Colombo, where every anti-Tamil riot in Sri Lanka has begun, is, at the same time, a city of many Tamil-speaking (and other) minorities. This paper takes Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka and the urban heart of Sri Lanka to argue that Colombo has had to perform its Sinhala nationalist credentials constantly because it is “a city which is not one” (Tagg 1996). The paper examines the ways in which people make themselves at home in an ethnically divided city that has never fully been intelligible to its dwellers as one city. Here violence is taken as critical to Tamil phenemenologies of the city. Riots, bombs, and the checkpoints that crisscrossed Colombo made violence a constant feared spectacle of the urban, images of the possible bound by past violence. Yet Tamil spaces of relative safety also presented themselves, due to fear of the separatist LTTE and exploitation by other Tamils, as spaces of un-safety. This paper will takes these everyday practices of inhabiting Colombo as a minority to reflect further on the major dilemmas and political conflicts now facing Sri Lanka in its post-war future.
Speaker Bio: Sharika Thiranagama’s research has focused on various aspects of the Sri Lankan civil war. Primarily, she has conducted research with two different ethnic groups, Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims. Her research explores changing forms of ethnicisation, the effects of protracted civil war on ideas of home in the midst of profound displacement and the transformations in and relationships between the political and the familial in the midst of political repression and militarization.(A Talk at a Center for South Asia, in USA — see http://vimeo.com/38954793 ).
2. In My Mother’s House.Civil War in Sri Lanka
a book by Sharika Thiranagama, with a Foreword by Gananath Obeyesekere , 320 pages | 6 x 9 | 2 illus.
Cloth 2011 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4342-0 | $59.95s | £39.00 |
Ebook 2011 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0511-4 | $59.95s | £39.00 | About | Add to cart
A volume in the Ethnography of Political Violence series
In May 2009, the Sri Lankan army overwhelmed the last stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam—better known as the Tamil Tigers—officially bringing an end to nearly three decades of civil war. Although the war has ended, the place of minorities in Sri Lanka remains uncertain, not least because the lengthy conflict drove entire populations from their homes. The figures are jarring: for example, all of the roughly 80,000 Muslims in northern Sri Lanka were expelled from the Tamil Tiger-controlled north, and nearly half of all Sri Lankan Tamils were displaced during the course of the civil war.
Sharika Thiranagama’s In My Mother’s House provides ethnographic insight into two important groups of internally displaced people: northern Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims. Through detailed engagement with ordinary people struggling to find a home in the world, Thiranagama explores the dynamics within and between these two minority communities, describing how these relations were reshaped by violence, displacement, and authoritarianism. In doing so, she illuminates an often overlooked intraminority relationship and new social forms created through protracted war.
In My Mother’s House revolves around three major themes: ideas of home in the midst of profound displacement; transformations of familial experience; and the impact of the political violence—carried out by both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan state—on ordinary lives and public speech. Her rare focus on the effects and responses to LTTE political regulation and violence demonstrates that envisioning a peaceful future for post-conflict Sri Lanka requires taking stock of the new Tamil and Muslim identities forged by the civil war. These identities cannot simply be cast away with the end of the war but must be negotiated anew.
Sharika Thiranagama’s research has focused on various aspects of the Sri Lankan civil war. Primarily, she has conducted research with two different ethnic groups, Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims. Her research explores changing forms of ethnicisation, the effects of protracted civil war on ideas of home in the midst of profound displacement and the transformations in and relationships between the political and the familial in the midst of political repression and militarization. She has also conducted other research on the history of railways in Sri Lanka, on the political culture of treason amongst Sri Lankan Tamils, the BBC World service in South Asia etc. She is currently undertaking new research in Sri Lanka on post war life in the Jaffna Peninsula mapping new post war social configurations. The second fieldwork project that she is preparing and planning (currently undergoing language training) will be entitled ‘The Cultural Life of Communism in Kerala’ and will be based in Kerala, South India. The project will investigate how a distinct form of Keralan communism has evolved within everyday practices of family life, local public spaces, and ideas of personhood and self-improvement.