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Influence of Globalization over the Cultures in Sri Lanka

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Influence of Globalization over the Cultures in Sri Lanka

Influence of globalization over the cultures in Sri Lanka

By W. C. Hettiarachchi


Globalization is defined as “a process that encompasses the causes, course, and consequences of transnational and trans-cultural integration of human and non-human activities” (Al-Rodhan & Stoudmann, 2006). This process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture. It speeds up and intensifies economic interaction amongst peoples, multinational corporations and the governments of diverse nations (Nicolaides, 2012). Due to globalization, “people living around the globe are linked more deeply, more intensely, more immediately than ever before” (Human Development Report, 1999).

This process of integration is interpreted positively and negatively not only by many scholars but also by many other social, cultural actors. For the scholars who take this process positively, it “is the process of world shrinkage, of distances getting shorter, things moving closer. It pertains to the increasing ease with which somebody on one side of the world can interact, to mutual benefit, with somebody on the other side of the world” (Larsson, 2001). At the Opening Session of the Millenium Forum, UN General Assembly Hall, New York, on 22nd May 2000, Martin Khor says that;

"Globalization is a process that can be called re-colonization, a term created by Mr Raghavan of the SUNS Bulletin, when he wrote a book on Gatt, the Uruguay Round and the South. A new form of colonialism is operating. When the people fought against slavery, or apartheid, or colonialism, they did not speak in terms of sharing better the benefits of slavery or apartheid or colonialism. They fought the systems of slavery, apartheid and colonialism themselves. So too, we cannot just talk of sharing better the benefits of globalization. We have to fight the system of the globalization we have today."

Hence, it is clear that globalization is considered as a beneficial process that not to be avoided at any cost for some but it is a system to be fought off and to be defeated for some others. In such a background, influence of globalization over the cultures in Sri Lanka is also evaluated in these two different perspectives. Many different perspectives of a single phenomenon are always arisen from different valid reasons. Otherwise, they would be neglected and would not be debated in academic and public forums. Thus, conflicting views on the influence of globalization on Sri Lankan cultures are also understood and elaborated. This paper intends to discuss relevant observations of the advent of globalization into Sri Lanka briefly due to available limited space.

Sri Lanka and its cultures

Historical background

As a centrally located country in the Indian Ocean and neighboring to the Indian subcontinent, the culture of Sri Lanka has been influenced by many factors but has managed to retain much of its own identities. Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka in the 4th century BC and hence, now the country has the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any Buddhist nation. Sri Lanka's culture mostly has been influenced by its long history and its Buddhist heritage. Because of its location in the region, it was an important stop on the ancient Oceanic Silk Road. Sri Lanka is mentioned in Greek and Roman writings dating from the third century BC by Kalisthenes, Oneskritus, Megasthenes, Strabo, and Pliny (Pieris, 2006). Sri Lanka was included in the map of Asia, drawn in 150 AD by Ptolemy. In addition to above mentioned boundless relationships with the Far East and the West, Sri Lanka has been continuously dealing with its neighboring subcontinent of India. Further, continuous inflow of Arab traders also helped to link the country with the rest of the world and with the advent of Portuguese in 1505 AD, country has been subjected to incessant European influence.

Richness of cultural heritage

Because of this globally connected historical background, there was a constant flow of peoples from different parts of the world with different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, and some even settled down in Sri Lanka. With the trade and the influences of merchants and through intermarriages, Sri Lanka inherited many cultural traits of different cultures. This was possible as Sri Lankans are known to have the intrinsic characteristic of warmly welcoming any stranger with their heart and soul, a quality inculcated over generations, based on value system emanating from Theravada Buddhist traditions.

With those all

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