Critical Realism, Reflexivity and the Missing Voice of the Subaltern: The Case of Postcolonial Sri Lanka

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter concerns post-colonial Sri Lanka and aims to demonstrate the emancipatory potential vested within the ontological concept of agential reflexivity, in understanding the marginalised voices of the subaltern. Existing understandings have been criticised for underplaying the voices (agency) of postcolonial (Sri Lankan) agents through the generalised view that they inhabit traditional social contexts characterised by routine action that dismisses conscious reflexive human nature. The value of the philosophical concept of reflexivity therefore lies in its ability to acknowledge the diversity associated with conscious human action that can recognise the voice of the subaltern. Reflexivity allows deeper insights into the concealed realities beyond the assumption that subaltern is a passive actor, a product of society. Reflexivity as a viable, novel methodological approach to the postcolonial meta-theoretical landscape, can demonstrate how individuals inhabiting postcolonial contexts are increasingly required to produce creative, innovative, conscious action beyond routine, habitual behaviour in negotiating with the world. Based on 101 work and life histories gathered from Sri Lanka, this chapter demonstrates the centrality of reflexivity in understanding how individuals living in this postcolonial context negotiate its complex social fabric.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationManaging the Post-Colony South Asia Focus
Subtitle of host publicationWays of Organising, Managing and Living
EditorsNimruji Jammulamadaka, Shoaib Ul-Haq
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-19-2988-5
ISBN (Print)978-981-19-2987-8
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2022


  • Critical realism
  • Postcolonial societies
  • Reflexivity
  • Social mobility intentions
  • Sri Lanka


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