AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE by Michael Roberts, 7 August 2021
This item is a review essay not a standard review. Alan Strathern is an accomplished historian who happens to be the son of a leading social anthropologist, viz., Marilyn Strathern of ANU and Cambridge University. You will find that his prose is as refined and clear-cut as demanding. After some hesitation, I decided to adhere to my normal policy of highlighting some parts of the text with blue colour – for the benefit of readers facing the difficulties posed by complex issues in historical sociology. On occasions I have also imposed a break in extra-long paragraphs. The illustrations too are my impositions intended to promote reader interest.
Michael Roberts,reprinting here an article which appeared initially in November 2007 as Working Paper No. 32 November 2007 in the Heidelberg Papers on South Asian Politics … ISSN: 1617-5069 …. edited by Subrata Mitra. Insofar as this essay is being reproduced in 2020, I cannot overstress the point at which it appeared in the public realm — in 2007 well before the LTTE was defeated… [noting that, with the exception of the emblematic Picture at the start, all other illustrations appeared in the Heidelberg publication. These pictorial scenes, I stress now in 2020, are valuable data in themselves].
No study of the LTTE can afford to neglect Sri Lanka’s cultural, historical, and geographical backdrop, The lack of existential awareness of religious cross-fertilisation, the either/or foundations of Western reasoning and the absence of local knowledge bedevil the scholarship that incorporates Sri Lanka within the global surveys of suicide attacks. Pape’s Dying to Win is an example. Here, in Pape’s article, the LTTE’s multi-pronged capacities are poorly evaluated. Too much significance is attributed to the coercive success of SMs in bringing the government to the negotiating table at various moments. Religious persecution has not been the main reason for the Tamil struggle. Comparative references to SMs elsewhere are occasionally interspersed in this review of the Sri Lankan scene.
Grace Bains in Scoopwhoop where the title is “A Demon For Us But A Hero For Sri Lankans, The Fascinating Story Of Ravana, According To Lanka” and Chandre Dharmawardena, in Island, 11 September 2020
As we celebrate Dussehra, we recount Ramayana and the lessons that come with it. For us, the Ramayana isn’t just a story of Lord Rama winning over Ravana and rescuing Sita. It is about good winning over evil despite the many obstacles. It is the story that gives Indians hope and motivation to keep fighting for what they know is right.
Raj Gonsalkorale, in DailyFT, 4 August 2020, with this title “The Northern Province: The centre for Tamil culture in Sri Lanka”
As much as the Sinhala Buddhist culture and its richness should be recognized, the Tamil culture, in particular the Tamil Hindu culture and its universality, too needs to be recognized. All Sri Lankans should be proud that the country has two such ancient cultures as its foundations.
Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. … The word “culture” derives from a French term, which in turn derives from the Latin “colere,” which means to tend to the earth and grow, or cultivation and nurture.
Yesterday (29/07/20) in the House of Lords, Lord Naseby spoke in the debate on Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020: “My Lords, I have no problem at all with the financial aspects of this SI. I think there is a big challenge with individuals and human rights; I remember Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Assad, all of whose communities we interfered in at huge human cost to those communities. I want to focus, though, sadly, on the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers—LTTE—which we proscribed in 2001. It was succeeded by the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam—TGTE—itself proscribed in Sri Lanka. It is staffed and organised by former LTTE people and yesterday it started a legal action in the courts here in the UK to lift the proscription on the Tamil Tigers.
About 500 yards north of the hotelTrinco Blu at Nilaveli is a small rock promontory where a river inlet streams into the ocean. The inlet connects with the Tamil village of Thalli which is adjacent to the renowned temple of Thalli abutting the rock promontory on its northern side.
When I wandered down that way one morning with camera in hand, I was greeted warmly by an imposing 6ft/4 gentleman who introduced himself as Naguleswaran. He ushered me into the small lagoon crowded with shallow-bottom motorized fishing boats and showed me his boat.
Gananath Obeyesekere: “Sorcery and Premeditated Murder: The Canalization of Aggression”
In this paper I want to deal with a series of interrelated problems beginning with the following specific questions and propositions. First: how far can we make inferences about the human psyche and social structure from official statistics computed by government agencies, in this case statistics on homicide and crimes of violence? Criminology as a discipline is especially concerned with this problem, and criminological studies in Sri Lanka have made social structural, cultural and psychological inferences from the statistical data. At the outset, let me emphasize that I am not concerned with the conventional debate about the accuracy of governmental statistics. Criminologist who have dealt with this issue are agreed that Sri Lanka’s official statistics on homicide and violent crimes are reasonably accurate, and on the face of it there is perfect justification for using these data for social analysis.
Michael Roberts, reproducing here an article entitled “Tamil Tigers: Sacrificial symbolism and ‘dead body politics’,” that was first presented in Anthropology Today, June 2008, vol. 24/3: 22-23. The re-working of this article was seen to by Ms Nadeeka Paththuwaarachchi of Battaramulla.
Scholars and journalists often mistakenly treat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) as a ‘secular organization’ at a time when stereotypes of the Islamic ‘terrorist’ or ‘Hindu fundamentalist’ dominate popular thinking about political extremism. Political scientists devote space to the Tamil Tigers in their global surveys of what they term ‘suicide terrorism’.Recently, Roland Buerk of the BBC presented a similar view: ‘They arenot religious and believe that there is nothing after death. Their fanaticism is born of indoctrination from childhood.’
Tiger fighters relax in camp but retain their kuppi with cyanide in chainsaround neck-Pic by Shyam Tekwani c.1989 whne embedded among the LTTE
Michael Roberts ….. This article appeared first in Studiesin Conflict and Terrorism, 2007, vol. 30: 857-88.with the title “Suicide Missions as Witnessing: Expansions, Contrasts” and is reproduced here with its original American English spelling. The re-working of this article was seen to by Ms Nadeeka Paththuwaarachchi of Battaramulla. The pictorial images are embellishments that were not part of the original essay. I have also added highlighting emphasis in orange as well as a few hyperlinks to other standard sources of information. The bibliographical references are within the End Notes as in the original format.
ABSTRACT: Studies of suicide missions usually focus solely on attacks. They also have highlighted the performative character of suicide missions as acts of witness. By extending surveys to suicidal acts that embrace no-escape attacks, theatrical assassination, defensive suicide, and suicidal protest, one gains further insight into the motivations of individuals and organizations. Illustrative studies, notably the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and Sadat as well as Tamil Tiger operations, generate a typology that underlines the benefits of such extensions. The Japanese and Tamil contexts reveal the profound differences in readings of sacrificial acts of atonement or punishment by local constituencies. Norman Morrison in Washington in 1965 and Jan Palach in Prague in 1969 did not have such beneficial settings and the immediate ramifications of their protest action were limited. Morrison’s story highlights the significance of a societal context of individuated rationalism as opposed, say, to the “pyramidical corporatism” encouraging martyrdom operations in the Islamic world.
Jan Palach…19 Jan. 1969 Nathuram Godse vs Mahatma Gandhi .. 30 Jan 1948
Thuppahi's Blog · This web site presents the interventions of MICHAEL ROBERTS in the public realm with reference to Sri Lankan political affairs. It will embrace the politics of cricket as well. ROBERTS was educated at St. Aloysius College in Galle and the universities of Peradeniya and Oxford. He taught History at Peradeniya University and Anthropology at Adelaide university. He is now retired and lives in Adelaide.