Negotiating Power and Constructing the Nation is the first comprehensive attempt to discuss Sri Lankan engineering in relation to Sinhala nationalism. By selecting three very different engineering sites, this book expands the meaning of "engineering" and revisits the popular claim by the Sinhalese people - "engineering is in our blood" - to show how and why this perception has been constructed, modified, and revised over time. The author sheds new light on a growing field of study with his precise exploration of technology and incisive socio-political investigation of Sri Lanka over the past century.
"This book is a highly original and provocative examination of Sinhala nationalism in Sri Lanka, seen from the unexpected perspective of the history of engineering. The result is full of fascinating new insights, from the tale of Sri Lanka's 'lost' industrial future, as imagined in the 1930s, to the recent recovery of a radically new sense of its past - a past based on the mythical figure of Ravana, now refigured as a heroic engineer of the nation, Witharana guides his readers with skill and charm into often completely new perspectives on the Sri Lankan past." ~ Jonathan Spencer, Regius Professor of South Asian Language, Culture and Society, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh
"Dileepa Witharana's text marks a significant intervention into debates about nationalist history in Sri Lanka. Scholarship has long held that Sinhala nationalism had a predominantly past-oriented nature and that it lacked a forward looking developmentalist orientation. Withatrana makes a bold counterclaim, marshalling an impressive body of Sinhala and English language empirical sources, that there was indeed a developmentalist vision and that it was marginalized due to collusion between the colonial political economy and elite interests. Witharana's intervention here is not only academic, it is also political. His argument opens up a space for us to see multiple possibilities and trajectories for the nation -- set against unilinear narratives that have dominated both scholarship and popular discourse. Witharana's book is also unique in that it explores the history of technology as a site from which to craft an alternative genealogy of nationalism in Sri Lanka -- an area that has received scant scholarly attention." ~ Harshana Rarnbukwella, Professor, Postgraduate Institute of English (PGIE) Open University of Sri Lanka