« Metallic Modern: Everyday Machines in Colonial Sri Lanka » by Nira Wickramasinghe

Summary

Everyday life in the Crown colony of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was characterized by a direct encounter of people with modernity through the consumption and use of foreign machines – in particular, the Singer sewing machine, but also the gramophone, tramway, bicycle and varieties of industrial equipment. The ‘metallic modern’ of the 19th and early 20th century Ceylon encompassed multiple worlds of belonging and imagination; and enabled diverse conceptions of time to coexist through encounters with Siam, the United States and Japan as well as a new conception of urban space in Colombo. Metallic Modern describes the modern as it was lived and experienced by non-elite groups – tailors, seamstresses, shopkeepers, workers – and suggests that their idea of the modern was nurtured by a changing material world.

“Once every few years, a book comes along to transform the study of modern South Asia: this is such a book…[It] is deeply scholarly and yet playful; it is both empirically thorough and rich with metaphor. The book is a model of a way of writing history—non-linear, allusive, braided together—that reflects its arguments and materials. Form and content work together perfectly, and this makes Metallic Modern a wonderful read: the book is as enjoyable as it is stimulating.”  ·  Sunil Amrith, University of London

“This is a most engaging book from a well-known author… a timely contribution concerning an important subject that is attracting renewed and sustained interest from historians of late….”  ·  Crispin Bates, University of Edinburgh

Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps
Preface and Acknowledgements
Introduction: Exploring Sri Lanka’s modern: Multiple Loops of Belonging
Chapter 1. Following the Singer Sewing Machine: Fashioning a market in a British Crown Colony
Chapter 2. Creating a Market Imaginary
Chapter 3. Paths to a Buddhist modern: From Siam to America
Chapter 4. Gramophone. Soulful Sounds and Sacred Speeches
Chapter 5. An Asian Modern. Japan
Chapter 6. Trams, Cars, Bicycles: Modern Machines in the City
Chapter 7. A Tailor’s Tale and Machines in the Home
Chapter 8. Working like Machines
Conclusion: Metallic Modern

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