Newton Gunasinghe: Selected Essays

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Edited by: Sasanka Perera

Newton Gunasinghe was born in Nawalapitiya on April 5, 1946. He received his primary education at Nawalapitiya, secondary education at the Wickramabahu Central College at Gampola and entered the University of Peradeniya in 1963. In 1973 he received his Master’s degree in sociology from the University of Monash, Australia, and his Ph.D from the University of Sussex in 1979.

He’s the first Marxist Anthropologist produced by Sri Lanka, who initiated the tradition of rigorous Marxist scholarship. Combining Marxist theory with intensive field research his doctoral dissertation focused on production relations in the Kandyan country-side and was published by SSA in 1990. Moving towards a creative synthesis of Marx, Althusser, Gramsci, he produced some brilliant essays on ethnicity, ideology and violence in a political and polemical climate of extreme Sinhala and Tamil nationalism, Gunasinghe’s interventions created an intellectual internationalism.

During his school days in the early 60s he was attracted to radical politics of the Communist party. He was a student leader as well as a trade union activist in the Kandy-Nawalapitiya working class belt. He was the founder of the Workers and Peasants Institute in Kandy.  He was also the President of the Lanka General Services Union, a plantation based trade union in Kandy. As a founding member of the Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality (MIRJE), he was an activist in promoting ethnic peace and human rights in Sri Lanka.

Newton Gunasinghe was a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colombo, when he passed away on the 31st of October, 1988.

The editor, Sasanka Perera , is an anthropologist and senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology, University of Colombo. He obtained his BA from the University of Colombo in 1985. In 1989 he received his MA from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1991 he received his Ph.D from the same University. He conducted post-doctoral research at Princeton University, New Jersey until 1992.