Anzac Day, 25th April. Dying for Country ….. Sacrificial Devotion

Michael Roberts

On the 25th of April, ANZAC DAY, Australia honoured its war dead in ceremonies large and small throughout the country. This moment has been marked every year –beginning with a ceremony in London in 1916 which recognised the deadly toll and the bravery shown on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey where so many colonial Aussies fought … and died … on behalf of the British state (their “mother-country” to many Aussies then).








As marked in Australia for decades, the Anzac Day is a poignant and deeply meaningful moment in Australian consciousness, The bugler’s LAST POST captures its essence powerfully. It evokes and carries a powerful message to those – like this author – who have been nourished (partly or wholly) in the British Empire and thus exposed to its momentous events –inclusive of the two World Wars.

I will be presenting another essay that describes how I stumbled into an academic engagement with Anzac Day and its meaningfulness in Australian history while teaching at the Anthropology Department in Adelaide in the 1980s.

But let me indicate three essays where I ventured articles that engaged the phenomenon in what, I hope, adds up to a meaningful manner (one with a senior student named Chris Flaherty).

As a Sri Lankan, this topic gains force in enforcing reflections on the many, many personnel who died in the ethnic civil wars surrounding the SL Tamil quest for “Eelam.”

That is one reason why, TODAY, I place the topic before readers who are mostly of Sri Lankan origin and/or loyalty. However, as we know, many SL Tamils had lost – or shed – this loyalty in the course of the years 1950-1990s. The LTTE under Pirapaharan and others sought to build an independent state. They even succeeded in setting up a de facto state for quite a while.

Pirapaharan & Balachandranat the international gathering in Kilinochcchi in 2004







Behind this initial success lay many causes. One prominent factor (or force) is that which I have conceptualized as  “sacrificial devotion” – a readiness to lose one life in pursuing the goal of Eelam for the SL Tamil people. This concept became my tool in addressing and deciphering the endeavours of the Tamil Tigers in juxtaposition with that of the Japanese kamikaze as well as the Palestinian and other Muslim jihadists of modern times who have displayed an outstanding fervour in acting, killing and dying for their political objectives.

NOTE: Some Pertinent Literature: Articles by Roberts

2005b “Tamil Tiger ‘Martyrs’: Regenerating Divine Potency?Studies in Conflict  & Terrorism 28:493-514.

2005c “Saivite Symbolism, Sacrifice and Tamil Tiger Rites”, Social Analysis 49: 67-93.

2006a “Pragmatic Action & Enchanted Worlds: A Black Tiger Rite Of Commemoration,” Social Analysis 50: 73-102.

2006b “The Tamil Movement for Eelam,” E-Bulletin of the International Sociological Association No. 4, July 2006, pp. 12-24.

2006c “Understanding Zealotry and Questions for Post-Orientalism, ILines May-August 2006, vol.5, 1 & 2, in

2007b “Suicide Missions as Witnessing: Expansions, Contrasts,Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol 30:  857-88.

2007c “Blunders in Tigerland: Pape’s Muddles on ‘Suicide Bombers’ in Sri Lanka,” Online publication within series known as Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics (HPSACP), ISSN: 1617-5069.

2008 “Tamil Tigers: Sacrificial Symbolism and ‘Dead Body Politics’,Anthropology Today, June 2008,  24/3: 22-23.

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