Class, Patriarchy and Ethnicity on Sri Lankan Plantations takes as its central theme the plantations of Sri Lanka, from their inception in the early nineteenth century to almost the present day in the twenty-first. Drawing on a wealth of archival material, it offers a detailed and compelling empirical narrative of the lives and struggles of plantation workers, who have constituted, for much of modern Sri Lankan history, the single largest organised workforce in the country. In doing so, it explores the complex links between power and class, gender and ethnic hierarchies both on the plantations and outside and crucially situates the labour movement on the plantations within the wider political and social economy of Sri Lanka.
The current volume begins by tracing the origins of the plantations in then Ceylon, the acquisition of Indian Tamil workers and the labour practices during the colonial period. This in turn contextualises the subsequent discussion on rising labour and political consciousness among plantation workers and their struggles for labour and democratic rights, which the authors track through the post-Independence period and into the twenty-first century. Particular attention is paid to the role of political parties, trade unions and other pressure groups in supporting or opposing these rights, within a background of class, ethnic, linguistic and nationalist consciousness and chauvinism. The book provides an astute analysis of the strategic alliances and political manoeuvres made by the various actors in this struggle.
This volume offers readers a truly integrated history of the labour movement on Sri Lankan plantations. It balances an empirically rich narrative with a nuanced analysis of the class, ethnic, linguistic and political consciousness that has informed and opposed the struggles of plantation labour on the island.
List of Tables and Figures
PART I: SLAVERY AND THE PLANTER RAJ
1. Legacies of Slavery
2. Influences of Slavery on Ceylon Plantations
3. ‘Our Own Form of Slavery’
4. ‘1001 Variations of Resistance’
PART II: OUTSIDERS CHALLENGE
THE PLANTER RAJ
5. Colonial Officials Raise Concerns
6. Urban Professionals Protest
7. The Indian Connection
8. Natesa Aiyar and the First Plantation Trade Union
9. Outsiders Demand Women’s Rights
10. The Left takes on the ‘Planter Raj’
PART III: FRANCHISE, NATIONAL
POLITICS AND MILITANT UNIONISM
11. Controversies and Contestations over Franchise
12. Wildfire in Lipton’ s Tea Garden
13. Industrial Relations
14. Workers’ Militancy in the Pre-Independence Period
PART IV: POLITICS OF CITIZENSHIP
15. Citizenship, Statelessness and Repatriation
16. Ethnic Tensions and Citizenship (1954–1970)
17. ‘Bare Subsistence to Grinding Poverty’
18. Political Concessions, Open Economy and Militancy
19. A Qualitative Leap Forward
PART V: DEMOCRATIC STRUGGLES
AND SOCIAL JUSTICE IN THE
20. Ethnic Conflict, Coalition Politics and Deepening Democracy
21. Social Justice and Human Development
22. Multiple Patriarchies and Politics
23. The Long March
Kumari Jayawardena is former Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Rachel Kurian is International Labour Economist, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague.