£31.99 | $44.95

1 February 2003
ISBN: 9781842772294
460 pages



Nobodies to Somebodies

The Rise of the Colonial Bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka

By Kumari Jayawardena

Nobodies to Somebodies examines the origins and growth of the bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka during British rule - an important but neglected aspect of the country's modern history. It traces its evolution from a 'feudal' society and mercantilist economy, to the age of plantations. In the course of this evolution local merchants accumulated capital through arrack and toll renting, subsequently diversifying into plantation cultivation and graphite mining, thereby making dents in the old caste-based division of labour.

This study assigns primacy to class over caste, and details the rise of the new-rich 'Nobodies' of many different castes, ethnicities and religions into the ranks of the 'Somebodies'. It discusses the links between capital accumulation, religious revivalism, ethnic identity and political movements, and the marriage 'cartels' which led to further concentration of wealth.

The book focuses on the rentier nature of the bourgeoisie and how they adopted Western culture and lifestyles and were basically collaborative with the colonial rulers. It highlights the constraints on further capitalist development, the obsession of the bourgeoisie with land acquisition and social status, and its consciousness as a class, especially on issues of political reform.


'A superb revealing scholarly account of the social and economic transformation of Sri Lanka during the British colonial period -- a pathbreaking study destined to be an invaluable resource for all those interested in the dynamics of social change in colonial society' - Emeritus Professor Laksiri Jayasuriya, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia

'A fascinating and exhaustive Marxist analysis of Sri Lanka's development' - Prabhat Patnaik, author

'This ambitious, category-defying book succeeds both as a work of scholarship and as an open-ended engagement with the past. To read it is to be pushed beyond established ways of seeing, to acquire something of the author's audacity, her resolve to step across boundaries, to think things afresh.' - Susan Ram, Frontline

Table of Contents

Part 1: Mainly 'Nobodies ' in a Colonial Backwater
1. Trade and Accumulation in the Pre-Plantation Economy
2. The Beginnings of the Bourgeoisie
3. Taking Off Through the Arrack Trade
4. Multi-Caste Class Formation
Part 2: Becoming 'Somebodies'
5. Transition to Plantation Economy
6. Marketing Arrack among Workers and Peasants
7. Profits in the Liquor Trade
8. Merchant Capitalists Spread Their Wings
Part 3: Accumulating Status and Constructing Identity
9. Recasting Caste in Class Society
10. The Sinhala Bourgeoisie of 'Nobodies' and 'Somebodies'
11. The Creation of the Colombo Tamil Bourgeoisie
12. Constructing Muslim Identity
13. Burghers and Eurasians as Modernizers
Part 4: Culture, Religious Revival and Gender
14. Christianization and Cultural Assimilation
15. Religious Revival and the Bourgeoisie
16. The Debut of the Bourgeois Woman
Part 5: Capital and Politics
17. The Politics of Loyalty and Royalty
18. Class and Caste in National Politics
19. Political Capital and Dynasty
20. Conclusion

About the Author:

Kumari Jayawardena taught Political Science at the University of Colombo, 1969-1985, when she retired as Associate Professor. During the years 1980-82, she taught at the Institute of Social Studies at the Hague, and was an Affiliate Fellow at the Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, USA in 1987-88. She is currently a Senior Fellow of the Graduate Studies Institute of Colombo University. She also serves as Secretary of the Social Scientists' Association, a group of concerned scholars working on ethnic, gender, caste and other issues.

Her books include:
The Rise of the Labor Movement in Ceylon(Duke University Press, 1972)
Ethnic and Class Conflicts in Ceylon (1985)
Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World (Zed Books, 1986)
The White Woman's Other Burden: Western Women and South Asia during British Rule (Routledge, 1995).
Embodied Violence: Communalising Women's Sexuality in South Asia (coedited) (Zed Books and Kali for Women, 1998).