The Newsletter 57 Summer 2011

Authenticity and hybridity: Scrutinising heritage

Nira Wickramasinghe

This essay revisits some of the author’s earlier work on hybrid objects in Sri Lanka under colonial rule that traced the genealogy of the idea of authenticity, a concept central to all heritage claims, back to pre-colonial and colonial pasts. Writing as a historian whose archive was and still is colonised Sri Lanka, she has argued that hybridity could only fail to become an instrument of empowerment. Indeed it contradicted itself by implying the existence of ‘pure’ and separate parents and, taken in this sense, extended rather than contradicted the colonial and national privileging of ‘purity’ as the supreme value.

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