Sociology

Ajay Parasram

This chapter makes the case that formal political independence cannot be understood as decolonization. This is not to mitigate the importance of British departure; rather, it is to establish the point that by the time of formal political independence, the territorial and political structure of the state had become the vehicle through which freedom would be achieved as opposed to an “alien” or “contaminated” structure. In making this case, the chapter explores relevant concepts in decolonial international relations that are key to understanding the how and why universality incubates colonial violence.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state
Ajay Parasram

Chapter 5 returns to the coloniality of the archives and emphasizes their political and historical limits. Seeking to “archive in relief,” it reinterprets what mainstream historians have described as a period of relative tranquillity as a period of simmering insurrection, or what Jayawardena (2010), working from the Marxist tradition, describes as “perpetual ferment.” It makes a case that scholars writing Sri Lanka’s history have taken the structure of the state-nation for granted, and in so doing have perpetuated colonial ontological assumptions about human social, political, and economic development. The chapter contends that this has made possible a modernist reading of history in which “traditional” people were overwhelmed by a technologically superior British; however, the chapter reads the same history in a way that places local (Kandyan) and foreign (British) sovereignties as equal but distinct ontological practices to create a more vibrant picture of simmering resistance. This resistance to the new mode of centralizing state eventually gave way, after the 1848 Matale Rebellion, to a mode and form of anti-colonial resistance that instead sought to inherit or take over the state apparatus rather than resist it. This would happen a full generation later in neighbouring India after the Great Rebellion of 1857 and the rise of national consciousness in the late nineteenth century, but the process began earlier in Ceylon. The chapter concludes by looking at the rise of Protestant Buddhism and Hinduism in the late nineteenth century and the centralization of sites and spaces of protest in Colombo rather than Kandy.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state
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Pluriversal sovereignty and research
Ajay Parasram

The Conclusion brings together the various threads of ontological collision, political economy, colonial contamination, and imperial transformation to complete a picture of how the process of colonial state formation established the territorial and conceptual space within which toxic forms of anti-colonial nationalism could later flourish. These forms of toxic nationalism arose in response to the acceptance of the statist “rules of the game,” so to speak, that gradually came to shift the strategies of anti-colonial organizing not only in Ceylon by 1848, but also in India a decade later. Here the book returns to the present day, outlining research trajectories and decolonial possibilities for identifying historical sites of sovereign ontological “collisions” in order to study them pluriversally.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state
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Total territorial rule and the universal state
Ajay Parasram

The Introduction begins with the violence of the immediate post-civil-war period in Sri Lanka, and the postcolonial obsession with “total territorial rule” as a marker of sovereign independence. It makes the argument for thinking of the “state” as coming decidedly before “nation,” and describes the historical context of 1815, which is taken to be the moment of sovereign consolidation of the island under British rule. Arguing against this date, the Introduction makes the case that 1815–1848 should be understood as a period of sovereign ontological collision, through which Kandyan-Buddhist and British-Christian understandings of sovereignty interacted and co-constituted the state. The Introduction introduces method of “archiving in relief” and the conceptual importance of rejecting the historical narrative that colonized people were “pre-political” with reference to scholarly debates in subaltern studies, postcolonial studies, and Sri Lankan studies. Finally the Introduction offers a summary of the chapters, outlining the rest of the book.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state
Ajay Parasram

This chapter details the historical encounter between the Kandyan Kingdom and the British, which gave rise to the 1815 Kandyan Convention, a single legal document with different ontological meanings for the different signatories. Building on Chapter 1’s description of plural ontology, the chapter makes the case for thinking about sovereign encounters as a kind of “galactic” collision, through a metaphor based on how actual galaxies collide. Rather than bumping against one another, galaxies pass through one another, reformulating and disrupting each other in different ways but ultimately producing something new from the violence of the encounter. Similarly, in the sovereign ontological collision between them, the British and the Kandyans passed through and transformed one another in critical ways, including changing the geography, political economy, and raison d’état. The chapter draws on S. J. Tambiah’s work on the galactic mandala system of states in Buddhist South-East Asia to ground this cosmic metaphor in the political history of the mid nineteenth century.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state
Imperial encounters in Sri Lanka
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This book documents the political and cosmological processes through which the idea of “total territorial rule” at the core of the modern international system came into being in the context of early to mid-nineteenth-century Ceylon (Sri Lanka). It develops a decolonial theoretical framework informed by a “pluriverse” of multiple ontologies of sovereignty to argue that the territorial state itself is an outcome of imperial globalization. Anti-colonialism up to the mid nineteenth century was grounded in genealogies and practices of sovereignty that developed in many localities. By the mid to late nineteenth century, however, the global state system and the states within it were forming through colonizing and anti-colonizing vectors. The modern territorial state predates modern nationalism and created a contaminated container in which anticolonialism had been constricted by the late nineteenth century in Ceylon, but also elsewhere in the British Empire. By focusing on the ontological conflicts that shaped the state and empire, we can rethink the birth of the British Raj and place it in Ceylon some fifty years earlier than in India. In this way, the book makes a theoretical contribution to postcolonial and decolonial studies in globalization and international relations by considering the ontological significance of “total territorial rule” as it emerged historically in Ceylon. Through emphasizing one important manifestation of modernity and coloniality – the territorial state – the book contributes to research that studies the politics of ontological diversity, sovereignty, postcolonial and decolonial international studies, and globalization through colonial encounters.

Ajay Parasram

This chapter focuses on how a universal, British, and Christian gaze operated in a way that assumed the spiritual, political, and intellectual inferiority of non-Christians in the early nineteenth century through positioning the Kandyan Kingdom as being primitive on the one hand, and then positioning Buddhism and Hinduism as being too far removed from the “truth” of Christian religion. Focusing on archival sources, the chapter sheds light on how the British understood their superiority in universalist terms; this is juxtaposed with a critical reading that seeks to make visible the pluriversal lived realities of people in Ceylon who were long accustomed to navigating simultaneous cosmologies. The chapter offers a historical narrative of the events that set the stage for early nineteenth-century Kandy, including a widely circulating myth concerning the pounding of children to death on the order of the Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. It discusses the religious politics and ontological conflict between Christian missionaries and the Buddhists they encountered through drawing on missionary archives and key secondary texts, emphasizing the importance of the early nineteenth century rather than the more commonly studied period of “Protestant Buddhism” in the latter half of the century. The account outlines the early relationship between education, evangelism, and colonization, and dwells on how the inability to move beyond a universal ontological framework limited and undermined the ability of missionaries to actually understand the “natives” they sought to civilize.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state
Externalizing violence, relational state formation, and empire
Ajay Parasram

Chapter 2, “Universal sovereignty: externalizing violence, relational state formation, and empire,” focuses on the coloniality of key concepts such as territory, sovereignty, and empire to argue that despite being one of the most hotly discussed structures in social science, “the state” itself remains largely de-politicized at the ontological level. Re-politicizing the state and its core components requires coming to terms with how these normalized concepts prevent ontological engagements that can meaningfully destabilize the hegemony of Eurocentric state.

in Pluriversal sovereignty and the state
Tensions and tendencies
Nicholas Apoifis

There are flickers of antagonism that often precede that combustive moment when a protest march turns into a violent street-protest. This chapter explores some of the more prominent tensions within the anarchist and anti-authoritarian space. It discusses tensions around gender and sexuality politics; tendencies and currents; tactics and media engagement, as well as violence and solidarity. The Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian space is rife with tensions and frictions that constitute the practical consequences of this freedom. Significant conflicts are apparent on issues of gender and sexual politics, and on suitable tactics and appropriate forms of direct action. There is no one Athenian anarchism or anti-authoritarian current that can be defined as the Athens's way. In the face of all these tensions, disagreements and catalysts for conflict, it is remarkable that the space is still such a prominent and prolific radical force.

in Anarchy in Athens
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An ethnography of militancy, emotions and violence

The Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement has been reinvigorated in recent years. Its public protests and battles against the Greek state, police and other capitalist institutions are prolific and highly visible, replete with rioting, barricades and Molotov cocktails. This book is concerned not so much with anarchist theory, as with examining the forces that give the Athenian anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement its specific shape. The author draws on Alberto Melucci's (1995a) work on collective identity, while offering a first-hand, ethnographic account of Athenian anarchists and anti-authoritarians in action, based on his time there in 2011 and 2013, living, squatting and protesting within this milieu. In the course of the chapters of the book, the author argues that varying shades of anarchic tendencies, and ensuing ideological and practical disagreements, are overcome for the most part in (often violent) street-protests. Athenian anarchists and antiauthoritarians are a pertinent area of research because of both their politics and their geographical location. There is the whole 'rise of anarchism throughout the activist world' phenomenon, visible from Seattle to Genoa, Quebec City to São Paulo. Anarchist and anti-authoritarian social movements are prominent actors in resistance to the current phase of capitalism in multiple, global locations. Throughout Europe, North and Latin America, Asia and the Antipodes, radical resistance to neo-liberalism often has an anarchist and/ or anti-authoritarian cast.