Hewage’s essay examines the history of emergency rule, which has defined the greater part of Sri Lanka’s postcolonial experience. It suggests that we rethink the conventional constitutional provision of emergency’s necessity in relation to the broader temporality of necessity, which has conditioned the democratic relationship between the Sri Lankan state and the domain of the social. The article introduces the political rationality that governs this relationship with the moment of its apotheosis, namely the enactment of Sri Lanka’s first Republican Constitution and the apogee of welfarism, during the unprecedented emergency of the 1970s. Noting the vintage of certain seemingly exceptional expedients of the social during this era, Hewage claims that they illuminate the distinctive temporality of a postcolonial reason of state. The essay foregrounds postcolonial demands for a republic with a strong executive and comprehensive bill of rights to replace the colonially conferred Soulbury Constitution and its minority safeguard, Section 29. Analyzing this apparently paradoxical pairing of rights and enhanced executive power, ultimately realized in Sri Lanka’s Republican Constitutions, the essay situates both within the vision of state instrumentality these demands contemplated. Finally, Hewage highlights a shift within the theorization of leftist political praxis toward revolution through Parliamentary democracy. The recasting of emergency as a problem native to the emergence of democracy in Sri Lanka has consequences for thinking democratic trajectories in other postcolonial contexts, distinctively defined, as Partha Chatterjee has observed, by the early, colonial inception of the social.
Rethinking Postcolonial Emergency: Constitutional Revolution and the Temporality of the Social in Sri Lanka
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Thushara Hewage; Rethinking Postcolonial Emergency: Constitutional Revolution and the Temporality of the Social in Sri Lanka. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 August 2014; 34 (2): 243–259. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2773827
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