« Talking Tamil, Talking Saivism: Language practices in a Tamil Hindu temple in Australia » by Nirukshi Perera

Nirukshi (Niru) Perera has completed her PhD at the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University (Melbourne, Australia).

The thesis  – Talking Tamil, Talking Saivism: Language practices in a Tamil Hindu temple in Australia – is available to read here.

Sum up

Hinduism is growing in its influence and significance both in Australia and internationally. The development of India as a superpower and the rise of Hindu nationalism in India are indicators of this growing influence.

In Australia all censuses since 2001 point to Hinduism as the fastest-growing non-Christian religion yet the phenomena of Hinduism in Australia is relatively under researched. Furthermore, non-white immigration and multiculturalism are once more under the spotlight in Australia with the government’s proposed changes to the English language requirements for citizenship, and with the recent release of the 2016 census results. The figure for the number of people who speak Tamil at home has grown by 45% since the 2011 census, and is now approximately 74,000 people. This means that for the part of the Australian population that speaks a language other than English at home, Tamil is the 13th top language.

Therefore, this research is a timely report on the experiences of Sri Lankan migrants and a focus on the role that language and religion play in their lives in Australia and in the formation of identities for the second- and third- generation. In fact, this is the first thesis to focus on the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Australia.

Niru conducted an ethnographic study in a Tamil Hindu temple to investigate what languages are used in the temple space and to show how the temple, as a religious institution, is helping migrants to maintain and transmit the Tamil language and Saiva religion to the next generation.

The study found that the temple has a positive influence on the development of young Tamils’ religious, ethnic and linguistic identities and it provides a safe space for children to use Tamil in a new way. This new way is termed “translanguaging” and it allows for children to use all their languages often resulting in speech that mixes Tamil and English. While English is generally their stronger language, their use of Tamil in translanguaging is evidence of the significant influence of their heritage religion and culture in their contemporary Australian lives.

« Respectable Gentlemen and Street-Savvy Men: HIV Vulnerability in Sri Lanka » by Sandya Hewamanne in Medical Anthropology

We are glad to provide a link for e prints for Sandya Hewamanne’s new article in Medical Anthropology on HIV vulnerability and migrant workers in Sri Lanka.
In this article, the author investigates how particular discourses surrounding class specific understandings of sexual behavior and female morality shape awareness and views of the disease and personal vulnerability. Although both groups belong to the working class, those employed by the transportation board consider themselves government servants and, therefore, “respectable gentlemen.” Construction workers identify easily with their class position, recognizing and sometimes trying to live up to the stereotypes of free sexuality. These different perceptions directly affect their concern and awareness of risk factors for sexually transmissible infections and safe-sex practices. While the “respectable gentlemen” consider themselves invulnerable, the “street-savvy men” learned about risks and took precautions to prevent STIs.

Author information

Sandya Hewamanne

Sandya Hewamanne is the author of Stitching Identities in a Free Trade Zone: Gender and Politics in Sri Lanka (2008) and Sri Lanka’s Global Factory Workers: (Un) Disciplined Desires and Sexual Struggles in a Post-colonial Society (2016). She teaches anthropology at the University of Essex, United Kingdom.

Report on « Exploitation in Qatar of workers from Sri Lanka and other Asian countries » by Amnesty International

Amnesty International has issued a new report entitled:  « The Dark Side of Migration:  Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup. »  The report reveals routine and widespread abuse of migrant labor in Qatar’s construction industry, in some cases amounting to forced labor.  Workers in Qatar’s construction industry come from Sri Lanka and other Asian countries.  For more information, please see http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/qatar-end-corporate-exploitation-migrant-construction-workers-2013-11-17

If anyone has information on any diaspora organizations working on behalf of Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Middle East, I’d appreciate hearing about them.
For more information on Amnesty’s concerns in Sri Lanka, please visit amnestyusa.org/srilanka.
Jim McDonald
Sri Lanka Country Specialist
Amnesty International USA