Geethika Ilandari Dewa Dharmasinghe

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Cornell U.

Grant number

Gr. 9540

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Ilandari Dewa, Geethika D., Cornell U., Ithaca, NY - To aid research on 'Buddhist Nationalist Terror-Making in Today's World,' supervised by Dr. Anne M. Blackburn

GIITHIKA ILANDARI DEWA, then a graduate student at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, received a grant in October 2017 to aid research on “Buddhist Nationalist Terror-Making in Today’s World,” supervised by Dr. Anne M. Blackburn. This study explored the recent emergence of a militant, ultra-nationalist Sinhala Buddhist movement in Sri Lanka. The grantee considers a collective perception — a constructed imaginary that treats an increasing Muslim population, their businesses, and cultural practices as a form of Muslim fundamentalist terror. This imagined terror of Buddhist militants informs the practical experience and consciousness of ordinary citizens leading to real consequences that interrupts state sovereignty as a mode of governance. The existing literature on the relationship between the recent Buddhist militancy and the state in Sri Lanka argues that violence is enacted by these groups with state support and, as such, demonstrates a failure of the modern Sri Lankan state. However, this ethnographic research shows that there are deeper mechanisms and techniques at play at local levels where there is no state apparatus involvement as such. It reveals that the prominence of anti-Muslim sentiments (a rise of “cultural passions”) cuts across social classes rather than between them. Data collection involves participant observation, textual and discursive analysis, and in-depth interviews with the people of village donor and business organizations, leaders and monks of the movement and people who are members of the ultra-nationalist parties.