Recasting The Half-Caste

Recasting The Half-Caste

Journal of Women’s History
Volume 22, Number 4, Winter 2010
E-ISSN: 1527-2036 Print ISSN: 1042-7961
pages 263-267

Kumari Jayawardena

In Sri Lanka, serious book reviews are not only few and far between, but authors also do not usually reply to reviews of their books. So while it was a real windfall to receive four reviews simultaneously, to comment briefly in reply is a rather unusual task. However, I really appreciate the reviews, and thank Shefali Chandra, Hilary Jones, Shoshana Keller, and Emma Teng for their perceptive insights and for opening up this discussion.

On a personal note, my academic background is multidisciplinary. I am not a “historian” with a degree in history, but a political scientist who specialized in industrial relations. My interests moved on to feminist history and I continue to be active in the women’s movement. Using these experiences, I have written on several issues ranging from working-class agitation to ethno-nationalism, feminism, peasant rebellion, and the rise of capitalism in Sri Lanka. In this book, I combine many of these themes, and as Shefali Chandra noted, I deal with “race, caste, class, sexuality, and nationalism”—a wide sweep, using examples from several countries.

I should also make it clear that my book is not a history of Euro-Asians, but a political study of the roots of colonial dissenting movements, including feminism, and the role of Euro-Asians as pioneers of struggles for democratic rights and against semifeudalism in South Asia. The word “Euro-Asian” is coined to include persons of mixed European and Asian origin in the maternal or paternal line. Emma Teng calls this “an important contribution” and states that the “highly fraught” issue of nomenclature “has been of great symbolic importance for those struggling for recognition,”—especially, if I may add, since those of mixed origin have historically been referred to by derogatory names. In Sri Lanka, the Euro-Asian “public intellectuals,” who had been educated in English, were inspired by the French Revolution and the European “Enlightenment.”…

Read or purchase the article here.

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