From linguistic nationalism to ethnic conflict : Sri Lanka in comparative perspective
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Theories of ethnic conflict typically focus on primordialist (historical and psychological), constructivist (sociological), and instrumentalist (elite and rational choice) explanations, thereby under-emphasizing how politics impacts intraethnic and inter-ethnic relations. This work, by focusing on how linguistic nationalism led to ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, focuses on ethnic politics even as it incorporates primordialist, constructivist, and instrumentalist explanations. It argues that the Sinhala-Only Act of 1956, which made the majority Sinhalese community’s Sinhala language the sole official language and was brought about by the dialectic between majority rule and Sinhalese ethnolinguistic nationalism, was the catalyst for the numerous anti-minority policies that followed. The institutional decay these discriminatory policies wrought over two decades was what led to Tamil mobilization and the ongoing attempt to create a separate state.