"Native" in this context has a clear historical meaning established by long
usage. It was employed to distinguish "ethnic Ceylonese" -- Singhalese,
Tamils, Moors, Chetties, etc., -- whose long-term roots lay in the island,
from those of European descent, (regardless of whether these "Euros" were
born in Ceylon). The anomaly -- which everybody recognised and accepted --
was the Burgher. (They were considered a stand-alone categorisation.) An
illustrative example is so-called "Native" Ranks: Gate Mudaliyar; Mudaliyar;
Rate Mahatmaya; Vannia; Muhandiram, etc. They were "Native" because of whom
they applied -- and the title was certainly not taken as pejorative.
Whether or not "native" held a pejorative connotation, therefore, depended
largely upon the context of its use in any given instance -- much as with
terms such as "Yankee". "Yankee go home!" is clearly pejorative; but
old Yankee ingenuity" clearly is not.
My two annas worth.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, August 13, 2005 1:16 PM
Subject: [SRILANKA] Native research
Wow! We have a thread growing on this forum after a long time. Our
prolonged discussion was on the topic of Burgher or not to Burgher. Please
don't nip it off just yet. I got to have my two cents worth before getting
to the grind. Is if interesting how terms can evolve like living entities.
not recall a single instance from my Ceylankan experience where the term
was used to describe a person born there, perhaps this is what is in use
presently, but I have my doubts. Dictionary definitions not withstanding,
native was invariable used to denigrate someone as uncivilized,
vernacular or even savage. During the time of the Raj 'to go native' was
to delineate one of their own that had adopted local customs, manners,
or habits. So who is a native from a genealogical context? In Canada the
native usually suggest someone from the indigenous population. When I say
indigenous that suggests that the community did not originate from another
territory (country) or there is no cultural history of coming from
else. From a Ceylankan context that could apply to the extinct Veddah
population, whereas the extent communities e.g. Sinhalese, Tamils,Burghers
originated from else where, some in more distant times than others. I
that Michael Ondaatje in one of his novels (Anil's Ghost?) explores the
conundrum as well.
Rohan van Twest