The 1901 Census of Ceylon identified malaria as a “bane” of the island. And through the ensuing century a story of development has sprung around the control of this endemic disease. A story of development that is scripted by a postcolonial state, as it grew to espouse a hegemonic Sinhala nationalist ideology.
Decolonisation, Development and Disease looks at the dynamic interplay between malaria and its social, political and environmental milieu in Sri Lanka over an 80-year period from 1930 to 2010. The volume begins with an ethno-historical account of the accumulated body of indigenous knowledge and practices and cultural adaptation to fevers and how it saw a rapid decline with the arrival of western medicine. Then it analyses the consequences of the devastating malaria epidemic of 1934–35, which, affecting mainly the Sinhala South, in some ways shaped Sri Lanka’s transition from a colony to a postcolonial developmental state. The book also examines the manner in which civil war (1983–2009) triggered yet another outbreak of a malaria epidemic.
Employing postcolonial studies, post-development and discourse analysis, and examining colonial records, government statistics, oral history, ethnographic research and newspapers, this book challenges the conventional modernist wisdom relating to the role of tropical medicine in combating disease and points to the social and historical embeddedness of malaria epidemics.
Arriving at a time of reconciliation in Sri Lanka, this volume will be of interest to ethnographers, social historians, public health experts, administrators and students of political science.
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List of Abbreviations