chapter  6
24 Pages

Modernity and Revolution: the architecture of Ceylon’s twentieth-century exhibitions


Perry Anderson, in his 1984 critique of Marshall Berman’s book, All That is Solid Melts into Air, a book that would hitherto shape interpretations of modernity, highlighted the two weaknesses of Berman’s thesis as its representation of revolution as a permanent state, a process rather than an episode, and the narcissistic goal of self-development as precluding the formation of community.1 Anderson was writing on “aesthetics” in 1984, before the fall of the Berlin Wall and under the neo-liberal reforms of Margaret Thatcher. Nationalist sentiment was high following the Falklands confl ict and Britain was nostalgically revisiting her past imperial glory. Anderson was one of its most vocal critiques as a representative of Britain’s New Left and sensitive to Berman’s implicit critique of socialism. But what was Anderson’s understanding of the Third World? This essay takes its sur-title from the above mentioned critique focusing on Ceylon where “Modernity and Revolution” was infl uenced more by the social ideals favored by Anderson, than by the emergence of an individuated and selfconscious modern subject. In fact, we might argue that although the dialectic of a culture radically separated from its past and propelled into a revolutionary future underlay the processes of Ceylonese modernity, it did not necessarily reproduce the cultural visions attributed to Europe or America. In the post-independence decades of the twentieth century, political ideologies, industrialization, and identity politics took a very different turn.