Dressing the Colonised Body explores popular, political and symbolic meanings assigned to dress in a variety of colonial contexts in Sri Lanka; thus it focuses on the politics of nationalism and identity under late colonialism.
Proceeding from the understanding that self-representation is at its peak at the moment of political independence, the author examines the lineages that exist between that moment in Sri Lanka and the colonial past, as also the meaning of the commemorations that took place on Independence Day. She examines changes at the material level—in the production and consumption of cloth and the advent of the sewing machine—and the construction of ‘authenticity’ and ‘identity’ through the creation, by the colonial government, of official costumes. Simultaneously she attempts to recreate the life of one man though a study of his dress as revealed in photographs.
Well researched and highly creative, this book is an important addition to the growing literature on the social history of South Asia.
Nira Wickramasinghe obtained her PhD in History from Oxford. She has been a Fellow at the School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland and Visiting Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. A recepient of the World Bank Robert McNamara Fellowship, her work focusses on identity, politics, nationalism and transnationalism in which areas she has published extensively. Her publications include Social Theory (1994, co-edited with R. Coomaraswamy); Ethnic Politics in Colonial Sri Lanka (1995); History Writing: New Trends and Methodologies (2001). She is currently working on the political history of Sri Lanka in the twentieth century.