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When Generous Gods Offer “Backhoe-Arm Load of Gems”*: Folk Ideas Found among Gem Miners of the Sabaragamuwa Region

Author:

Lal Medawattegedara

The Open University of Sri Lanka, LK
About Lal
Departmentof Language Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
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Abstract

Global research into folkloric speech acts, like folktales, folksongs and folk drama, have revealed a rich body of concealed cultural conventions and concepts, prompting the folklorist Alan Dundes to identify such events as ‘autobiographical ethnography,’ or the way in which a group of people would portray themselves. The present study focuses on potential cultural conjecture that could be located in a body of regional folktales found among a group of people engaged in a specific vocation, gem mining. These folktales are published as Sabaragamuwe Menik Kathandara saha Sinharaje Withthi (Gem-related Tales from Sabaragamuwa and the Happenings of the Sinharaja Forest) by their collector Tharindu Sudharshana Abeysinghe. This study intends to locate the folkloric postulate of ‘folk ideas’ embedded in the tales with the objective of cultural comprehension, especially considering the important role attributed to the gem industry in Sri Lanka’s contemporary economy. Texts in public circulation tend to reproduce the material sphere of their surroundings—literally and metaphorically—and could lend themselves to an analysis of the social conditions of their production. This study intends to achieve such an objective through a close-reading of a group of texts whose creators/raconteurs/audience were people involved in gem mining in the Sabaragamuwa province. Through a close analysis of ‘folk ideas’ this study intends to understand how the miners involved in extracting valuable stones from the bowels of the earth position themselves against their material conditions.
How to Cite: Medawattegedara, L., 2020. When Generous Gods Offer “Backhoe-Arm Load of Gems”*: Folk Ideas Found among Gem Miners of the Sabaragamuwa Region. OUSL Journal, 15(2), pp.45–62. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/ouslj.v15i2.7502
Published on 31 Dec 2020.
Peer Reviewed

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