Vadi into Vanniyalatto
Transformation of Images of the Lankan Vaddo
Historia Religionum No. 24
By Peter Schalk
Uppsala University Press
250 pages, Illustrated, 6 ½" x 9 ½"
$52.50 Paper Original
This book is about images of a vanishing group of people, the vaddo or Veddas on the island Lamka/Ilam. The old ascribed designation vaddo/vedda is now gradually replaced by vanniyalatto, which indicates a change of evaluation of the vaddo by observers. It also indicates a growing self-assertion among the vaddo.
Many of these ascribed images by outsiders reflect their own indigenous caste society, their colonial hierarchical class and communal society, and their belonging to a globalized culture without national borders, but with powerful centers all over the world. The vaddo can be understood only in relation to Tamil and Simhala cultures that were previously dominated by Portugese, Dutch, and British colonial cultures. Today, we have to add the global community on Internet as image-makers of the vaddo: it idealizes the vadda as homo oecologicus and the vanniyalatto as representatives of an indigenous ethnie.
There is, however, a semantic cleft between the ascribed and internalized image of the vaddo as vanniyalatto. These images have been created by Western and Eastern archaeologists, historians, physical and cultural anthropologists, philologists, and human rights activists. They have a common base in the image of the vaddo as aboriginals of the island. There is one important exception: the image of the vaddo as spillovers of a rigid caste society in the pre-colonial period. According to this image, the vaddo are not aboriginals, but are part of the Simhala and Tamil society, albeit as excluded ones on the fringes or margins of these societies.
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