Force and Statecraft in Medieval South India and Sri Lanka

Synthesis and Syncretism
David Carment
Ist edition 2002 pp 204+ X Rs 295 US$ 15 (inclusive of air postage)


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The two most important ordering principles for human society are the political and the religious. In some ways, the history of a society might be viewed as the process by which a community attempts to affirm, through religious and political structures and values, the legitimization of its power and authority. Successive efforts to weave new patterns of legitimization might therefore define the process of change in that society. What happens to a community's ordering of reality when it attempts to redefine its political legitimizing process in terms of its religious orientation? The purpose of this study is to examine this question in the related societies of medieval South India and Sri Lanka .

South India and Sri Lanka stand out in the degree to which they exemplify this historical process of shaping and transforming the mechanisms of the social order. The religious tradition, as it is expressed in the historiography of the chronicles the Dipavamsa, the Mahavamsa and the Culavamsa is portrayed as an ideal society that defines itself against the past--the South India Brahmanic influence and its basic political and social institutions. At the same time, the religious tradition quite self-consciously identifies itself as a transformation and extension of the older tradition. In the Cholan state, the king (deva-raja) as protector of the social order sacrificially attains divinity and becomes Siva incarnate. Ritually incorporative kingship of this kind provides the ritual focus for balanced and opposed internal groupings.


In the Sri Lankan state there is an amalgamation, or absorption, of localized chieftainship; power is relegated to smaller parts of a political whole. Hence, ritually incorporative kingship in Sri Lanka does not exist at the same incorporative level of organization as in the Chola state. Professor Carment teaches courses on conflict analysis, conflict mediation, international organization, conflict resolution, development theory and international relations theory at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (Carleton University). His research interests include the international dimensions of ethnic conflict, the role of communication technologies in conflict analysis and resolution, early warning, peacekeeping, conflict prevention, peace building and security issues in South and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. Recent articles focusing on these subjects have appeared in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, Etudes Internationales, Third World Quarterly and Canadian Foreign Policy. His most recent books are Using Force to Prevent Ethnic Violence: An Evaluation of Theory and Evidence (Praeger 2000) with Frank Harvey; Peace in the Midst of Wars: Preventing and Managing International
Ethnic Conflicts (University of South Carolina Press, 1998) and Wars in the
Midst of Peace: The International Politics of Ethnic Conflict (University of
Pittsburgh Press, 1997) both with Patrick James. Dr. Carment is Associate
Professor of International Affairs.

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