In this thesis I argue that Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka has functioned as a pathway of social mobility from the late 19th century to the contemporary period. The twin concerns of preserving the sasana and establishing Sinhala sovereignty has produced an ongoing struggle against various forms of globalisation, from colonialism, Christian proselytism, international economic access, foreign military and peacekeeping interventions, and more recently, a perceived Islamisation. Ideological resistance to these various types of globalisation has been an ongoing, central element of Sri Lankan politics, such that identifying threats to the nation is a necessary part of any successful Sinhala majoritarian political platform. However, in order to determine the nature of these threats and where they must be countered, Sinhala Buddhist nationalism will subscribe to certain global discourses, dependent on the conflict at hand. Thus, in the colonial period Buddhist nationalists would cite notions of scientific Buddhism and the Sinhala's Aryan racial superiority in order to criticise Christian missionaries and Muslim traders. In the last two decades Buddhist nationalism has turned towards the discourses of the War on Terror and radical Islam as a framework for nationalist agitation against the local Sri Lankan Muslim community. This process develops into a kind of threat-imitation, whereby Buddhist nationalists will shape their view of Buddhism to be in conflict with the perceived enemy. Thus, Christian or Muslim development and outreach in poor communities must be matched by a Buddhist development program; cow-protectionism becomes important for Sinhala Buddhists as a way to stymie Halal slaughter; and foreign Islamic terrorism becomes a reason that Buddhists should organise into mobs to attack minority communities. Indeed, the religious nature of the current enemy of Islam has meant that the Buddhist element of Sinhala identity has been emphasised, to the extent that their is an identification with Buddhism globally and some efforts to create transnational ties to Buddhist nationalist organisations in Myanmar and Thailand. Overall, what is often seen as most threatening to Buddhist nationalists is the possibility that other religious pathways to mobility, through Christian charity and development to Middle-Eastern Wahabi sponsorship, could be established in Sri Lanka. Alternate pathways would be seen to undermine the promise of modern Sinhala Buddhist sovereignty, that Sri Lanka is a unitary Buddhist state that will reward with status and power those who rise to become its defenders.


E319 Forgan Smith (Building 1)