Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In My Mother's House: Civil War in Sri Lanka By Sharika Thiranagama

Google Books Preview: Has the Foreword (by Gananath Obeyesekere), Introduction and Acknowledgements. Amazon: Books: USD 23 to 60

Background of Sharika Thiranagama:
Sharika Thiranagama
Normally the parents are not that relevant for the background of an author. In this case it does play a large factor.  Daughter of Dayapala Thirangama. and Dr. Ranjani Thiranagama.  Dayapala Thirangama was a left oriented political activist (I dont know if he was ever affiliated with the JVP) and still writes to Groundviews (List of Dayapala Thirangama's articles at Groundviews).  Ranjani Thiranagama (nee Rajasingham), onetime LTTE member,  head of the Department of Anatomy, University of Jaffna and allegedly shot dead at the age of 35 by Tamil Tigers cadres after she criticized them for their atrocities. Ranjani Thiranagama was a co author of Broken Palmyra

Sharika Thiranagama:
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stanford
Anyway excerpts from Introduction and Acknowledgements.
Diasporic Tamils in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom mounted campaigns calling for the end of bombing by the Sri Lankan government. Increasingly, the LTTE abroad took over the management of those campaigns, and turned them into massed displays of LTTE flags and demands for the LTTE to be recognized and rescued by foreign governments. The gulf between internally displaced Sri Lankan Tamils in Sri Lanka and those in the diaspora who rallied around the LTTE was all too apparent to those of us who had done fieldwork in Sri Lanka. The, support of expatriate Tamils for an increasingly delegitimized and violent LTTE meant that the protests became ineffective and the international community did not hold the Sri Lankan state to account and make it halt its use of heavy weaponry.

described through bombing  forced displacement, rape, recruitment, and so on, events that "happened" "to one," was also, as people frequently described as something that "happened inside one" One common way of describing the war by Tamils in Sri Lanka was to tell me of the fear that they felt toward other Tamils, unsure of who was LTTE and who was not. "There is no trust (nambikkai) among Tamils any more" was a frequent phrase. LTTE's often forcible recruitment of ordinary Tamils from families, and its widespread intelligence network and seeming pervasive presence in the Tamil community had led to a situation where networks of trust among Tamils were shrinking. The battlefields of the war were not only the frontlines where LTTK. cadres and Sri Lankan soldiers died, but were also the internal lives of Tamil communities and families.

Because the conflict has centered on the relationship between the Sri Lankan state ( as "acting for" the Sinhalese majority community) and Sri Lankan Tamils, representations of the ethnic conflict have often neglected the perspectives of Sri Lankan Muslims whose lives have also been indelibly marked by ongoing war. The Northern Muslims I worked with were all forcibly expelled from the north by the LTTE and have lived as collectively displaced people ever since. However, the north became a mono-cultural— if not mono-religious given the large proportion of Christian Tamils— Tamil region only after the expulsion of Muslims. Muslims remain, I argue, the unspoken void of the Tamil nationalist project- The breakdown of Tamil and Muslim relations in violence in the east, and in forcible eviction in the north, has been the major fissure of the 1990s war. Any possible peaceful future in northern and eastern Sri Lanka has to contend with Tamil-Muslim relations (McGilvray 2008).

Furthermore, that this book is about northern Tamils and Muslims is to highlight another contested assumption of pan-regional Tamil and Muslim Identity The pan-regional Tamil identity enshrined at the heart of contemporary Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism is historically problematic and regionally contested—most evidently in the schism in the LTTE on regional (north versus east) lines in 2004. Sivathamby (1984) identities three distinct Sri Lankan Tamil regions: the "North," " East," and "Vanni" districts of the North Central province. This regionalization is also important for Sri Lankan Muslims, who can also be subdivided regionally into "Eastern," "Northern" and "Southwest" blocs, though Muslim dispersal across the island, especially in highland Randy, makes the southwest bloc more permeable. Northern and eastern Tamils and Muslims differ in the ways they reckon caste, mosque membership, folk dialects, and family structure (Pfaffcnbergcr 1982; McGil-vray 1982, 1998). Despite national ethnic identities, at a local level northern Tamils and northern Muslims are more alike in social and familial structures, as Tamils and Muslims are in the east.

Jaffna has not stood still for over two hundred years, if ever. For Jaffna Tamils, becoming displaced (idam peyrntha) with little control over ones movement was played out against a longer history of migration as a means of economic and social mobility. The Jaffna peninsula is notable for consistently high rates of out-migration throughout the colonial and post colonial period. Economically marginal to the emerging Sri Lankan plantation economy, and overpopulated (Arasaratnam 1994), the area remained largely rural and underdeveloped, while its highly educated young men and (later) women became salaried labor within the colonial administration in the rest of the island and in the wider British empire of South and South-East Asia (Bastin 1997)" and to a lesser extent Africa. The economy was heavily dependent on remittances, with over 600,000 rupees remitted from outside the island in 1903 (Bastin 1997). By the twentieth century "a sprit of migration mostly by middleclass Tamils, became built into Tamil cultural aspirations" (McDowell 1996: 69). Within the island, Colombo, the capital city, was the favored site of internal migration flows from Jatfna for those seeking salaried work, the flow between Jatfna and Colombo being one of the most consistent migratory flows into Colombo throughout the twentieth century (Don Arachchige 1994: 30). Thus what I describe is not a largely sedentary group of people. Jaffna Tamils to whom movement was unknown, but a people for whom the possibility for chosen migration was always valued. In contrast, until their eviction in Northern Muslims were far more sedentary and less migratory.

Kumaraguru Kugamoorthy, my favorite uncle, a journalist who helped so many And who I remember for his kindness, his big smiles, explosive laughter, and his many stories, disappeared in Colombo on September 13, 1990, falsely accused as an LTTE supporter and taken into an army camp. We have never heard from him again. He leaves behind Thenmoli, his widow who searched for him for years, and Manoujitha, his daughter born in Jaffna days before he disappeared in Colombo, who has never seen him. Their lives are the lives of so many in Sri Lanka—for whom this book is ultimately written.

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