists was all that was there. Ontological conflicts thus involve
conflicting stories about “what is there” and how they constitute realities in
power-charged fields.370
As Blaser’s example shows, what is in conflict is not a question of either A or B, but
rather, A being part of B, but not all of. It is not that Mowachat/Muchalat deny that the
whale in question is a whale, rather, they point to the fact that the whale that we observe
is only part of what is actually there. While the empirical ways in which ontological
conflict plays out in particular places are very distinct, there is nothing particularly unique
about the conflicts that arise when different ontologies come into contact. In the context
of colonial state formation in Ceylon, Blaser’s notion of ontological conflict is instructive
as it shows the violent implications of failing to understand that there are multiple
realities interacting in the political connections between worlds that are ordered along
different ontologies.

369 Paul Watson, “Leaving Luna Alone,” Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, June 18th, 2004. Accessed on
September 2, 2014. http://www.seashepherd.fr/news-and-media/editorial-040618-1.html.
370 Mario Blaser, “Ontological Conflicts and the Stories of Peoples in Spite of Europe: Toward a
Conversation on Political Ontology,” Current Anthropology 54/5 (2013): 548.
164
In the case of the British and the Kandyans, a belief in the uni-versal meaning of
what sovereignty and territory meant within distinct genealogies led to ontological
conflict, which is also essentially a political conflict. From a modernist, universal view,
this has been historicized as mere duplicity on part of entrepreneurial leaders within the
Sinhalese-Kandyan aristocracy, and I do not dispute the fact that such political intrigue
was central to the story. But the more interesting problem is the enactment of politics
associated with the meeting of different ontologies of “sovereignty” that inform what it
means to exist and practice sovereignty. That the British and the Kandyans conceived of
this differently brings to light the relational development and fragility of the concept of
state sovereignty as it was developing in the early 19th century. When the Kandyans
refused to act in a “proper” way as understood from the perspective of a Eurocentric,
universal view of sovereignty, Kandy forced an opening between worlds of meaning. In
the meeting of Kandyan and British ontologies of sovereignty, there are, to stretch the
meaning of the concept, two status quos or established systems of order. This is the
importance of pluriversal politics, because both Kandyan sovereignty and British
sovereignty represent worlds with long histories of sovereign development.
A pluriversal perspective of the meeting of different histories of sovereign
practice highlights the enactment of pluriversal politics. Ontological conflict offers a
destabilizing opportunity in which to see and put into practice “other” ways of knowing
material and cosmological existence. At the ontological level, modernity demands that
there can be only one sphere of being and experience, a universe, which has been
projected and enforced throughout the colonial encounter as a political project of
domination that has manifested differently across time and place. How ontological
conflicts are resolved is unpredictable and historically contingent, in large part because
165
the existence of multiple ontologies does not at all imply that ontologies are not often
encountering one another in some way. In the case of the British and the Kandyans, they
had encountered one another many times, and the Kandyans, in particular, had a long
history of military and diplomatic relations with European powers. Returning to Blaser’s
example of ontological conflict in 21st century “Canada,” we can see one possible
outcome of conflicting ontology: a de-politicized, normalized, everyday application of
modern, “scientific” universal thinking that cannot comprehend the Mowachat/Muchalaht
position. As Blaser describes it,
the claim of the pluriverse (or multiple ontologies) is not concerned with
presenting itself as a more “accurate” picture of how things are “in reality” (a sort
of meta-ontology); it is concerned with the possibilities that this claim may open
to address emergent (and urgent) intellectual/political problems. Central among
these problems is the extent to which those of us (persons and institutions) who
have been shaped by an ontology that postulates/performs a “one-world world”
are ill prepared to grapple with its increasing implausibility.371
The truest form of colonization is that which occurs ontologically, in which the worldviews and practices of the colonized are made to reflect those of the colonizer – the
disciplining of the pluriverse into the universe. Such ontological colonial violence has
many manifestations, one of which is the post-independence idea in South Asia that a
strong central state must control “every inch of territory” in order to exist in a global
system of states connected and constituted through hundreds of years of colonial
violence.372

371 Mario Blaser, “Ontological Conflicts and the Stories of Peoples in Spite of Europe: Toward a
Conversation on Political Ontology,” Current Anthropology 54/5 (2013): 554.
372 Ajay Parasram, “Postcolonial Territory and The Coloniality of the State” Caribbean Journal of
International Relations and Diplomacy 2/4 (2014): 51 – 79.
166
Multiple Ontologies vs. Multiple Modernities
Thinking about the politics of ontology is a useful way to re-consider the collision of
sovereignties in the formal unification of Ceylon in 1815, because it draws attention to
the different genealogies of sovereignty and their irreconcilability due to the developing
rule of colonial difference. Applied to South Asia, colonial difference positioned South
Asia as a place outside of history, relative to a Europe in which progress was a defining
characteristic that was divinely ordained. British scholars in the late 19th century went so
far as to theorize that Rajput systems of organizing sovereignty, by virtue of more closely
resembling European ones, were indicative of their Aryan blending. As Metcalf
describes, “A system of government that could be described by analogy with that of
Europe, even the Europe of the Middle Ages, was by definition superior to a system
which was purely ‘Oriental’ in character.”373 Clearly the universal ontology of the early
19th century had not given way in the late 19th century, but nonetheless, as a method of
historical discovery, the politics of ontology, can be a useful analytical tool through
which to study the past differently. Political ontology then, is about how to put into
practice many “verses” of history and politics, a pluri-versal rather than uni-versal
conception of ontology.
This is not to suggest that “modernity” is not a contested regime of knowledge,
either within Europe or elsewhere in the world. There are political reasons why modernity
is usually framed in terms of enlightened philosophy, human rights, and freedom from
religious persecution rather than in terms of slavery, genocide, and the immiserization of
the European working classes. But there is an important distinction between “multiple
modernities” and “multiple ontologies.” The idea of multiple modernities draws attention

373 Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1998): 74
167
to the fact that Eurocentric modernity is an incomplete way of understanding the
processes of industrialization, modernization, and development. It emerges in the work of
Shmuel Eisenstadt (1974), who was an earlier theorist of modernization theory. Multiple
modernity as a concept has become more influential near the end of the 20th century.374
As Bhambra observes, the case for multiple modernities was made to add a cultural
dimension and inflection to the processes underscoring universal institutions such as the
state and the market. This revision of earlier modernization theory thus sought to escape
the charge of cultural relativism by keeping the institutional basis for a universal
understanding of modernity, while resisting the Euro-domination of modernity by
emphasizing the cultural distinctions of how modernity unfolds in different places.375
Multiple modernity, then, still implies different perspectives on a materially objective and
describable “reality,” which, as Blaser’s work makes clear, is not the same as multiple
ontologies.
The difference between multiple ontologies and multiple modernities is central to
pluriversal politics, in which whole cosmologies, complete with ontological starting
points and knowledge cultivated along means that may not be knowable from outside of
those worlds, interact. Using political ontology as an analytical lens to understand
colliding British and Kandyan sovereignties at an important moment of sovereign
transformation allows us to focus on the multiple ontologies that conflict and enact a
pluriversal conception of politics, in which both Kandyan and British worlds are forced to
transform, albeit not on even terms. In light of the work of chapter one, we can see that
focusing on pluriversal politics instead of universal politics means that our lens must de-

374 S.N. Eisenstadt, “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus 129/1 (1974): 1 – 29; Gurminder K. Bhambra,
Connected Sociologies. (London: Bloomsbury, 2014): 34.
375 Gurminder K. Bhambra, Connected Sociologies. (London: Bloomsbury, 2014): 32 – 34.
168
link from the centrality of Europe, and this comes at a cost. As noted in the telescope
metaphor in chapter one when a camera’s lens focuses on a foreground, the complexity of
the background is blurred. Choosing to focus on “coloniality” rather than “modernity” as
the focal point of interest in this study means that the complexities and contestations
within modernity are held artificially static. 376 As I strive to show throughout this
dissertation, the de-politicization through the violence of universality as it pertains to the
histories of modern/colonial formation relies on the discursive power to normalize
Eurocentric ontologies, epistemologies, and practices.
Modernity requires an ontological belief in universality, whether it is through
linear temporality, or through the fundamental hierarchy of difference.377 But the crucial
component of this story is that modernity as a mediator or lens through which to know the
world is a colonizing master-narrative that has, through 500 years of political practice,
normalized its own universality as a standard by which all others must be evaluated in a
way that has been axiomatically proclaimed and enforced its validity with coercive power
as well as attempting to prove it. This is indeed something that has been central to the
colonial encounters of the past, but as the story of the Mowachat/Muchalaht shows,
modernity continues to depend on the silencing of other worlds. Ontological conflict
helps to understand the religious politics introduced earlier in this chapter between the
Christian-world view that informed the political and messianic motivations of British
missionaries and administrators in the early 19th century as they were just coming to learn
and produce knowledge about buddhagama, or what they would eventually name

376 As explained in the introduction of this dissertation concerning the methodology of archiving-in-relief,
there is an added layer of complexity associated with using artefacts produced by colonizers by piecing
together the seemingly unimportant “relief” histories.
377 Ranajit Guha, History at the Limit of World History (New York: Colombia University Press, 2002);
Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1998): 113 – 158.
169
“Buddhism.” With the history and theoretical approach in mind, I turn now to the
physical encounter between the British and Kandyan aristocracy in Kandy in 1815 to
explore the political ontology of the Convention.
The Kandyan Convention as Political Ontology
Though it was not a Perahera that marked the ritual handover of sovereignty from the
Kandyan aristocracy to General Brownrigg, the ceremony was profoundly spectacular,
involving the ceremonial arrival in the King’s palace of Governor Brownrigg alongside
the current mahadikar, Molligodde, and the most recently deposed mahadikar, Ehelepola
whose defection to the British catalyzed the course of events leading to the sovereign
handover. The British troops assembled in the square in front of the Royal Palace at 3:00
p.m on March 2, 1815. They formed a lane leading from the outside into the King’s hall,
where the sovereign of Kandy sat for official ceremonies. Governor Brownrigg, alongside
the main adikars and Chiefs, passed through this military flank into the King’s Hall
where Brownrigg took the king’s place, sitting the recently ousted mahadikar Ehelepola
to his immediate right. Ehelepola’s replacement, Molligodde, served the role of
mahadikar, and led the processional of approximately twenty Dessaves of the provinces
and principal chiefs. Brownrigg rose to receive them, and he and Ehelepola, who had
accepted the official title of “Friend of the British Government” remained standing for the
rest of the ceremony.
As they entered the Palace, a British ensign began raising the Union Jack outside,
but deep in the heart of the city of the Bodhisattva king, attention to ceremony and due
process was more important than strength of arms. A Buddhist priest Wariyapola Sri
Sumangala intercepted the breach of protocol. Sumangala, apparently,
170
pulled down the Union Jack, which he saw being hoisted by a British ensign,
when Governor Sir Robert Brownrigg entered the Audience Hall at Kandy on
March 2, 1815 and placing his foot on it shouted, “The treaty is not signed yet.” A
sword was drawn but it went back to its sheath. The Union Jack remained lowered
until the ceremony was over.378
The simmering tension associated with the drawn swords and flag-stomping speak to the
tenuousness of this moment. The spectacle and ritual of sovereign handover was
something significant for both the people of Kandy and the British government, but
Blaser’s work on political ontology enables us to see, the meaning of that ceremony was
quite distinct. The point of contention between a Kandyan genealogy and practice of
sovereignty and their British counterparts was not just a question of who would be
sovereign, but about what it meant to exercise sovereignty. From the perspective of the
genealogy of Kandyan sovereignty, this required a pulsating galactic order whose
legitimacy emerged out of local practices of cosmological and material balance, requiring
foreigners to “become-Kandyan” and perform the Buddhist obligations of sovereignty.
Indeed, for more than a thousand years, the process of integrating foreigners more
generally, never mind sovereigns, into the local political milieu was based on their
Buddhification, but this was not ontologically possible for the British.379 To be sovereign
in a galactic mandala system was to wield power, but it was also much more than the
wielding of power, as well.
The purpose of existing within a sovereign system was not to escape a Hobbesian
state of nature, but rather, to exist within a kingdom that balanced cosmology and
materiality within which borders and boundaries were important, but not necessarily the

378 R.B. Etipola, Queen Elizabeth of Ceylon and the Kandyan Convention – 1815, (1952). British National
Library, shelfmark: 8157.c.56.
379 Gananath Obeysekere, “Buddhism, Ethnicity, and Identity: A Problem in Buddhist History,” in Mahinda
Deegale (ed.) Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka (New York: Routledge, 2006): 134 – 162.
171
defining characteristic of the spatial order. To the British, sovereignty was much more a
question of material rule sanctified in a hierarchical organization of authority that placed
the British sovereign at the top and endowed him with absolute authority, however
problematic this might be as outlined in chapter one. Although what was developing, as I
will elaborate upon in chapter three, was an imperial and relational conception of modern
sovereignty within modern/colonial conditions, from the perspective of the British in
Kandy in 1815, sovereign legitimacy came from a stiffly hierarchical chain of command
within a quasi-secular order originating in a Christian monarch thousands of miles from
the galactic centre of Kandy. That these differing ontologies of sovereignty would clash,
in light of all that has been discussed so far in this chapter, should no longer seem
surprising.
While Sumangala and the British ensign clashed outside the palace at Kandy in
1815, the spectacle and rituals of sovereign handover were continuing inside the halls. I
quote an anonymous and self-described “gentleman on the spot”380 at length, who was
most likely an officer in Brownrigg’s army or a bureaucrat:
A scene no less novel than interesting was here presented, in the state and costume
of the Kandian Court, with an English Governor presiding, and the Hall lined on
both sides with British officers.
The conference began with complimentary inquiries on the part of the
Chiefs, which were graciously answered by the Governor, and mutual inquiries
made. His Excellency then thanked the Dessaves for the attention shewn [sic] to
the troops in their various routes through the country towards the capital; which
gave occasion to the Chiefs to observe, that they considered them as protectors,
and that by the arrival of His Excellency and the army they had been rescued from
tyranny and oppression.

380 It is unclear who this Gentleman is, but historian Geoffrey Powell believes the most probably person is
William Tolfrey, the man who replaced John D’Oyly as chief translator of the colonial Government after
the Kandyan Convention in which D’Oyly took up the post of government Resident in the newly acquired
Kandyan territories. See: Geoffrey Powell, The Kandyan Wars: The British Army in Ceylon 1803 – 1818
(London: Lee Cooper, 1973): 243.
172
The Governor observed he was gratified in having been the means of their
deliverance; he assured them of full protection, in their persons, their property,
and all their rights; and added, that while he had the honour of holding the
administration in the island, it would be his study to make them experience the
blessings of His Majesty’s benign government. It was then intimated to the Chiefs, that a paper had been prepared expressive of the principles on which the participation of His Majesty’s
government was offered to their acceptance, and that it was about to be read;
which they requested might be done.
The Treaty was then read in English by Mr Sutherland, Deputy Secretary
to the government, and afterwards in Cingalese [sic] by the Modeliar of His
Excellency’s Gate, Abraham de Saram. This important document was listened to
with profound and respectful attention by the Chiefs; and it was pleasing to
observe in their looks, a marked expression of cordial assent, which was
immediately declared with great earnestness.
His Excellency’s part of the conference was communicated to Mr. D’Oyly,
and by him to Molligodde Adigar, who delivered it aloud to the audience. A Chief
of venerable and commanding aspect was the organ of the assembly, whose
person and countenance were equally striking. His figure, the tallest present, was
erect and portly; a high and prominent forehead, a full eye, and a strong
expression of natural vivacity, tempered with the gravity of advanced age, marked
by a long, full, and graceful white beard, and the whole, combined with his rich
state dress, formed a subject for a portrait truly worthy of an able hand. His name
was Millaawa, Dessave of Godapola. He was a great favourite of the King, and
remained with him till a late period. This Chief collected the sentiments of the
assembly, generally in silence, but with occasional explanation, and delivered
them to the Adigar, with the concurrence of the rest.
Ehelepola, though not ostensibly engaged in the conference, took a marked
interest in every part of it. His carriage was distinguished by a courtly address,
politeness, and ease; and he was evidently regarded by the assembled Chiefs with
a high degree of deference and respect.
After the Treaty was read in Cingalese [sic], the Adigar Molligodde and
the other Chiefs proceeded to the great door of the Hall, where the Mohottales,
Coraals, Vidaans, and other subordinate headmen from the different provinces
were attending, with a great concourse of the inhabitants; and the headmen being
called on by the Adigar to range themselves in order according to their respective
districts, the Treaty was again read by the Modeliar in Cingalese [sic]; at the
conclusion of which the British Flag was hoisted, for the first time, in the town of
Kandy, and a royal salute from the cannon of the city announced His Majesty
George the Third Sovereign of the whole Island of Ceylon.381

381Anonymous, “A Narrative of Events which have recently occurred in the Island of Ceylon, Written by a
Gentleman on the spot” (London: T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall, 1815): 47 – 49. British National
Library, shelfmark: 583.f.14.(1.).
173
It was at this point that two distinct ontological understandings of political sovereignty
collided, one representing a Western European Christian genealogy and another
representing a South Asian Buddhist genealogy in the galactic tradition elaborated by
Tambiah, Obeysekere, and Wijeyeratne. To the British, they were now “sovereign of the
whole island of Ceylon” but to the Kandyans, to be “Sovereign” required
“Buddhification” and a galactic model of power in which disparate territories exercised
considerable autonomy. This was the historical precedent; foreign sovereigns, like the
Nayakkars, went to great length and great deference to local traditions and history of the
territory to normalize and sanctify the legitimacy of their rule, but to the British, this was
not at all part of the plan.
We see this in what appears to be double-speak by Brownrigg when, a few weeks
following this event, he led the Wesleyan Missionaries to believe that the “centre was
open to the gospel,” which is a far cry from Article five of the Kandyan Convention
which declares Buddhism to be inviolable. The year before this, Brownrigg had housed
the missionaries at Government House, advised them on where to concentrate their
resources as well as where Tamil and Sinhalese language skills would be necessary, and
provided them with generous government stipends and grants of land so that they might
more effectively evangelize.382 My point is not that Kandyans believed in 1815 that the
British were their subordinates, but that two understandings of what it meant to practice
sovereignty collided while simultaneously becoming articulated with each other in this
document and the ceremony that sanctified it.

382 Rev. William Ault to Mother, 1814. WMMS Box 628 (1) Ceylon Various Papers Various Dates, No.

  1. Missionary Archives of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.
    174
    The Convention, written side by side in English and Sinhalese, represented the
    formal legal transference of Kandyan sovereignty, embodied by the ranking chiefs, to
    Britain, embodied by Governor Robert Brownrigg. It recognizes two different readings of
    temporality, itself evidence of different understandings of reality, as the text begins
    noting the difference of years 1815 in the Christian calendar and 1736 in the Sinhalese
    calendar.383 The first three clauses vilified the “cruelties and oppression of the Malabar
    ruler” and importantly, identifies that the ousted sovereign had habitually violated the
    “sacred duties of a Sovereign.” 384 The Convention laid the groundwork for how the
    British would relate to and with the Kandyans, promising extensive protection for
    Buddhism (clause 5), the preservation (but subjugation) of Kandyan laws, and the
    supremacy of British rule and domination over trade in particular (clauses 8 – 11). In
    clause four, Kandy is hierarchically situated within the British empire, and while
    Kandyan Adigars, Dessaves, and other positions of authority are recognized, they are
    subordinated in a legalistic, British/feudal way in clause four:
    The dominion of the Kandyan provinces is vested in the Sovereign of the British
    Empire and to be exercised through the Governors or Lieutenant- Governors of
    Ceylon for the time being, and their accredited Agents, saving to the Adigars,
    Dessaves, Mohottales, Coraals, Vidaans, and all other chief and I subordinate
    native headmen, lawfully appointed by authority of the British Government, the
    rights, privileges, and powers of their respective offices, and ‘ to all classes of the
    people the safety of their persons and property, with their civil rights and
    immunities, according to the laws, institutions, and customs established and in
    force amongst them.385
    The dispensation of capital punishment was reserved for the British, which is significant
    in that it was the abuse and cruelty of the previous administration that served the moral

383 Proclamation at a Convention held on the 2nd day of March in the Year of Christ 1815 and the Cingalese
year 1736.” Accessed November 4th, 2014.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/09/The_Kandyan_Convention_of_1815.jpg
384 Ibid.
385 Ibid.
175
purpose of justifying the British intervention in the first place. The British justified their
invasion of Kandy on the basis of defending the Kandyan people from a ruthless king in a
proclamation leading to the eventual deployment of troops to the city of Kandy.
The political implications of this ontological collision were not immediately
obvious, though the effects began to materialize soon after. The meeting of ontologies of
sovereignty between the “galactic” model and the Eurocentric model can be understood
by an analogy with what happens when galaxies themselves come into contact with one
another. In the pluriverse, multiple ontologies have always coexisted, and the implication
of this is that they do come in contact and also in conflict. When galaxies come in contact
with one another, the implications are not always clear and depend on where in the galaxy
one is situated. Galaxies are, at one scale of abstraction, very porous, animated by gravity,
and rather than bumping into each other, they pass through one another, reforming one
another in a dynamic regime of practice.
Figure 1: Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies colliding (Time 1), NASA artistic
prediction386
In Figure 1, we see a graphic interpretation of the moment of galactic collision between
our Milky Way galaxy and our closest galactic neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, based
on predictions from NASA. The ontological conflict of British and Kandyan conceptions

386 “NASA’s Hubble Shows Milky Way is Destined for Head On Collission with Andromeda.” NASA.
May 31, 2012. Accessed February 17, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AzdknptCmo
176
of “sovereignty” can be likened to this first moment of galactic collision because the
implications of the collision are not immediately clear. The galaxies, and the ontologies
of sovereignty, can “pass through” one another, where sovereignty has been transferred
from the Kandyan territories to the British, but the ontological disagreement about what it
means to wield and exercise sovereignty can be misunderstood by both parties.
Figure 2: Milky Way and Andromeda in Time 2, having “passed through” each
other387
In Figure 2, the galaxies have passed through one another, and this passing through has
affected each of the galaxies. Over time, they will collide again, and ultimately converge
into something altogether new. These repeat collisions and encounters constitute political
processes between distinct ontologies of sovereignty throughout the subsequent four
decades, the details of which are the subject of chapter four.
The ontological collision of sovereignty resulted in almost immediate problems,
as the Kandyans believed the British would leave Kandy following the Convention, and
Brownrigg instead left troops. The immediate difficulty and borderline impossibility of
Christian British rulers to perform the ceremonial obligations of Kandyan sovereigns was
apparent. While the British took possession of the dalada relic, all that the relic meant to
them was a “superstition” that needed to be guarded to trick a backwards people into

387 Ibid.
177
obedience. It took less than two years for the Uva Rebellion to break out, in which the
Kandyan aristocracy, the Buddhist priests, and masses of people rose up to try to reestablish the old order, the details of which will be discussed in chapter four.
To the evangelically inclined of the British Christians, the association of the
British government with dalada was akin to aligning their Christian nation to idolatry. To
the Kandyans in the rebellions and near rebellions that followed (1817 – 1818; 1823;
1824; 1834; 1843; 1848), the dalada was a sought-after symbol of legitimacy and a
rallying point. Sri Sumangala, the same priest that stomped on the Union Jack on March
2, 1815, would later steal the dalada relic and give it to the anti-British rebellion, a
treasonous crime for which he was eventually jailed. In the decades that followed the
Convention, the British downplayed the significance of the tooth relic and constantly
strove for “rational” explanations for why Governor Brownrigg would have agreed to
such a commitment to Buddhism. A prime example of this comes from the writing of
James Steuart, a colonial administrator in Ceylon for nearly forty years:
When we reflect on the Christian character of Sir Robert Brownrigg and the
sterling religious principles of his legal adviser, the late Sir Hardinge Gifford, then
Advocate Fiscal, we are both surprised and concerned to find in the treaty of
convention of 1815, that the Religion of Buddha professed by the Chiefs and
Inhabitants of the Kandian Provinces is declared to be “inviolable and its rites,
ministers and places of worship to be maintained and protected.” But when we are
told the Kandians believe that the security of the Government of their country
depends on the possession of the “Dalada” or relic of Buddha, we may perceive
the policy, which prompted the English to avail themselves of this popular
superstition to keep down insurrection, by placing a guard of British soldiers over
the principle Temple in which the imaginary tooth of Buddha is deposited, and
henceforth to promise it British protection… the Kandian Priests of Buddha are
indebted for the protection which their Idolatrous worship receives from the
British Government.388

388 James Steuart, “Appendix: On the British Protection of Buddhism in 1844” in Observations on Colonel
Forbes’ Pamphlet on the recent rebellion in Ceylon (Colombo: Examiner Press, 1850. British National
Library, shelfmark: 8244.b.3.(2.).
178
In Steuart’s observation, thirty years after the signing of the Kandyan Convention, we see
that the ontological dissonance of sovereignty has not lifted. He sees in the dalada relic
only a strategic technology of colonial rule, not a spiritual relic in the charge of a
sovereign for protection of the Buddhist faith that underscores the balance of political
order. Within a British framework, it could only be rationalized in instrumental terms, as
a technology of colonial rule, but within a Kandyan framework, there was never any
confusion about the importance of it. Ontologically, the tooth symbolized a union of
cosmological and political realms, rehearsed and practiced in Peraheras. That the British
could not fully grasp the significance of this or reconcile it with their Christian
sensibilities, which demanded that such objects be considered idolatry or demonic in
essence, was a problem for the British, not the Kandyans. Like Blaser’s example of the
Mowachat/Muchalaht, the issue at hand is not whether the tooth relic is an idolatrous
affront to Christianity. Rather, it is its importance to Buddhist sovereignty, which starts
from distinct ontological starting assumptions grounded in a long genealogy of practice
that comes into conflict with a Christian/British understanding of sovereignty in the
spectacle and document of the Kandyan Convention. The universal perspective of
sovereignty from a British/Christian cosmology cannot comprehend the meaning of the
Buddhist/Kandyan cosmology and the significance of the “galactic model” that Tambiah
describes.
Four years after Steuart wrote the above reflection, the dalada was given back to
the Kandyans in the care of Giranegama Ratanajothi Thera, chief priest of the Danbulla
temple. The colonies were very much testing grounds for different approaches to
government, including liberal government, and Ceylon was one such testing ground, as
179
will be discussed in the next chapter.389 Like Sri Sumangala before him, Thera would
grant spiritual legitimacy to the Matele rebellion led by Gongalegoda Banda by crowning
Banda “Sri Wikrema Siddipathi,” King of Kandy, in a treasonous ceremony in 1848.390
Just a few months before the rebellion took off, on August 15, 1847, Governor Viscount
Torrington VII (George Byng) describes the tooth relic in a dispatch to the CO as “a mere
bit of ivory, very brown in colour, and I should doubt very much as to the estimated value
of the jewels.”391 The day before, on August 14, Torrington lamented a CO order to place
the dalada relic in the hands of the locals, which had come as a result of a concerted
effort on behalf of missionaries to disassociate the British government from “idolatry”
from 1815 to 1848.392 In this letter, Torrington suggests that a far better solution would
have been to lie to the locals, telling them that Queen Victoria “has a splendid temple
called the British Museum in which she would place it and take care of it for them.”393 In
a twisted way, Torrington was perhaps correct, as it was with the ceremonial authority of
the sovereign relic that helped grant ceremonial legitimacy to the crowning of Banda as

389 David Scott, Refashioning Futures: Criticism after Postcoloniality (New Jersey: Princeton University
Press, 1999); Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
390 “Heroes in the Struggle for Independence” Sunday Times, February 5, 2012. Accessed February 7th
,

  1. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/120205/FunDay/fut_01.html.
    391 Viscount Torrington to the Earl of Grey Aug. 15, 1847. See: K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters on Ceylon, 1846
    – 50, the administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the private correspondence of
    the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. (Kandy:
    K.V.G. de Silva, 1965) British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
    392 Missionary accounts, as well as the accounts of local converts turned missionary aids, consistently resist
    what was seen as over compensation of “false” religion in the text of the Kandyan Convention and the
    credibility it lent to the “backwards” order. One of the most important and influential of these texts was a
    pamphlet written by Spence Hardy, in which he writes: “I rest my argument of the necessity of its
    [Buddhism’s] destruction upon the simple fact that it is opposed to the truth – denies the existence of God –
    is ignorant of the only way of salvation, by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ…” See H. Spence Hardy (1839)
    The British Government and the Idolatry of Ceylon. SOAS MMSL S123. See also Michael Roberts, Facets
    of Modern Ceylon History Through the Letters of Jeronis Pieris. (Colombo: Hans Publishers Limited,
    1975) British National Library, shelfmark: X.800/27313.
    393 Viscount Torrington to the Earl of Grey Aug. 15, 1847. See: K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters on Ceylon, 1846
    – 50, the administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the private correspondence of
    the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. (Kandy:
    K.V.G. de Silva, 1965) British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
    180
    King, or in British parlance, “pretender” to the throne. Utterly ignorant of the importance
    of the Buddhist priesthood, Governor Torrington had the priest dragged out in his
    ceremonial robes and shot for treason, an event that Torrington would later blame on the
    priest for not requesting to change his clothes prior to being executed. This act of
    executing the chief priest in his ceremonial robes would be a catalyst that would bring
    about the end of Torrington’s administration following a royal inquiry into the heavy
    handed way he chose to deal with the uprisings of 1848.394
    Conclusion
    Through examining contrasting ontologies of religion and sovereignty in the early 19th
    century, this chapter brings to light illustrative archival evidence to re-conceptualize a
    moment of central importance to understanding the beginnings of modern territorial state
    formation in Ceylon. The narrative unfolds amidst a hostile milieu of Christian
    evangelism, diplomatic intrigue, and a conflicted British administration bound by law via
    the Kandyan Convention to protect and uphold Buddhist ceremony, religion, and
    traditions, while unofficially supporting Christianization. The well-documented inability
    of successive generations of British missionaries, administrators, and planters to reconcile
    the cognitive dissonance of being a Christian/civilizing empire and supporting what they
    understood as “idolatry” and “false religion” reflects an ontological inability to
    understand the importance of symbolism present in South Asian pre-colonial sovereign
    organization that relied on balancing, rather than differentiating, questions of cosmology
    and material politics.

394 “Copy of a letter from Viscount Torrington to the Right Honourable H. Laboucherie, M.P., Jan. 17,
1857” British National Archives, shelfmark: PRO/30/29/23/10; J. Forbes, Recent Disturbances and Military
Executions in Ceylon (1850). British National Library, shelfmark: 8022.d.26.
181
The problem of Christian universalism was not just a problem for Kandy-British
relations. In important ontologically conflicting ways, the Kandyan Convention
foreshadows the Royal proclamation that brought India under the rule of Empress
Victoria following the Sepoy Rebellion in 1858. The protection and privileging of
Buddhism in the original Kandyan Convention was a source of ire for generations of
missionaries and some evangelically inclined bureaucrats, and as noted before, this
privilege was removed in the 1818 proclamation following the end of the Uva Rebellion.
Forty years later in Allahabad, it would seem as though the British learned something
from their experiences in Ceylon. As Metcalf observes, the British simply could not or
would not come to terms with the fact that their liberal, colonial, reform agenda was not
received by ordinary people the way British administrators imagined it to be. For
example, in the Sepoy Rebellion, the British expected the Oudh peasantry to side with
them against the rebels and failed to understand the many different reasons and
rationalizations why they would join the rebellion against Britain.
395 Though Victoria’s
proclamation affirms the universal truth of Christianity, it also states that all people
regardless of their religious faith “shall enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the
law.” At the same time, the 1858 proclamation acknowledges indigenous ways of relating
to land, but immediately subordinates these to the interests of the state:
We know, and respect, the feelings of attachment with which the Natives of India
regard the Lands inherited to them by their Ancestors; and We desire to Protect
them in all Rights connected therewith, subject to the equitable demands of the
State; and We will that generally in framing and Administering the Law due
regard be paid to the Ancient Rights, Usages, and Customs of India.396

395 Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1998): 43 – 47.
396
“Proclamation by the Queen in Council to the Princes, Chiefs and people of India (published by the
Governor-General at Allahabad, November 1st 1858).” British National Library, shelfmark:
IOR/L/PS/18/D154.
182
As Cohn reminds us, knowledge moved in two directions during the modern colonial
period, but I would add that it moves in more than two directions, as the lessons of
colonial state making in Ceylon predate some of the problems associated with alien rule
in lands with distinct ontologies of land, governance, and sovereignty. 397 Like the
Kandyan Convention, there is an attempt to speak to both ontological traditions, but, as
Césaire’s point about truly respecting one’s adversary informs us, the British (and to a
lesser extent, the Kandyans in 1815 and the Nawabs and princes in 1858 India) were not
fully able to appreciate the significance of the ontological conflict they found themselves
in. Colonial state formation, separate from company state formation, happens first in
Ceylon, and studying it offers comparative historical potential for studies of colonial state
formation in India as well, though this is beyond the reach of the current project.
While mainstream historical accounts, including historical accounts written by Sri
Lankan historians, tend to be relatively at ease with describing the events of the Kandyan
Convention in benign terms, in my reading, I see this spectacle as well as the text as
central to understanding the kinds of clashes necessary to understand the mutual
production of territory that would unfold in the decades to come. In order to demonstrate
the depth of this ontological collision, the chapter works with new theoretical
developments in decolonial studies-based “political ontology” and applies them to
practices of sovereignty, as well as elaborating on the core issue of universalism and
mono-theism as it affects the ability to perceive pluriversal ways of being. The chapter
offers insights into how British and Kandyan understandings of sovereignty were on very
different ontological grounds, leading to an unofficial, unstable harmony of interests

397 Cf. Bernard S. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (New Jersey:
Princeton University Press, 1996): 4.
183
between Christian missionaries and the British government, together confronting an
Orientalized and “backwards” native-Other. The confluence of these forces projected a
geographical imaginary of the island’s disparate regions as contained within “the state.”
Reading Blaser and Tambiah together offers one historical way to “enact the
pluri-verse” by reading galactic sovereignty as an example of territorial organizing
“otherwise.” In the Galactic model, Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne also sees the possibility
of de-colonizing the modern fetishization of Sinhalese-Buddhist ethnonationalist history.
The state is a symptom of the more insidious violence of colonially administered
modernity, complete with the ontological conviction that human society develops linearly
and that the darker peoples of the world require European assistance if they are ever to
“catch up.” If modernity were a palace, coloniality would be the moat that secures the
palace; each needs the other to exist. Without the palace, the moat circles nothing and
without the moat, the palace would be burned to ashes. The state, specifically the belief
that the state must take the form of “total territorial rule” complete with a seat at the
United Nations, exemplifies the continuity of structural, ontological, colonial violence in
the independent places of the world. Coloniality, writes Nelson Maldonado-Torres, refers
to the “long-standing patterns of power that emerged as a result of colonialism, but that
define culture, labour, inter-subjective relations, and knowledge production well beyond
the strict limits of colonial administrations.”398 As illustrated in this chapter, this can also
be seen in the translation of philosophical ways of being that were practised in Ceylon
prior to the colonial encounter into “religions” like Buddhism or Hinduism, as they are
known today.

398 Nelson Maldonado-Torres, “On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a
Concept” in Walter Mignolo and Arturo Escobar (eds.) Globalization and the Decolonial Option (New
York: Routledge, 2010): 97.
184
Coloniality extends quite squarely to scholarship, affecting our ontological
starting points and epistemological choices. British self-perception of their enterprise was
a benevolent one in which, like good parents, they would hand the reigns of control over
to their almost-British colonial children; it was arguably not a question of “if,” in colonial
South Asia, but a question of when self-rule could happen. The important question today
is no longer one of temporality, but of ontology; what pluriversal potentials exist if we
move outside of the modern, territorial, nation-state? The remainder of this dissertation
takes up the conceptual work of re-interpreting historical events in a way that highlights
the colonial reconstitution of territory.
185
Chapter Three: The Political Economy of Improvement
I am well aware, that many persons shrink from the phrase “Political Economy,”
but I only employ it in its true meaning: common sense and experience directed to
the promotion of private and public wealth.
Philalethes to the Editor of the Colombo Journal, July 21, 1832
There is an old cliché that common sense is not so common. In the parlance of 19th
century British colonial writing, assertions of common sense were usually made to
preface an argument that would not bother to engage in other possible arguments,
establishing a launching pad for a moral tirade. Not so in the case of Philalethes, a
frequent writer in early British Ceylon on topics germane to colonialism, imperialism,
governance, and especially political economy. In the writing of Philalethes, some of
which will be discussed more closely below, one sees an early negotiation with the
seductive principles of liberal philosophy as a new and modern way of rethinking not
only political economy, but colonialism as well. With the context of galactic sovereignty
and religious ontological tensions in mind, this chapter focuses on the political economic
aspect of the galactic sovereign system falling out of balance in the early British period in
Ceylon. The domestic and religious, ontological issues described in chapter two were
situated amidst considerable transformation in domestic and imperial political economy
beginning in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in which Ceylon played an important
role. The island was always an important area within the regional political economy of
186
the Bay of Bengal, connecting merchants, sailors, mercenaries, and artisans from
South/Southeast Asia and Africa for at least 2300 years.399
Drawing on colonial archival records, this chapter examines the transformative
period between what we might broadly call “mercantilist” and “liberal” rationalities in
early 19th century British colonialism. In order to explain the rising imperial interest in
plantation agriculture in Ceylon, I touch on debates in Britain and politics unfolding in
the West Indies that forced the viability of slavery onto the agenda of the British
government at a time when pressure from liberals to dismantle mercantilist protectionist
policies helped officially end slavery within the empire. The discourse of “improvement,”
by the 1820s, I argue, was being applied as a means of modernizing colonial rule as well
as modernizing early capitalism, in line with the second-generation liberal aspirations of
MPs like David Ricardo. Liberal “improvement” offered a way to mark a temporal and
moral boundary between a mercantilist past, and a prosperous liberal future, defined by
“benevolent” government and instruction for the betterment of racialized peoples. In
Ceylon this took institutional form in the recommendations emerging from the
Colebrooke-Cameron Commission of 1829-33, and especially in the rapid rise of the
plantation economy that specifically targeted land in the Kandyan interior for
“improvement” through capitalist transformation. It enabled a peculiarly modern,
universal, and ethnocentric understanding of territory as having “use-value” that could be
extracted and enhanced through privatization and integration into imperial political
economy. Whereas in chapter two I explored the ontological collision of the different
traditions of organizing land, in chapter three I zoom out to see how the transformations

399 Saman Kelegama, “Open Regionalism in the Indian Ocean: How Relevant is the APEC Model for the
IOR-ARC?” Journal of The Asia Pacific Economy 5/3 (2001): 255 – 274; Linda Shaffer, “Southernization,”
Journal of World History 5/1 (1994): 1 – 21.
187
unfolding on the island are part of a larger imperial project of economic and colonial
reforms. The related transformations of improving colonialism and trade through
embracing liberal reforms is linked to the violence of universal thinking by forcing a
single, Eurocentric understanding of land, economy, and governance ostensibly for the
“improvement” of subject peoples instead of mere resource accumulation. In essence, the
liberal colonial triangulation of political economy in the early 19th century created an
incentive for plantation development in Ceylon at precisely a moment in which free trade
was displacing monopolistic protection as imperial policy. At the local level, this
coincided in the 1820s with the military need for the British to develop road systems in
direct opposition to the anti-road Kandyan policy as a method of attempting to
consolidate their hold over the island. This was, as chapter four will elaborate upon,
always contested by locals who were conscripted using colonially contaminated
principles of rajakariya to build the roads in the first place, and ultimately continued to a
liberal reforms aimed at land “improvement” which further sought to dismantle the
traditional economy of the Kandyan interior.
Importantly, this chapter fractures the idea of a single, imperial logic, as it is clear
that the imperial interests of West Indian slave owning planters were at odds with the
liberal reforms unfolding in different parts of the British empire in this time period. In a
way, this exposes the antecedents of the moral project of colonialism in this period of
transition in the early – mid 19th century that would become the dominant discourse of
“the white man’s burden” by the late colonial period at the turn of the 20th century.400 One
could examine parallel events happening all over the British empire, my primary

400 Cf.: Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands” History
Matters. Accessed January 8, 2017. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5478/.
188
motivation for visiting the West Indian slice in particular is because of the importance
given to considering the West and East Indies together in parliamentary debates
concerning agriculture, and the decision reached to equalize duties and abolish slavery in
the empire created the economic opportunity for the explosion of plantation agriculture in
the Kandyan highlands from the point of view of the British. Juxtaposed with the
ontologies of land, cosmology, and economy that existed in the Kandyan region however,
conflict between Kandyan and British worldviews was unavoidable.
Liberal notions of “improving” what were otherwise considered “waste-lands”
valorized ownership, entrepreneurialism, and commodification while discursively depoliticizing the violence of land theft for plantation development, a practice which
clashed with local communal agricultural practices across much of the world. 401 The
separation of humanity from nature at the root of Cartesian philosophy, and more
importantly, the colonial belief that this way of seeing the world can be imagined as
universal, is one of the most central expressions of ontological colonialism because it
simply asserts, rather than proves, that other ontological starting points are invalid.402 The

401 This is not to suggest that the idea of land being “owned” or even monetized was a purely European
phenomenon. The point is that there is a broad spectrum of ways in which to understand land, yet across the
British Empire, the Lockean-infused idea that land had value only through its ability to be improved and
made productive worked to violently brush aside locally constituted understandings of land-human
relations. In some cases, people are understood as being one part of land, as it is for the Dene of today’s
Northwest Territories in Canada, or the Quechua of modern-day Latin America. In Ceylon, in particular in
the central highlands where the plantation boom of the 19th century occurred, there were practices of
communal land use and money was not a central component until the reforms of the early-mid 19th century,
marking an important break in traditional methods of relating to and maintaining land. This created
considerable animosity between European planters and Kandyan villagers. See: James Duncan, In the
Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race, and Biopower in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka (Aldershot:
Ashgate, 2007); Derek Hall, Land, (Cambridge: Polity, 2013); Glen Coulthard, Red Skins White Masks:
Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).
402 Mario Blaser, “Ontological Conflicts and the Stories of Peoples in Spite of Europe: Toward a
Conversation on Political Ontology” Current Anthropology 54/5 (2013): 547 – 568; Glen Coulthard, Red
Skin White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 2014): 51 – 78; 151-152; Nelson Maldonado-Torres, “On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to
the Development of a Concept” in Globalization and the De-Colonial Option, Walter Mignolo and Arturo
Escobar (eds.), (New York: Routledge, 2010): 98.
189
assertions of modernization theorists and their colonial predecessors that human society
progresses linearly were based on assumptions about the innate superiority of European
culture beginning with Spanish-indigenous contact in modern day Haiti. This has
continued through different discursive rationalities including liberal “improvement” and
contemporary global development.403The global imperial economies of the 19th century
were far reaching and interconnected. In this chapter, I strive to show two related things.
The first is the domestic consequences of the political economic transformation within the
Kandyan territories after their subjugation by the British. I leave aside for the moment the
issue of large-scale rebellion and insurrection within the Kandyan territories, which is the
focus of chapter four. The second, as discussed above, is about how the collapse of
slavery was related to the decline of West Indian plantations and the rise of East Indian
plantations. 404 Fundamental to the shifting imperial political economy is the violent
transformation of indigenous Kandyan space in particular, as British colonialists
attempted to apply and enforce their particular ontological understanding of land and
nature as commodities to be used in order and owned in the Kandyan region.
In essence, both colonialism and capitalism were subject to “improvement” in the
19th century, and the discourse of improvement provided a lifeline through which both
interdependent global projects could be “modernized” such that colonialism and
capitalism together could be rationalized as being in service to aiding the colonized. The

403 Ajay Parasram, “Postcolonial Territory and the Coloniality of the State,” Caribbean Journal of
International Relations and Diplomacy 2/4 (2014): 51 – 79. See also Cristina Rojas, “International Political
Economy/Development Otherwise,” Globalizations 4/4 (2007): 573 – 587; Cristina Rojas, Civilization and
Violence: Regimes of Representation in Nineteenth Century Colombia (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 2002).
404 It also lead to a rise in the forced migration of “East Indian” indentured and non-indentured labourers
across the empire to fill the “labour” gap left by recently emancipated Africans. This was especially the
case in the West Indian colonies, but also in the Pacific (Fiji, Malaya) Indian Ocean (Mauritius, Réunion)
and East Africa.
190
first section of the chapter focuses on the political economy of Kandy prior to British
contamination, and then draws on the writing of colonial thinkers in the time and place of
19th century Ceylon to show how within debates there was pressure being exerted to
renew the colonial project as one of order, civilization, and renewal. Liberal reforms and
reformers wanted the colonial government to play a more active role in improving the
land, constructed in colonial discourse as being in dire need of improvement. The key
distinction is in the discursive concept of “improvement” and how the need to improve
shifted the political objectives of early colonial Ceylon. This is not to suggest that there is
a single purpose or logic to the colonial project; rather, it is to show how the
transformations unfolding on the island reflected competing ideas about the purpose of
colonialism and the purpose of economy. The second section of the chapter examines the
political economy underlying the transition from mercantilism to liberalism in imperial
debates, which had significantly negative implications for plantation agriculture in the
West Indies, specifically sugar and coffee. In this section I highlight the fragmented
interests within the empire, and connect these imperial level considerations to the radical
transformations of land in the Kandyan interior resulting from the liberal reforms
emerging from the 1833 Colebrooke-Cameron recommendations. Although sugar
plantations were only briefly experimented with in Ceylon, coffee and coconuts, with
coffee dominating the Kandyan highland region, would be a defining element of the
colonial political economy of the 19th century.405
Plantations show how the discourse of “improvement” materially connects
modern perceptions of colonialism and capitalism because during the emergence of

405 Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History (New York: Oxford University Press,
2015): 39 – 40.
191
central governmental institutions in Ceylon, laws were passed in 1835 that forced land
used for indigenous purposes out of the movement of time itself by decreeing it “idle.”
Indigenous agricultural practices were constructed as being insufficiently productive, and
because the land was determined to be “idle” it was written into law that it was “wasted.”
Wasteland ordinances are a strategy of inflicting the violence of universal reason, as they
deny and actively destroy ways of being that do not conform to Lockean conceptions of
value and ownership. Protected through the establishment of military roads in the 1820s,
by the 1830s Wasteland ordinances essentially stole that territory in the rebellious interior
to sell it to European planters seeking to earn a fortune by making the land commercially
“productive.” And indeed, there is a logical case to be made that indigenous agricultural
practices developed to serve local and regional needs are insufficiently productive to
service a transnational empire in which economic decision making is vested in the hands
of landholders with economic and social interests that do not align with the well being
and histories of local communities. Said simply, the scale of colonial capitalism and its
alien-ness in this historically sparsely populated and autonomous region was
unprecedented. The violence of universalism in this context is most obvious because of
the “common sense” rationale that was rife with ontological assumptions about nature,
humans, and economy that underscored colonial discourse. This rationale insists that the
still-evolving capitalist mode of production represents an “improvement” of land and
agricultural practices, rather than a difference of priorities.
192
Section One: Mercantilist to Liberal Rationalities
Pre-colonial Economy
Since at least the third century BCE, reaching its peak in the Anuradhapura and
Pollonnaruwa periods (11th and 12th centuries) sophisticated irrigation systems were
developed to collect and redirect water towards upwards of 20,000 villages in Ceylon.
These irrigation systems redirected water from hill streams into storage tanks, where they
were subsequently channelled to yet larger tanks that were in turn connected to hundreds
of smaller tanks.406 The elevation of the mountainous Kandyan interior could not
facilitate the large scale agricultural methods deployed in the lowlands however, and thus
pre-colonial Kandyan economy was organized along much smaller scale agricultural
projects. The basic village structure was organized in a way that each home had an
adjacent vegetable and fruit garden, and beyond the boundary of the village lay
communally maintained chena forestlands.407 Villagers would get together and slash/burn
areas of the neighbouring forest lands which they would then divide into family based
plots of land that would be cultivated for the production of maize, various beans, and
varieties of rice suited to the region, etc.408 Beyond the chena agriculture and family
gardens, villagers would also acquire honey and firewood from the forests, as well as
work in rice paddy fields, which was their primary economic connection to the rest of
Kandy.
The village structure was the foundation of pre-colonial Kandyan political
economy, and it operated in the absence of waged labour. The cashless society traded in

406 Lareef Zubair, “Modernization of Sri Lanka’s Traditional Irrigation Systems and Sustainability,” Science
Technology & Society 10/2 (2005): 161 – 195.
407 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 26 – 27.
408 Ibid.
193
agriculture and in services. Although all the lands of the kingdom belonged to the king, as
outlined in chapter two, this possession was predicated on the balancing of cosmological
and material obligations of the king; Buddhist priests, aristocracy, and the villages were
part of this balancing. For example, as James Duncan notes, the king determined to whom
villages would contribute their rents, by way of agricultural surpluses and rajakariya
(corvée labour). Four types of villages existed in the kingdom: free villages, those owing
rents to the temples, those owing rents to the nobility, and those owing rents to the king.
The King could alter these arrangements at his will, however the centrality of Buddhism,
perhaps especially since the Nayakkar dynasty, made it far less likely that the king would
alter arrangements with temple villages, whereas falling in or out of favour with the king
could more readily affect the aristocracy and the villages that served them.409 According
to John Rogers, following Lorna Dewaraja, 18th century “administration and taxation was
organized around hereditary status groups that were associated with particular
occupations.”410 It was only in the 19th century, according to Rogers and Dewaraja, that
these occupational relations were solidified into caste relations.411 Until the mid 19th
century, Kandy was scarcely populated, and land itself was abundant – scarcity of labour
tended to be the major determinant of agricultural production. Kandy’s relative isolation
was purposeful however, and the use of the thick boundary jungle as a deterrent to
European encroachment was understood as being essential to the security of the kingdom;
chena land was never allowed to compromise the thick outer jungle defences.412

409 see also: John D. Rogers, “Early British Rule and Social Classification in Lanka,” Modern Asian Studies
38/3 (2004): 627; Lorna Dewaraja, The Kandyan Kingdom of Sri Lanka, 1707–1782 (Colombo: Lake
House, 1988).
410 John D. Rogers, (2004): 627.
411 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 26 – 27.
412 Ibid.
194
This economic geography connects to the organization of sovereignty described in
chapter two, and it also offers important historical context to understanding the
consequences of the galactic sovereign system falling out of balance during the early
period of British presence. Importantly, in terms of understanding the radical economic
transformations of the British period in Kandy, the king only extracted surplus from the
population through the paddy fields – chena fields and gardens were, as Asoka Bandarage
obverses, autonomous economic spaces that were not subject to surplus extraction. This
fact offered economic and agricultural stability to the village population. 413 Although in
principle all land belonged to the king, the inalienable rights of villagers to subsist and
use land communally ran fundamentally at odds with Lockean understandings of property
which formed the ontological starting assumptions of the British, newly present in the
Kandyan interior in the 1820s.414 By replacing the king of Kandy as bodhisattva king, the
British believed a legal arrangement, be it the Kandyan Convention, or the laws and
proclamations that follow, meant they “owned” all of the land formerly controlled by the
King. As will be seen later in this chapter, this was an important point of contention that
was resisted by villagers in everyday acts of resistance and creative non-compliance,
ultimately leading to the introduction of specific Waste Land Ordinances following the
first major boom in coffee production in the 1830s which effectively declared all chena

413 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007); Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of
the Kandyan Highlands 1833 – 1886 (Berlin, Mouton, 1983) 19 – 21.
414 Locke’s Second Treatise on Government outlines his views on property, in which he draws from a
decidedly Christian biblical reading of the book of Genesis to argue that land (and animals) can be said to
be owned on the basis of laboring upon it. According to David Armitage, at the same time that Locke was
writing “On Property” (chapter five of Second Treatise on Government), he was also employed to write the
1682 Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. See: David Armitage, “John Locke, Carolina, and the Two
Treatises of Government” Political Theory 35/5 (2004): 602 – 607; John Locke, Two Treatises on
Government. London: Printed for R. Butler, etc., 1821, accessed May 4 2010,
http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/authors/locke.
195
and communally used lands as falling to the Crown. As Nira Wickramasinghe rightly
maintains, this was absolutely understood by the British as a form of civilizing policy,
predicated on the liberal assumption that land must be owned, tamed, and rendered
“productive” measured by surplus production in order to be used correctly.415
The early 19th century was a period of phenomenal economic, technological, and
social change in Ceylon and the imperial political economy which the island played a role
in constructing. The British were an insecure mercantilist power near the end of the 18th
century, preoccupied with threats posed to their imperial possessions in South Asia and
the West Indies by the revolutionary spectres of France and Haiti. As discussed in chapter
two, seizing the Dutch-controlled Jaffna peninsula in the north of Ceylon was a
geopolitical calculation from which the British obtained fortifiable positions to secure the
Madras presidency while keeping a watchful eye on French Pondicherry, both of which
were on the subcontinent. England did not expect to hold Ceylon permanently, but
following peace negotiations with Holland in 1797, they decided to keep the territory and
administer it financially through the East India Company, until making it a crown colony
in 1802.416
Following the mercantilist tradition of their Dutch and Portuguese predecessors,
the British continued to see “Ceylon” as a source of cinnamon, which could best be
extracted through the maintenance of local systems of labour and utilized to increase
England’s national treasure chest rather than for the commercial development of

415 Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History (New York: Oxford University Press,
2015): 36 – 37.
416 Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities (London: Hurst
and Company, 2006): 26.
196
Ceylon. 417 As Nihal Perera maintains, early attempts to begin nurturing a plantercommunity of Europeans began before the consolidation of the island and legal overhauls
to support those projects in the 1830s because in 1810, the British government in the
Maritime provinces removed a pre-existing ban on European ownership of land.
418 This
was an important piece of transitioning from mercantilist logic to a liberal one, because
by banning European possession of territory outside of a small area, the government had
effectively prevented capital investment. State monopolies were continued in cinnamon
as well as salt and tobacco.419
Although British governors were instructed not to interfere with indigenous affairs
by the Colonial Office (CO), when the opportunity presented itself to exploit internal
political divisions within the Kandyan kingdom under the justification of moral
intervention, reigning governor Sir Robert Brownrigg seized the opportunity. Reflecting
on the significance of this accomplishment from the British perspective, the anonymous
“gentleman on the spot” introduced in chapter two made the following observation of the
significance of the island’s territorial consolidation:
The advantages to be derived from this conquest are incalculable. The position of
Ceylon, its fine harbours, and rich and peculiar productions, must render it a place
of the utmost importance in our Eastern dominion. While the interior of the
country was governed by a King independent of our authority, and adverse to our
views, we held our dominion by a most precarious tenure… We have now
identified the interests of the whole population of Ceylon with our own, and
converted an object of jealousy, alarm, and expenditure, into a source of national
security and revenue. The chiefs of the several provinces affirmed in their
authority, which they no longer hold at the mercy of a capricious tyrant, will every
day become more sensible of the benefits they have secured to themselves, and

417 Ibid., 14; James Duncan. In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth
Century Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 29. See also Michael Ondaatje’s fictionalized memoir:
Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1982).
418 Nihal Perera, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1998): 63.
419Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands 1833 –
1886 (Berlin: Mouton Publishers, 1983): 55.
197
the blessings they have assisted in conferring on their fellow countrymen; and the
Kandian [sic] nation, a brave and spirited people, restored to and protected in the
full enjoyment of their civil and religious rights, will lend a willing aid to augment
the power and resources of the human, wise, and liberal government, by whose
well-timed interposition they have been emancipated from the most cruel and
intolerable oppression.420
As noted before, the “Gentleman” author was most likely a British officer or bureaucrat,
and in his observations we see a number of insights into British thinking about native land
and people. There is a presumption, reiterated by missionaries as well as in dispatches to
the CO, that British “views” are not only powerful, but also superior. This is implied in
the guarantees given to the Kandyan chiefs and people in the original text of the Kandyan
Convention, which promised to protect their religion and customs, while offering “liberal
government” instead of “intolerable oppression.” Exposure to British sovereignty and
governance in exchange for the untapped riches of “undeveloped” resources was the
barter.
Coopted Rajakariya Paving the Way for Plantations
Governor Brownrigg was rewarded with a Baronet for his success over the Kandyans,
and perhaps to justify it, exercised scorched-earth strategies and extreme brutality in
quelling the Uva Rebellion when the Kandyans rose up en masse to try to drive the
British out of the island.421 Following the eventual success of Brownrigg’s campaign to
end the 1817-1818 Uva Rebellion, a mix of authoritarian and liberal conditions came to
define the early governance of the island. Brownrigg ensured that he could arbitrarily

420 Anonymous. A Narrative of Events which have recently occurred in the Island of Ceylon, Written by a
Gentleman on the Spot. (London: T. Egerton Military Library, Whitehall, 1815). British National Library,
shelfmark: 583.f.14 (1.): 50 – 51.
421Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands, 1833 –
1886 (Berlin: Moutan, 1983): 50 – 51.
198
change the laws at whim, replacing local chiefs from positions of authority and creating
offices for British officials in their stead. He also removed some of the protections
promised by the British to Buddhism.422 Yet in these early days, the British still possessed
little knowledge of the physical geography of the island beyond approximately twenty
miles of the shorelines. Without calling in reinforcements from Bengal, including large
contingencies of “native”423 troops, it was clear that acquisition of geographic knowledge
was vital to consolidating and controlling territory. With a view to gaining valuable
legibility of the physical territory, Brownrigg wrote to his counterpart in Bengal
requesting that a “Lieutenant Archer” remain in Ceylon because of his excellent
topography skills. Making territory legible to British eyes eroded tactical advantages held
by indigenous populations resisting colonial penetration from the earliest days of
imperialism, and Ceylon was no different.
424 In his letter dated August 8, 1819,
Brownrigg wrote,
I doth think myself entirely justified in incurring the [illegible] of his staff
allowance for some months from the importance of the information his present
labour will add to our knowledge of the interior, and I therefore [illegible] to
receive your Lordships sanction to my retaining that officer during the
continuance of the Royal Troops in this island in the situation he so ably fills.425

422 “The Proclamation of 21 November 1818 issued after the Rebellion of 1818” in G.C. Mendis (ed.) The
Colebrooke-Cameron Papers: Documents on British Colonial Policy in Ceylon 1796 – 1833, Volume II,
231 – 243. (London: Oxford University Press, 1956.)
423 In this time period, British dispatches, newspapers, and diaries made no consistent distinction between
“natives” whether they hailed from the Indian subcontinent, Ceylon, or Southeast Asia. Where native was
not used, it would often be “Indian” or “Malay” where the prior appears to reflect anywhere in
contemporary South Asia, and the latter from Southeast Asia.
424 Following Gearóid Ó Tuathail, the conquering of Ulster (Ireland) in the 17th century could never have
been achieved despite superior arms in the absence of cartographers. Irish rebels knew this, and would raid
encampments in order to destroy maps, and assassinate cartographers. See: Gearóid Ó Tuathail, Critical
Geopolitics: The Politics of Writing Global Space (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996).
425 Governor Brownrigg to the Marquis of Hastings, March 9, 1819. British National Library, shelfmark:
IOR/F/4/751.
199
Brownrigg’s successor, Governor Edward Barnes, went further by setting about
transforming what were largely seen as mere “foot paths” connecting the Kandyan
interior of the island to the coastal areas with “carriage roads” with the initial purpose of
ensuring no future rebellion could rely on difficult jungle terrain for protection.426 This
was, in and of itself, a radical transformation in the Kandyan region that would have
significant long-term impact on the region in terms of increased connectivity, but also in
terms of the extension and misuse of rajakariya.
In the aftermath of the Uva Rebellion, the British government adopted the concept
of rajakariya and forced the local populations to build roads connecting Colombo to
Kandy. Rajakariya was a form of corvée labour through which public works like
irrigation of communal lands were done. It was a localized practice, however, within a
spatial organization of power in the Kandyan kingdom and its orbits of influence, which
were held in balance by the symbolic/ceremonial role of the Kandyan king and the semiautonomous provinces, as discussed in chapter two. Applying rajakariya beyond the
limits of Kandy and for the purposes of public works beyond agriculture broke the
precedent that had developed over centuries in Kandy; it also transformed a practice that
had gained legitimacy based on the material benefits accrued by access to communal
lands into a kind of prison labour that perversely created the very roads that would ensure
the privatization of the communal lands that rajakariya was primarily designed to service.
Military working parties alongside forced labourers were responsible for realizing
Governor Barnes’ road system. As the bureaucrat J.W. Bennet reflected in 1843, it was
Governor Barnes’ “zeal” and “devotion” to commerce and agricultural development

426 J. Forbes Late Lieutenant-Colonel 78th Highlanders, “Recent Disturbances and Military Executions in
Ceylon” Edinburgh and London: MDCCCL, 1850: 5. British National Library, shelfmark: 8002.d.26.
200
alongside the military necessity of easing the travel between the fertile interior and the
capital in Colombo that motivated the rapid construction of roads. The working
conditions were so harsh that even a generation later, the long-term effects on those made
to labour on the roads evoked sympathy from Bennet. In making a plea for some financial
compensation for the widows and families of the men who built the military and
plantation roads connecting the Kandyan area to the colonial administrative centre in
Colombo, Bennet highlights that compulsory labour
has secured possession of the interior, and ensured the safety of the maritime
provinces from a foe in their rear, prompted the commercial interests of the
colony, and augmented its resources and revenue.427
Road construction brought with it more than transportation, it broke the “frontier” barrier
used by anti-colonial Kandyan soldiers for generations to keep Europeans close to the
shore and away from a jungle terrain they could not navigate. As Manu Goswami,
working from Henry Lefebvre’s conceptions of state space and territorialization in the
context of late 19th century India reminds us,
The colonial state performed its rule over space and society through a spectacular
display of its authoritative presence, from the staging of elaborate political rituals
and events to the construction of a vast network of dazzling “state works,” the
visible, material embodiments of its authority and “civilizing modernity.428
The broadening of footpaths into carriage roads in the early 19th century might not seem
as extravagant or performative as the larger scale infrastructural projects of the late 19th
century Raj, however this project served a similar purpose of demonstrating the strength
of a government that was still not totally established nor normalized in the long
autonomous interior. The carriage roads would go on to make possible the establishment

427 J.W. Bennet, Ceylon and Its Capabilities: an account of its natural resources, indigenous productions,
and commercial facilities. London: W.H. Allen & Co., 1843. British National Library, shelfmark: 793.m.15
428 Manu Goswami, Producing India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004): 46.
201
of coffee plantations, and by 1864, the Colombo-Kandy railway was introduced primarily
to transport coffee beans.429
As James Duncan notes, tropical disease and British lack of familiarity with
poisonous vegetation killed scores of unprepared European migrants. Even after the
interior had been transformed into plantations, merely being present within the tropics
was perceived to have a “degenerating” impact on the morality and health of the
European body. 430 A culture of forlorn masculine sacrifice on behalf of king and country
for serving the Empire in these “dangerous” places presented the mid-19th century planter,
at least in his own mind, as a kind of imperial patriot. This imaginary reified the colonial
imaginary of a backwards, untamed, and ultimately under-developed terrain in need of
European improvement.
Liberal Colonialism in the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms
David Scott (1999) describes the early period (1796 – 1832) of British rule in Ceylon as
operating under a “mercantilist rationality of sovereignty” that ceased to be hegemonic
after the liberal reforms of the 1832 Colebrooke-Cameron Commission. 431 This
commission was convened in 1829 ostensibly as a way of reducing government
expenditure. Under a mercantilist rationality of trade and colonialism, the objective of a
commercial power is to accumulate the riches of a territory without concern for particular

429 “History” Sri Lanka Railways. Last modified August 2, 2011. Accessed Jan. 8, 2017.
http://www.railway.gov.lk/web/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=137&Itemid=181&lang
=en
430 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race, and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 43 – 65.
431 David Scott, Refashioning Futures: Criticism After Postcoloniality (New Jersey: Princeton University
Press, 1999): 43.
202
methods of resource extraction, but such an approach to trade incurs costs associated
from the more direct role the state must play in managing trade. As G.C. Mendis explains,
The basic doctrines of mercantilism, came under severe criticism, as well as
certain of its characteristic features such as economic activities carried on by the
State and monopolies which were avowedly set up for the common good but in
actual practice benefitted only a few.432
Liberal critiques of mercantilism were gaining favour in the halls of colonial power by
the 1820s, and it was in this context that Commissioners Colebrooke and Cameron were
asked to evaluate the governance and administration of Ceylon and make
recommendations for reform. One of the first recommendations of the commission was
the removal of rajakariya, which the British had continued and expanded beyond its
traditional purpose. Paid labour was understood as a requirement for modernization, and
rajakariya in particular was identified as reason for the Kandyan economy to have not yet
advanced beyond feudalism. 433 Rather than viewing Kandyan public works and land
relations as different and perhaps a direct response to hundreds of years of colonial
aggression, the liberal reforms instead rationalized this difference into a universal
understanding of gradual development that made sense within their Eurocentric
understanding of feudalism. Taking aim at the more contemporary mercantilist oriented
policies in place at the time, Colebrooke called for the dismantling of the government’s
monopoly of cinnamon and also of direct taxes, which induced government interference
in markets. As Goswami argues, one of the defining differences between the
administration of the East India Company and the British Raj in late 19th century India
was the latter’s emphasis on homogenization and simplification of financial systems,

432 G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British. (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952]): 52.
433 Ibid.
203
which under the East India Company, were much more diverse. 434 Commissioner
Cameron applied a similar logic to the judiciary systems present on the island.
Importantly, Cameron’s reforms did not only bring regional courts under the same central
authority, they also did away with the separate civil jurisdiction that treated Europeans
separately from natives.435 As noted above, following the Uva rebellion much arbitrary
power was concentrated in the office of the Governor, including his ability to exert
considerable influence over the dispensing of justice, but with a uniform judiciary across
the island (with exceptions allotted for Ceylonese who wished to be considered by their
own traditions), the executive and judiciary were effectively separated. For Scott, Perera,
Duncan, and Mendis before them, the sweeping Colebrooke-Cameron reforms represent a
critical juncture that marks a change from mercantilist rationality into liberal rationality.
In principle, “benevolent” governance was promised in the Kandyan Convention that
officially ceded the interior of the island to the British, but as discussed in the preceding
chapter, what sovereignty and governance meant to British and Kandyan elites was
fundamentally at odds.
The Colebrooke-Cameron reforms continued the process of colonial domination,
but did so with a decidedly liberal rationality that was concerned with the “improvement”
of land and subjects. Part of the territorial dimension of the reforms was the changing of
indigenous geographies, which, as figure four in Appendix A shows took the form of
creating “legible” provinces (East/South/North/West) and dividing the central Kandyan
region into coastal areas. This was aimed at mitigating any sense of national identity that
could be used to foster territorial solidarities to challenge the universal claim to

434 Manu Goswami, Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 2004): 73 – 102
435 G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British. (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952]): 56 – 58
204
sovereignty of British rule – the classic “divide-and-rule” strategy of colonialism.
Transforming sixteen long distinct districts into a unitary administration based in
Colombo (and therefore, London), was clearly a crucial milestone in naturalizing the idea
of total territorial rule. 436 Aside from the geo-graphing, the Colebrooke-Cameron
commission recommended the establishment of a legislature in which natives would be
nominated (but not elected) to advise the Governor, the establishment of a national civil
service and national school system in English (for the betterment of the language and
religiously-deprived native Buddhist and Hindu populations), as well as the abolition of
the indigenous practice of rajakariya, which was discursively described in British
writings as a form of slavery, and is discussed in more detail below.437
In discussing the role of the legislature, Scott notes, “The crucial point here is not
whether natives were included or excluded so much as the introduction of a new game of
politics that the colonized would (eventually) be obliged to play if they were to be
counted as political.”438 In this, my interests most closely aligns with Scott and Duncan,
though establishing the (semi) liberal institutions of formal political control is an
important part of naturalizing the norm of total territorial rule. As Barry Hindess explains,
liberalism has always rested on a mixture of liberal and illiberal practices. “individuals
may be naturally endowed with a capacity for autonomous action, but this does not mean
that the capacity will always be sufficiently well developed for governmental uses to be
viable.” 439 Liberal reforms like the ones emerging from the Colebrooke-Cameron

436 S. Mangalaruby, “The Recommendation of the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission in 1833 Marked the
Beginning of a new Era in Ceylon – a view,” Asia Pacific Journal of Research 26/1 (2015): 14 – 18.
437 Colvin R. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation 1795 – 1833 Volume 1: Its political and
Administrative Development. (Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries’ Co., Ltd, 1953): 75 – 82.
438 David Scott, Refashioning Futures: Criticism after Postcoloniality. (New Jersey: Princeton University
Press, 1999): 45.
439 Barry Hindess, “The Liberal Government of Unfreedom,” Alternatives 26/2 (2001): 93-111.
205
commission established institutions and advanced policies that were, depending on one’s
vantage point, simultaneously liberal and illiberal. As Hindess reminds us, the
“government of Unfreedom” coexists with the ostensible goals and aspirations of liberal
freedoms, the consequences of which continue long after the formal end of
colonialism.440 I am particularly fascinated with the processes that led to accepting the
territorial rules of the game that came much later in the 19th century, and as I argue
throughout this dissertation, were defined in large part by everyday acts as well as larger
scale moments of resistance of colonized people as well as the government.
From the territorial perspective, it is important to note that part of Commissioners
Colebrooke and Cameron’s report recommended a significant reduction in the wages of
civil servants, with the added stipulation that civil servants ought to be allowed to
own land in the colony and make up for their loss of income through investment
in commercial agriculture. 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.441
Diminished wages and the expectation that these losses would serve the developing
colony better by encouraging economic development brings together the ideas of
mitigating expenditure on the public purse and incentivizing improvement through
entrepreneurship. As I will show throughout this chapter, there was considerable tension
between the still-developing principles of liberal political economy and the mercantilist
tendency to protect markets rather than free them.442

440 Ibid.
441 Nihal Perera, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka.
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1998): 63.
442 Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands, 1833 –
1886 (Berlin: Mouton Publishers, 1983): 53 – 54.
206
Improving Land, Improving Colonialism
In the years that followed initial road construction after the Uva Rebellion, newspapers in
Ceylon were host to debates about the future of the colony from the perspective of the
growing British population resident in and around the main city of Colombo. These 19th
century expats were very much engaged in the debates roaring in England between
defenders of the status quo mercantilist forms of accumulation that had built the Empire,
and the exciting and innovative ideas being proposed by reformists calling for the end of
monopolies and protection granted to ensure that corporations like the British East India
Company could accumulate for Britain more than its Dutch, French, or Portuguese
counterparts could for themselves. As noted above, capital investment was initially
blocked in Ceylon, then available in a limited sense, and in the 1820s and 1830s, very
much encouraged. The letters of Philalethes are illustrative of the kinds of debates and,
more importantly, how liberal economy was seen to be a force for modernizing both
economy and people. Indeed, it was the main marker of civility for Philalethes, who
wrote in the Colombo Journal,
When we speak of the “capital” of a country, we refer to the results of past and
accumulated labour, which distinguish a civilized country from a less civilized
one…the real wealth of a country does not consist in money, but in the successive
values which are annually created by industry…443
Through articulating his ideas as “mere common-sense,” Philalethes was engaged in a
process of normalizing an understanding of economy, territory, and progress in which
labour must be applied to land in order to produce wealth; land must be improved.
Philalethes’ words expose the violence of universal thinking in the sense that before any

443 Philalethes to editor of the Colombo Journal, July 13 1832. Letters on Colonial Policy, particularly as
related to Ceylon. (Reprinted from the Colombo Journal (Colombo: P.M. Elders, 1833) British National
Library, shelfmark: 8007.b.24. Emphasis in original.
207
of his claims could have been be entertained, one must have already been thinking in
Eurocentric terms about the purpose of land and a hierarchy of civilization. Although the
Dutch, prior to British arrival in Ceylon, first experimented with the plantation as an
agricultural and economic model on a smaller scale, it rapidly became the main driver of
the colonial economy by the mid 19th century.
The plantation, more so than any specific legal reform or agreement, is a useful
way to consider the violence of universal, Eurocentric modern thinking as the ontological
“collision” discussed in chapter two unfolded. Central to the logic of plantations is first
the absolute separation of the material/physical realm from the cosmological realm,
which leads to a necessary tension between British conceptions of “ownership” opposite a
Kandyan conception of land use. British attempts to transform Kandyan villagers into a
proletarian workforce were never successful, which was why the British commissioned
migrant seasonal Tamil workforces from southern India.444 Next, the implication is that
through identifying a commodity (which is arguably not possible without the first step)
that has value external to local needs, one can produce excessive quantities of this
commodity and trade with others in order to gain goods necessary for local consumption
and promote greater imperial production in general. Plantation agriculture and economic
specialization was clearly influencing the development of liberal notions of comparative
advantage in the early 19th century, and David Ricardo’s sophistication of Adam Smith’s
idea of labour specialization into the early theory of comparative advantage was very
much involved in discussions and debates of this nature prior to his death in 1823.
European experimentation with large scale monocrop agriculture was already well on its

444 Nihal Perera, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Post-Colonial Identity in Sri Lanka
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1998).
208
way at the imperial level, and the imperial political economy of the 19th century was thus
the larger economic space within which Ceylon was being incorporated as part of the
project of colonial subjugation and improvement, or rather, improvement through
subjugation. The imperial economic fluctuations affecting one part of the empire,
specifically the West Indies as a result of slave rebellions and their associated spikes in
raw commodity prices in England, played a role in pressuring the imperial government to
equalize the playing field by “modernizing” its own trade policies by eliminating
monopolies and slave plantations that favoured plantation production in the West Indies
historically.
The plantation as a technology of colonization was not new in the 19th century –
the British had been “improving” land cleared by genocide and slavery in the West Indies
for many years at this point – but it is the increasingly liberal rationale underscoring the
purpose of large scale public works and territorial transformation with a strong moral
purpose that is significant in these writings. The point that Philalethes was making in the
letter quoted above is that Ceylon’s real value is not what can be gathered up from a
primitive and value-less indigenous territory, but what can be produced with the kind
diverse ingenuity that comes from the application of “common sense” principles of
capital investment. He further argued that,
Again, let us suppose that this capitalist, as he would be called, instead of making
water-courses for irrigation, were to construct rail roads, for the purpose of
conveying valuable timber from the Interior to the sea ports, he would look to the
interest of his capital from the new value which would be created in this timber,
when squared, and prepared, for home use, or exportation, it having been
previously without value, from want of fixed capital to facilitate its transport to
those places where there was a demand for the purchase of it…it is not money, but
the results of money employed in present, or vested in past or accumulated labour,
which increases the real wealth of a country.445

445 Ibid., 3. Emphasis in original.
209
In this quotation, the emphasis of value production through improving land via
commodification is the central issue. In the process of colonization, land must first be
rationalized as a commodity, then nationalized to the colonizing power, and then
privatized in order to be sold and “owned” for commercial exploitation. That local
inhabitants “got in the way” of this process was an important point of discussion in
colonial governance, and the patronizing articulation that extending the improvement of
land to the improvement of people is what connected capitalism and colonialism in the
early liberal period.
For example, as noted earlier in the chapter, Kandyan villagers used the fertile
highlands for chena agriculture, pastorage, and small-plot gardening. By declaring this to
be “unproductive” use of land, the crown effectively declared the people engaged in this
work to be unproductive, and like the land, subject to induced “improvement.” According
to an Assistant Government Agent in the Kegalle District of the highlands,
I hope that indirect good may be the result (of the diversion of traffic from the
Kandy road to the railway which deprived the villagers of a market for the
produce of their gardens) if men are induced to seek labour on the coffee
plantations. The early age at which marriages are contracted tends to keep the
people poor and to prevent the men leaving their homes, but want of food is the
best cure for this evil and through a secure remedy it is the only one.446
Remedies of this nature are the ancestors of today’s common cliché of “pulling oneself up
by the bootstraps” in order to legitimize and draw attention away from the structural
determinants of poverty, which in the case of Ceylon, was legalized theft of land that was
legitimized through appeals of benevolently rendering people and land more productive.

446 Quoted in Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan
Highlands, 1833 – 1886. (Berlin: Moutan, 1983): 179.
210
Some “radical liberals” by the mid 19th century were calling for an end to
colonialism on the basis that it was economically inefficient, and in response to such
claims, the moral value of improving bodies and land played an important role in
maintaining the system through appeals to liberal and religious values popular at the
time.447 Colonized people, it was argued, could not hope to advance along the perceived
developmentalist ladder on their own without the instruction of those higher up the
civilizational ladder. The moral duty of improving the lot of the indigenous “public” was
seen by some bureaucrats as falling too far by the wayside as the British population
increasingly came to the island in pursuit of agricultural fortune, occupying the roles of
planters, civil servants, and “public” at the same time.
In a passionate letter to Lieutenant Colonel Sir Colin Campbell written in 1842,
the bureaucrat James Steuart outlined his frustration with the shifting mandates of British
rule in Ceylon. He complained that the resident British population was forgetting the
colonial project demands that Ceylon be a crown possession held for the benefit of the
native population in the long term, arguing that British “sojourners” increasingly believed
themselves to be the Ceylonese public: “It is OUR DUTY as the paid servants of the
Crown, to protect the interest and happiness of the Natives over whom we are placed by
our paternal Government,”448 wrote Steuart. He also highlighted problems associated with
making British planters simultaneously serve the role of local magistrates: “…if European
sojourners were to become Magistrates in the interior, without some watchful, some

447 Those who oppose colonialism on economic grounds are described as “radical political economists” by
the Colonial Office in the 1840s. See “The Earl of Grey to Viscount Torrington, May 19, 1848” in K.M. de
Silva (ed.), Letters on Ceylon, 1846 – 50, the administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of
1848; the private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52)
and Viscount Torrington. (Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965). British National shelfmark: X.700/3328.
448 James Steuart to Lt. Colonel Colin Campbell 1842. See British National Library, shelfmark: T 39161(a).
emphasis in original
211
powerful restraint, what could be expected to result to the Natives, but a state bordering
upon oppression?” 449 The tension between appeals to the moral purpose of British
presence and commercial crudeness was ever present in Steuart’s writing, but he should
not be confused for being a champion of the rights of colonized people. He explained in
this letter that the relative well being of the population was necessary because unlike in
the climate of North America that was more suited to European workers, the tropical
climate necessitated workers accustomed to the tropics. It was the interdependent
relationship between imperial economic necessity and the promise of improvement that
depended on a set of ontological assumptions that positioned local, racialized populations
as being necessarily below the British. As Hindess, drawing on J.S. Mill, observes,
Civilized distaste for authoritarian rule has always been a significant component
of the liberal view of empire. Equally significant, however, is the belief that the
dirty work of government is a cross that more civilized peoples will have to bear if
they are to bring about the improvement of the subject population.450
Though it was Rudyard Kipling who famously called upon the white race to “send forth
the best ye breed – go send your sons to exile, to serve your captive’s need” in 1899, the
sentiment is clearly being incubated in the liminal transition from mercantilist to liberal
colonial understandings of the purpose of colonial political economy.451
Within this framework, protecting the interests of the natives against the desires
of the European population resident on the island was an important component of colonial
public policy, because the European capitalist could not but seek his own economic selfinterest, and the mute “native” could not but suffer the consequences of his/her

449 Ibid.
450 Barry Hindess, “The Liberal Government of Unfreedom” Alternatives 26/2(2001): 106.
451 Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands” History
Matters. Accessed January 8, 2017. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5478/.
212
backwardsness.
452 Gayatri Spivak’s famous consideration of the practice of sati within
colonial legal discourse in India in the early-mid 19th century similarly draws attention to
the epistemic violence of structurally removing the agency and voice of the sufferer of the
violence because of the assumption that others more qualified are best suited to speak on
her behalf.453 Steuart draws attention to the “very general opinion” that the abolishment
of slavery in the West Indies offered tremendous economic and political opportunities for
Ceylon and the British imperial project in South Asia more generally:
It was a very general opinion that the abolition of slavery in the West Indies
would be attended with a falling off in the production of coffee, sugar, and sundry
other tropical supplies so indispensable to the comfort of the people of England
and the support of its revenue. It therefore appears highly probably that these
considerations had much weight in Downing Street and suggested the idea that, by
means of free labour obtained from Hindostan, the two Islands, Mauritius and
Ceylon, might supply every deficiency occasioned by the abolition of slavery and
at the same time augment their resources and also, that as Ceylon so closely
resembled Hindostan in all except its insufficient population, it would afford the
opportunity for the safe trial of certain political measures in contemplation for the
continent of India.
454
Again, the tone of the rationale here is one of addressing market shortcomings associated
with the end of slavery.
Philalethes, like Steuart, was a dedicated colonialist with an unusually secular
disposition for his time. In making arguments against radical liberals in England who
were bringing the viability of the colonial project into question in the mid 19th century,
Philalethes argued in the Colombo Journal that indigenous people would be left
hopelessly behind without European improvements on their behalf. Arguing opposite Sir
Henry Parnel who said, “the possession of colonies affords no advantages which could

452 James Steuart to Lt. Colonel Colin Campbell 1842. British National Library, shelfmark: T 39161(a).
453 G.C. Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Nelson, C. and Grossberg, L. (eds.) Marxism and the
Interpretations of Culture (Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1988): 271 – 313.
454 James Steuart, Notes on Ceylon and Its Affairs During a period of Thirty-Eight Years Ending in 1855
(London: Printed for private circulation, 1862): 12.
213
not be obtained by commercial intercourse with independent states,” Philalethes made a
series of arguments that shed light on the pro-colonialism side of the debate that
ultimately won out in the end. He argued that the colony in his day ran a revenue surplus
of 35,000 pounds, and moreover, employed soldiers who would have to be cared for as
“pensioners or as paupers” back in England. More pertinent to this chapter’s concerns, he
said,
If Ceylon were an independent state, is it pretended to be implied, that her power
of production and consequent amount of exportable commodities would be
encreased [sic]? Common instinct demurs to such a proposition; to maintain it a
writer must be utterly ignorant of eastern habits, wants and feelings.455
It is the fundamental nature of the “eastern habits” that was the problem for Philalethes,
not the physical capability of the land to be “productive” if tended to in a correct fashion.
Whereas a generation or two earlier in South Asia, the British were primarily interested in
accumulation of resources and geopolitical posturing vis-à-vis their European rivals
seeking to do the same on the subcontinent, by the 1830s the mere capability of the land
to produce was insufficient to fuel the needs of the modern empire. The way that
Philalethes is framing his argument, it presupposes that in the absence of colonialism,
Ceylon would try, unsuccessfully, to develop its economy along the principles of
monocrop surplus agriculture and thus presupposes that the very purpose of being a state
is to become a satellite state and producer of raw goods for value-added production in the
more advanced economies. Appealing to “eastern habits, wants, and feelings”
presupposes the paternal British citizen resident in Ceylon as being best suited to
understand such wants. Thus the framing of the debate and the normative assumptions

455 Philalethes, “Letter to the editor of the Colombo Journal dated July 27, 1832” Letters on Colonial
Policy, particularly as applicable to Ceylon. Reprinted from the Ceylon Journal (British National Library,
shelfmark: 793.m.15).
214
necessary to the framing itself enacts a kind of de-politicizing move with regards to the
very purpose of being a state, including the assumed possibility of homogenized national
interest which, at the time of Philalethes’ letter to the editor, was only just made
institutionally conceivable by the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms discussed earlier.
Later that week, Philalethes wrote that colonial settlements in Africa were even
established “for the suppression of the Slave Trade, such as Sierra Leone and the
Gambia.”
456 The possibility of nations emerging at all, for Philalethes, may not be
possible in the absence of colonialism. He explained,
If this Anti-Colonial doctrine be right, the United States ought never to have been
created. We should have waited until the Aboriginal Indians had, by slow
processes, been changed into a civilized nation in the three thousandth year of the
Christian era.457
Philalethes’ liberalism betrays the linearity and universal rationalization of racial
hierarchies in his time. It also offers a glimpse into complexities of the moral and
economic debates within imperial political economy in the early-mid 19th century as they
reflect upon colonialism and capitalism. His liberalism was not always consistent, nor
should it be expected to be. As Karl Polyani has argued, appealing to pure “laissez-faire”
was always more of a discursive strategy than it ever was a genuine application of free
market principles, with those benefitting from low state intervention changing their tune
and asking for state protection when times got tough.458 For Philalethes – who was also
influential in the religious activities of the island at the time – public expenditure should
not be exerted towards short-term projects but rather toward infrastructural development

456 Philalethes letter to the editor of the Colombo Journal. No date, but follows previously cited letter of
July 21 and engages with same content by Sir Henry Parnell.
457 Ibid.
458 Karl Polyani, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston:
Beacon Press, 2001 [1944]).
215
or public health that benefits all. It is somewhat surprisingly theoretically consistent, as he
argued against his own Christian interests in making a case against publicly funding
church construction because “no value greater than itself would be produced by such an
expenditure.”459 Philalethes proposed that the state instead pursue expenditure in the
long-term public interest, be it infrastructural development or environment
“improvements” such as draining swamps to promote public health.460 Such thinking
foreshadows some of the compelling and contradicting tensions between the stated goals
of liberal pluralism in policy, and its racialized application to favour British religion and
territorial economic aspirations.
In this section, I have striven to show that marking the transition from mercantilist
to liberal rationalities of governance with the critical juncture of the Colebrooke-Cameron
reforms of 1833 over-values the significance of central state policy. These reforms were
not an end point, nor a beginning point, in the transition from mercantile to liberal
thinking in Ceylon; rather, they represent an important moment in broader processes of
contestation between efforts to enforce the spatial imaginary of a centralized political
authority based in Colombo overtop of the existing spatial order that was rendered as
backwards and pre-modern, as discussed in chapter two. The co-option and
transformation of rajakariya and its application beyond the limits of Kandy to create
roads in the aftermath of the Uva Rebellion was happening alongside organized resistance
to the British presence, descriptions of which will comprise the bulk of chapter four. We
will return to rajakariya in the next section, but for our purposes here, the public debates

459 Philalethes, “Philalethes letter to the editor of the Colombo Journal dated July 27, 1832.” Letters on
Colonial Policy, particularly as applicable to Ceylon. Reprinted from the Ceylon Journal (British National
Library, shelfmark: 793.m.15). Emphasis in original.
460 Ibid.
216
in the local newspapers as well as in parliament in England about the viability of the
colonial enterprise itself highlight the importance of early 19th century economic
globalization. Mainstream historical accounts – including empirically indispensible
histories written by Sri Lankan historians – view the modernization of economies as a
natural, linear aspect of development, highlighting the perceived moral integrity of radical
liberals in the 19th century. Within these constructed “natural” attributes of economic
development, however, rests the colonial constitution of the modern order, discussed in
chapter one.
Section Two: Imperial Political Economy
The West Indian Connection
Eighteenth-century colonial mercantilism, as briefly discussed above, rationalized land
and natural resources as something relatively static, and historically in South Asia, relied
on existing indigenous labour practices to accumulate and trade in natural resources.
Thinking about land as something to be improved through labour changed perceptions of
how value ought to be extracted from land. Indigenous farming practices in the early 19th
century relied on small scale coffee plots, small gardens, paddy fields, and chena
agriculture, which involves clearing areas of jungle rich in soil quality to plant rotating
crops.461 Commodifying land, alongside spatial strategies of urban restructuring, worked
to de-territorialize local places and simultaneously re-territorialize them as visible,
legible, Eurocentric places.
462 While the idea of land improvement was clearly also at

461 Roland Wenzlhuemer, “The Singhalese Contribution to Estate Labour in Ceylon, 1881 – 1891,” Journal
of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 48/3 (2005): 444.
462 Nihal Perera, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1998): 61 – 85.
217
play in the mercantilist model of colonial plantations popular in the Caribbean in the 18th
century, under this logic of imperial political economy, monopolies, protectionist tariffs,
and insulation from external competition were also part of the package. These were
mobilized to serve the interests of economic nationalism that was criticized by liberal
political economists of the day.
463
When plantations were first established in the British Caribbean, planters were
guaranteed monopolies within the imperial economy for their sugar and coffee, as well as
guaranteed use of enslaved African labour. While the sale of slaves was not a European
invention, the scale at which the practice transformed into commercial sale and
trafficking of human “property” to fuel British entrepreneurship and imperial wealth in
the 18th century was a European invention. Though the plantation model enriched
England and other European and Euro-descended populations throughout the mercantilist
economic period, it was precisely the ending of mercantilist era trade protection and the
turn away from slavery that birthed the boom in commercial plantations in Ceylon. As
David Scott argues, Ceylon and other British possessions were seen as testing grounds for
liberal experimentations in governance (along with their illiberal undersides), and
eventually the “systematic redefinition and transformation of the terrain on which the life
of the colonized was lived.”464 It was not as simple as moving the plantation model from

463 Cf.: Eric Helleiner, “Economic Nationalism as a Challenge to Economic Liberalism? Lessons from the
19th Century,” International Studies Quarterly 46 (2002): 307 – 329. Helleiner cautions against exaggerated
differences between economic nationalists and economic liberals of the 19th century. There were many
variants of economic nationalism, and Helleiner argues that even a defining economic nationalist like
Fredrick List supported the liberal objective of free trade. List however, insisted on the caveat that countries
first attain equal economic power to Britain prior to embracing the principles of free trade. List’s ideas
became more influential in the developmental post-WWII era, influencing the development of policy
measures such as import-substitution industrialization and the developmental approach of countries like
Japan and South Korea. See also: Fredrick List, The National System of Political Economy, translated by
G.A. Matile (Philadelphia: J.P. Lippincott & Co., 1856 [1843]).
464 David Scott, Refashioning Futures: Criticism after Postcoloniality (New Jersey: Princeton University
Press, 1999): 41. Emphasis in the original.
218
one part of the Empire to another, however. The plantation model needed modern
“improvement” in line with liberal reformist thinking to answer to the demands of moral
activists and opportunistic capitalists alike.
Although Atlantic slavery enriched Britain, it was the discourse of being against
slavery that helped denigrate local practices like rajakariya in Ceylon at a time when
being against slavery carried considerable moral and economic “capital” within the
British Empire.465 As Ceylon was being incorporated as a British crown colony following
the Kandyan Convention and Uva Rebellion, important imperial policies affecting slavery
were coming into place. Discursively, identifying the indigenous practice of rajakariya
with slavery was a common point reiterated by British colonial administrators as well as
the missionary population. There was a moral boundary differentiating modern,
increasingly liberal, British governance over the island from a “backwards” or not-yet
modern native existence. Ironically, the British invoked the right of rajakariya as new
sovereigns on the island to force local men and boys to toil without remuneration under
the term “compulsory labour,” which was seen as different from slave labour in that it
also served a pedagogical role of “educating” lazy natives on the virtues of a hard day’s
work.466 The belief was that with plantation agriculture and the availability of paid labour,

465 The British were leveraging moral superiority as a tactic to overcome revolutionary America in the early
19th century as well. In the war of 1812, in which a fledgling American state sought to invade British North
America, the British benefited by promising Afro-descended Americans freedom: if they deserted the
American army and fought for the British, they would not be returned to their “masters” afterwards. Afrodescended and Indigenous forces played important roles in enabling the burning of the White House and
favourable terms of negotiation for the British. See: Andrew Cockburn, “Washington is Burning: Two
centuries of Racial Tribulation in the nation’s capital,” Harper’s Magazine August 29, 2014. Accessed
Aug. 29, 2016. http://harpers.org/archive/2014/09/washington-is-burning/?single=1.
466 Being a forced laborer or being an enslaved person would often result in a person’s death. Enslaved
persons were de-humanized, or “thingified” as Robbie Shilliam has argued, in law and practice such that
their value or existence at all was as a commodity. In the context of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, enslaved
workers could, and were, worked to death with the knowledge that they could be replaced at the next
auction. Following the formal end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807, enslaved persons were not
humanized in the eyes of plantation owners; rather, their commodity value increased as they were no longer
219
the recalcitrant Kandyan natives in the interior would fill the labour needs. Working
conditions were atrocious, and although planters were technically subservient to the
central government in Colombo, in practice they operated as de-facto sovereigns over
their plantations, creating economic and health conditions that made survival a
challenging feat for the labourers.467
When the Kandyans would not work, the British
turned to the subcontinent for a cheap supply of waged labourers, recruited from the
Tamil population.468
Far from being starkly different from the working conditions in the West Indies,
scholars of South Asian plantation workers have argued that the plantation model in
South Asia represented a new form of slavery.469 Approximately one in four migratory
workers who were compelled to make the journey from Southern India to the plantation
fields in Ceylon would die en route, and even when at work, these allegedly free
labourers would only be considered “sick” when they collapsed in the fields; they were
also routinely beaten as a method of improving and correcting what was considered to be

as easy to replace. While many of the material conditions would have been very similar, from the vantage
point of 19th century racial thinking, the very fact that the British saw South Asians as a race able to learn
and develop and thus be pupils of improvement marks an important difference in British approaches to
colonization in South Asia, Africa, and the West Indies. It also informs the history of racial tension between
descendants of slavery and descendants of indentureship in the Caribbean. See: Robbie Shilliam, “Forget
English Freedom, Remember Atlantic Slavery: Common Law, Commercial Law, and the Significance of
Slavery for Classical Political Economy,” New Political Economy 17/5 (2012): 591 – 609; Ajay Parasram,
“The long road to de-colonisation: Understanding our political present” in J. Parasram, Far from the
Mountain: Political notes and commentaries, xxi – xxiv (St. Anns: Paria Publishing Co. Ltd., 2013).
467 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race, and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing House, 2007): 67 – 68.
468 The secondary literature is mostly in agreement that the overwhelming majority of coffee plantation
workers were migrant Tamil workers from Southern India, but there are some important dissenting
opinions. Eric Meyer has argued since the 1970s that Sinhalese locals were also involved in the waged
labour. See: Eric Meyer, “‘Enclave’ plantations, ‘hemmed-in’ villages and dualistic representations in
Colonial Ceylon,” Journal of Peasant Studies 19/3-4 (1993): 199 – 228; Roland Wenzlhuemer, From
Coffee to Tea Cultivation in Ceylon 1800 – 1900 (Boston: Brill, 2008): 311.
469 Rana P. Behal and Prabhu P. Mohapatra, “Tea and money versus human life: The rise and fall of the
indenture system in the Assam tea plantations, 1840 – 1908,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 19/3-4
(1992): 142 – 172; James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race, and Biopower in
Nineteenth Century Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing House, 2007): 67 – 99; Patrick Peebles, The
Plantation Tamils of Ceylon (London: Leicester University Press, 2001): 53 – 71.
220
immoral behaviour.470 Patrick Peebles maintains that the West Indian model of slavebased plantations served as a manual for plantations in the early years of coffee
cultivation in Ceylon. 471 Entrepreneurial Europeans were the source of circulated
knowledge about the management of plantations and the discourse of racial hierarchies
that legitimized the brutal extraction of value through enslaved and near-enslaved
racialized workers. Although the deplorable conditions of forced road labourers and
coerced migrant plantation labourers were modelled upon slave plantations, the discursive
logic from the vantage point of the British government was increasingly that such tactics
would ultimately promote an industrious and morally superior colonial subject. Thus, it
was not simply the physical land that was being improved through these means, the
workers themselves, as scholars of colonial governmentality have argued, were subject to
liberal improvement. This made at least an important discursive difference within
colonial debates, even if it made little to no difference to workers themselves.
With the end of slavery and the gradual diminishing of the mercantilist trade
policies that insulated slavers from competition, plantations were closing in the West
Indies leading to an Eastward migration of white plantation workers and owners. One
such migratory person was Robert Boyd Tytler, who travelled in 1837 to Jamaica armed
with a second-hand copy of Laborie’s Coffee Planter of Santo Domingo. Tytler sought to
learn the “West Indian” system of plantations, and after three years of study, travelled to
Ceylon to share his knowledge in developing the plantation sector in the interior of
Ceylon. The book Tytler brought with him was perhaps more influential than his personal

470 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race, and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing House, 2007): 94 – 95; Nihal Perera, Society and Space:
Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998); I.H.
Vanden Driesen, Indian plantation labour in Sri Lanka: aspects of the history of immigration in the 19th
century. (Nedlands: University of Western Australia, 1982).
471 Patrick Peebles, The Plantation Tamils of Ceylon (London: Leicester University Press, 2001): 55 – 58.
221
observations, and it quickly became the definitive planter’s guide to managing effective
plantations. 472 Laborie’s book contained detailed information concerning the “natural
state” of enslaved Africans being one of fulfilling only base subsistence and needing firm
instruction in order to remain productive:
His [Laborie’s] conclusion about the character of Afro-American slaves applied
equally to the Ceylon planters’ view of their labourers: Such, nearly and in a
general view, is that creature whom we are forced to keep in his natural state of
thraldom, in order to obtain from him the requisite services; because it is now
proved by experience, more decisively than by speculative reasonings, that, under
a different condition, he would not labour, unless to remove actual wants, which
are few and small in the West Indies.473
The above quotation exemplifies the pseudo-scientific approach to management as well
as the colossal ignorance of profit-seeking planters. In no way did they try to understand
the enslaved people whom they “owned.” Racism in the late slavery period of the 18th and
19th centuries saw general comparisons made between slaves and other races of “inferior”
people. Peebles quoted an Assistant Government Agent in 1847 discussing the
productivity of workers of different races, measured as a ratio of Tamil to African:
Mr Blainey, a gentleman who had charge of the Green Wood Estate for about
three years, and was previously employed for several years at Trinidad considers
that on average it requires six Malabars [Tamils] to perform the work of one
Negro, even subsequent to the abolition of Slavery in the Colonies.474
Accounts like those described above tell us far more of the culture of white supremacy
underscoring 19th century colonial economy than they can offer insights into how
colonized and enslaved people understood their contexts. White supremacy at the top of
an imagined racial hierarchy was economically influential in terms of strategies aimed at

472 Ibid.
473 Ibid., 56. Emphasis in original.
474 Ibid., 56 – 67.
222
economic productivity both in the mercantilist oriented slaving era of production, and in
the liberal era of “free” waged labour after 1832.475
Free Trade vs. Private Property
Liberal political economy, with its abolitionist proponents like liberal political economistturned-MP David Ricardo, also favoured the establishment of waged labour over slavery
because an enslaved person had no incentive to work beyond their basic means of
subsistence.476 Waged labourers, from within the modern/colonial worldview, conversely,
had an incentive to save and spend money to improve their own lives. One of the ideas
considered by Britain, but ultimately not pursued, was to transform enslaved Africans
into indentured labourers, which would enable a kind of apprenticeship work-to-freedom
model that could protect the economic interests of slave owners.477 In the 19th century,
just as much as in the 20th and 21st centuries, questions of justice and correct action were
stymied by concerns for the destabilizing effect that such just actions might have on the
stability of the global economy. This model of indentureship as “voluntary” labour was
ultimately not applied to former slaves, but was applied to scores of South Asian coerced
migrants suffering famine as a result of the political economic policies pursued by
England in South Asia, which demanded that peasants prioritize the production of textiles

475 Robbie Shilliam, “Forget English Freedom, Remember Atlantic Slavery: Common Law, Commercial
Law, and the Significance of Slavery for Classical Political Economy,” New Political Economy 17/5
(2012): 591 – 609; Barry Hindess, “The Liberal Government of Unfreedom” Alternatives 26/2 (2001): 93 –


  1. 476 Ricardo in particular, in his four years as an MP, worked on parliamentary committee evaluating and
    seeking to bring an end to the charter monopoly of the East India Company, such that free trade across the
    Empire could be realized.
    477 “Plan for the Safe and Profitable Conversion of Colonial Slaves Into Free Labourers” c. 1832. British
    National Library, shelfmark: General Reference Collection 8154.e.1.(6.).
    223
    and inedible material for foreign trade rather than producing the means of their own
    subsistence.478
    The application of indentureship as a policy was fused with indigenous caste
    relationships, and labourers were recruited through kangany supervisors who would
    receive payment from plantation owners to travel to southern India and recruit teams of
    workers to travel from the subcontinent to Ceylon for work on coffee and later tea
    plantations.479 As Perera describes, migrating and impoverished Tamil workers
    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. According to the
    estimates of the Ceylon Observer, twenty-five per cent of immigrants died during
    the period between 1841 to 1849, totalling as many as 70,000 persons.”480
    Slavery had an enormous impact on the kind of economic development that enriched the
    coffers of British imperial metropoles under the mercantile world economy. Official
    indentureship replaced slavery in the West Indies, while free(r) trade modelled as an
    improvement on the labour practices of the West Indies brought about economic
    opportunities in South Asia just as Governor Barnes’ road systems were opening up
    Ceylon’s lush interior. The problem, following Eric Williams’ train of thought, was not
    truly a question of moral abhorrence to slavery by the British; rather, it was slavery’s
    anachronism with the principles of liberal political economy. 481 The very fact that

478 Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World (New
York: Verso, 2002); Ajay Parasram “The long road to de-colonisation: Understanding our political
present.” In Jai Parasram, Far from the Mountain: Political notes and commentaries, xxi – xxiv. (St. Anns:
Paria Publishing Co. Ltd., 2013).
479 Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands, 1833 –
1886 (Berlin: Mouton Publishers, 1983): 201 – 210.
480 Nihal Perera, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1998): 69. See appendix A, figure 5 for map outlining this migratory path.
481 Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery. (London: Andre Deutsch Limited, 1964 [1944]):126 – 153.
224
parliamentary debates and working papers were aimed at the gradual “improvement” of
racially inferior peoples via instilling a work-ethic based on land and human
improvement speaks to the continuity of racial inferiority and white supremacy within
imperial thinking at the time. Explained in a different light, the problem is not necessarily
one of anachronism, rather, it is that liberalism has always been rife with contradiction
and predicated on assumptions that subject peoples require instruction in order to stand a
chance at becoming autonomous economic and political agents.482
The 1833 abolition of slavery in the British West Indies all but collapsed
Caribbean coffee industries. As Williams maintains, it was the stubborn greed of the
planting community and their feelings of entitlement that blocked them from adapting; in
Jamaica more than 188,000 acres of coffee plantations were abandoned in the 1830s
alone.483 While the idea of emancipation and trade liberalization together were seen by
the planters of the West Indies as an affront to their right to private property, to capitalist
investors discouraged by the monopoly conditions which asymmetrically protected the
commercial well being of inefficient West Indian planters, liberalization and waged
labourers offered the promise of a more even and competitive playing field. The two core
liberal issues of private “property” according to the West Indian planters, and free trade to
British investors came to a head in early-mid 19th century debates. 484 Furthering the
impending decline of West Indian coffee plantations within the newly forming liberal
rationality was the equalization of duties on West Indian and East Indian coffee in 1835.
Long before the actual equalization of duties, MP David Ricardo had been calling for the

482 Christine Helliwell and Barry Hindess, “The ‘Empire of Uniformity’ and the Government of Subject
Peoples,” Cultural Values 6/1&2 (2002): 139 – 152.
483 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Topics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 36-37.
484 Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery. (London: Andre Deutsch Limited, 1964 [1944]):133 – 134.
225
elimination of differential tariffs and the introduction of South Asian commodities into
the general pool of imperial trade with the aim of reducing commodity prices and
increasing efficiency through competition. For example, on May 4, 1821, the British
parliament debated extra duties on East Indian sugar. Ricardo voted against applying
extra duty on East Indian sugar on the principle of the tax itself without making any
particular argument about slavery.485
It is difficult, and perhaps even impossible, to think about the development of
capitalism without the development of colonialism, and as Emily Erikson has argued, the
relationship between liberal economic theory and the British East India Company in
particular is remarkably strong. In her doctoral thesis, Erikson shows that the 1707 union
of England and Scotland was negotiated, in part, with a promise of including Scottish
elites in positions of power within the East India Company. As Erikson writes:
David Ricardo was a member of the Company’s court of proprietors. Ricardo’s
close friend, James Mill wrote his major life’s work on the history of the British in
India and went on to serve as Assistant Examiner of the India Correspondence, a
very respectable position within the East India Company. His even more
influential son also worked for the Company. Thomas Malthus served as the chair
of history and political economy at Haileybury, the East India Company’s college
for the education of young men. And, although eventually passed over, even
Adam Smith at one time put considerable effort into seeking a position within the
Company. These are only the more familiar names, the earlier, more obscure
theorists of the seventeenth century with close associations to the East India
Company include Thomas Mun and Josiah Child, both at different times directors
of the Company, and Edward Misselden, who negotiated contracts on the
Company’s behalf.486

485 “Duty on East India Sugars.” United Kingdom, Hansard Parliamentary Debates Volume 5 (May 4,
1821). Accessed February 24, 2014. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1821/may/04/duty-oneast-india-sugars.
486 Emily Erikson, Between Monopoly and Free-trade: The English East India Company1600 – 1757.
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014): 67 – 68.
226
Eurocentric historical accounts of the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution tend
to focus on the centrality of the factory within Europe, but this is really only one part of
an imperial network of relations; decolonial histories of capitalism instead start with the
genocides, servitudes, and economic modalities that made industrialization in Europe a
possibility.487 My argument here is narrower, speaking to a particular imperial connection
that pitted the white planter interests of the colonial West and East Indies against one
another at precisely the time that the British government in Ceylon was actively engaged
in the aggressive colonization and violent transformation by legal means of indigenous
Kandyan territory into legible British capitalist territory.
Colonial Liberalism and the Rise of Commercial Coffee
As noted earlier, the plantation model in Ceylon was not introduced by the British, but it
was enlarged considerably by a variety of domestic and imperial policies in the early- to
mid- 19th century. Perhaps none of these policies would have been sufficient to produce
the kinds of geographical, environmental, political, and economic shifts if the market
demand for coffee was not as important as it was in the mid- 19th century. Coffee was big
business around the world in the 19th century because of the relatively recent introduction
of coffee houses in European metropoles. 488 Coffee is a crop that is geographically
limited to highland areas within tropical climates, as it requires a frost-free, cool, and
humid environment to flourish. 489 Although coffee flourished in Ceylon in the 19th

487 Anibal Quijano, “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America” Nepantla: Views from the
South 1/3 (2000): 533 – 580.
488 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Topics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 32 – 33.
489 James Duncan, “Coffee, Disease, and the ‘Simultaneity of Stories-So-Far’ in the Highlands of 19th
Century Ceylon” in C. Brun and T. Jazeel (eds.) Spatializing Politics: Culture and Geography in
Postcolonial Sri Lanka (New Delhi: Sage, 2009): 47.
227
century, Muslim traders linking East Asia to Europe via sea routes that stopped in coastal
Ceylon first introduced the crop.
490 Prior to the 1820s and the development of the coffee
sector after the liberalization of trade policy in the imperial political economy, coffee was
collected haphazardly from wild plants and smallholdings. Under the Governorship of Sir
Edward Barnes in 1820-1822 and 1824-1831, the industry’s foundations were
strengthened with significant land acquisition and infrastructural development to service
the sector.491 Upon assuming office, Barnes sought to encourage commercial plantation
agriculture in coffee, cotton, and pepper in particular, erasing the export duty of five per
cent on home-grown coffee in his first year, and exempting coffee from the 1/10 land tax
upon resuming his office in 1824.492 Barnes set an example for the European public in
Ceylon by opening his own coffee plantation in the Kandyan region.493 The transition
from mercantilist to liberal rationalities in Ceylon was not neat or uni-directional, but
from the British perspective, a foundational shift in thinking occurred when colonial
South Asia was transformed from a place where exotic things could be collected into a
terrain out of which European capitalists could perform modernizing work on land and
people for the purposes of rendering both more productive.
Although in chapter four I intend to problematize the perception of peace and
tranquillity in Kandy in the 1820-40s, it is certainly true that, relative to the state of war
and insurrection that marked the early British period on the island, these decades were
relatively stable and enabled the deepening of centralizing political institutions.

490 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Topics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 34.
491 I.H. Vanden Driesen, “A Note on the rise of plantations and the genesis of Indian labour migration to Sri
Lanka,” Asian Studies 14/2 (1976): 16.
492 Ibid. The land-based tax was applied to paddy rice agriculture as part of a series of reforms under the
Colebrooke-Cameron reforms discussed earlier.
493 Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands, 1833 –
1886 (Berlin: Mouton Publishers, 1983): 58 – 60.
228
Commissioners Colebrooke and Cameron believed that compulsory labour would not be
necessary with the introduction of waged labour. Informed by the prevailing colonial
wisdom of liberalism discussed thus far, the Commission’s universal view failed to
comprehend that Kandyan sovereignty and political economy was not a subordinate part
of the British civilizational imaginary, rather, both were systems with long genealogies of
practice operating on ontologically different premises. The villagers refused to work
either on roads or as labourers on the rapidly forming coffee plantations. Their logic is
easy to see, and exposes an enactment of what James C. Scott has described as “weapons
of the weak,” or the simple refusal to participate.
494 This provided an ample thorn in the
side of colonial planners of the day. Although the last great rebellion had been fourteen
years prior, smaller skirmishes and uprisings were always afoot in the Kandyan region. It
seems a daft proposition that one should spend arduous days labouring in pursuit of
inedible fruit for export, only to use the wages garnered from this labour to buy food one
has always produced for oneself in abundance. Any minor need for cash could be solved
from growing small coffee plots, which many people had been doing for many years in
any case.495 Yet this was precisely the “common sense” novelty of liberal improvement at
the time, discussed by locally based political economists and commentators like
Philalethes, and also in Ricardo’s literature on comparative advantage and his forceful
arguments within parliament.496 As G.C. Mendis has argued, following the abolishment
of rajakariya, Sinhalese villagers had little need for external work on the plantations that

494 James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1987).
495 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Topics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 32 – 38.
496 David Ricardo, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (London: John Murray, 1817);
“Agricultural Distress,” United Kingdom, Hansard Parliamentary Debate Vol. 1 Sec. 635 – 93 (March 30,
1820). Accessed February 24, 2014. https://goo.gl/dKayJd (See sections 671 – 676 for David Ricardo’s
intervention.)
229
would have involved travelling away from home villages, particularly amongst those born
to high castes. 497 That local Kandyan villagers would not work on plantations was
understood by the British as evidence of native inferiority; they did not seriously consider
indigenous grievances with the radical, cosmological and territorial transformations
unfolding on their villages no doubt aided by the fact that most planters were also British
civil servants.498 Letters, government reports, even missionary accounts from this period
remark on the need to “lead by example” in order to instil a sense of ambition and pride
achievable through a hard day’s work upon the “lazy,” “backwards,” and unindustrious
local population. Available evidence of the demographic breakdown of plantation
labourers supports the claim that ethnic Sinhalese people were not significantly employed
as labourers on the plantations, as according to available statistics they comprised less
than five per cent of plantation workers in the mid- to late- 19th century. Even then, this
was only after the demise of the coffee industry and its replacement with tea, which
required year-round labour and greater mass production based on economies of scale,
which was a level of capital investment not readily achievable for smaller scale Sinhalese
coffee producers in the region.499
The violence of universal thinking as it applied to colonial efforts to transform
indigenous space into capitalist plantation space took many forms; chief among them was

497 Colvin R. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation 1795 – 1833 Volume 1: Its Political and
Administrative Development. (Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries’ Co., Ltd, 1953): 68
498 It should be noted that although I focus on plantations in Kandy here, the same logic was applied to
cinnamon peelers and other forms of forced laborers. In Commissioner Colebrooke’s report on compulsory
services, he notes that upon his arrival in the colony in 1829, he learned that cinnamon peelers resisting
government orders to work resulted in military troop deployments, floggings, and prison sentences. See:
“Report of Colebrooke upon the Compulsory Services” in G.C. Mendis (ed.) Colebrooke-Cameron Papers:
Documents on British Colonial Policy in Ceylon 1796 – 1833 (London: Oxford University Press, 1956):
189 – 190.
499Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands, 1833 –
1886 (Berlin: Mouton Publishers, 1983): 189 – 191. Cf.: Eric Meyer, “‘Enclave’ plantations, ‘hemmed-in’
villages and dualistic representations in Colonial Ceylon” Journal of Peasant Studies 19/3-4 (1993): 199 –
228; Roland Wenzlhuemer, From Coffee to Tea Cultivation in Ceylon 1800 – 1900 (Boston: Brill, 2008).
230
the belief that workers’ everyday forms of resistance represented a moral failing on the
part of the workers. Part of the liberal approach of colonial governmentality that was
unfolding in the mid- to late- 19th century was a need for the government to intervene on
behalf of workers to impose certain minimum standards of health that planters would
deny to their workers. For example, sick workers would often starve to death, leading the
government to impose a law that said sick workers must be provided with food. Workers
would also hide from their supervisors on the plantations, cut holes in heavy bags of
coffee to lighten the load, or deliberately damage machinery.500 As Bandarage notes, the
foremost journalists and record-keepers in Ceylon regarding plantation economy, A.M.
and J. Ferguson, publicly argued that raising revenue in “oriental” lands ought to be based
on taxing items that are required by the masses. Taxing the native population while
reducing taxes on the British population of “job creators” was beneficial because “the
pinching of the stomach is morally good because it will induce the peasants to work on
plantations.”501 This observation should be considered in light of the planters’ and the
colonial government’s inability to comprehend why Kandyan villagers in particular
would choose not to “better” themselves by engaging in an honest day’s paid work. When
controversial flat taxes (discussed in the next section) were being discussed between the
CO and Governor of Ceylon in 1848, Lord Grey in London was urging Governor
Torrington to impose even greater taxes on the local population with a view to improving
both public services and the tax base, as well as deliberately setting up the legal

500 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Topics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 89 – 90.
501 Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands, 1833 –
1886 (Berlin: Mouton Publishers, 1983): 180.
231
incentives such that forced labour through work houses would induce local people to pay
taxes. As Grey writes:
I sh[oul]d be much inclined to carry this principle further and impose a poll tax of
10/ per year the penalty for default being the exaction of labour reckoned at such a
price as to make it clearly the interest of the people to prefer the money payment –
This w[oul]d create a fund not only for the improvement to the roads but for other
local purposes, especially education and relief to the sick and infirm. I am of
opinion that great advantage w[oul]d result from the establishment of district
hospitals and workhouses where all the sick w[oul]d be treated gratis and the
destitute and the infirm relieved. …If a part of your poll tax were to support
hospitals and dispensaries it w[oul]d merely amount to establishing a compulsory
medical club. These institutions if combined with workhouses (on a very small
scale) w[oul]d afford likewise an effective instrument for putting down vagrancy
and be of great use to the Coolies. The imposition of such a tax on the whole
population w[oul]d be of use not merely by the money it brought into the
Treasury but also by compelling the Cingalese [sic] to exert themselves, instead of
contending themselves with getting a mere subsistence.502
In Grey’s letter, one can see the experimentation with liberal governance that
governmentality scholars like Scott (1999) and Duncan (2007) speak to. Faced with
limited resources and a foot-dragging form of resistance from local populations,
improvement becomes the vehicle through which colonial transformation can continue.
Similar processes were unfolding in Europe itself, spurring trade unionism, socialist and
anarchist revolutionary movements, poor houses, and industrial technological revolution.
Under the veil of improvement, violent enforcement of ontologically alien norms and
laws become the rule of law, ostensibly for the improvement and betterment of the colony
and its people as a whole.

502 “The Earl of Grey to Viscount Torrington, May 19, 1848.” In K.M. de Silva (ed.), Letters on Ceylon
1846 – 50 The Administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848: The private
correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount
Torrington. British National shelfmark: X.700/3328.
232
Resisting the Plantations
Most secondary literature on the 1848 Matale Rebellion identifies these new taxes as a
major catalyst for the rebellion, alongside the writings of a radical Irish editor of a local
newspaper named Mr. Elliot who translated an article into Sinhalese calling for people to
reject taxes without proper representation.503 There is plenty of documented evidence of
local people’s disdain for the large-scale coffee plantations gobbling up Kandyan
territory, and efforts to resist the legal and governmental usurping of common land varied
from simply ignoring the territorial claims of private property to threatening to murder
European planters.504Although, as discussed earlier, the British becoming sovereign over
Kandy entitled them, in their minds, to possess all crown lands and do with them what
they pleased, this came up against generations of entrenched practices that enabled
peasants to use royal lands for communal purposes; in the terminology of chapter two,
this represented a political ontological clash because the British believed they could pick
and choose the responsibilities of being sovereign without regard for the galactic
sovereign model that had developed over centuries of practice in Buddhist/Hindu
societies.
505 As another example of this ontological conflict, when efforts to demarcate
and impose boundaries of private property were made by European planters in the 1830s
staking out territory in the interior, locals would use the fence-wood for fire. In the

503 K.M. de Silva (ed.), Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 50, The Administration of Viscount Torrington and the
‘Rebellion’ of 1848: The private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies
1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965: 13. British National shelfmark:
X.700/3328.
504 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Topics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 148 – 149.
505 S.J. Tambiah as well as Bruce Kapferer have done compelling research on the history of Buddhist/Hindu
models of polities. See chapter two of this dissertation, but also S.J. Tambiah, World Conqueror and World
Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand Against Historical Background (Cambridge
University Press, 1976) and Bruce Kapferer, Legends of People, Myths of State: Violence, Intolerance, and
Political Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia (New York: Berghahn Books).
233
accounts of Colonel Watson, villagers confronted a planter while he was planning the
construction of a road to his plantation, and the village spokesman told him,
Who sent you white people here, we did very well without you; look there
(pointing to a coffee estate) that forest was mine…then to open ground upon
which some estate cattle were grazing “that was mine”; you have levelled our
forests; seized our chenas and now you are turning our paddy fields into roads.
But we have a man up there (pointing to the Knuckles range of the mountains
about 12 miles distant) who will soon get rid of you; he will cut the …(drawing
his hand across his throat with a vicious smile) of everyone of you….506
In the opinion of Colonel Watson, statements of this nature “betrayed the voice and
feelings of the Kandyans in general.”507
It was in the context of indigenous resistance to colonial endeavours to demarcate
and privatize common land that the government passed the 1840 Crown Land
Encroachment Ordinance #12, which decreed that land must have a deed. Where no deed
was available, that land then belonged to the crown.508 The territorial politics implicit in
this move is remarkable in terms of its inversion of a negative. The law does not seek to
appropriate land directly; rather, it assumes the land already belongs to the state, and in
this way, presumes and enforces a Euro-centric ontology of land and territory that it can
be, and indeed has already been parcelled up for ownership and use. In some ways,
assuming that all land belongs to the crown respects the idea that land is communal – as
discussed in chapter two, there was a poorly translated assumption that all land
“belonged” to the king. But the crude simplification that being “sovereign” meant
“owning” the land and having the right to do with it what one pleased simply ignored the
balance of symbolic sovereignty exercised by the king through ritual, and the practical

506 Colonel Watson, cited in James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Topics: Climate, Race and Biopower in
Nineteenth Century Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 149.
507 Ibid.
508 “Ordinance # 12, 1840: To Prevent Encroachments Upon Crown Lands,” British National Archives,
shelfmark: CO 56/1.
234
everyday sovereignty exercised in a de-centralized manner based on labouring in service
of public works that came with rights to use land.509 This conception of ownership over
land that could then be parcelled out and sold to be “improved” by plugging into the
imperial political economy was a violent intrusion over local practices of relating to and
through land.
Taxes, Roads, Mandatory/Voluntary Labour: Liberal Colonial Difference
Coffee production was growing rapidly under the favourable, if contradictory, liberal
policies of the colonial government, which essentially drew taxes and rights from the
peasantry to invest in infrastructural projects in service to the growing plantation
economy that asymmetrically benefitted British planters. At the same time, barriers to
inter-imperial commerce in the West Indies and England were being drastically reduced,
as previously discussed. By the mid 1840s, however, coffee consumption was slumping
in European markets and European workers themselves were rising in rebellion across the
continent. The Colonial Secretary in Colombo, Sir James Emmerson Tennant, had been
working with the Colonial Office under Earl Grey in London to advocate market-friendly
reforms to aid the floundering coffee industry. These reforms were continued under the
new Governor, Lord Viscount Torrington in 1847. Part of the Grey/Tennent plan
involved measures to cut export and import duties in order to allow for freer trade of
goods. To recover the lost revenue, they sought to levy “flat taxes” on the national
population that were, in practice, taxes on the indigenous population concerning land, dog
licencing, and roads. A disciple of the principles of liberal political economy, Grey saw it

509 Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne, “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmological Terrain
of Contested Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhism Tradition” in A.Wagner et al. (eds.), Law, Culture
and Visual Studies Volumes 1 and 2, (Springer Publishing Company, 2013): 573 – 596.
235
as a colonial duty to remove impediments to industry and establish free trade across the
Empire.510 Yet his liberalizing efforts were tempered by the political rebellions rising up
around Europe in 1848. For example, when Governor Torrington attempted to eliminate
the mandatory military chest contribution of Ceylon to England as a way to increase
revenue needed for the fortification of the port of Trincomalee, Grey made it clear in a
letter dated May 19, 1848, that the political climate in London was completely
unfavourable to such a request:
Never was there so violent an outcry for reduction of expenditure, and more
especially of Colonial expenditure, many of our great economists going so far as
to say it is of no use having Colonies at all – In such a state of feelings it w[oul]d
of course be hopeless to think of asking for money to fortify Trincomalee or to
relieve you from the £24,000 a year you have to pay into the Military Chest.511
Grey urged Torrington to roll out aforementioned flat tax on roads, which Torrington
ultimately did as the 8th Ordinance of 1848. The Ordinance outlines that all men must pay
a road tax of 1.5 rupees and if they cannot afford it or refuse to pay it, they will be
obliged to give six days of labour per year. After stating that all men must pay the tax, the
ordinance then outlines exemptions for the Governor, military servicemen, people
representing the British monarchy, and migrant Tamil labourers coming from India.
There are 80 clauses to this ordinance, and among them are stipulations outlining various
other financial infractions, including clause 57 which establishes a fee of up to ten
shillings if cattle is found wandering onto the road, clause 58 which would seize such
cattle, and many other punitive clauses outlining consequences associated with resisting

510 K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 50, The Administration of Viscount Torrington and the
‘Rebellion’ of 1848: The private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies
1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington: 5 – 6. British National shelfmark: X.700/3328.
511
“Grey to Torrington, May 19, 1848” in K.M. de Silva (ed.), Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 50, The
Administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘Rebellion’ of 1848: The private correspondence of the Third
Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. British National
shelfmark: X.700/3328.
236
or refusing to work.512 In other words, even though the British had long advanced a moral
argument that their liberal approach to governance would get rid of backwards practices
of forced labour, in practice they would often bureaucratically alter the laws of the land in
a way as to make voluntary compliance with seemingly reasonable requirements – like
road taxes or mandatory-volunteerism – a liberal covering for repackaged forced labour.
In Governor Torrington’s quest to balance the books in light of diminished
demand for coffee in revolutionary Europe, the gift of tax exemption was offered only to
large-scale coffee producers. While in theory this did not exclude local Sinhalese farmers,
again in practice, due to European banks being unwilling to extend loans to natives, this
was effectively a racialized economic subsidy to wealthy European planters that was paid
for by the local population en masse. Furthermore, the tax exemption did not extend to
indigenous rice producers, who were obligated to pay taxes by way of contributing 1/10
of their rice crop. 513 Torrington, in consultation with Secretary Grey and Colonial
Secretary Tennent, essentially re-instated rajakariya disguised as a technocratic liberal
pay-per-use policy applied to roads via the Road Ordinance of 1848. The practice of the
law brings into stark focus the hypocrisy of 19th century liberalism: as the slavery which
made the empire wealthy in the mercantilist era was being dismantled in the West Indies,
legal manoeuvres were employing forced labour by writing laws that made forced labour
appear to be a choice. In this way, the British could present themselves as a liberal and
benign government that had abolished slavery in the West Indies and rajakariya in the

512 “Ordinance # 8, 1848: To make provision for the formation and improvement of the means of
communication on the island.” British National Archives, shelfmark: CO/56/5. See also: Asoka Bandarage,
Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands, 1833 – 1886 (Berlin: Mouton
Publishers, 1983): 249; James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Topics: Climate, Race and Biopower in
Nineteenth Century Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 180.
513 James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Topics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007): 180.
237
East Indies, which they understood by the mid 19th century as feudal slavery in Kandy,
and then essentially reconfigure the practice of forced labour in a lawful way. Through
using the “backwards” rajakariya system prior to the end of slavery in the Empire to
build the roads that would pave the way for plantation development in the post-slavery
era, the British were able – at least in their own minds – to create a legal avenue for
forced labour and land theft while at the same time advancing the moral civilizing
benefits of these “benevolent” acts of liberal government on the “pre-modern” masses.
Forced labour was debated and legitimized with a liberal, and increasingly
statist/nationalist rationale: if you choose not to pay your fair share to the collective good,
you may pay it with your labour instead. As said in the legislative council of Ceylon in
1842:
Roads, like the a[ir] we breathe, are common to all the inhabitants of th[e]
country: – but while Providence provides us with ai[r] man must make the roads;
therefore as every ma[n] makes some use of the roads, so every man should
contribute towards their formation and upkeep. We will go further and meet the
objection, which we have heard stated, that it is not equitable to claim as large
contribution from the poor man as from the rich, but reminding these objectors,
that the rich pay tolls which the poor do not, and that therefore the contributions
of the rich and the poor are not equal, as they have supposed.514
Gone is any reference, if any reference in the colonial parlance existed, about the roads
serving to ensure the conquering of the indigenous population, even though only one
generation had passed at this point. State infrastructural development was seen as a
universal “good” regardless of the consequences it had for the expropriation of land and
forced “choice” of hard labour when unable to pay the taxes associated with the road’s
existence. Comments such as the one in the above quotation could be seen to have much
in common with economic policy espoused by liberals and conservatives today. Under

514 “Legislative Council” in Pamphlets on Ceylon, circa 1842. British National Library, shelfmark:
8023.cc.7.
238
the 1848 Road Ordinance, a worse form of rajakariya took the form of mandatory cash
payment or in exchange of cash payment: manual labour of six days. Rather than being
only applicable to land-holding people as it was in the indigenous application of the
concept, it took the form of a general head tax on all men, eventually making
accommodations for Buddhist priests who were obliged not to engage in work. So pivotal
to the economic policy of the mid 19th century was this policy, that Tennent himself went
on a circuit through the interior to hold meetings with upper class Sinhalese villagers,
attempting to “educate” them on the merits of the policy and its importance for the
national economic interest of the colony. Before Tennent could even return to Colombo, a
major rebellion had broken out, the details of which will be discussed in the next chapter.
Conclusion
This chapter has sought to focus on the significance of the discourse of “improvement” in
the transition from mercantilist to liberal rationalities for both commerce and colonialism
in the early to middle 19th century, with a view to understanding how improvement and
liberal/imperial political economy was related to the radical transformation of indigenous
Kandyan territory into commercial British territory. The Empire was far from a unified
agent in terms of its actions, as the desires of planters in the West Indies differed
substantially from liberal philosophers and politicians in London, British planters and
bureaucrats in Ceylon, coerced South Asian labourers, and Kandyan villagers. By
bringing the fragments of colonial liberalism to light through the rise of plantations and
their associated imperial political economy, this chapter shows that British
colonialism/imperialism was not as organized and centrally emanating from the
metropole as is commonly believed. Rather, what we see in scaling out to an imperial
239
political economy level is a much more cobbled together project that is contested in
multiple directions, and rife with philosophical and practical contradictions at multiple
scales. This more everyday view of liberal colonialism suggests a lack of coherence
within the universal view of modernity itself, which, I maintain, is the constitutive logic
of coloniality and illiberalism. In this way, we see less of a project of gradual universal
modernization and much more of a contested project of co-constituted (albeit on uneven
terms) of colonizers and colonial subjects.
The mercantilist approach of accumulation via gathering up existing resources
using “primitive” indigenous techniques was seen as cold and unbecoming of a
scientifically superior race of British men. In the early to mid 19th century, colonial
development itself needed improvement such that a boundary could be drawn not only
between primitive peoples and their British superiors, but also to mark a divide between
the British slaving period and the British period of emancipation. The discourse of
colonial improvement was one that could connect both territory and racialized people
under a positive discourse that saw itself as “modern” opposite the “backwardness” that
was grounded in at times contradicting attitudes towards compulsory labour and
servitude. The limits of real choice under liberal colonial policy, as evidenced from land
encroachment ordinances and road taxes combined with the birth of large-scale plantation
agriculture as a function of trade policy reform and anti-slavery activism, highlights the
interdependency of colonialism and capitalism in the 19th century, as well as the interplay
of free conduct and coercive measures within liberal, colonial governmentality.
240
Chapter Four: The Coloniality of the Archives
While there are many kinds of assumptions that can be naturalized within archives, the
one of greatest concerns in a study of colonial state formation is the way in which
assumptions about concepts such as state, territory, nation, and the gradual linear
development of human societies bleed into the archive, as well as the epistemologies
underlying scientific historical research since the mid-19th century. There is already a
healthy body of literature in postmodern and post-structural historiography that has
sought to draw attention to the impossibility of authoring “objective” histories; this
chapter is a subtler critique of the ability to write standpoint histories or national histories
while taking for granted the ontological assumptions housed within archival “data.”
515 In
this chapter, I focus on the various insurrectionary attempts to drive the British out of
Kandy and Ceylon that largely defined the “middle period” of sovereign ontological
contestation outlined in the first half of the dissertation. Building off the problems
identified in the introduction’s discussion of the ‘coloniality of the archives’ and the
representation of colonized people as “pre-political,” in this chapter I spend considerable
time looking to instances of small and failed rebellions, which I strive to show played a
role in creating a simmering culture of insurrection that impacted the evolving shape of
the colonial state. This is particularly clear by the time of the 1848 Matale Rebellion, in
which Governor Torrington’s heavy handed approach at quelling the uprising is informed
by his fears of the 1817-1818 Uva rebellion, but also, as colonial testimonies after the fact

515 Cf.: Alun Munslow, The Future of History (London: Palgrave, 2010); Keith Jenkins (ed.) The
Postmodern History Reader (London: Routledge, 1997); Elizabeth Clarke, History, Theory, Text:
Historians and the Linguistic Turn (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004).
241
illustrate, the general culture of insurrection that was long simmering through the 1830s –
1840s.
In the first section, I discuss the epistemological problem of relying on influential
secondary histories of Ceylon for this dissertation, highlighting in particular how Sri
Lankan historians themselves have been complicit with some of the ideological
assumptions of colonial modernity as it pertains to representing people as “pre-political”
or “pre-modern.” In section two, I offer my own readings of archives in order to draw
attention to why the period of relative peace between the Uva and Matale rebellions of
1817-1818 and 1848, respectively, need to be reconsidered in light of what little of the
agency of ordinary people may be glimpsed and inferred from available data. In
particular, I draw on newspaper accounts, military court martials, and government
correspondences “in relief,” as outlined in the introduction, as a way to paint a more
complex picture of the transformative period through which we can see the colonial state
as the product of both colonizing and anti-colonizing vectors. As Nihal Perera argues,
Society and space operate together: they influence and affect each other, but one
does not determine the other…If the Lankans were attempting to escape
colonialism until the 1850s, from the 1860s they were increasingly focusing on
appropriating colonial structures, spaces and symbols and making a livelihood or
strengthening their positions within the colonial order.516
Perera maintains that by the 1860s, an element of “reverse-Orientalism” unfolding in
Colombo led to the simultaneous Westernization of the nascent national Lankan elite, and
the indigenization of foreign social and spatial structures. I am in agreement with his
reading, which is why I am particularly interested in the roughly three decades of
simultaneous colonizing and anti-colonizing politics between the Kandyan Convention of

516 Nihal Perera, “Indigenising the Colonial City: Late 19th
-century Colombo and its Landscape,” Urban
Planning 39/9 (2002): 1706.
242
1815 and the Matale Rebellion of 1848 as central to the sovereign ontological collision
that produced the colonial satellite state. With reference to the concept of ontological
conflict introduced in chapter two, this is the important period in which we can see the
two “galaxies” or ontologies of “sovereignty” colliding and merging into a single
framework: that of the modern, territorial state. By the end of this period, I argue, the
logic of the colonial state had become firmly entrenched, and we can see this in the shift
in anticolonial tactics in the latter half of the 19th century. I expand on the broader
significance of this in the conclusion to the dissertation, which brings together the
significance of each chapter to revisit the dissertation’s question: how has the process of
becoming the modern, territorial state worked to legitimize one expression of sovereignty,
and de-legitimize others?
Section One: Towards the Modern Science of History
Elite Histories and the Coloniality of the Archive
The concerns of this section are not to re-hash the secondary literature on the broad
empirical contours of the history, but rather, to highlight the epistemic violence implicit
in dominant historicizing of the events. I draw on illustrative examples taken from three
eminent scholars of Sri Lankan history, G.C. Mendis, C.R. de Silva, and K.M. de Silva.
Before introducing these examples, a brief biographical note is warranted to place these
scholars into the political and academic contexts in which they lived and worked.
G.C. Mendis was born in 1894 in Moratuwa, outside of Colombo, where his father
was the priest of the local Methodist church. Mendis studied and taught in Kandy and was
personally engaged in early national political organizing with his older brother,
distributing pamphlets and newspapers promoting the Ceylon National Congress. While
243
he was a lecturer at the Ceylon Government Training Centre, he was able to take leave
and begin his PhD studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of
London, under the supervision of Rhys Davids, a Pali scholar who spent a decade as a
colonial civil servant in Ceylon. As a student in London, Mendis also spent time in
Germany, studying with the German orientalist, Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger. Mendis’
dissertation was a critical reading of the Sinhalese/Buddhist Pali text, Mahavamsa, and he
went on to write some of the seminal pieces on Ceylon and Sri Lanka history. Mendis
helped to institutionally create the space as well as the texts for the study of history on the
island. Among his many contributions is The Colebrooke-Cameron Papers: Documents
on British Colonial Policy 1796 –1933, which has served as a basis for most historians of
the period. Indeed, as Michael Roberts, another important historian of Sri Lanka notes,
after Mendis’ retirement, this valuable collection became a central text for fourth year
History students in Sri Lanka.517
Born in 1907, Colvin R. de Silva was a contemporary of Mendis and was also
involved in anticolonial organizing. He was imprisoned for his activism during the
independence movement of the 1940s in Ceylon. During that time, he wrote Ceylon
Under the British Occupation 1795–1833: Its political, administrative, and economic
development, and entrusted the proofs and editing to Mendis.518 A founder of the Lanka
Sama Samaja Party – the first communist party on the island – he won a seat in
independent Ceylon’s first elections in 1947. C.R. de Silva had earned a PhD from

517 Michael Roberts, “A Tribute to G.C. Mendis: Pioneering Tertiary Education in History for Lanka,”
Thuppahi’s Blog, July 2, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017. https://goo.gl/g0s9Wx; Kalasuri Wilfred
Gunasekara, “G.C. Mendis – One of Sri Lanka’s Pioneer scientific historians,” Daily News Oct. 28, 1999.
Accessed December 8, 2016. https://goo.gl/Pp3187.
518 Kalasuri Wilfred Gunasekara, “G.C. Mendis – One of Sri Lanka’s Pioneer scientific historians,” Daily
News Oct. 28, 1999. Accessed December 8, 2016. https://goo.gl/Pp3187.
244
University College of London and his dissertation was the material on which his
manuscript written in prison was based.519
Kingsly Mutumuni de Silva was born in 1931 and, as such, would have been in
the next generation of Sri Lankan historians. Educated initially at the University of
Ceylon at Peradeniya, he completed his doctoral dissertation on missionary organizations
in 19th century Ceylon at the University of London. He has written prolifically on Sri
Lankan history, ethnic relations, nationalism, conflict, and post-conflict, with his most
recent book on the Lanka/Eelam civil war having been released in 2012.
With this context in mind, I now take up more centrally the ways through which
the ideas of scientific history and the development of society have moved in an underproblematized way through the scholarship of these authors. Take, for example, the
contestations grounded in the authenticity of the “Cleghorn minute” of 1799 that has
served as a historical artefact for both Tamil and Sinhalese nationalists in the late 20th
century. Many of the island’s post-independence conflicts have been associated with
contrasting claims to authentic pasts and territories between Tamil and Sinhalese, in
which the historical record becomes a contested battleground. Proponents of the claim
that the pre-dominantly Tamil-speaking North and East of the island represent a historic
and distinct homeland based on an ancient history of Tamil sovereignty point to this
minute written by Hugh Cleghorn in 1799. Cleghorn, a visiting academic from England
touring the island as part of the new British government that was taking over the Dutch
Maritime territories of Ceylon at the time, observed that the northern and eastern regions

C.R. de Silva also coined the response to the oft cited British saying, “the sun never sets on the British
empire” with “God does not trust the British in the dark.”
245
of the island were the historic homeland of the Tamil people.520 K.M. de Silva lambasts
this claim in a conference paper given at an International Conference on Separatism in
1987, where he argues that Tamil separatist leaders rely on Cleghorn’s minute for their
claim to statehood: “It was a claim based on a hazy memory of statehood in centuries
past, remembered and newly interpreted (and generally misinterpreted) to mean a
continuing tradition of independent statehood and an unbroken national
consciousness.”521 Cleghorn, de Silva argues, was a foreign academic with no knowledge
of, or experience on the island, and he most likely relied on flawed Dutch archives to
come to his conclusion. De Silva further argues that Tamil nationalists rely only on a
portion of the minute that supports their claim to a separate homeland in the North and
East, while ignoring important errors that draw the historical accuracy into question.
Cleghorn writes:
Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the
possession of the island. First the Cingalese [sic] inhabiting the interior of the
country, in its southern and western parts, from the river Wallouve (Walawe) to
that of Chilow [sic], and secondly the Malabars (Tamils), who possess the
northern and eastern districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religion,
language and manners.522
According to de Silva, Tamil nationalists tend to ignore that the memo continues: “The
former, who are allowed to be the earlier settlers, derive their origin from Siam,
professing the ancient religion of that country.”523 De Silva points to this significant
empirical misreading of South/Southeast Asian history as evidence of the dubious
credibility of the minute in its entirety, and rightly so.

520 K.M. de Silva, Separatist Ideology in Sri Lanka: A Historical Appraisal of the claim for the “traditional
homelands” of the Tamils of Sri Lanka (Kandy: International Centre for Ethnic Studies, 1987).
521 Ibid.
522 Quoted in de Silva, 1987. 7, see also de Silva’s appendix for full Cleghorn Minute.
523 Ibid.
246
De Silva’s critique of the Cleghorn minute, however, also betrays his own
intellectual investments towards a history of the island tinged with a methodological
investment that naturalizes – and thus removes from investigation – the norm of total
territorial rule. If “unbroken” continuity is a requirement to make a legitimate claim to
statehood, then why assume that the British period is not a break in this chain in the South
of the country? To perceive it as a continued chain of governance is to misrepresent even
the history of political rule during the Dutch and Portuguese occupation, not to mention
the much longer history of fragmented and galactic sovereignty on the island that de Silva
is well aware of.524 Contemporary Tamil and Sinhalese nationalists lay claim to their
legitimacy by being grounded in a history of the island that naturalizes a modern norm of
territorial exclusivity that is anachronistically rigid and largely indifferent to the colonial
encounter.525
By following the norms of modern social science research, there is a presumption
that objectively analyzing history can uncover and prove contemporary claims based on
the past. But faith in the rigor of the historical method to adequately mitigate the
distorting effect of social power is misplaced, in part because of a belief in the historian’s
ability to be detached from the social past they seek to describe. 526 As Sanjay Seth
observes, “there is no Archimedean point from which we can survey and know the world
without being influenced by our place in it.”527 This highlights the importance of being

524 Nira Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities (Honolulu:
University of Hawai’i Press, 2006): 1 – 35.
525 Indifferent, because of course the colonial encounter is present in all histories, but the idea of total
territorial rule and the main subject of this dissertation is generally treated as an assumed constant.
526 Sanjay Seth, Subject Lessons: The Western Education of Colonial India (Durham: Duke University
Press, 2007): 79 – 85.
527 Ibid., 84.
247
reflexive about the assumptions, or ontological premises, that the historian brings to the
historical narrative.
Consider the following description of the Matale rebellion, also written by K.M.
de Silva, in its representation of nationalism:
Between 8th July and 29th July – the day of the riots at Matale – the mass
movement against the taxes was taken over by a small group of men who sought
to channel this discontent into an attempt to drive the British out of Kandy. The
force that inspired these men was that of Kandyan nationalism, a nationalism
poles apart from the nationalism of the 20th century but none the less nationalism
for all that. [Governor] Torrington came nearest to understanding this force when
he explained that, “By [Kandyan] nationality I mean the feelings, the habits,
associations and customs which still obtain among a people who only 34 years
ago were for the first time subjected to our authority and whose amalgamation
with the Maritime Provinces never appears to have made much progress.”
528
De Silva draws on Torrington’s reflection of the events after the fact, in The Report of the
Committee of the Executive Council on the Fixed Establishments of Ceylon in 1852. In his
observations on nationalism, Torrington importantly reflects on the relatively brief time
(34 years) of geographical effort towards forcing the Kandyan region into a political
administrative system including other regions of the island. The important aspect of
historical analysis I dwell on in this section is not de Silva’s analysis of the colonial
government, but rather, the alignment of his analysis with the epistemic perspective of the
documents he reads. Consider his analysis of why the rebellion emerged in the
introduction to his important edited collection of letters between Governor Torrington and
the Secretary of Colonies in London, the Earl Grey:
To men in this “pre-political” state of existence, the ruler symbolizes and
represents the people and their way of life. The ruler and the system of
government which he represents may be evil, corrupt and unjust, but in so far as
the society over which he presides is stable and the tradition he represents the

528 K.M. de Silva (ed.), Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 50, The Administration of Viscount Torrington and the
‘Rebellion’ of 1848: The private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies
1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington: 21. British National shelfmark: X.700/3328.
248
norm of life. This norm may not be a very happy one for the common people but
because it was the traditional society they would accept its manifold defects as
part of man’s fate, the more readily when a new form of society had arisen which
brought unfamiliar distractions but no compensating advantages evident to
themselves. The pretender and his associates provided the people of the Kandyan
region with an opportunity to return to the rule of their own “kings,” to their norm
of life, to the traditional society, and to a world where there were no planters, no
migrant Indian labourers and no new revolutionary taxes. The Kandyans could
understand monarchy and authoritarian rule but they could make little sense out of
the cold and impersonal British administration. 529
In contextualizing the events of the 1848 failed rebellion, he denies political agency to the
individuals participating in the uprising in ways that serve to reinforce the normative
narrative, of lack and people not being ready for history, that is contained within the
colonial archives. Kandians are both “pre-political” and outside of History; unqualified
placeholders caught in the maelstrom of the inevitable march to modernity that they are
unqualified to perceive. The problem speaks to the issue raised by Chakrabarty in his
description of how History structurally superimposes “Europe” upon the rest of the world,
and this affliction is not at all unique to K.M. de Silva. C.R. de Silva accounts for the
Matale rebellion in a similar way, noting that the taxation enabled a few districts in
Kandy to rise in rebellion, though not uniformly.530
Describing the events of the Uva
Rebellion a generation earlier in 1817/1818, C.R. de Silva notes:
With the exception of Nuvarakalāviya, Ūva and Vellassa were perhaps the most
backward and least known provinces in the Kandyan Kingdom. They were thinly
peopled; and the settled inhabitants were hardly less primitive than the aboriginal
Väddas of the Bintänna jungle. The land was sparsely cultivated and the people
were poor. Even in the days of Sinhalese independence, the central government
had exercised little control over these provinces, the only line between it and the
Väddas being the scanty annual tribute of honey and wax. Yet these provinces
were thoroughly loyal to the old regime. In 1815, although the British met little or
no resistance in this quarter, the people deserted their villages and kept sullenly

529 K.M. de Silva (ed.), Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 50, The Administration of Viscount Torrington and the
‘Rebellion’ of 1848: The private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies
1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington: 23. British National shelfmark: X.700/3328.
530 Chandra Richard de Silva, Sri Lanka: A History (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1987): 150.
249
aloof. These provinces were never properly subdued. For several months after the
occupation the people envinced “a certain shyness and coldness” and refused to
return to their homes from the jungles in which they had sought refuge.531
In this description, the backwardness of the people is doubly described based on distance
from two elite orders, first the Kandyan galactic/mandala order, and second the British
administrative order. The history “as it was” perhaps allows for the description of the
sparsely cultivated and poor, but cannot support the claim to “most backward” and “less
primitive” than the indigenous Vaddas who here represent a placeholder of the people
within the imagined state of nature. There is a presumption in C.R de Silva’s description
that the distance and autonomy enjoyed by the people of Uva and Vellassa represents a
lack of development, but as James C. Scott has shown, there is considerable precedent for
peasants going to great lengths to live away from the reach of a centralizing political
authority.532 The area of uphill Southeast Asia that Scott writes about is quite distinct
from Ceylon, but in light of Scott’s body of work on the state and ordinary people at the
boundaries of the state, it should not be controversial to say that minimal engagement
with the sovereign order via tribute at the boundary of Kandyan authority need not be
considered lack of political sophistication if one rejects the idea that there is only a linear,
universal, development of political practice. 533 Difference, or organizing society in
accordance with ontological starting assumptions that are distinct from the imagined
universality of European thought about reality, is still confused with “primitiveness” and
“lack” in these cases. More than just a question of degrees of specificity or choice of
wording alone, this example highlights the normative and ontological assumptions about

531 Colvin R. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation 1795 – 1833 Volume 1: Its political and
Administrative Development. (Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries’ Co., Ltd, 1953): 176.
532 James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).
533 Ibid.; James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Conditions
Have Failed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).
250
the movement of history and the hierarchies of societies; these are important points of
continuity between the values of the colonial archive and the values of post-colonial
historians trained in scientific history whose accounts have become seminal to the study
of the island.
K.M. de Silva continues to rationalize the 1848 Rebellion as backwards looking:
Their aim was a return to the old Kandyan system with its traditional values,
which – somewhat naively perhaps – they aspired to cherish by making one of
their number king. Theirs was a blind protest against the changes and uncertainties
brought by British rule, and they yearned for the old society, the only one they
knew and understood. They had the support of a substantial section of the
population and some at least of the bhikkhus, though the aristocracy stood aloof
from their movement.534
In this interpretation, people are incapable of imagining a future or enacting meaningful
politics, even though the failed actions did provoke the revocation of the Governor and
legislative changes. G.C. Mendis’ account is roughly in line with both C.R and K.M de
Silva’s. Linking the disturbances (as they were called in the government records) to the
institutional changes catalyzed by the legal and institutional reforms of the 1832
Colebrooke-Cameron review, Mendis discusses a crowd of some 4000 people petitioning
against tax reforms on July 6th, 1848:
Led by two low-country Sinhalese who were professional robbers, mobs sacked
public buildings and shops at Kandy, Matale and Kurunagala, as well as some
planters’ bungalows. These riots can hardly be called a rebellion, but Government
which was ignorant of the real conditions of the country misjudged the situation
and took severe measures to put them down.535

534 K.M. de Silva (ed.), Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 50, The Administration of Viscount Torrington and the
‘Rebellion’ of 1848: The private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies
1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington: 23. British National shelfmark: X.700/3328.
535 Colvin R. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation 1795 – 1833 Volume 1: Its political and
Administrative Development. (Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries’ Co., Ltd, 1953): 87.
251
The recurring issue in these histories is perhaps a blend of relying on the tone of the
colonial archives to describe the impossibility of material success, as well as the latent
elitism of the statements. For both C.R and K.M de Silva, ordinary people are not truly
qualified to partake in the elite practice of politics, an idea akin to Ranciére’s critique of
Western philosophy that argues that the demos is unqualified to participate in politics.536
There is a proper way to lead or to wage insurrection, or to represent oneself that villagers
have no experience with. This is precisely the kind of thinking that Rancière challenges
by removing politics from the realm of elite debate and positioning it instead in the
partage du sensible. As Davide Panagia explains, “the inequality of a partage du sensible
that establishes a hierarchy between those who know and those who do not know,
between those whose speech makes good sounds and those whose utterances are mere
noise, holds the potential of its own dissolution.“ 537 The lay leaders of the Matale
rebellion may have been unqualified to speak in elite circles, yet elite-level conspiracies
between Uva and Matale ultimately did not succeed in driving the British from Ceylon
either.
Within C.R and K.M de Silva’s accounts of the Matele rebellion, they see a
correct way to raise a rebellion and often harken back to the elite-driven attempts during
the Uva Rebellion. The lack of being able to convince the sangha and the elites in the
subsequent rebellions is often highlighted as a major cause for their failure to overthrow
the British. Perhaps this is true, but politics, in a radical sense, must be much more than
simply the criteria for success; it is the process that makes something political, not the
outcome. The fact that rebellions throughout the period of 1818-1848 failed is not

536 Jacques Rancière, “Ten Theses on Politics” Theory & Event 5/3 (2001): 1 – 18.
537 Davide Panagia, “‘Partage du sensible’: The distribution of the Sensible” in Jean-Phillippe Deranty
(ed.) Jacques Rancière Key Concepts (Durham: Acumen, 2010): 98.
252
evidence of their lack of enacting politics – if it were, then history must indeed be little
more than a narrative of victors. Thucydides’ oft-cited analysis from the Melian
Dialogue, “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while
the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must,”
538 is turned on its head
by Rancière’s understanding of politics as everyday acts of resistance. It is precisely the
weak’s rejection that they “do what they must” that makes something political, by
disrupting the normal order of things and forcing a re-negotiation. When considering the
writings and observations of the colonial archives, one sees quite clearly that events like
these failed rebellions actually had a significant impact on the everyday processes of
governance, or what we might more generally describe as the becoming-colonial police
order.
Section Two: Archiving in Relief
In this section, I look for the enactment of “politics” in places that have not been heard,
highlighting the importance of the everyday struggle against colonialism rather than the
military victory of those struggles. I move illustratively between ca. 1818 and 1848 to
draw attention to the subtler ways in which the actions of the people allegedly “outside”
the limit of historical and political consciousness enacted a radical form of politics
throughout this important 30-year period.

538 Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War. Mount Holyoke College. Accessed April 13, 2017.
https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/melian.htm
253
Uva Rebellion
I discussed the Uva rebellion briefly in chapter two, and its shadow has been cast upon
much of the history of colonial Ceylon throughout the dissertation and across historical
accounts of the early 19th century. The details of the rebellion are well documented in the
secondary literature; in summary, however, it is relevant to point to the fact that the
British nearly gave up and retreated from the Kandyan territories as they had historically
done during previous military conflicts in the interior. In order to turn the corner in the
military conflict, the British resorted to brutal scorched-earth military strategies, burning
villages and destroying lands and irrigation systems to break the will to rebel.539 The
arrival of native reinforcements from India and the loyalty to the British of Molligode, the
Dessave of the Four Karoles, kept a line of intelligence and communication open between
Kandy and Colombo, so they remained in the fight.540 Historical precedent was very
much on the Kandyan side in this rebellion, as both the British forces and the Kandyan
aristocracy were very aware that the ease with which the British sacked Kandy in 1815
was a diplomatic arrangement brokered by Ehelepola and Sir John D’Oyly then chief
translator attached to the British government of the Maritime provinces. The complicity
of the Kandyan aristocracy, as discussed in the Introduction and in more detail in chapter
two, can be explained by the internal power struggles within the Kandyan galactic system
which arguably began with the coronation of Kandy’s last king, Vickrama Rajasinha, in

  1. Elite aristocratic attempts to remove the king were not always supported by the
    ordinary masses, and as the king concentrated material power under his control, the
    principle of galactic sovereignty that balanced power and responsibility between material

539 Colvin R. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation 1795 – 1833 Volume 1: Its political and
Administrative Development. (Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries’ Co., Ltd, 1953): 23.
540 Ibid.,; Chandra R. de Silva. Sri Lanka: A History (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1987): 148.
254
and cosmological realms was falling out of balance. It was in this context of power
concentration that Ehelepola attempted to seize the opportunity to leverage British power
to stage a (relatively) bloodless coup, though for reasons explored in chapter two, while
the aristocracy did not plan on a permanent British presence in Kandy. The preceding
military conflicts between Kandy and the British had all ultimately led to the British
retreating back to the Maritime provinces. Following the capture of the “pretender” to the
throne in 1818, the British ordered a revision to the Kandyan Convention through the
Proclamation of 21st November that sought to punish the areas of Kandy that rose in
rebellion and reward those that did not.541
The Proclamation of 21st November, 1818 has a triumphant and patronizing tone,
chiding those who rebelled for “forgetting” the vast resources of the Empire (clause 4) on
the one hand, but also noting that the rebel king brought forth by Keppetipola was found
eventually to not hail from the Nayakkar Malabar dynasty, but instead from more humble
and Sinhalese ancestry.542 This is an important inclusion because it speaks to the fact the
galactic sovereign order required the right lineage to occupy the role of the king at the
centre of Kandy, otherwise Keppetipola or any of the other rebels would not have needed
to hide the identity of the rebel king. In the original 1815 Kandyan Convention (clause 3),
all male relations of the Malabar (Tamil) king were deemed “enemies to the government
of the Kandyan provinces,” and Malabar claim to the throne of Kandy formally
abolished.
543 Clearly this clause did not truly extinguish the social and symbolic
importance of the most recent dynasty. Importantly, it altered the wording of the fifth

541 Ibid.
542 “Proclamation of 21st November, 1818” Revised Edition of the Ordinances of the Government of Ceylon,
Vol. 1 1799 – 1882 (Colombo: G.J.A. Skeen, Government Printer, 1894): 18 – 21.
543 “Proclamation of 2nd March, 1815” Revised Edition of the Ordinances of the Government of Ceylon, Vol.
1 1799 – 1882 (Colombo: G.J.A. Skeen, Government Printer, 1894): 16 – 18.
255
clause of the convention that favoured Buddhism to more broadly offer protection to all
religions in the area which opened the door for robust debates amongst civil servants and
missionaries about the relationship between the colonial state and “heathen” religions.
544
The major thrust of the November 21st Proclamation was to punish the chiefs who rose
against the British and reward those who did not by exempting them from paying taxes.
The issue of rugged roads was central to British frustration during the Uva
Rebellion. According to the Ceylon Gazette from Feb. 28, 1818, it would take British
troops nearly nine hours to march as little as eight miles in some parts of the interior,
leaving them vulnerable to raids.545 Effort is exerted in this newspaper article to re-assure
the British public and perhaps the British troops themselves that history would not repeat
itself:
Such is the present state of affairs in the Interior; that it does not bear out any
expectation of a speedy end to the insurrection is undeniable, but while the health
of the Troops continues to be good and the most powerful efforts of the Rebels
occasion no greater loss in casualties than as yet have been sustained, we see no
cause for despair of the ultimate success of the British arms against the
undisciplined rabble opposed to them; we know that those who predict the most
direful results in the present struggle refer to the melancholy Catastrophy [sic] in
1803 as authority for their dismal speculations; but they surely must omit to advert
to the very different state of our Hospital Returns at that unfortunate Period.546
The “catastrophe” in question refers to the 1803 attempt of the British to militarily defeat
the Kandyans, which ultimately led to the massacring of an entire regiment and the
execution of soldiers in their hospital beds by the Kandyan forces. The spectre of this
particular defeat haunts accounts within the exchanges between Colombo and the

544 Cf.: Rev. Spence Hardy The British Government and the Idolatry of Ceylon (1839) SOAS Missionary
Archives, shelfmark: MMSL S123; Phillip C. Almond, The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1988).
545 Ceylon Gazette Feb. 28, 1818. Re-printed in the Madras Courier. British National Library, shelfmark:
OMF/SM 126
546 Ibid.
256
Colonial Office in London throughout the early- to mid- 19th century, and manifests in
public discourse in newspapers as well.547
As discussed in chapter two, the reason the British were able to win legal control
over the entire island was largely because of the diplomatic and symbolic authority
wielded by Ehelepola, the condemned Mahadikar of Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. Ehelepola
was a controversial figure during the Uva rebellion, often appearing as though he were
playing both sides. In his own account of what happened during the beginning of the
rebellion, he highlights that he tried, on more than one occasion, to alert the British and to
dissuade his countrymen from taking up arms against the government. Symbols were
important in raising this rebellion, and part of the reason why the British were suspicious
of Ehelepola was the fact that his relative, Keppetipola, was the British-appointed
Dessave of Uva province after the Kandyan Convention of 1815. After the convention,
important symbols of sovereignty had ‘gone missing’ and Governor Brownrigg was
looking for them. Keppetipola Dessave was found to be in possession of the Royal
Regalia of the recently ousted king. Keppetipola, who was a signatory to the 1815
Kandyan Convention, was sent by the government when the rebellion began to really heat
up to take concrete steps to crush it. He and five hundred men went looking for the rebels,
and upon finding them, joined them instead of bringing them to the British. After joining
them, he returned the guns he was armed with to the British, reportedly saying that he did

547 It is interesting to observe that in most cases when “natives” defeat British forces, there often appears to
be a requirement to render the enemy forces exotic or especially barbaric in their defense. In the sources
consulted in the preparation of this dissertation, explanations for British military failures in North America,
Ceylon, India, and Afghanistan all sought to explain and rationalize the losses based on the savagery of the
native Other and the moral virtue of the British forces.
257
not want to defeat them with their own weapons. According to Ehelepola, Keppetipola
did so using Ehelepola’s name to inspire other Kandyans to rise up as well.548
The Ceylon Gazette published the interrogation of a Kohnhumbra Ratteralle, a
rebel chief captured by Malay troops on behalf of the British. Although the text is clearly
translated and most likely edited for print, it offers a rare glimpse into the political
thinking of a local leader engaged in political insurrection at the time. When asked where
he was going on the night of his apprehension, Ratteralle answers, “We had received
instructions from the Pretender to take the Camps in the neighbourhood and in the event
of our success, we were promised great promotion.”549 He confesses that he was the first
chief in the area of Welasse to join the rebellion, and when asked why he took up arms
against the Government and how long he intended to fight, he answers:
I don’t know that any particular period has been contemplated. We intended
continuing the struggle to the end of our lives, because we could not expect
pardon if we submitted.550
Ratteralle prefaces some of his comments with, “although I am to be put to death” and
offers very matter-of-fact answers that betray an allegiance to the older sovereign order.
Though it is not clear if Ratteralle would have used the word “Pretender”551 to refer to the
leader of the Rebellion who was crowned King of Kandy in a dramatic performance of
sovereignty that was given legitimacy with symbols (including the dalada relic), his
answers seem to suggest that there was little reason to question the sovereign authority of
the newly-crowned Kandyan king. At the same time, the deprivation and brutality of the
British military tactics underway to starve and render ill by disease the Kandyan

548 “The Case of Eyhelapola Maha Nilame, a Kandyan Chief detained at Mauritius as State Prisoner.”
British National Archives, shelfmark CO 416/20.
549
“Interview with Rebel Chief Kohnhumbra Ratteralle” Ceylon Gazette May 16, 1818. Reprinted in the
Madras Courier. British National Library, shelfmark: OMF/SM 126.
550 Ibid.
551 The language of “the pretender” is used in the English translation of the interrogation.
258
population would have been acutely felt by May 1818, when Ratteralle would have been
questioned.
Symbols of authority were central to the colonial forces as well. While the
Governor, Robert Brownrigg, was based in the interior during the rebellion, Lady
Brownrigg was playing an important diplomatic and symbolic role in Colombo. In
reading the dispatches and newspaper accounts that followed the Uva Rebellion from
1817-1818, a major recurring and underappreciated fact is that the majority of important
victories and apprehensions came from the non-British troops, either Indian
reinforcements, Malay mercenaries, or local forces from the South. In somewhat rare
recognition of this fact, Lady Brownrigg presented official colours to the “Native Militia”
in August of 1818. Her speech was simultaneously translated into Sinhalese so the troops
receiving the honours would understand:
In presenting this Standard to the Militia of Ceylon, I have great pleasure in
expressing how much gratified I have been by the favourage reports of your
attention to the necessary exercise to enable you take the field with effect. Every
well disposed man, who wishes for the happiness of his Country and the safety of
his family must feel anxious to rally round this Standard, and while their
Governor is devoting every moment and thought of his life to put down the
Rebellion, and unite this Island under one Government, the Caste of fighting men
will all step forward and show the utmost diligence and zeal to support his
measures and obtain the grand object of his unceasing endeavours, that of
restoring peace and prosperity to Ceylon.552
In Lady Brownrigg’s presentation we see a performative contestation of sovereignties at
play during the Uva rebellion. Within the interior, still inaccessible and unknowable to
the British who relied heavily on non-European forces to traverse the boundaries,
Kandyans were contesting the sovereign claim of the British using important spiritual
symbols that represented Kandyan sovereignty. This included the royal regalia mentioned

552
“Lady Brownrigg speech to Native Militia,” Ceylon Gazette Aug. 8, 1818. British National Archives,
shelfmark: OMF/SM 126.
259
earlier, but also the dalada relic which was stolen back from the British by the rebels. In
Colombo, natives who were much further removed from the activities in the Kandyan
centre were being encouraged to rally around the British flag to restore “peace and
prosperity” while, at the same time, being led to practice scorched-earth military strategy
against indigenous forces who were mostly armed with spears, swords, and bows and
arrows. 553 As the rebellion unfolded, with each side operating under conflicting
ontologies of sovereignty, ordinary people were the ones who suffered the consequences
of the ensuing violence. Estimates of the deaths vary, but in general the figures identify
about 1000 deaths on the British side, mostly due to disease rather than direct fighting,
and more than 10,000 deaths suffered by the Kandyans, many of them induced by the
deprivations associated with the military strategies deployed by the British forces.
In the aftermath of the Uva Rebellion, Governor Brownrigg sought to ensure
control of the Kandyan interior by establishing strategic military fortresses throughout the
passages leading to Kandy from different directions of the island. This strategy proved
inefficient, as it relied on British troops being stationed within the jungle, where they
often fell victim to malaria and fever. Sir Edward Barnes assumed the governorship in
1820 and sought to change the approach to controlling the interior by moving away from
periodic fortifications to, instead, altering the transportation infrastructure such that
additional access points on more easily traversable roads could guarantee a rapid military
reaction force from territories more favourable to British bodies.554

553 Why Keppetipola returned the guns in his position to the British upon defecting to the Rebels is a
mystery, though perhaps it was to instill a sense of national, indigenous pride in the traditional warfare
tactics that had protected Kandy through hundreds of years of colonial advances to this point.
554 Colvin R. de Silva, Ceylon Under the British Occupation 1795 – 1833 Volume 1: Its political and
Administrative Development. (Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries’ Co., Ltd, 1953): 25 – 27.
260
Although Uva and Matale were the bigger uprisings within this period, there were
important “disturbances” that were quietly noted in the colonial records as well. The table
in the Appendix, re-created from confidential government records printed in 1849,
summarizes these events. As the table in appendix B shows, between 1815 -1848, there
were at least half a dozen organized efforts to drive the British out that can be seen in the
archival record. As described by former Colonial Secretary James E. Tennent,
We obtained possession of the Kandyan provinces, which completed our tenure of
the whole island, in the year 1815. That is 35 years ago, and within that period
there have been six treasonable movements of considerable importance against the
Government. There has been on the average one such movement in every six
years. There was open rebellion in 1817, in 1823, and in 1848. There were three
conspiracies detected before their explosion, in 1820, 1834, and 1843, and those
are independent of the treasonable plots which were detected and arrests which
took place in 1816, 1819, 1820, 1824, 1830, and 1842.555
Priests were actively involved in the insurrections throughout this period. According to a
government report tabled by Tennent at his testimony, the 1817/18, 1823, 1834, 1842,
and 1843 resistance attempts were heavily influenced, or even directed, by Buddhist
priests. During the Uva Rebellion, the priest Ihagamma was tried by court martial and
sentenced to death, but ultimately, this sentence was changed to political exile in
Mauritius for life. During the 1823 uprisings, Kahawatte Unase, a priest from Matale was
tried in criminal court at Kandy and sentenced to death for his role in organizing the
uprising. He was hanged on August 5, 1828. In the 1834 conspiracy, Dembewe Unanse,
Tibboteewew Unanse, and Kettacuinburi Unanse were all priests who were tried for their
role in the conspiracy by the Supreme Court but ultimately acquitted. In the attempt of
1842 and 1843, Chandroyottey Selewananse Saranankere, also a priest, was tried for

555 James Emerson Tennent, “Tennent to Committee.” Third Report from Select Committee on Ceylon
(Session 1850): 162-163. Accessed July 12 2011. https://goo.gl/MeYCyM.
261
treason and sentenced to death by the Supreme Court, a sentence ultimately downgraded
to prison with hard labour for 14 years. 556
Though the statistics in Appendix B describe the disturbance of 1824 as very
minor – and it was in terms of resources expended to quell it – what is worth bringing to
light is the particularly dramatic aspect of how it unfolded. The leader of the attempt was
named as “Mootoo, alias Juan Pulle, alias Kanewada Pulle” who claimed to be the
rightful heir (in the line of the ousted Sri Vikrama Rajasinha) to the throne of Kandy.
According to the available records, Mootoo decried the British government as illegitimate
in a rousing speech from a large rock near a village in the Seven Korales. In the
discussion that ensued, villagers argued that past rebellions had led only to the loss of
land and life. Mootoo attempted to persuade the people on the basis that via his legitimate
link to the throne, his relatives were waiting to rise up against the government in different
parts of the country following the outbreak of rebellion. Moreover, he argued that the
British, too, were in a weakened state at the moment, as they were fighting in Siam
(modern day Thailand). Eleven men followed Mootoo, and they were invited at a later
date to receive gifts and endorsements at a nearby village. Fearing treachery, they made
their would-be hosts swear upon their swords their loyalty to Mootoo as King of Kandy,
and cautiously agreed to go in order to rally more support. Upon arriving, they were
invited into a house, which they did not initially enter, but after much persuading and
reassurance, Mootoo and three others entered. At that point, the door was sealed shut, and
a sword and spear fight ensued as they fought their way out of the trap, ultimately

556 Paper prepared by J. Fraser, Keeper of Government Records. Tabled during Tennent’s testimony to
committee, 1850: 210. See: James Emerson Tennent, “Tennent to Committee. Third Report from Select
Committee on Ceylon (Session 1850): 162-163. Accessed July 12 2011. https://goo.gl/MeYCyM.
262
surrendering with the arrival of troops armed with guns. At the trial, there was a feeble
attempt to claim there was no attempt to rebel, but the public spectacle of the whole
process undermined the claim. British statistics identify that five men were executed, and
eight were exiled, though they did not name them.557
The source of enacting politics in this scenario rests not in Mootoo or the British,
but in the villagers who intervened in the prevailing convention of elite-led armed
insurrection to put a stop to the rebellion before it began. We catch a glimpse of this in
the above-mentioned interrogation of Kohnhumbra Ratteralle, who although committed
to fighting unto death in principle, was willing to engage in a negotiated agreement that
would secure the relative safety of his family from war-induced deprivation.558 By the
time of Mootoo’s attempt to raise a rebellion in 1823, there had already been nearly
constant minor uprisings throughout the territory. Although the chart in the Appendix
notes a smaller uprising in 1823 as the only one between 1818 and 1824, the Ceylon
Gazette of July 29th
, 1820 also reports that there was an ongoing insurrection in Kandy,
and that rewards were offered by the Governor for information leading to arrests of
people disrupting the lines of communications linking Kandy to Trincomalee in the
North. 559 The emphasis on disrupting lines of communication is important, as the
preservation of lines of communication afforded by Molligodde’s loyalty to the British

557 “Notes on the trial of 12 prisoners regarding the attempted rebellion of 1824. Tried in Kandy,” British
National Archives, shelfmark: CO/416/20; “Confidential: Ceylon. Appendix No. 6 to Memorandum on
Colonial Policy.
Comparative Statistics of the different Insurrections and Insurrectionary Attempts which have taken place
in Ceylon” British National Archives, shelfmark: CO 882/1/5.
558 Part of the published interview with the rebel chief included the possibility of surrendering in exchange
for assurances that his family would not be punished. See “Interview with Rebel Chief Kohnhumbra
Ratteralle” Ceylon Gazette May 16, 1818 Reprinted in the Madras Courier British National Library,
shelfmark: OMF/SM 126
559 “Ceylon Gazette, 1820” reprinted and reproduced online at A People’s History 1793 – 1844 from the
Newspapers by Roger Houghton. Accessed Sept. 21, 2016. http://www.houghton.hk/.
263
throughout the Uva campaign was what enabled the coordination of troops and the
eventual arrival of troops from British India. To target lines of communication at the
same time as Governor Barnes was coopting the traditional practice of rajakariya, forcing
survivors of the rebellion to labour to construct new roads connecting Kandy to Colombo,
was a radical political act.
Age of Insurrections: 1830s – 1840s
There were a number of insurrectionary attempts in the 1830s, as well. According to
Colonel Jonathan Forbes, there was an attempt by an “imposter prince” to “frighten”
villagers in 1831; however, the imposter was arrested and “on his way to the gaols within
24 hours” before anything further could unfold.560 In 1834 a “very extensive conspiracy”
sought to assassinate local government agents and poison British officers and the
Governor at a feast.561 Among the conspirators was Mollegodde, the former adikar who
remained loyal to the British during the Uva Rebellion. On August 6th, 1834, the
government raided the group ahead of their scheduled plan to disperse across the region
to prepare provinces for rebellion. In the process, 27 men were captured. According to
government records,
The motives for this intended rebellion were apparently the same as those which
led to all the former ones, viz., a desire on the part of the chiefs and priests to
regain the power and influence which they had lost under the British rule; and the
manner in which they designed to gain their object, fully proves at the time the
justice of Sir R. Brownrigg’s remarks respecting the excessive treachery and
ingratitude of the higher orders of Kandians, and their extreme ignorance. Their
intention was, after the massacre of the English officers, to offer the island either

560 J. Forbes, Recent Disturbances and Military Executions in Ceylon (William Blackwood and Sons
(London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1850): 17. British National Library, shelfmark: 8022.d.26.
561 “Appendix No. 5 to Memorandum on Colonial Policy: Memorandum of former Insurrectionary Attempts
at Ceylon, 1849.” British National Archives, shelfmark: CO 882/1/4.
264
to the French or the King of Siam on condition of their assistance against us, but
these new allies were also to be disposed of on the first opportunity.562
Interestingly, and no doubt related to the very recent overhaul of the legal system
intended to create a single universal judiciary under the Colebrooke-Cameron reforms,
when Mollegodde and five others were brought to trial on January 12th
, 1835, the jury
was comprised of seven natives from the Maritime provinces. According to the
government, “though there was no moral doubt of the truth of the facts alleged against
them, they were acquitted, and the vote of the seven Kandyans was “Not guilty.”” The
government records describe the native jurors as “Kandians” but from the “Maritime
Provinces,” which likely also speaks to the recent re-geo-graphing of the boundaries of
Kandy and their administrative integration into the Maritime provinces in the
Colebrooke-Cameron reforms.563
Similarly, the inclusion of “natives” – albeit not truly
the “peers” of the Kandyan suspects due to their coming from the Maritime region – as
majority jurors speaks also to the liberal thinking underscoring the reforms. The accused
were acquitted by a jury that included natives, which had benefits for the perception of
legitimacy during the increasingly liberal turn of the colonial project. As described in the
document, “…the effect produced upon the natives by the submission of the English
Government to the laws which they had themselves made was perhaps better than could
have been occasioned by the execution of these men.”564
News of the crushing British defeat at the hands of the Afghans during what
would later be called the first Anglo-Afghan war of 1839-1842 inspired two small-scale
and connected attempts in Ceylon. In this case, a priest named Chandrayotty who was

562 Ibid.
564 Ibid.
265
arrested for sedition in 1842 instigated them, but he was ultimately acquitted due to lack
of evidence. 565 According to James E. Tennent, reports from Badulla asserted that
Chandrayotty was “stirring up the people to sedition” but the central government in
Colombo ignored the warnings, a recurring theme since 1815. Major Kelson, the
Assistant Government Agent at Badulla, was determined that he was correct in his
suspicions and eventually, Governor Campbell sent Major Rogers to investigate the
claim. Within a few days, over 100 people were arrested for high treason. Chandrayotty
made a “voluntary” confession leading to his conviction and the acquittal of the other 13
men put on trial by the British, as outlined in the appendix. One of those 13 men acquitted
was known as “Dennis” to the British, but went by Alludenia Banada or Gongalagode
Banda or Kapurobastelagey Dennis Appohamy. What is interesting about “Dennis” is that
he would go on to play a leading role in the 1848 Matale rebellion, and it was his younger
brother, “David,” aka Gongalagode Tikery Banda, a.k.a Kapurubastebanddalagey David
Vederalle, who was crowned king of Kandy during the 1848 Matale rebellion.
According to “wanted” posters circulating in 1848 attempting to capture the two
brothers (offering £150 for “David” and £100 for “Dennis”), David was actually
employed by the police under the command of a Mr. Dalziel during the 1842 conspiracy
attempt.566 This would mean that his own brother, “Dennis,” might well have been one of
the men that David would have been pursuing in his capacity as a native colonial police
officer. Another man named Poorangappoo was among those tried and acquitted in 1842
according to Forbes, and he would later become the sword-bearer for King David during

565 Ibid.; James Emerson Tennent, “Tennent to Committee.” Third Report from Select Committee on
Ceylon (Session 1850). Accessed July 12 2011. https://goo.gl/MeYCyM.
566 “The Rebellion,” Morning Star Sept. 14 1848. British National Library, shelfmark: 14172.k.4.
266
the Matale Rebellion in 1848.567 According to Tennent, one of the main charges brought
against the conspirators in 1833 included attempts to convince natives employed in the
service of the colonial governments to engage in seditious activity and ultimately join in
rebellion. The “wanted” posters from 1848 for David and Dennis, issued by the Acting
Assistant Colonial Secretary W. Morris, indicates that the men are both between 35 to 40
years of age, which would have meant they would have been young children around the
time of Kandyan Convention and grown up amidst the military road construction and rise
of coffee plantations.
What can be gleaned from the events during the 1830s and 1840s, small and
aborted as they were, is that there was a simmering anti-colonial politics that took
strategic form in light of the geographical and technological transformations rapidly
unfolding in the interior. The construction of new military-cum-plantation roads in the
1820s was contested by small-scale insurrections, but the completion and maintenance of
the roads mitigated the territorial advantage enjoyed by the Kandyans over the British, as
well as their Dutch and Portuguese predecessors. Resistance was transformed from
attempts at open rebellion into smaller conspiracies during the 1830s-1840s. Priests were
often times at the centre in one way or another, either through performing sovereign
ceremonies of crowning kings, or organizing conspiracies of their own. The
transformations within the Kandyan region in the 1830s-1840s were especially centered
on the rapid rise of the coffee plantations. According to Tennent:
Within the last 10 years [1840-1850] the Kandyan provinces may be said to have
been the only portion of the island in which an attempt has been made to convert
an Indian [sic.] settlement into an English colony, and the scene of those very

567 Jonathan Forbes, Recent Disturbances and Military Executions in Ceylon (William Blackwood and Sons
(London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1850): 18. British National Library, shelfmark: 8022.d.26.
267
disasters is now the scene of the planting operations, and the locality of coffee
estates throughout the district. 568
That a former colonial police officer would become the “pretender” of the 1848 largerscale rebellion implies either some sort of radical politicizing during the 1840s, or a
longer term strategy, both of which speak to radical enactment of anti-colonial politics.
During the 1848 Matale rebellion, villagers focused their attacks around the plantations
themselves, even though according to the secondary literature and much of the colonial
discourse at the time, the problems were supposed to be related to the Guns, Roads, and
Dog ordinances.569
I am not suggesting that these unfair, liberal, colonial legal reforms which
imposed flat-taxes on villagers and British residents alike were not a source of great
irritation, only that the taxes are not the entirety of the issues at play. Forty million
pounds of coffee moved along roads built by forced labourers and due to pressure from
the planters, all duties were waived that would have been gained. The contentious liberal
taxes rolled out by the government essentially shifted the burden of paying for public
goods from a modest tariff on European planters onto the native population in order to
make up the deficiencies in the national budget. As Lieutent-Colonel Forbes describes
this policy move,
Every male, from age eighteen to fifty-five years of age, is now, by the road
ordinance, to work six days or pay three shillings; therefor, if I take the population
at a million and a half, and that of the Europeans, not exempted, at half a
thousand, we shall at once see that it was removing a moderate indirect taxation
from the European capitalist, to inflict large direct taxation on the native.570

568 James Emerson Tennent, “Tennent to Committee.” Third Report from Select Committee on Ceylon
(Session 1850): 167. Accessed July 12 2011. https://goo.gl/MeYCyM.
569 “A Few Remarks Upon Colonel Forbes’ Pamphlet on recent Disturbances in Ceylon in a letter to Sir R.
Peel, Bart, M.P. & C. by Colonist, April 12th 1850.” Page 4. British National Library, shelfmark:
8023.cc.7(1.).
570 J. Forbes Recent Disturbances and Military Executions in Ceylon published 1850: 12. British National
Library, shelfmark: 8022.d.26.
268
The unfairness of the taxes became the historical counter-point to the government
position of “rascally” troublemakers, but both explanations miss the essential politics
associated with the simmering trend of anti-colonial resistance that textured the period
between 1818 and 1848. Ordinary people were “criminals” and elites were “backwardlooking” in the discourse. According to colonial records, which were also the basis for the
secondary histories written about the rebellion, many of the key players in the rebellion
were “criminals” or “thieves,” but having been a criminal, a thief, or even a murderer
hardly disqualifies one from engaging in direct and significant anti-colonial politics. It is
true that coming from low-caste backgrounds and the fact that, among the leadership
during the Matale rebellion, the brothers Dennis and David were from the low country
and thus had a different and non-Kandyan ancestry, but this is more of a problem only if
one accepts the rationale that Kandyans wanted only to be backward-looking and sought
to re-establish the ousted dynasty. Such a starting assumption removes from politics and
from history the long tradition of Kandyan sovereign practice and implies that it cannot
continue to exist and evolve alongside British efforts to uniform governance. The final
four kings of Kandy were Nayakkar Tamils with roots including southern India as
explained in chapter two, and the very fact that the Sinhalese aristocracy was plotting
against the young and brutal Vikrama Rajasingha implies a sovereign and political regime
that is open to change and very much engaged in political practice. The violence of
universal thinking enacted through historical remembering here is the situation of the
Kandyans as outside of, and prior to history and politics. It was certainly the view from
the archives, but it persists in the writing of post-colonial histories as well.
269
By the 1840s, notwithstanding fluctuations in international demand, coffee
plantations had become the economic engine of colonial Ceylon, and targeting them was
a deliberate political act. Governor Torrington responded to the rebellion with a very
heavy hand, enlisting everyone he could as peace officers, executing prisoners by court
martial, and calling for reinforcements from Madras in an effort to prevent an insurrection
similar to Uva thirty years prior. His methods were hotly controversial in the press at the
time, with former colonial officials like J. Forbes decrying publicly the heavy hand dealt
to the Kandyans. The planter population and British public resident in Ceylon however,
largely favoured such actions. As one self-described “Colonist” articulated in his
condemnation of Forbes’ published pamphlet on the subject in a letter to the British
Prime Minister,
We hear not one word of the bullets or cries of the rebels, which if not fatal or
murderous, were only harmless before the courageous daring of our troops. We
hear not one word of the Prisoner the rebels succeeded in capturing – an
Englishman, and who was cut down by our troops from a stake where the
firewood was heaped around him ready for an Auto-da-fe!571
A similar sentiment is espoused in the Morning Star, newspaper by a self-described
“Jaffna man living in Kandy”572 where he writes,
It is said that one or more estates were set on fire by the Rebels, and plundered,
that a European planter was unmercifully beaten and wounded and that his wife
was carried away by some of these rude fellows.573
Both of the above statements highlight the political nature of parts of the rebellion,
regardless of whether or not there was a strong centralized or elite aspect to the project.

571 “A Few Remarks Upon Colonel Forbes’ Pamphlet on recent Disturbances in Ceylon in a letter to Sir R.
Peel, Bart, M.P. & C. by Colonist, April 12th 1850.” Page 4. British National Library, shelfmark:
8023.cc.7(1.).
572 It is not clear whether the author is British or not. That he identifies as a “Jaffna” man might suggest that
he was perhaps a Tamil man from Jaffna writing in English, but it is not clear enough to determine from the
letter.
573 “Letter to the Editor of the Morning Star by A Jaffna Man Residing in Kandy, Aug. 10, 1848” British
National Library, shelfmark: 14172.k.4.
270
The politics of simmering insurgency through this time period affected public perception
of the challenges facing the colony, and the self described “Colonist,” writing to Prime
Minister Peel above, goes on to make an important point that speaks to the public feeling
and anxieties at the time of the 1848 rebellion:
That the Pretender was of lowly origin goes for very little; suffice it that he was
crowned King of Kandy by certain Priests with great Buddhistical ceremony, at
their Chief Temple and this was all that the people cared to know. Were not
Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel equally dangerous to the English monarch
though both of obscure birth? But the intimidation of the innocent alluded to by
the Colonel [Forbes], must have been very extensive – extraordinarily so, for a
few low country adventurers to exercise, when we are told by respectable Planters
that during the nights of the rebellion many gangs of 200 and 300 Kandians
marched through their Estates on the way to the scene of the disturbance, all
armed in a variety of modes. Did this look like a mere rabble-riot? Was this the
intimidation of a few low-country thieves? At any rate in the East where the
European power is so much feared, any acts of this kind can bear but one
construction.574
Planters themselves spoke to the great anxiety and fear of the natives from the point of
view of the European population. The above colonist highlights the attention to Buddhist
ceremony in the coronation and speaks to the lived anxiety of seeing hundreds of armed
rebels in the plantation estates. According to one self-identified planter writing on the
subject of the debate in London unfolding about the 1848 Matale:
…it must be borne in mind that the Coffee Planter of Ceylon was just at that time
in a most critical, I may even say a dangerous position. I am not theorizing – I am
not supposing cases, but I tell you what I know to be the real truth, that at the time
I am speaking of, the Planting interest of this island was quivering in the balance.
We were in truth getting desperate. Protection had made us pay dearly for our land
and our labour: our prices had all but broken our hearts. Many an estate was just
kept on in the desperate hope that something might turn up in our favour. But had
we lost our crops as might have been the case, at that juncture, in our position it
would have been absolute ruination. Three fourths of the Plantations in the island
must have been abandoned, and how bitter would have been our disappointment

574 “A Few Remarks Upon Colonel Forbes’ Pamphlet on recent Disturbances in Ceylon in a letter to Sir R.
Peel, Bart, M.P. & C. by Colonist, April 12th 1850.” Page 8. British National Library, shelfmark:
8023.cc.7(1.).
271
to have seen the home markets for our produce rise, as it has recently done and we
unable to profit by the golden opportunity.575
The author writes that coffee fruit was just at maturation, and the timing of the uprising
would have also scared away many of the migrant Tamil labourers who would have been
just arriving from their deadly journey through the jungle to arrive at work.576 In the court
martial account from September 14th
, 1848 discussed above, we see mention from the
accused of their willingness to send away the plantation workers with food, suggesting
that these “criminals” were nonetheless calculating political actors with a sophisticated
understanding of the rhythm of the planting season and the economic sensitivities of the
global markets for coffee. The difficulties the planters faced by virtue of diminished
global demand for coffee in 1848 was no secret, and was well discussed in newspapers
and government gazettes. Planters were the British public in the interior, and to think that
ordinary workers, thieves, or villagers were simply unaware of these developments relies
and the ontological starting assumption of their primitiveness and lack of political
sophistication, charges that ought to be decolonized if one is to understand the rhythms of
de-colonial activism that textured the development of the colonial state. An observation
of this nature from a planter is very illuminating, as it brings the intersection of territory,
capitalism, and politics to the foreground. If we break with the prevailing scholarly
consensus that the ordinary masses would have had no understanding of modern politics
and economy, it is possible to conceive that those who rose up were well aware of the
sensitive timing of their uprisings. As noted in government records around the 1842 failed

575 A Ceylon Planter, “Is Ceylon to sacrificed at the Shrine of a Party? A Letter Addressed to Sir R. Peel,
Bart M.P.” Colombo, 1850. British National Library, shelfmark: 8023.cc.7.(7.).
576 Ibid.
272
attempt, it was knowledge of British exploits and their brutal defeat by the Afghans577
that inspired the events, which suggests that knowledge of the Empire’s exploits was not
a secret.
Neither should it lead one to deduce that everyone in the Kandyan region were of
a single mind with respect to rebellion. During the Matale rebellion, ordinary people were
caught between rebel forces and a government that was especially paranoid and triggerhappy in light of fears that the rebellion could blossom into something as large, or
perhaps larger, than what transpired in 1817-1818. Part of that fear on the side of the
government manifested in the trial and execution of “natives” by court martial; a
controversial practice during the uprising that drew harsh condemnation of the
miscarriage of justice and the brutality with which people were tried and often executed.
According to Colonel Jonathan Forbes in a published pamphlet, the use of Court Martial
was excessive, unnecessary, and unlawful:
I aver in common sense and common justice, that those who are made liable to the
penalties of martial law, are also entitled to its privileges: if so, the inhabitants of
Ceylon were entitled to be tried by a general court-martial, legally constituted, for
crimes clearly and distinctly specified, and according to the common and statue
law of England, and cognisable by such a tribunal. The oath which the members
of all courts-martial take, leaves, I think no doubt of what the prisoners had a right
to expect, and without which, in my opinion, trials for “high treason” were at best
but solemn mockery.578

577 In the first Anglo-Afghan war, Dr. William Brydon was the only survivor of the 16,000 strong British
Indian army retreating from Kabul in 1842. The infamous Rudyard Kipling penned a popular poem in the
aftermath:
“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains
An’ the women come out to cut up what remains,
Just roll to your rifle, and blow out your brains,
And go to your Gawd like a soldier.”
Cited in Gregory Freemont-Barnes, The Anglo-Afghan Wars 1839 – 1919 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing,
2009): 1.
578 J. Forbes, Recent Disturbances and Military Executions in Ceylon published 1850: 22. British National
Library, shelfmark: 8022.d.26.
273
The most important point to take away from the Matale rebellion is not whether the
government was or was not justified in its heavy handed tactics to quell the rebellion,
rather, it is in what the genuine sense of fear amidst the British population, planter and
bureaucrat, felt was necessary in light of the political actions of rebels. The enactment of
politics, whether elite planned or more grassroots emergent, affected the kinds of policy
choices pursued by the government and shaped the development of the state in the
process.
While many people did take up arms and raid the plantations, as discussed above,
it is important to note that others, based on their testimonies at these “court martials,”
were caught between contending violent situations. In the case of the court martials of
Nikolla Punchyrall, Melpitia Appoohame, Alutgamma Banda, and Allawelle Goda
Leortin of September 6
th
, 1848, all were found guilty of high treason and subsequently
shot to death the following morning. In reviewing the translations of their testimonies at
their trials, the narrative that emerges is one of villagers seeking to escape both the rebels
and the government by leaving their home villages. Upon leaving, they were conscripted
into serving the rebel forces in the jungle. Faced with execution for treason by the
authority of the rebel King on the one hand, and execution for “high treason” by the
authority of the British government if they were captured, the element of “choice” seems
utterly absent for ordinary people caught in the midst of the rebellion.579 I would argue

579 “Confidential despatch: Court Martial” British National Archives, shelfmark: CO54/263. Though I have
not engaged in the subject of migrant Tamil plantation workers and everyday acts of resistance by workers
in this dissertation, it is relevant to note here that, on occasion, reference is made to Tamil workers and
kanganies (higher caste overseers and recruiters of migrant labourers) who encountered the rebels as well.
In the proceedings of a court martial from September 14th, 1848, those charged reported that they had heard
word that the pretender King had control of the northern region of Ceylon as well as Kandy. They permitted
migrant Tamil labourers and kanganies to leave the plantations they were attacking with food. This is an
important point, because the general colonial narrative was that the Tamil workers were held in utter
contempt by the Kandyan locals and seen as “simpler” people than devious or lazy Kandyan locals. This
274
that leaving the contestations between the British and the Kandyan expressions of
sovereignty in this moment was both a political and a logical course of action, though in
the unfortunate case of these men, execution awaited them at any turn.
Conclusion
In this chapter, I have strived to show first that the logic of coloniality permeates
seemingly objective recordings of “facts” in the form of archives. Building on my
argument concerning archiving in relief from the Introduction, I argued that the epistemic
violence of representation that positions ordinary Kandyans between 1815 and 1848
scripts them as non-political and mute. Moreover, influential secondary historical
accounts are complicit with this representation in part through accepting the “modern”
narrative of gradual developmentalism and linear progress, without attending to the coconstitutive “coloniality” that enables the modern narrative.
Drawing on the method of archiving in relief, I have sought to engage differently
with colonial archival records in order to draw attention to elements in discarded
background of the history that demonstrates the political agency of both elite and ordinary
people resisting colonial attempts to contaminate and transform Kandy into Ceylon from
1815 to 1848. In so doing, I seek to challenge the conventional narrative that presents the
time between the Uva and Matalle rebellions as “quiet.” If we take a more radical
understanding of politics, we can better apprehend the simmering insurrectionary politics
of the early period of British presence as the logics of Kandyan galactic sovereignty and

narrative is doubly strengthened by the fact that the new taxes that were supposed to have been the
motivation for the uprisings in 1848 were in part related to the road tax, in which migrant labourers were
excluded from having to pay to upkeep the roads on the basis that they were migrants. In addition to the
court martial record, see also: Ordinance No. 8, 1848 (Road Ordinance) British National Archives,
shelfmark: CO 56/5; James Duncan, In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race, and Biopower in
Nineteenth Century Ceylon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).
275
British imperial sovereignty were in the process of colliding and transforming one
another.
276
Conclusion
“What I forgot is better than whatever they remember.”
Yasiin Bey580
In 1956, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike’s Freedom Party was able to denounce 400 years of
Christian rule in a Buddhist country to ride a wave of Sinhalese Buddhist ethnonationalism into office. This was preceded by a general consensus among postcolonial
elites that disenfranchising “Indian-Tamils” or “Estate Tamils” (categorized as such in
19th century censuses) who migrated to the island in the British-colonial period was an
acceptable legislative act of political independence in 1947. This was soon followed by
deportations to an India many did not know. From the late 19th to early 20th century, the
rise of a national class of elites became influential in colonial politics. Many who would
go on to form parties of government and opposition participated in young national
roundtables and associations debating impending constitutional reforms ahead of formal
independence. Men like S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (fourth Prime Minister), Sir John
Kotelewala (third Prime Minister), G.G. Ponnambalam (leader of All Ceylon Tamil
Congress), J.R. Jayewardene (President 1978 – 1989), were at times jovial comrades in
the late colonial period, as evidenced by transcripts of roundtable conferences in the
1940s.581 Notwithstanding the late colonial solidarities that were brokered between ethnic
groups and across ideologies, postcolonial anti-Tamil propaganda amongst politicians
vying for political influence over the post-colonial state manifested in a series of pogroms
targeting Tamil civilians in 1958, 1965, 1971, 1978, and most significantly, in “Black
July” of 1983. After decades of unsuccessful peaceful civil disobedience in the tradition

580 Yasiin Bey, “R.E.D.” Halluci Nation. Turtle Island: with Narcy, BlackBear, and A Tribe Called Red.
Recorded 2016, Radicalized Records. Compact Disc.
581 “The Roundtable Conference: A Conference of Leaders of Various Communities held to discuss the
Parliamentary Commission on the Constitutional Reforms of Ceylon,” Young Ceylon, August 1944. British
National Archives shelfmark: FCO/141/2339.
277
of satyagraha seeking equal accommodation within a single, united Ceylonese nationstate, young Tamils began organizing and taking direct, military action in pursuit of a
nation state they saw as their traditional homeland in the East and West. On July 23,
1983, a small group of rebels ambushed thirteen Sri Lankan soldiers in Jaffna, and within
two days of national media coverage (which censored government retaliation), Sinhalese
civilians were waging a street level campaign of terror against Tamil businesses,
property, and bodies. In the words of the Minister of Development in 1983:
Sri Lanka is inherently and rightfully a Sinhalese state…this must be accepted as a
fact and not a matter of opinion to be debated. By attempting to challenge this
premise, Tamils have brought the wrath of the Sinhalese on their own heads; they
have themselves to blame.582
Seen as the critical juncture that marked the official beginning of Sri Lanka’s civil war,
the collective punishment of bodies deemed enemy or external to an ethnonationalist state
was resisted using a modern, dialectical strategy – the creation of an opposing modern
ethnonationalist state, Tamil Eelam (see Appendix A, Figure 6).
The logic of total territorial rule and postcolonial sovereignty had, by the time of
independence, become normalized. By the late 20th century, it had become fetishized,
essentialized as the only legitimate marker through which a formerly colonized people
could live in peace and freedom. Within the politics of ethnonationalism, however, we
see not the extinguishing of rajamandala and Buddhification, but rather their
contamination and transfiguration into a modern, colonial, statist exoskeleton tasked with
the objective of protecting a nation on modern, universal grounds. The process of
Buddhification, as Obeyesekere and Tambiah’s work speaks to, was historically a process
of integration and inclusion rather than an ethnically determined exclusion. Its application

582 Minister of Development. Cited in O. Yiftachel and G. As’ad, “Understanding ‘Ethno-Cratic’ Regimes:
The Politics of Seizing Contested Territory,” Political Geography 23/6 (2004): 658.
278
in the post-colonial period appears to serve precisely the opposite purpose, and this is
historically related to the normalization and de-politicization of the state. Normalization
was a logical extension of the historical contestations of the early 19th century discussed
in this dissertation. For the generations of children practicing “civil” Christianity in the
mid to late 19th century, educated in missionary schools and challenging missionaries and
government officials in public debates, writing, and institutions, the opportunities
afforded by the structure of the still forming liberal, colonial, state offered more
promising results for ending British rule than did the armed insurrectionary movements of
their elders. As Perera argues, by the turn of the 20th century, the centre of Buddhism on
the island had shifted from Kandy to the outskirts of Colombo so as to allow for more
effective lobbying of the colonial government, towards independence.583
The footpaths, turned military roads, turned commercial plantation roads, turned
railroads throughout the 19th century, had increased the rate of transportation and the
“modernization” of the island. As noted in the introduction to this dissertation, there is no
decolonial organizing in the abstract alone; in the context of the monumental changes of
the 19th century and the limited success of armed uprisings, the rise of anti-colonial
national consciousness that strove to inhabit the existing apparatus of a colonial satellite
economy and sort out the “internal” problems of colonialism later was understandable,
and not at all unique to Ceylon. In the garb of this historical version of anti-colonialism,
the rise of what Tambiah has called “protestant Buddhism” and its Hindutva cousin in
India has adopted a fetishized modern form that has become complicit with singular
narratives; universal aspirations, rather than the pluriversal histories that have fragmented

583 Nihal Perera. “Indigenising the Colonial City: Late 19th
-century Colombo and its Landscape.” Urban
Studies 39/9 (2002): 1703 – 1721.
279
and diversified practices only named “Hindu” or “Buddhist” through the modern, colonial
encounter.
Throughout this dissertation, I have striven to show how before the universe of
total territorial rule, there was a pluriverse of uncolonized options that operated along
diverse ontological starting points and trajectories. The treatment of the “nation state” as
a universal container in which to exist is perhaps one of the most normalized expressions
of the violence of universal, colonial politics. However, the politics of the pluriverse
teaches that the temporal hegemony of universality does not imply the extinction of the
pluriversal realities. Pluiversal thinking, instead, engages differently with pasts to
challenge the “histories” and the normative assumptions and exclusions within them, and
ultimately to resuscitate important diversity that can help build decolonial futures.
Articulated in a different vocabulary, Robbie Shilliam has called this rejecting the
“colonial science” of categorical separation in favour of a “decolonial science” of
rebinding and rehabilitation.584
One of the key empirical contributions arising from this dissertation is that the
birth of the British “Raj” in South Asia should not be attributed so centrally to the Sepoy
Rebellion and subsequent Royal Proclamation that ended the East India Company’s rule
on the subcontinent in favour of direct British rule in 1858. Rather, a generation earlier it
was trial and error, with emphasis on error, that largely defined direct British rule in its
early days in Ceylon. Unlike in India, where generations of East India Company officials
had developed relationships and an understanding of Mughal state behaviour, in Ceylon,
exposure to the Buddhist rajamandala system was poorly understood. Orientalist scholars

584 Robbie Shilliam. The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles and Oceanic Connections. (London:
Bloomsbury, 2015).
280
were still trying to understand the differences between buddhagama and their particularly
Brahminical understanding of the varied practices they would later call “Hinduism.”
Historically, we can see through this study that there is no single logic of empire
in the 19th century. The economic interests of British plantation owners in the West Indies
differed greatly from those in the East Indies, and the discourse of liberalism as an
antidote to mercantilism created incentives at precisely the time the British were trying to
subdue and transform the Kandyan highlands. Plantations offered a way to “improve” an
entire colony by way of liberal colonial reformation in education, economy, religion, and
law. The colonies were not the only ones taking on their modern attributes in the 19th
century, but the colonizers were doing so as well. As argued in chapter one, it makes little
sense to consider state formation in isolation from its global context; Europe was also
taking form through the process of colonialism, making European states products of the
modern colonial encounter just as much as colonial states, albeit on radically asymmetric
terms. The logic of externalizing violence from Europe to the colonies through territorial
and ontological transformation guaranteed a measure of “peace” within Europe, but one
that was largely dependent on deliberate attempts at destroying other-than-modern ways
of being. The political economy of plantations offers a particularly salient example of this
in the context of Kandy in the 1820s – 1840s, and connects the broader imperial political
economy to the dispossession of Kandyan land in service to the colonial logic of
commodification and “improvement.”
This dissertation has taken up the question of how the process of “becoming” the
modern territorial state worked to legitimize a universal understanding of how to exist
free from colonial rule. I have taken as the object of analysis the territorial state itself,
offering a critical re-reading of the early British encounter with Ceylon to show how,
281
through ontological, economic, religious, and political struggles, the logic of “total
territorial rule” gradually became de-politicized such that it was a passive terrain upon
which anti-colonial struggles would eventually unfold. This was not a natural process. In
chapter one, I argued that the period of European colonialism was much more than a time
when Europeans ruled swaths of land outside of Europe; it was also a set of territorial and
conceptual transformations that were produced out of ontological, economic, and social
struggles concerning the universal application of Eurocentric concepts and philosophy in
places that had already developed their own for thousands of years. By using a decolonial
theoretical approach to intervene conceptually within bodies of social science theory
concerned with questions of state, territory, and sovereignty, I have argued that a
decolonial reading brings to light the material and conceptual violence of universal
thought in the form of colonial state formation. This manifestation of violence has sought
to push the multiple and diverse ways of organizing social, political, and spiritual life
outside of the “limit” of a reality that, in turn, treats Eurocentric ontological starting
points as “given” or as “common sense.”
The significance of postcolonial crises of sovereignty cannot be grasped with the
conceptual tool that is universality, and this is abundantly clear when considering the
universality of the state as the only acceptable way to exist within the colonial
international system of the 20th and 21st centuries. In this dissertation, I argued that while
political independence was of monumental importance in the mid 20th century, inheriting
and controlling the reigns of the state became an end unto itself rather than a means to a
282
greater end of building free societies. Controlling the state has been confused for decolonization.585
The coloniality of the state thus draws into question the degree to which a
government, simply by exercising Weberian sovereignty over a territorially bounded
imaginary national community, can truly lay claim to being “post” colonial. If one
untethers colonialism from a temporal period and examines its material processes on
economic, political, and social grounds, independence can be only the beginning of a
much longer process of de-colonization that requires fundamentally rethinking how
human communities are constituted. We modern political subjects are, as James C. Scott
argues, “hypnotized by the state”; we think about the past mediated through a statist lens
without due regard for the ways through which the modern territorial nation state and the
system of states came to be.586 Understanding the colonial context through which material
practices emerged – such as large-scale agricultural production for export, centralization
of political sovereignty, private property, or elite-level representative government (instead
of participatory democracy) – can enliven debates today about what de-colonization
ought to look like in terms of practice, as well as within scholarly debates.
In chapter two, I re-interpreted the significance of the 1815 Kandyan Convention
that established a de jure sense of total territorial rule. In this chapter, I argued that rather
than seeing this legal document as evidence of the cessation of sovereignty and the
unification of the island under British authority, it can instead be seen as a kind of

585 Ajay Parasram, “The long road to de-colonisation: Understanding our political present” in Jai Parasram,
View From the Mountain: Political notes and commentaries, xxi – xxiv. (St. Anns: Paria Publishing Co.
Ltd., 2013).
586 James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2009); John Agnew “The Territorial Trap: The Geographical Assumptions
of International Relations Theory” Review of International Political Economy (1994) 1/1: 53 – 80; Stuart
Elden, “Thinking Territory Historically” Geopolitics (2010) 15/4: 757 – 761.
283
ontological conflict. The result of this conflict was that a single text (the Convention)
meant two very different things because of the ontological differences that have
characterized the genealogical development of “sovereignty” in a Kandyan/Buddhist
tradition and a British/Christian tradition. To describe the depth and scope of the long
ontological conflict, I drew upon archival records of early British missionaries that tried
to make sense of “natives” and ultimately failed to do so because of an inability to
comprehend the ontological distinctions between Buddhist/Hindu cosmology and
Christian/British cosmology. Positioning rajamandala and Buddhification as empirical,
historical, examples of pluriversal sovereignty, the dissertation makes theoretical and
historical contributions to both South Asian and decolonial studies.
The legal relationship between the British “sovereign” and the sovereign
obligations of rule in Kandy offered a longstanding problem, where the British attempted
to rationalize the Kandyans’ other-than-modern ontology of sovereign practice by using
what they believed to be an unproblematic and universally applicable understanding of
sovereignty as it developed in their own traditions. Thus, the British partially fulfilled the
obligations of Kandyan sovereignty but understood them as necessary to placate the
uncivilized superstitions of locals rather than as a serious involvement with the
obligations of sovereignty.
Drawing on S.J. Tambiah’s work on “galactic sovereignty,” modeled upon
comparative studies in Southeast Asian Buddhist polities including Kandy, I strove to
show that the political ontological clash of the Kandyan Convention represents a kind of
galactic collision, the consequences of which were not immediately apparent, though the
contemporary problems of ethnonationalism can be seen to be part of its logical outcome.
In this chapter, I proposed using a metaphor to extend Tambiah’s work: as a device to
284
understand the period during which a Kandyan genealogy of sovereignty and a British
genealogy of sovereignty interacted, represented in the roughly three decades (~1815 –
1848) that the dissertation dwells upon, this time period of ontological conflict can be
likened to the collision of galaxies. Rather than experiencing full-on contact, the galaxies
are porous and pass through each other several times before merging. Their gravity keeps
the stars operating around a galactic core, but it also interacts with the external galaxy. If
the 1815 Convention represents the first collision and “passing through” of sovereign
ontologies, then by the 1850s, Ceylon had reached the following period of galactic
unification:
Figure 3: Galactic Convergence
In Figure 3 the two galaxies have collided more than once, and have formed something
new. The history of spatial organization, as explained in the introduction, can be thought
of in three general periods. The first marks the galactic mandala system and its 2200 year
genealogy in the South/Southeast Asia region. The second is the moment of ontological
tension and colonial contamination through which the galaxies pass through each other,
the time period the dissertation emphasizes. By the time we arrive in the third phase in the
late 19th and early 20th century, we are in the above frame, within which the colonial
285
structure of universal territorial rule has become a naturalized structure within which to
struggle.
We have yet to leave this period, but there is no reason to believe that it is a finale.
Elements of both the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy exist within this new galaxy,
and like its predecessor galaxies, the new one is not solid, stable or unchanging. Elements
of pluriversal sovereignty similarly remain within the contemporary state system,
however its modern contamination is in need of decolonial treatment, as the practice of
Buddhification has taken on violently ethnonationalist connotations as recently calcified
ethnicities continue to vie for total territorial rule. Such decolonial treatments may, and
perhaps must, begin within the context of a state; the limits of the modern state cannot be
the limit of the potential application of multiple approaches to understanding and
practicing sovereignty. In a contemporary context of triumphant Sinhalese-Buddhist
nationalism, de-colonizing the modern/colonial edifice of the state can offer a resurgent
decolonial politics.
The findings of this aspect of the dissertation contribute to colonial and
postcolonial historical research by identifying moments of treaty-making as ontological
conflicts arising from different genealogies of “sovereign” practice. By identifying the
moment of sovereign ontological collision as a source of deep and comparative historical
research, social scientists can de-link from the modern/colonial category of the nationstate and state-container as well as all the associated academic blind spots. “National”
histories may not be the best way to understand the past, as they tend to take for granted
key ontological starting points about state, territory, nation, and sovereignty that ought to
be investigated historically. Inspiration and leadership on how to begin de-colonizing our
scholarship ought to come from studying the colonial constitution of modernity through
286
the Other genealogies of thought that we can excavate, as well as through studying the
enactment of decolonial politics in our worlds. In terms of informing scholarship aimed
at peace and conflict studies, the dissertation offers empirical and theoretical guidance as
to why the discourses of “state failure” may not provide the kinds of long-term solutions
needed for peace and reconciliation. Instead, this dissertation aims to suggest that
deepening the historical understanding for the reasons why territorial conflicts begin can
open sites of historical and political research that will diversify sources of practical and
intellectual inspiration for building decolonial political societies.
In chapter three, I discussed the coloniality of liberalism and the political
economy of “improvement.” I traced the discursive power that the idea of “improvement”
offered during the nascent turn to liberalism in both economic and political thinking
within Imperial Britain. Although the British profited enormously from the slave trade as
well as from mercantilist economic imperial planning in the 18th century, in the 19th
century, being morally opposed to the practice of slavery served to strengthen their
position in Ceylon by representing the indigenous practice of rajakariya as slavery.
Simultaneously, the British engaged in forced labour projects aimed at “improving” the
moral and ethical resourcefulness of the native population in Ceylon and literally paving
the roads to the interior that would enable the forming state to be administered more
effectively from Colombo. Inducement took the form of taxation, forced labour,
commodification, and theft of land, resulting in its ultimate repurposing in service of the
still forming imperial and global political economy. Here, the context of precolonial
agriculture and economy serves as a basis for understanding the violent transformation of
“progress” and “improvement.” The representation of Kandyan villagers as “lazy” or unindustrious relies first and foremost on the acceptance that land is ontologically a
287
commodity in need of improvement, which, I have argued, is grounded in a Eurocentric
genealogy of property. The ideology of liberalism as an improvement upon mercantilism
and a more civilized method of colonization – a form of obligation on the white race to
aid the darker peoples of the world – allowed for authoritarian rule to coexist with liberal
and rights-based understanding of governance in colonies, as Barry Hindess reminds us.
The clearing of land in Ceylon’s fertile interior was enabled by the forced labour
construction of military-cum-plantation roads, and the Eurocentric logic that land must be
owned and “improved” in order to extract its potential value served as justification for
describing communal land as “wastelands.” In practice, this served a powerful
justification for aggressively transforming Kandyan lands into legible, productive,
Eurocentric territory.
In chapter four, I sought to show how the idea of the archive, while being an
improvement upon previous methods of writing histories, led to the biases of colonial
authorities in their representation of “natives” as primitive, backward, or criminal, being
unconsciously integrated into the writing of postcolonial histories as well. I draw on
canonical texts in Sri Lankan history to highlight their complacency with the
colonial/modern idea that peasants are pre-political or outside of the limit if history and
politics. I then offered a different reading of archival resources informed by a decolonial
lens to reinterpret the a thirty year period between the Uva and Matale rebellions as a
period of simmering anti-colonial activism. Here, I strove to show that it is only with the
acceptance of Eurocentric philosophical starting points about race and development,
which are related very fundamentally to the development of the state, that one could miss
the more radical politics being enacted in different ways throughout the time period. It is
288
important historically to see this period as an active period of insurrection and radical
politics rather than gradual development and pacification.
The starting assumption that villagers were backward-looking and trying only to
re-establish the old monarchy further pushes ordinary people outside of the rhythm of
history and politics. Relatedly, it artificially places into stasis the dynamic processes that
underscored galactic sovereignty in the Kandyan tradition over many hundreds of years
of practice; it also mitigates the ways through which that model of sovereignty developed
ways to integrate other people, notably Tamil kings from South India, into the social
system. The epistemic violence of scientific history, then, colonizes not only the way we
historicize the colonial encounter, but also – and perhaps more importantly – the ways
through which we engage with our own pre-colonial pasts. In so doing, this serves as an
ontological and an epistemological block that normalizes and universalizes a linear path
to social development predicated on the denial of pluriversal politics.
This aspect of the dissertation draws attention to scholarship interested in building
theory and decolonizing politics by reading everyday enactments of politics as sources of
theory building. It contributes to historical international relations research that is
interested in the transnational foundations of state formation through better understanding
several aspects of the processes of colonial state formation and resistance to them; it also
has implications for contemporary studies of ongoing colonization, or “internal”
colonization as it is sometimes called. Whether the colonizing state is a settler colonial
society like Canada, or a postcolonial society like Sri Lanka, focusing on the material
practices of state-building as a colonizing technology allows us to better understand the
radical implications of resistance to these processes. For example, the many ongoing sites
of indigenous resistance to mega-projects of resource extraction across Turtle Island are
289
led by, and informed by, indigenous ontological starting points about water, land, and
interconnectivity of living things.
Despite the moral discourse advanced to legitimize colonialism, which spoke to
the need to improve land, bodies, and souls in order to bring them to an approximation of
British-ness, colonialism was not about speeding up developmental understandings of
time. Rather than bringing people into “modern” time, the colonial encounter can better
be understood as the removal of people from both time and history. Colonialism sought,
unsuccessfully, to halt the vibrant, moving living cultures that all had their own histories
of inclusion, conflict, trade, cosmology, and materiality that did not go through the same
experiences as Europe did. The colonial encounter was not about accelerating time and
development for the darker peoples of the world so that they could catch up with
modernity – it was a dam, built to halt the many movements, along multiple tributaries,
that have nourished many peoples across many pasts. The dam has allowed for a rapid
scale of progress within a single-verse of history, a uni-verse of modern reason.
This dissertation is an attempt to chip away at that dam by better understanding
the modern/colonial violence associated with the dam’s construction, which is often
under-problematized, although breaking of such a massive dam may well come with
dangerous flooding. More specifically, as outlined in the introduction, the dissertation
was catalyzed by the present conditions that enabled an anachronistic military expedition
by a “legitimate” sovereign power against an “illegitimate” one occupying a significant
swathe of territory on the same island. The territorial dynamics of the Sri Lanka/Tamil
Eelam civil war, and the centrality of “total territorial rule” to both warring sides begs the
question, “how has the process of becoming the modern, territorial state worked to
legitimize some expressions of sovereignty while de-legitmizing others?” In the course of
290
seeking an answer, what has emerged is the radical potential of decolonial resuscitation,
not as a backwards-looking, linear project, but as a means of rehabilitation and
decontamination. This historical and theoretical dissertation is hardly the venue for 21st
century policy prescriptions, but out of the research one can clearly see how a reclamation
of “buddhification,” free from modern/colonial contamination, might serve to bring a
greater measure of justice to light in the now-post-conflict but still highly divided society,
as well as serve as a basis for rethinking what it means to be “Sri Lankan” in a “post”
colonial age. While the application of a rajamandala system would be anachronistic,
what insights might be gleaned from the emphasis on balancing material and
cosmological realms? Asking questions of this nature is not restricted only to the British
and “Sri Lankan” encounter; looking to historical moments of ontological collision with a
view to thinking through the implications of universalism as a form of violence can be
particularly useful in better understanding the continuities of modern colonialism.
I began this conclusion with an epigraph from a decolonial work of art that
proclaims: within that which is forgotten rests more than that which is known today. The
violence of universal thinking has actively silenced the many verses of the world. In
beginning to answer this project’s research question, I argue that the process of becoming
the modern territorial state was predicated on the violent silencing of worlds that were
other-than European – but that which has been silenced need not remain so. The colonial
process was never complete, and significant opportunities abound today for building
decolonial futures and options that put into practice the diverse knowledge that universal
reason has silenced.
291
Appendix A: Maps
Figure 1: Shifting boundaries in colonial Ceylon. Source: De Silva A History of Sri Lanka xvii reproduced in
Perera 1998, 30
292
Figure 2: Approximation of Kingdoms in Ceylon in early 16th century. Source: Wikicommons
293
Figure 3: Map of Ceylon showing Wesleyan Methodist Missionary locations, 1822. Source: William Martin
Harvard, A Narrative of the Establishment and Progress of the Mission to Ceylon and India (London:
Printed by the author, 1822)
294
Figure 4: Provincial divisions of island after 1833 Colbrooke-Cameron Reforms. Source: G.C. Mendis
Ceylon Under the British (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952]): 59
295
Figure 5: Migratory paths of “free” labourers from southern India. Source: Nihal Perera,
Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1998): 69
296
Figure 6: Map of Tamil Eelam, 2005. Source: Wikicommons
297
Appendix B
Confidential: Ceylon. Appendix No. 6 to Memorandum on Colonial Policy.
Printed at the Foreign Office, February 1849. British National Archives, shelfmark: CO
882/1/5.
1818 1823 1824 1834 1843 1848
Duration of
rebellion
Beginning of
Sept. 1817 to
2
nd Nov.
1818587
The rising in
this year was
put down by
the local
authorities in
about a week
The attempt
was made in
August, and
the prisoners
were tried in
Nov.
The rebellion
did not take
place, the
conspirators
being arrested
before the
completion of
their plan
I this case
also no rising
appears to
have taken
place
29th July to 10th
Oct. was the
duration of
martial law, but
the rebellion
was really over
in a week or
ten days from
its
commencement
– viz., by the
end of the first
week of August
Number of
troops
employed
The greatest
number of
troops in the
Kandyan
provinces at
any time was
6,130
… The prisoners
were taken by
a small
detachment
… … The number of
troops in the
interior
provinces on
14th Aug. was
1,527
Troops killed According to
the Returns
and including
those who
died of their
wounds, 94
— — — — None killed
and one
wounded
according to
the official
returns, but the
newspapers
mentioned two
killed.588
Troops died in
Hospital
According to
the returns
which are not
very regular,
428
… … … … Troops were
healthy in
general
Punishment of
Rebels –
Executed
28 2 5 The prisoners
were
acquitted
18 CourtMartial,
Punishment of
Rebels –
Banished or
transported
25 13 8 The prisoners
were
acquitted
The man who
endeavoured
to excite the
insurrection
was sentenced
to
imprisonment
for fourteen
years with
hard labour
17 Supreme
Court and 28
Court Martial,
45 Total.

587 Martial law was continued in some of the provicnes till 3rd Jan. 1821, but the insurrection was vitually
ended by the capture of the principal chiefs concerned in it and of the holy relic, on November 2, 1818.
588 Major Forbes states in his “Eleven Years in Ceylon,” that the total loss on our side was estimated at
1000 and that of the natives at 10,000
298
Otherwise
punished,
(imprisonment,
lash, etc.)
8 14 … Prisoners
acquitted
… 66 Court
Martial
Expense £ 177,675
10s.589
No expense
incurred
apparently on
these
intermediate
occasions
No expense
incurred
apparently on
these
intermediate
occasions
No expense
incurred
apparently on
these
intermediate
occasions
No expense
incurred
apparently on
these
intermediate
occasions
Probably under
£ 50,000; this
is conjectural
however, the
whole to be
paid by the
colony.

589 This is the sum at which the Governor, Sir R. Brownrigg, estimated the expense.
299
Bibliography
A Ceylon Planter. “Is Ceylon to be sacrificed at the Shrine of a Party? A Letter Addressed to Sir
R. Peel, Bart M.P.” Colombo, 1850. British National Library, shelfmark: 8023.cc.7.(7.).
“A Few Remarks Upon Colonel Forbes’ Pamphlet on recent Disturbances in Ceylon in a letter to
Sir R. Peel, Bart, M.P. & C by Colonist, April 12th 1850.” British National Library,
shelfmark: 8023.cc.7.(1.).
“After the Slaughter: Tamil Tigers Contemplate Life without Prabhakaran.” The Economist. May
28, 2009. Accessed November 23, 2010. http://www.economist.com/node/13754093.
Agnew, John. “The Hidden Geographies of Social Science and the Myth of the ‘Geographical
Turn.’” Environment and Planning D: Society & Space 13 (1995): 379 – 380.
———. “The Territorial Trap: The Geographical Assumptions of International Relations
Theory.” Review of International Political Economy 1/1 (1994): 53 – 80.
———. “Still Trapped in Territory.” Geopolitics 15/4 (2010): 779 – 784.
Ahluwalia, Pal. “Out of Africa: Post-structuralism’s Colonial Roots.” Postcolonial Studies 8/2
(2005): 137 – 154.
Alfred, Taiaiake. Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto. Toronto: Oxford
University Press, 1999.
Almond, Phillip C. The British Discovery of Buddhism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1988.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1983.
Anghie, Antony. “Francisco de Vitoria and the Colonial Origins of International Law.” Social
and Legal Studies 5/3 (1996): 321 – 336.
Anonymous. A Narrative of Events which have recently occurred in the Island of Ceylon, Written
by a Gentleman on the Spot. London: T. Egerton Military Library, Whitehall, 1815.
British National Library, shelfmark: 583.f.14.(1.).
“Appendix No. 5 to Memorandum on Colonial Policy: Memorandum of former Insurrectionary
Attempts at Ceylon, 1849.” British National Archives, shelfmark: CO 882/1/4.
Armitage, David. Foundations of Modern International Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2013.
300
———. “John Locke, Carolina, and the Two Treatises of Government.” Political Theory 35/5
(2004): 602 – 627.
Ault, William Rev. “Rev. William Ault to Mother, 1814.” WMMS Box 628 (1) Ceylon Various
Papers Various Dates, No. 1005. Missionary Archives of the School of Oriental and
African Studies (SOAS), University of London.
Bailey, Rev. J, Secretary to the Mission. “Statement of the Ceylon Mission of the Church
Missionary Society for the Year M.DCCC.XXXII W.” Ceylon: Cotta Church Mission
Press, 1833.
Bandarage, Asoka. Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands,
1833 – 1886. Berlin: Moutan, 1983.
Barkawi, Tarak. “Decolonising war.” European Journal of International Security 1/2 (July
2016): 199-214. doi:10.1017/eis.2016.7.
Bartelson, Jens. A Genealogy of Sovereignty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Bates, R. “The Logic of State Failure: Learning from Late-Century Africa.” Conflict
Management and Peace Science 25/4 (2008): 297 – 314.
Behal, Rana P. and Prabhu P. Mohapatra, “Tea and money versus human life: The rise and fall of
the indenture system in the Assam tea plantations, 1840 – 1908.” The Journal of Peasant
Studies 19/3-4 (1992): 142 – 172.
Bennet, J.W. Ceylon and Its Capabilities: an account of its natural resources, indigenous
productions, and commercial facilities. London: W.H. Allen & Co., 1843. British
National Library, shelfmark: 793.m.15.
Beverley, John. “Dependency theory and the aporias of modernity: lessons from Latin America”
in Patrick Manning and Barry K. Gillis (eds.) Andre Gunder Frank and Global
Development: Visions, Remembrances, and Global Development, 142 – 152. New York:
Routledge, 2011.
Bey, Yasiin. “R.E.D.” Halluci Nation. Turtle Island: with Narcy, BlackBear, and A Tribe Called
Red. Recorded 2016, Radicalized Records. Compact Disc.
Bhambra, Gurminder K. “Comparative Historical Sociology and the State: Problems of Method.”
Cultural Sociology 10/3 (2016): 335 – 351.
———. Connected Sociologies. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
———. “Postcolonial and decolonial dialogues.” Postcolonial Studies 17/2 (2014): 115 – 121.
Blaney, David. “Reconceptualizing autonomy: The difference dependency theory makes.”
Review of International Political Economy 3/3 (1996): 459 – 497.
301
Blaser, Mario. “Ontological Conflicts and the Stories of Peoples in Spite of Europe: Toward a
Conversation in Political Ontology.” Current Anthropology 54/4: 547 – 568.
Bodhi, Bikkhu (trans.). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the
Samyutta Nikaya, Vol II. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000.
Branch, Jordan. “Mapping the Sovereign State: Technology, Authority, and Systemic Change.”
International Organization 65/1 (2011): 1 – 36.
Bridgalle, William. “Bridgalle to Wesleyan Methodist Church, March 25 1828.” Wesleyan
Methodist Missionary Society (London) Archive Special Series (SOAS, University of
London) Correspondence (H-2715) Box no.: 1814 – 1867. Ceylon: 446 – 1828. No. 108.
Brighenti, A. “On Territorology: Towards a General Science of Territory.” Theory, Culture, and
Society 27/1 (2010): 52 – 72.
Brownrigg, Elizabeth. “Lady Brownrigg speech to Native Militia.” Ceylon Gazette Aug. 8, 1818.
British National Archives, shelfmark: OMF/SM 126.
Brownrigg, Robert. “Brownrigg to Earl of Bathurst, June 28, 1814.” In Tennakoon Vimalananda,
Sri Wickrema, Brownrigg, and Ehelepola: being letters addressed to the Home
Government from 1811-1815 by Major General John Wilson and Lieut.-General Robert
Brownrigg, Governor of Ceylon. Colombo: Gunasena, 1984. British National Library,
shelfmark: V 26078.
———. “Brownrigg to the Earl of Liverpool, March 29, 1812.” In Tennakoon Vimalananda, Sri
Wickrema, Brownrigg, and Ehelepola: being letters addressed to the Home Government
from 1811-1815 by Major General John Wilson and Lieut.-General Robert Brownrigg,
Governor of Ceylon. Colombo: Gunasena, 1984. British National Library, shelfmark: V
26078.
———. Governor Brownrigg to the Marquis of Hastings, March 9, 1819. British National
Library, shelfmark: IOR/F/4/751.
Boldt, Andreas. “Ranke: objectivity and history.” Rethinking History 18/4 (2014): 457 – 474.
Byng, George Stanley (The 8th Viscount Torrington). “Viscount Torrington to the Earl of Grey
July 5, 1848.” In K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters on Ceylon, 1846-50, the administration of
Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the private correspondence of the Third
Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington.
Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965. British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
———. “Viscount Torrington to the Earl of Grey Aug. 15, 1847.” In K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters
on Ceylon, 1846-50, the administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of
1848; the private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the
302
Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965. British
National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
———. “Viscount Torrington to the Earl of Grey Nov. 15, 1847.” In K.M. de Silva (ed.) Letters
on Ceylon 1846 – 1850, the administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of
1848; the private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State for the
Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965. British
National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
“The Case of Eyhelapola Maha Nilime, A Kandyan Chief detained at Mauritius as State
Prisoner” letter submitted to His Majesty’s Commissioner of Inquiry, January 17, 1828.
British National Archives, shelfmark: CO/416/20.
Camilleri, Joseph A. “Rethinking Sovereignty in a Shrinking, Fragmented World.” In R.B.J.
Walker and Saul H. Mendlovitz (eds.) Contending Sovereignties: Redefining Political
Community, 13 – 44. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990.
Carnoy, Martin. The State & Political Theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.
Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism. Translated by Joan Pinkham. New York: Monthly
Review Press, 2000 [1955].
“Ceylon Gazette, 1820” reprinted and reproduced online at A People’s History 1793 – 1844 from
the Newspapers by Roger Houghton. Accessed Sept. 21, 2016. http://www.houghton.hk/.
Ceylon Gazette Feb. 28, 1818. Re-printed in the Madras Courier. British National Library,
shelfmark: OMF/SM 126.
Ceylon Gazette May 16, 1818. British National Library, shelfmark: OMF/SM/126.
Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses” Critical Inquiry 35/2 (2009): 197 –
222.
———. “The Legacies of Bandung: Decolonization and the Politics of Culture” in Christopher
Lee (ed.) Making a World After Empire: The Bandung Moment and its Political
Afterlives, 45 – 68. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010.
———. Provincializing Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.
———. Provincializing Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.
Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.
———. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1986.
303
———. Our Modernity. Dakar: SEPHIS & CODESRIA, 1997.
Chitty, Simon Casie. 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.
Clarke, Elizabeth. History, Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 2004.
Cockburn, Andrew. “Washington is Burning: Two centuries of Racial Tribulation in the nation’s
capital.” Harper’s Magazine August 29, 2014. Accessed Aug. 29, 2016.
http://harpers.org/archive/2014/09/washington-is-burning/?single=1.
Cohn, Bernard S. Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India. New Jersey:
Princeton University Press, 1996.
Collier, P. “The Political Economy of State Failure.” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 25/2
(2009): 219 – 240.
“Confidential: Ceylon. Appendix No. 6 to Memorandum on Colonial Policy: Comparative
Statistics of the different Insurrections and Insurrectionary Attempts which have taken
place in Ceylon.” British National Archives, shelfmark: CO 882/1/5.
“Confidential despatch: Court Martial.” British National Archives, shelfmark: CO54/263.
“Copy of a letter from Viscount Torrington to the Right Honourable H. Laboucherie, M.P., Jan.
17, 1857.” British National Archives, shelfmark: PRO/30/29/23/10.
Coulthard, Glen. Red Skins White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
Crawquill, Julian. “Colonies and Colonization.” The Colombo Magazine 1/1 January, 1839: 16 –

  1. British National Library, shelfmark: 8023cc7.
    “Crown land: report on new system of allocation.” October 1930 – August 1932. British National
    Archives, shelfmark: CO/54/903/19, chapter IV.
    Dalby, S. “Geopolitical Discourse: The Soviet Union as Other.” Alternatives 13/4 (1988): 417 –
    418.
    ———. “The ‘Kiwi Disease’: geopolitical discourse in Aotearoa/New Zealand and the South
    Pacific.” Political Geography 12/5 (1993): 437 – 456.
    de la Cadena, Marisol. Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds. Durham:
    Duke University Press, 2015.
    304
    ———. “Indigenous Cosmopolitics in the Andes: Conceptual Reflections Beyond ‘Politics’”
    Cultural Anthropology 52/2 (2010): 334–370.
    Deloria, Vine Jr. God is Red: A Native View of Religion. New York: Putnam Publishing Group,
    1973.
    de Silva, Chandra Richard. Sri Lanka: A History. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1987.
    de Silva, C.R. “Sinhala Tamil Ethnic Rivalry,” in R. Goldman and A. J. Wilson (eds.), From
    Independence to Statehood: Managing Ethnic Conflict in Five African and Asian States,
    127–132. London: Frances Pinter, 1984.
    de Silva, Colvin R. Ceylon Under the British Occupation 1795 – 1833 Volume 1: Its Political
    and Administrative Development. Colombo: The Colombo Apothecaries’ Co., Ltd, 1953.
    de Silva, K.M. A History of Sri Lanka. London: C. Hurst & Company, 1981.
    ———. (ed.) Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 1850, the administration of Viscount Torrington and the
    ‘rebellion’ of 1848; the private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey (Secretary of State
    for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. Kandy: K.V.G. de Silva, 1965.
    British National Archives, shelfmark: X.700/3328.
    ———. Separatist Ideology in Sri Lanka: A Historical Appraisal of the claim for the
    “traditional homelands” of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Kandy: International Centre for
    Ethnic Studies, 1987.
    ———. Social Policy and Missionary Organizations in Ceylon 1840 – 1855. Plymouth:
    Longmans, 1965.
    ———. “University Admissions and Ethnic Tensions in Sri Lanka: 1977–1982.” In R. Goldman
    and A. J. Wilson (eds.), From Independence to Statehood: Managing Ethnic Conflict in
    Five African and Asian States, 97 – 100. London: Frances Pinter, 1984.
    Deshpande, Satish. “Hegemonic Spatial Strategies: The Nation Space and Hindu Communalism
    in Twentieth century India” Public Culture 10/2 (1998): 249 – 283.
    DeVotta, N. Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri
    Lanka. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004.
    ———. “The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Lost Quest for Separatism in Sri Lanka.”
    Asian Survey 49/6 (Nov/Dec 2009):1047 – 1048.
    Dewaraja, Lorna. The Kandyan Kingdom of Sri Lanka, 1707–1782. Colombo: Lake House,
    1988.
    Doornbas, Martin. “State Collapse and Fresh Starts: Some Critical Reflections.” Development
    and Change 33:5 (2002): 797 – 815.
    305
    Duncan, James. The City as Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan
    Kingdom. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
    ———. “Coffee, Disease, and the ‘Simultaneity of Stories-So-Far’ in the Highlands of 19th
    Century Ceylon.” In C. Brun and T. Jazeel (eds.) Spatializing Politics: Culture, Politics,
    and Geography in Postcolonial Sri Lanka, 44 – 71. New Delhi: Sage, 2009.
    ———. In the Shadow of the Tropics: Climate, Race, and Biopower in Nineteenth Century
    Ceylon. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing House, 2007.
    Dussel, Enrique. The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of “the Other” and the Myth of
    Modernity. Translated by Michael D. Barber. New York: Continuum, 1995.
    Eisenstadt, S.N. “Multiple Modernities.” Daedalus 129/1 (2000): 1 – 29.
    Elden, Stuart. The Birth of Territory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
    ———. “Land, Terrain, Territory.” Progress in Human Geography 34/6 (2010): 799 – 817.
    ———. Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty. Minneapolis: University of
    Minnesota Press 2009.
    ———. “Thinking Territory Historically.” Geopolitics 15/4 (2010): 757 – 761.
    Erikson, Emily. Between Monopoly and Free-trade: The English East India Company 1600-
  2. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.
    Escobar, Arturo. “Thinking-Feeling with the Earth: Territorial Struggles and the Ontological
    Dimensions of the Epistemologies of the South.” Revisita de Antropologia
    Iberoamericana 11/1 (2015): 11 – 32.
    Etipola, R.B. Queen Elizabeth of Ceylon and the Kandyan Convention – 1815. (1952). British
    National Library, shelfmark: 8157.c.56.
    Evans, Peter, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol (eds.) Bringing the State Back In.
    Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
    Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Charles Lamm Markmann. London: Pluto
    Press, 2008 [1952].
    ———. The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Richard Philcox. New York: Groves Press,
    2004 [1961].
    Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation.
    Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2004.
    306
    Frank, Andre Gunder. “The Development of Underdevelopment.” Monthly Review 18/4 (1966):
    17 – 34.
    Fraser, J., Keeper of Government Records. Paper tabled during Emerson Tennent’s testimony to
    committee, 1850: 210. In James Emerson “Tennent to Committee.” Third Report from
    Select Committee on Ceylon (Session 1850): 162-163. Accessed July 12 2011.
    https://goo.gl/MeYCyM.
    Freemont-Barnes, Gregory. The Anglo-Afghan Wars 1839 – 1919. Oxford: Osprey Publishing,
    2009: 1.
    Forbes, J., Late Lieutenant-Colonel 78th Highlanders. “Recent Disturbances and Military
    Executions in Ceylon.” Edinburgh and London: MDCCCL, 1850. British National
    Library, shelfmark: 8022.d.26.
    Foucault, Michel. Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977 –
  3. Translated by Graham Burchill. New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.
    Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1983.
    Ghani, A. and C. Lockhart. Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured
    World. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.
    Giddens, Anthony. The Nation-State and Violence. Berkeley, University of California Press,

  4. Go, Julian. “For a Postcolonial Sociology.” Theory and Society 42/1 (2013): 25 – 55.
    Gogerly, D.J. “Buddhism in Ceylon.” Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (London) Archive
    Special Series (SOAS, University of London), Biographical (H-2723) Box664 (3)
    Various papers/Ceylon 1857/59/66. No. 1996. (1863).
    Goswami, Manu. Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space. Chicago:
    Chicago University Press, 2004.
    Grinde, Donald A. Jr. and Bruce E. Johansen. Exemplar of Liberty: Native America and the
    Evolution of Democracy. Los Angeles: American Indian Studies Centre Publications,
    1991.
    Grosfoguel, Ramón. “The Epistemic Decolonial Turn: Beyond Political Economy Paradigms.”
    Cultural Studies 2/3 (2007): 211 – 223.
    ———. “The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities: Epistemic Racism/Sexism
    and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century.” Human Architecture:
    Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge 11/1 (2013): 73 – 90.
    307
    Grovogui, Siba. “Regimes of Morality: International Morality and the African Condition.”
    European Journal of International Relations 8/3 (2002): 315 – 338.
    ———. Sovereigns, Quasi-Sovereigns, and Africans: Race and Self Determination in
    International Law. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1996.
    Guha, Ranajit. Dominance Without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India.
    Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.
    ———. History at the Limits of World History. New York: Colombia University Press, 2002.
    Gunasekara, Kalasuri Wilfred. “G.C. Mendis – One of Sri Lanka’s Pioneer scientific historians.”
    Daily News Oct. 28, 1999. Accessed December 8, 2016. https://goo.gl/Pp3187.
    Gunawardana, R.A.L.H. “The People of the Lion: Sinhala Identity and Ideology in History and
    Historiography.” In Jonathan Spencer (ed.), Sri Lanka: History and the Roots of Conflict,
    45 – 86. London: Routledge, 2004 [1990].
    Hagmann, T. and M. V. Hoehne, “Failures of the State Failure Debate: Evidence from the Somali
    Territories.” Journal of International Development 21:1 (2009), 42 – 57.
    Hall, Derek. Land. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013.
    Hall, Stuart. “The West and the Rest.” In Bram Geiben and Stuart Hall (eds.) The Formations of
    Modernity, 275 – 332. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993.
    Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privileging
    of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies 14/3 (1988): 575 – 599.
    Hardt, Michael. “Sovereignty.” Theory & Event 5/4 (2002). Accessed October 23, 2016.
    http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_and_event/v005/5.4hardt.html.
    Hardy, Rev. Spence. The British Government and the Idolatry of Ceylon (1839). SOAS
    Missionary Archives, shelfmark: MMSL S123.
    Harris, Elizabeth. “Memory, Experience, and the Clash of Cosmologies: The Encounter Between
    British Protestant Missionaries and Buddhism in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka.” Social
    Science and Missions 25 (2012): 265-303.
    ———. Theravada Buddhism and the British Encounter: Religious, missionary and colonial
    experience in nineteenth century Sri Lanka. London: Routledge, 2006.
    Harvard, William. Memoirs of Elizabeth Harvard, Late of the Wesleyan Mission to Ceylon With
    Extracts from her Diary and Correspondence by her Husband. London: John Mason,
  5. British National Library, shelfmark: T.1587.(7.)
    308
    Helleiner, Eric. “Economic Nationalism as a Challenge to Economic Liberalism? Lessons from
    the 19th Century.” International Studies Quarterly 46 (2002): 307 – 329.
    Helliwell, Christine and Barry Hindess. “The ‘Empire of Uniformity’ and the Government of
    Subject Peoples.” Cultural Values 6/1&2 (2002): 139 – 152.
    Grey, Henry (The 3rd Earl of Grey). “The Earl of Grey to Viscount Torrington, May 19, 1848.”
    In K.M. de Silva (ed.), Letters on Ceylon 1846 – 50, the Administration of Viscount
    Torrington and the ‘rebellion’ of 1848: the private correspondence of the Third Earl Grey
    (Secretary of State for the Colonies 1846 – 52) and Viscount Torrington. British National
    shelfmark: X.700/3328.
    “Heroes in the Struggle for Independence” Sunday Times, February 5, 2012. Accessed February
    7
    th, 2012. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/120205/FunDay/fut_01.html.
    Hill, Gord. 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance. Oakland: PM Press, 2009.
    Hill, Susan. “‘Travelling Down the River of Life Together in Peace and Friendship, Forever’:
    Haudenosaunne Land Ethics and Treaty Agreements as the Basis for Restructuring the
    Relationship with the British Crown.” In Leanne Simpson (ed.) Lighting the Eight Fire:
    The Liberation, Resurgence, and Protection of Indigenous Nations, 23 – 44, Winnipeg:
    Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2008.
    Hindess, Barry. “The Liberal Government of Unfreedom,” Alternatives 26/2 (2001): 93-111.
    ———. “Terrortory.” Alternatives 31/3 (2006): 243-257.
    “History” Sri Lanka Railways. Last modified August 2, 2011. Accessed Jan. 8, 2017.
    http://www.railway.gov.lk/web/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=137&I
    temid=181&lang=en
    Hobsbaum, Eric. On History. New York: The New Press, 1997.
    Hooja, Bhupinder and Chaman Lal (eds.) Bhagat Singh, The Jail Notebook and Other Writings.
    New Delhi: LeftWord, 2011.
    Hook, Sidney. From Hegel to Marx. New York: Colombia University Press, 1950.
    “Interview with Rebel Chief Kohnhumbra Ratteralle.” Ceylon Gazette May 16, 1818. Reprinted
    in the Madras Courier. British National Library, shelfmark: OMF/SM 126.
    Jayasinghe, Amal. “Sri Lanka shows rebel chief’s ‘body’, president declares victory.”
    news.com.au, May 20, 2009, accessed on October 18, 2016,
    http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/rebel-chiefs-body-shown-on-tv/story-e6frfku0-
    1225713513715
    Jeffries, Sir Charles. Ceylon: The Path to Independence. London: Pall Mall Press, 1962.
    309
    Jenkins, Keith (ed.). The Postmodern History Reader. London: Routledge, 1997.
    “The Kandyan Convention Proclamation of 2 March 1815” in G.C. Mendis (ed.) The
    Colebrooke-Cameron Papers: Documents on British Colonial Policy in Ceylon 1796 –
    1833 Volume Two, 227 – 230. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956.
    Kapferer, Bruce. Legends of People, Myths of States: Violence, Intolerance, and Political
    Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia. New York: Berghan, 2011.
    Kayaoglu, Turan. “Westphalian Eurocentrism in International Relations Theory.” International
    Studies Review 12 (2010): 193 – 217.
    Kelegama, Saman. “Open Regionalism in the Indian Ocean: How Relevant is the APEC Model
    for the IOR-ARC?” Journal of The Asia Pacific Economy 5/3 (2001): 255 – 274.
    Kipling, Rudyard. “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands.”
    History Matters. Accessed January 8, 2017. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5478/
    Krasner, Stephen. “The Case for Shared Sovereignty.” Journal of Democracy 16/1 (2005): 69 –
    83.
    ———. “Sovereignty: An Institutional Perspective.” Comparative Political Studies 21/1 (1988):
    66 – 94.
    ———. Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.
    Korf, Benedikt. “Cartographic Violence: Engaging a Sinhala kind of geography.” In C. Brun and
    T. Jazeel (eds.) Spatializing Politics: Culture, Politics, and Geography in Postcolonial Sri
    Lanka, 100 – 121. New Delhi: Sage, 2009.
    Kranz, Fredrick. (ed.) History from Below. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988.
    Krishna, Sankaran. Postcolonial Insecurities: India, Sri Lanka, and the Question of Nationhood.
    New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999.
    Lai, Larissa. Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and
    1990s. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2014.
    Lake, David A. “The New Sovereignty in International Relations.” International Studies Review
    5/3 (2003): 303 – 323.
    Lal, Vinay. “Walking with the Subalterns, Riding with the Academy: The Curious Ascendency
    of Indian History.” Studies in History 17/1 (2001): 101 – 134.
    310
    Lawrence, Bonita and Kim Anderson. “Introduction to ‘Indigenous Women: State of Our
    Nations.’” Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture, and Social Justice 29/2 (2005) 1
    – 8.
    Lawrence, Bonita and Enakshi Dua. “Decolonizing Anti-Racism.” Social Justice 32/4 (2005):
    120 – 143.
    Lee, Christopher. “Between a Moment and an Era: The Origins and Afterlives of Bandung.” In
    Christopher Lee (ed.) Making a World After Empire: The Bandung Moment and its
    Political Afterlives, 1 – 39. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010.
    “Legislative Council” in Pamphlets on Ceylon, circa 1842. British National Library, shelfmark:
    8023.cc.7.
    “Letter to the Editor of the Morning Star by A Jaffna Man Residing in Kandy, Aug. 10, 1848”
    British National Library, shelfmark: 14172.k.4.
    Letters, Memoirs, and Papers of Rev. James Lynch, 1808 – 1858. Wesleyan Methodist
    Missionary Society, Archive Special Series (H-2723) Box 628 (1) Ceylon. J. Lynch 1808
    – 1814 No. 991.
    List, Fredrick. The National System of Political Economy. Translated by G.A. Matile.
    Philadelphia: J.P. Lippincott & Co., 1856 [1843].
    Locke, John. Two Treatises on Government. London: Printed for R. Butler, etc., 1821, accessed
    May 4 2010, http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/authors/locke.
    “LTTE’s defeat is victory for country: Sri Lankan President” India Today, May 19, 2009.
    Accessed November 23 2010.
    http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/specials/asiangames2010/Story/42765/LTTE.
    Malagoda, Kitsiri. “Sinhalese Buddhism: Orthodox and Syncretistic, Traditional and Modern,”
    Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Sciences (n.s.) 2/2 (1977): 246 – 270.
    Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. “On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a
    Concept.” Cultural Studies 21/2 (2006): 240 – 270.
    ———. “On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept.” In
    Walter Mignolo and Arturo Escobar (eds.) Globalization and the Decolonial Option, 94 –
  6. New York: Routledge, 2010.
    Mangalaruby, S. “The Recommendation of the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission in 1833
    Marked the Beginning of a new Era in Ceylon – a view” Asia Pacific Journal of Research
    26/1(2015): 14 – 18.
    Maritain, Jacques. “The Philosophical Attack.” In W.J. Stankiewicz (ed.) In Defense of
    Sovereignty, 41 – 64. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
    311
    Marx, Karl. “The British Rule in India” New York Daily Tribune June 25, 1853 reprinted in On
    Colonialism: Articles from the New York Tribune and Other Writings by Karl Marx and
    Frederick Engels. New York: International Publishers, 1972: 40.
    ———. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1. Translated by Ben Folks. Toronto:
    Penguin Books, 1990 [1867].
    Matsunaga, Jennifer. “The Two Faces of Transitional Justice: Theorizing the Incommensurability
    of transnational justice and decolonization in Canada.” Decolonization: Indigeneity,
    Education & Society 5/1 (2016): 24 – 44.
    McConnell, F. “De facto, displaced, tacit: The sovereign articulations of the Tibetan
    Government-in-Exile.” Political Geography 28/6 (2009): 343 – 352.
    ———. “The Fallacy and Promise of the Territorial Trap: Sovereign Articulations of
    Geopolitical Anomalies.” Geopolitics 15/4 (2010): 762 – 768.
    Mendis, G.C. Ceylon Under the British. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 2005 [1952].
    ———. (ed.). The Colebrooke-Cameron Papers: Documents on British Colonial Policy in
    Ceylon 1796 – 1833, Volume II, 231 – 243. London: Oxford University Press, 1956.
    Metcalf, Thomas. Ideologies of the Raj. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
    Meyer, Eric. “‘Enclave’ plantations, ‘hemmed-in’ villages and dualistic representations in
    Colonial Ceylon.” Journal of Peasant Studies 19/3-4 (1993): 199 – 228.
    Mignolo, Walter. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options.
    Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.
    ———. “Delinking: The rhetoric of modernity, the logic of coloniality and the grammar of decoloniality.” Cultural Sudies 21/2 (2007): 449 – 514.
    ———. “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference.” The South Atlantic
    Quarterly 101/1 (2002): 57 – 96.
    ———. “On Pluriversality.” October 20, 2013. Accessed July 17, 2013.
    http://waltermignolo.com/on-pluriversality/.
    “Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies Collision Stimulated.” Last modified May 31 2012.
    Accessed February 17, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4disyKG7XtU.
    Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri
    Lanka. “Battle Progress Map” (2008). Accessed November 23, 2013.
    http://www.defence.lk/orbat/Default.asp.
    312
    Mohanty, Chandra. “‘Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through AntiCapitalist Struggles.” Signs 28/2 (2003): 499 – 537.
    Moloney, Pat. “Hobbes, Savagery, and International Anarchy.” American Political Science
    Review 105/1 (2011): 189 – 204.
    Munro, Martin and Robbie Shilliam. “Alternative sources of cosmopolitanism: nationalism,
    universalism and Créolité in Francophone Caribbean thought.” In Robbie Shilliam (ed.),
    International Relations and Non-Western Thought: Imperialism, Colonialism and
    Investigations of Global Modernity, 159 – 177. New York: Routledge, 2011.
    Munslow, Alun. The Future of History. London: Palgrave, 2010.
    Murphy, A.B. “The sovereign state system as political-territorial ideal: historical and
    contemporary considerations.” In T. Bierstreker and C. Weber (eds.) State sovereignty as
    Social Construct, 81 – 120. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
    “NASA’s Hubble Shows Milky Way is Destined for Head On Collission with Andromeda.”
    NASA. May 31, 2012. Accessed February 17, 2013.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AzdknptCmo
    Nissan, E. and R.L. Stirrat. “The generation of communal identities.” In J. Spencer (ed.) Sri
    Lanka: History and the Roots of Conflict. 19 – 44. London: Routledge, 2004 [1990].
    “No Mention of Prabhakaran in Rajapaksa’s Victory Speech.” Times of India May 19, 2009.
    Accessed on October 18, 2016, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/Nomention-of-Prabhakaran-in-Rajapaksas-victory-speech/articleshow/4550436.cms
    “Notes on the trial of 12 prisoners regarding the attempted rebellion of 1824. Tried in Kandy.”
    British National Archives, shelfmark: CO/416/20.
    Ó Tuathail, Gearóid. Critical Geopolitics: The Politics of Writing Global Space. Minneapolis:
    University of Minnesota Press. 1996.
    Obeysekere, Gananath. “Buddhism, Ethnicity, and Identity: A Problem in Buddhist History.” In
    Mahinda Deegale (ed.) Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka, 134 – 162. New
    York: Routledge, 2006.
    Ondaatje, Michael. Running in the Family. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1982.
    Onuf, Nicholas. “Sovereignty: Outline of a Conceptual History.” Alternatives 16 (1991): 425 –
    446.
    “Ordinance No. 8, 1848 (Road Ordinance).” British National Archives, shelfmark: CO 56/5;
    313
    “Ordinance No. 12, 1840: To Prevent Encroachments Upon Crown Lands.” British National
    Archives, shelfmark: CO 56/1.
    Osiander, Andreas. “Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth.”
    International Organization 55/2 (2001): 251 – 287.
    Pagden, Anthony. European Encounters with the New World. New Haven: Yale University
    Press, 1993.
    ———. “Fellow Citizens and Imperial Subjects: Conquest and Sovereignty in Europe’s
    Overseas Empires.” History and Theory 44 (2005): 28 – 46.
    Panagia, Davide. “‘Partage du sensible’: the distribution of the sensible” in Jean-Phillippe
    Deranty (ed.) Jacques Rancière Key Concepts, 95 – 104. Durham: Acumen, 2010.
    Parasram, Ajay, Michael Spacek, and Martha Chertkow, “Refugees and Peacebuilding in Africa:
    A review of two-decades of cases.” Paper presented at Canadian Association for Forced
    Migration and Refugee Studies conference, Montreal, Quebec, May 11-13, 2011.
    Parasram, Ajay. “Call In the Neighbours: Indian Views on Regionalizing Afghanistan
    Strategies.” Asia Pacific Bulletin May 14, 2009. https://goo.gl/8urzW0.
    ———. “Erasing Tamil Eelam: De/Re Territorialization in the Global War on Terror.”
    Geopolitics 17/4 (2012): 903 – 925.
    ———. “The long road to de-colonisation: Understanding our political present.” In Jai Parasram,
    Far from the Mountain: Political notes and commentaries, xxi – xxiv. St. Anns: Paria
    Publishing Co. Ltd., 2013.
    ———. “Postcolonial Territory and the Coloniality of the State.” Caribbean Journal of
    International Relations & Diplomacy 2/4 (2014): 51 – 79.
    ———. “Regionalizing ‘AfPak’ in the Graveyard of Hubris.” Paper presented at the Canadian
    Asian Studies Association conference, Vancouver, B.C, Oct. 8 – 11, 2009.
    ———. “We Nah Want No Devil Philosophy: A Note on the Decolonial Science of The Black
    Pacific.” The DisOrder of Things Symposium on The Black Pacific. February 1, 2016.
    https://goo.gl/L3SPL5.
    Peebles, Patrick. The History of Sri Lanka. London: Greenwood Press, 2006.
    ———. The Plantation Tamils of Ceylon. London: Leicester University Press, 2001.
    Perera, Nihal. “Indigenising the Colonial City: Late 19th
    -century Colombo and its Landscape.”
    Urban Studies 39/9 (2002): 1703 – 1721.
    314
    ———. Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka.
    Boulder: Westview Press, 1998.
    Perera, S.G. The Jesuits in Ceylon. Madura: De Nobili Press, 1944.
    Philalethes. “Philalethes to editor of the Colombo Journal, July 13 1832.” Letters on Colonial
    Policy, particularly as related to Ceylon. (Reprinted from the Colombo Journal.
    Colombo: P.M. Elders, 1833. British National Library, shelfmark: 8007.b.24.
    ———. “Letter to the editor of the Colombo Journal dated July 27, 1832.” Letters on Colonial
    Policy, particularly as applicable to Ceylon. Reprinted from the Ceylon Journal. British
    National Library, shelfmark: 793.m.15.
    ———. “Philalethes letter to the editor of the Colombo Journal dated July 27, 1832.” Letters on
    Colonial Policy, particularly as applicable to Ceylon. Reprinted from the Ceylon Journal
    British National Library, shelfmark: 793.m.15.
    Phillips, Coleman, Barrister-at-Law, New Zealand. British Colonization and British Commerce
    (London: Edward Stanford, 55, Charing Cross, S.W., 1875). British National Library,
    shelfmark: 8154.e.1.(9.)
    “Philoyenues,” letter to unnamed “sir” on the Baptism of two High Priests from Ceylon,
    Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. (London). Archive Special Series Biographical.
    (H-2723) Box No. 628(1) Ceylon Papers of A. Clark Var. Dates No. 1002.
    “Plan for the Safe and Profitable Conversion of Colonial Slaves Into Free Labourers.” circa
  7. British National Library, shelfmark: General Reference Collection 8154.e.1.(6.).
    “Plan to resettle Tamil IDPs in the midst of Army and Sinhala Settlements.” Sri Lanka Guardian,
    August 24, 2009. Accessed September 3 2010.
    http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/08/plan-to-resettle-tamil-idps-in-midst-of.html.
    Polyani, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of our Times.
    Boston: Beacon Press, 2001 [1944].
    Powell, Geoffrey. The Kandyan Wars: The British Army in Ceylon 1803 – 1818. London: Lee
    Cooper, 1973.
    Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. New York: Routledge,

  8. “Proclamation at a Convention held on the 2nd day of March in the Year of Christ 1815 and the
    Cingalese year 1736.” Accessed November 4 2014.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/09/The_Kandyan_Convention_of_18
    15.jpg
    315
    “Proclamation by the Queen in Council to the Princes, Chiefs and people of India (published by
    the Governor-General at Allahabad, November 1st 1858).” British National Library,
    shelfmark: IOR/L/PS/18/D154.
    “Proclamation of 2nd March, 1815” Revised Edition of the Ordinances of the Government of
    Ceylon, Vol. 1 1799 – 1882 (Colombo: G.J.A. Skeen, Government Printer, 1894): 16 –
    18.
    “Proclamation of 21st November, 1818” Revised Edition of the Ordinances of the Government of
    Ceylon, Vol. 1 1799 – 1882 (Colombo: G.J.A. Skeen, Government Printer, 1894): 18 –
    21.
    “The Proclamation of 21 November 1818 issued after the Rebellion of 1818” in G.C. Mendis
    (ed.) The Colebrooke-Cameron Papers: Documents on British Colonial Policy in Ceylon
    1796 – 1833, Volume II, 231 – 243. London: Oxford University Press, 1956.
    Quijano, Aníbal. “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality.” Cultural Studies 21/2-3 (2007): 168 –

  9. ———. “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America” Nepantla: Views from South
    1/3 (2000): 533 – 580.
    Ramnath, Maia. Decolonizing Anarchism: An Antiauthoritarian History of India’s Liberation
    Struggle. Oakland: AK Press, 2011.
    Rancière, Jacques. “Ten Theses on Politics” Theory & Event 5/3 (2001): 1 – 18.
    “The Rebellion,” Morning Star Sept. 14 1848. British National Library, shelfmark: 14172.k.4.
    “Report of Colebrooke upon the Compulsory Services.” In G.C. Mendis (ed.) ColebrookeCameron Papers: Documents on British Colonial Policy in Ceylon 1796 – 1833, 189 –
  10. London: Oxford University Press, 1956.
    “Reports and minutes of meetings of Asian prime ministers in Ceylon: proposed Afro-Asian
    Conference in Djakarta, later held in Bandung.” British National Archives, shelfmark: FO
    371/116981.
    Ricardo, David. On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. London: John Murray,
    1817.
    Roberts, Michael. Facets of Modern Ceylon History Through the Letters of Jeronis Pieris.
    Colombo: Hans Publishers Limited, 1975. British National Library, shelfmark:
    X.800/27313.
    Roberts, Michael. “A Tribute to G.C. Mendis: Pioneering Tertiary Education in History for
    Lanka.” Thuppahi’s Blog. July 2, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
    https://goo.gl/g0s9Wx.
    316
    Rogers, John D. “Early British Rule and Social Classification in Lanka.” Modern Asian Studies
    38/3 (2004): 626-631.
    Rojas, Cristina. Civilization and Violence: Regimes of Representation in Nineteenth Century
    Colombia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
    ———. “Contesting the Colonial Logics of the International: Towards a Relational Politics for
    the Pluriverse.” International Political Sociology 10/4 (2016): 369 – 382.
    ———. “Identity Formation, Violence, and the Nation-State in Nineteenth-Century Colombia.”
    Alternatives 20 (1995).
    ———. “International Political Economy/Development Otherwise.” Globalizations 4/4 (2007):
    573 – 587.
    Rostow, W.W. The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge:
    Cambridge University Press, 1960.
    “The Roundtable Conference: A Conference of Leaders of Various Communities held to discuss
    the Parliamentary Commission on the Constitutional Reforms of Ceylon,” Young Ceylon,
    August 1944. British National Archives shelfmark: FCO/141/2339.
    “Royal Instructions to Governor North.” In G.C. Mendis (ed.) The Colebrooke-Cameron Papers:
    Documents on British Colonial Policy in Ceylon 1796 – 1833, Volume II, 70 – 79.
    London: Oxford University Press, 1956.
    Ruggie, John. “Continuity and Transformation in the World Polity: Towards a Neorealist
    Synthesis.” In Robert Keohane (ed.) Neorealism and Its Critics, 131 – 158. New York:
    Colombia University Press, 1986.
    ———. “Territoriality and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations.”
    International Organization 47/1 (1993): 139-174.
    Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Random House, 1978.
    Sassen, Saskia. “Making territory work analytically beyond its connection to the state” in
    Stephen Legg, “The Birth of Territory: A Review Forum.” Journal of Historical
    Geography 50 (2015): 109 – 188.
    Scott, David. Refashioning Futures: Criticism after Postcoloniality. New Jersey: Princeton
    University Press, 1999.
    Scott, James C. The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia.
    New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
    317
    ———. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Conditions Have
    Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
    ———. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven: Yale
    University Press, 1987.
    Seth, Sanjay. Subject Lessons: The Western Education of Colonial India. Durham: Duke
    University Press, 2007.
    Shaffer, Linda. “Southernization.” Journal of World History 5/1 (1994): 1 – 21.
    Shani, Giorgio. “Towards a Post-Western IR: The Umma, Khalsa Panth, and Critical
    International Relations Theory.” International Studies Review 2008, 10/4: 722 – 734.
    Sharp, Joanne. Geographies of Postcolonialism. London: Sage, 2009.
    Shaw, Karena. Indigeneity and Political Theory: Sovereignty and the limits of the political. New
    York: Routledge, 2008.
    Shekhawat, V.S. Sri Lanka: The Politics of Tamil Eelam. Jaipur: Ram Kishore Sharma, 2010.
    Shilliam, Robbie. The Black Pacific: Anti-Colonial Struggles and Oceanic Connections. London:
    Bloomsbury, 2015.
    ———. “Forget English Freedom, Remember Atlantic Slavery: Common law, Commercial Law,
    and the Significance of Slavery for Classical Political Economy.” New Political Economy
    17/5 (2012): 591 – 6093.
    ———. “Non-Western thought and international relations.” In Robbie Shilliam (ed.),
    International Relations and Non-Western Thought: Imperialism, Colonialism and
    Investigations of Global Modernity, 1 – 11. New York: Routledge, 2011.
    Simpson, Leanne. Islands of Decolonial Love. Winnepeg: ARP Books, 2013.
    ———. (ed.). Lighting the Eight Fire: The Liberation, Resurgence, and Protection of Indigenous
    Nations. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2008.
    Spivak, G.C. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Nelson, C. and Grossberg, L. (eds.) Marxism and
    the Interpretations of Culture, 271 – 313. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1988.
    ———. Nationalism and the Imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
    Stengers, Isabelle. “Cosmopolitics: Learning to Think with Sciences, Peoples, and Natures.”
    Keynote presentation of “To See Where It Takes Us” series, Halifax, Nova Scotia. March
    5, 2012. http://goo.gl/4Pt4du.
    318
    Steuart, James. “Appendix: On the British Protection of Buddhism in 1844.” In Observations on
    Colonel Forbes’ Pamphlet on the recent rebellion in Ceylon. Colombo: Examiner Press,
  11. British National Library, shelfmark: 8244.b.3.(2.).
    ———. “James Steuart to Lt. Colonel Colin Campbell 1842.” British National Library,
    shelfmark: T 39161(a).
    ———. Notes on Ceylon and Its Affairs During a period of Thirty-Eight Years Ending in 1855.
    London: Printed for private circulation, 1862.
    Tagore, Rabindranath. “Nationalism in Japan.” The Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore.
    Accessed August 20, 2013. https://goo.gl/32uj72.
    Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka.
    Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
    ———. “The Galactic Polity in Southeast Asia.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3/3
    (2013): 503 – 534.
    ———. “The Galactic Polity: The Structure of Political Kingdoms in Southeast Asia.” Annals of
    the New York Academy of Sciences 293/1 (1977): 69 – 97.
    ———. World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand
    Against Historical Background. Cambridge University Press, 1976.
    Taylor, Peter. “The State as Container: Territoriality in the Modern World System.” Progress in
    Human Geography 18/2 (1994): 151 – 162.
    Tennent, James Emerson. “Tennent to Committee.” Minutes of Evidence Taken Before the March
    25 1850. Third Report from Select Committee on Ceylon (Session 1850). Accessed July
    12 2011. https://goo.gl/MeYCyM.
    Teschke, Benno. “Theorizing the Westphalian System of States: International Relations from
    Absolutism to Capitalism.” European Journal of International Relations 8/1 (2002): 5 –
    48.
    “The Roundtable Conference: A Conference of Leaders of Various Communities held to discuss
    the Parliamentary Commission on the Constitutional Reforms of Ceylon” Young Ceylon,
    August 1944. British National Archives shelfmark: FCO/141/2339
    Thompson, E.P. The Making of the English Working Class. New York: Random House, 1966
    [1963].
    Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War. Mount Holyoke College. Accessed April 13,
  12. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/melian.htm
    319
    Tilley, Lisa and Ajay Parasram. “Global Environmental Harm, Internal Frontiers, and Indigenous
    Protective Ontologies.” In Robbie Shilliam and Olivia Rutazibwa (eds.), Routledge
    Handbook of Postcolonial Studies. New York: Routledge, 2017. Forthcoming.
    Tilly, Charles. Coercion, Capital, and European States: AD 990 – 1990. Cambridge: Basil
    Blackwell Publishers, 1990.
    ———. “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime.” In Peter B. Evans, Dietrich
    Rueschemeyer and Theda Skocpol (eds.) Bringing the State Back In, 169-191. New York:
    Cambridge University Press, 1985.
    Todorov, Tzvetan. The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. Translated by Richard
    Howard. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984.
    United Kingdom. “Agricultural Distress.” Hansard Parliamentary Debate Vol. 1 Sec. 635 – 93
    (March 30, 1820). Accessed February 24, 2014. https://goo.gl/dKayJd.
    ———. “Duty on East India Sugars.” Hansard Parliamentary Debates Volume 5 (May 4, 1821).
    Accessed February 24, 2014.
    http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1821/may/04/duty-on-east-india-sugars.
    Vanden Driesen, I.H. Indian plantation labour in Sri Lanka: aspects of the history of
    immigration in the 19th century. Nedlands: University of Western Australia, 1982.
    ———. “A Note on the rise of plantations and the genesis of Indian labour migration to Sri
    Lanka,” Asian Studies 14/2 (1976): 15 – 24.
    Vimalananda, Tennakoon. Sri Wickrema, Brownrigg, and Ehelepola: being letters addressed to
    the Home Government from 1811-1815 by Major General John Wilson and Lieut.-
    General Robert Brownrigg, Governor of Ceylon. Colombo: Gunasena, 1984. British
    National Library, shelfmark: V 26078.
    Wallerstein, Immanuel. The Modern World System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the
    European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. New York: Academic Press, 1974.
    ———. The Modern World System 1: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European
    Economy in the Sixteenth Century. London: University of California Press, 2011 [1974].
    Watson, Paul. “Leaving Luna Alone,” Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. June 18th, 2004.
    Accessed on September 2, 2014. http://www.seashepherd.fr/news-and-media/editorial040618-1.html.
    Weber, Max. “Politics as a Vocation” (1919): 1 – 27. Anthropological Research on the
    Contemporary. Accessed August 20, 2013. http://anthropos-lab.net/wp/wpcontent/uploads/2011/12/Weber-Politics-as-a-Vocation.pdf.
    320
    Weckowicz, Helen Liebel. “Ranke’s Theory of History and the German Modernist School.”
    Canadian Journal of History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire, 23/April (1988): 73 – 93.
    Wenzlhuemer, Roland. From Coffee to Tea Cultivation in Ceylon 1800 – 1900. Boston: Brill,
    2008.
    ———. “The Singhalese Contribution to Estate Labour in Ceylon, 1881 – 1891.” Journal of the
    Economic and Social History of the Orient 48/3 (2005): 442 – 458.
    Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (London) Archive Special Series – Notes and
    Transcripts. Box No 570, fiches 90 – 93.
    Wickramasinghe, Nira. Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities.
    Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006.
    ———. Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History of Contested Identities. London: Hurst, 2006.
    ———. Sri Lanka in the Modern Age: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
    Wijeyeratne, Roshan de Silva. “Appendix B: Violence, Evil and the State in Sri Lanka:
    Revisiting an Ontological Approach to Sinhalese Nationalism.” In Bruce Kapferer,
    Legends of People, Myths of State: Violence, Intolerance, and Political Culture in Sri
    Lanka and Australia, 309. New York: Berghahn Books, 2011.
    ———. “The Mandala State in Pre-British Sri Lanka: The Cosmographical Terrain of Contested
    Sovereignty in the Theravada Buddhist Tradition” in A. Wagner and Richard K. Sherwin
    (eds.) Law, Culture, and Visual Studies, 573 – 598. Volumes 1 and 2. United States:
    Springer Publishing, 2014. E-Book.
    Wijimanne, A. War and Peace in Post-Colonial Ceylon 1948–1991. New Delhi: Orient Longman
    Limited, 1996.
    Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. London: Andre Deutsch Limited, 1964 [1944].
    Wilson, A. J. Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: Its Origins and Development in the Nineteenth and
    Twentieth Centuries. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2000.
    Wolf, Eric. Europe and the People Without History. Berkley: University of California Press,

  13. Yiftachel, O. and As’ad, G. “Understanding ‘Ethno-Cratic’ Regimes: The Politics of Seizing
    Contested Territory,” Political Geography 23/6(2004): 658.
    Zubair, Lareef. “Modernization of Sri Lanka’s Traditional Irrigation Systems and Sustainability.”
    Science Technology & Society 10/2 (2005): 161 – 195.
About editor 3017 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply