From sovereignty to modernity: revisiting the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms – transforming the Buddhist and colonial imaginary in nineteenth century Ceylon

Casinader, Niranjan, de Silva-Wijeyeratne, Roshan and Godden, Lee 2018. From sovereignty to modernity: revisiting the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms – transforming the Buddhist and colonial imaginary in nineteenth century Ceylon. Comparative Legal History. 16 (1), pp. 34-64. doi:10.1080/2049677X.2018.1469273

TitleFrom sovereignty to modernity: revisiting the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms – transforming the Buddhist and colonial imaginary in nineteenth century Ceylon
TypeJournal article
AuthorsCasinader, Niranjan, de Silva-Wijeyeratne, Roshan and Godden, Lee
Abstract

The Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms (1831) have been characterised by David Scott (1995) as marking the transformation of colonial Sri Lanka from one kind of political rationality – that of mercantile sovereignty – to another – that of colonial governmentality. Whilst consonant with the view that the Commission marked a moment when the colonial administration moved away from a strategic reliance on Asokan or Buddhist forms of authority in the earliest phase of British rule, we argue that there is a more nuanced genealogy to this transition. The Reforms, while directed to the administration, judicial and political institutions of the colony, also contemplated extensive commercial restructuring that inculcated a self improvement mode into ‘everyday life’. Drawing on colonial archives, we show how elements of a logic of governmentality, such as educational, land, and fiscal reform, were utilised at different times by the colonial administration to commence the modernisation of the colony well before 1832. It is also evident that the transformation was partial, and at points strongly resisted by local Buddhist communities. Instead of marking a clear point of transformation, the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms gave legibility and a national imprimatur to a process already in train, while providing further impetus to a socio-political rationality that had begun to shift decades prior. The secular logic of the colonial State, however, was later to unleash a movement of Sinhalese Buddhist reform and cultural revaluation that generated, ‘a more modernised Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism to create expanding areas of social, cultural and religious life for the nationalist cause.’

Keywordscolonial governmentality; Asokan Persona; Buddhism and nationalism; colonial education; judicial reform; land tenure; contract and labour
JournalComparative Legal History
Journal citation16 (1), pp. 34-64
ISSN2049-677X
Year2018
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/2049677X.2018.1469273
Web address (URL)https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2049677X.2018.1469273
Publication dates
Published in printJul 2018
Published online24 Apr 2018

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Accepted author manuscript
Under embargo until 24 Oct 2019

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