Stories of Home: Generation, Memory, and Displacement among Jaffna Tamils and Jaffna Muslims
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date30/08/2037
The Sri Lankan civil war has been ongoing for over twenty years. Fought out in the civilian areas of the North and East of Sri Lanka, between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) it has completely transformed the lives of ordinary people living in the primary battlefields of the North and East.. The last twenty years has seen massive internal and external displacement from the North and East as well as the complete reordering of physical and social landscapes of the past, the present, and thus the future. This thesis is centred roughly on stories of one place, Jaffna and the concept of ur/home that Daniel (1984) argues is central to ideas of Tamil personhood. I examine what home means when disproportionate movement occurs and what happens to displaced families and individuals. The thesis examines both Tamils and Muslims from the North, and takes at the heart of its inquiry, the nature of belonging, and who is allowed to belong and who is not. Through a few individual biographies I trace themes of displacements and memory. I look at what people's ideas of home are, and, what happens to these ideas of home in displacement. In particular I examine how people come to find that by inhabiting different places/homes, they may become different kinds of persons. This becomes folded into generational structures. Thus I look at the work of inheritance of property, memory, kinship that different generations attempt to transmit and pass on in an attempt to be related to each other. The intimate and the familial are linked to the ongoing political situation where the interior becomes the repository of stories disallowed in the exterior. I use the metaphor of houses and rooms in my thesis to point to the conditions of internal terror that framed my research. Tamils, living with internal terror, could only tell stories in the spaces of the interior. In contrast working with Muslims, outdoor ethnography was possible. I discuss the freedom to belong, denied to Muslims, and the freedom to speak, denied to Tamils. Thus, I reflect upon the different imaginations of speaking and silence, residence and belonging for different political and social locations within the same history and place. In the end this is a thesis about how individuals reflect upon their lives. While it is not based in Jaffna, it is on Jaffna past, Jaffna present, Jaffna imagined and Jaffna lost. It looks at the specificities of how people deal with the larger human dramas of love, loss, home and the relationship of the self to kin.