What does it mean to be Sri Lankan?
70 years after independence, our identity is defined mostly along majoritarian lines, which can be traced back to the divisions created under British rule. These divisions have contributed to violence and war, in the years since 1948.
To this day, there are communities who feel that what is commonly projected and defined as the Sri Lankan identity does not reflect their reality, or themselves. Looking at this, Groundviews produced a series of videos exploring identity and belonging in a country emerging from war, but not yet out of conflict.
Yamini Ravindran is the Legal and Advocacy Coordinator of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) She comments on the often-overlooked discrimination against the Christian community. She addresses the relationship between religion and politics, and the problems that arise when the State attempts to control or channel religious practice.
M Pradeepan is a Field Researcher and activist with the Capacity Building and Outreach Arm of the Centre for Policy Alternatives. He addresses the historic discrimination against the Upcountry Tamils, which remain one of the most marginalised communities in the country.
Vicky Shahjahan is a visual artist from Kompanna Veediya. In this interview, Vicky talks about the stigma that persists towards gender non-conforming individuals and highlights the need to make them feel included in workplaces and society at large.
Founder of the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts (VAFA) Dr Chandragupta Thenuwara stresses the importance of a better, more inclusive education system in order to move forward from the violence of the past and nurture a future generation that is socially-conscious and appreciative of diversity.
- Krystle Reid: “A Welcoming Nation?” Groundviews 12/2/18
- Pon Kulendiren: “Where Music transcends Ethnic Divisions: Sinhala Nona,” 21 March 2017, https://thuppahis.com/2017/03/21/where-music-transcends-ethnic-divisions-sinhala-nona/#more-24614
- Ordinary Perera, Nadarajah and Bandara: Hands, Feet and Donations across the Length and Breadth of Sri Lanka,” October 5, 2015, https://thuppahis.com/2015/10/05/ordinary-perera-nadarajah-and-bandara-hands-feet-and-donations-across-the-length-and-breadth-of-sri-lanka/
- Kumar Sangakkara’s Reconciliatory Outreach across the Ethnic Divide: A Bibliography,” 15 September 2017, https://thuppahis.com/2017/09/15/kumar-sangakkaras-reconciliatory-outreach-across-the-ethnic-divide-a-bibliography/
- Michael Roberts: “Cricketing Outreach: Building Amity among Lanka’s Ethnic Groups?” 25 September 2017, https://thuppahis.com/2017/09/19/cricketing-outreach-building-amity-among-lankas-ethnic-groups/
- Michael Roberts: “Where Majoritarian Part subsumes the Whole: The Ideological Foundation of Sinhala Extremism,” 28 July 2016, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/where-majoritarian-part-subsumes-the-whole-the-ideological-foundation-of-sinhala-extremism/
- Michael Roberts: “The National Anthem as Spearhead in Steps towards Reconciliation,” 24 January 2017, https://thuppahis.com/2017/01/24/the-national-anthem-as-spearhead-in-steps-towards-reconciliation/
A NOTE from The Editor, Thuppahi
The issues raised here are important, but the first caution is to consider measures of generalization: that is, the methodological issue of reaching for broad historical assessments on the foundations provided by individual experiences with their base in subjectivity. The same issue dwells within anthropological studies of village life in Society X or Y.
I may address this at greater length but as further caution I ask: (A) where does class position an caste background figure in the tales presented recently in February 2017 within Groundviews? (B) where does the operation of acts of vengeance among all segments of Sri Lankan society in all manner of situations fit into the surveys of the Sri Lankan world of human interaction.
A reading of these two works should be mandatory for all those kinterested in the sort of issues raised in GV:
- Gananath Obeyesekere: “Sorcery, Premeditated Murder and the Canalization of Aggression in Sri Lanka,” Ethnology, 1975, Vol 14: 1-25
- Bruce Kapferer, A Celebration of Demons, 1983
- Bruce Kapferer: Legends of People, Myths of State 1988 … with new extensions in http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/KapfererLegends
- Michael Roberts: “People Inbetween: Ethnic and Class Prejudices in British Ceylon,” 3 August 2015, https://thuppahis.com/2015/08/03/people-inbetween-ethnic-and-class-prejudices-in-british-ceylon/#more-17244