Roots of Diaspora: Journeys matter, journeys shape us.
Roots of Diaspora is an interactive project on refugeehood and migration which aims to collect personal and family stories of flight and immigration of Tamils from Sri Lanka dating back as far as 1948, the year the postcolonial state was born. The project aims to trace the routes, modes of transportations, encounters and experiences of an estimated one million Tamil refugees and immigrants who left the island of Sri Lanka to reach sanctuaries abroad. The aim of this project is to map journeys of pre-war, war and post-war migration to provide visual understanding and context for the impact of racial violence and discriminatory policies on affected communities.
With this project we aim to undo the diasporic status quo and find answers to questions such as what happened following the final departure from Sri Lanka, where did Tamils desire to move to, which points of transit did they go through, how did they cross borders and natural boundaries, what did they experience throughout their journeys, what was the context of borders and geographies then, which policies aided/obstructed their decisions on their final pathways or where did they finally arrive at and how? These are just few of the questions this project intents to find answers to along this journey. The core idea behind this project is to historicise departures, arrivals and importantly the period in between departure and arrival of Tamil refugees and migrants.
As a community we have so far spent few efforts and resources on documenting the many stories of hardship, violence and displacement we have faced. With this project we hope to counter the profound silence surrounding questions of migration amongst the Tamil community and hope to incite meaningful conversations and exchanges between people across different oceans on our diasporic presence, identities and memories.
We want to invite you to join and contribute to this collective journey. Please do lend us your support and keep your ears and eyes open for more news to follow.
For submissions, interests and other queries, please contact us under email@example.com.
Team, contributors and collaborators:
Sinthujan Varatharajah, founder of Roots of Diaspora, is the son of Tamil refugees, born and raised in Germany. He is a writer, poet, photographer, digital distortionist and collector of stories. Sinthujan is currently a PhD student in Political Geography at University College London and holds a MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Amarnath Amarasingam was born in Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka, and sought refuge in Canada with his parents, arriving in Toronto at the age of six. He is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University and also teaches at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. He is the author of Pain, Pride, and Politics: Sri Lankan Tamil Activism in Canada, to be published in the near future.
Abinaya Balasubramaniam is a daughter of the Canadian Tamil diaspora, born in Jaffna and raised in Canada. She considers herself a diasporic body, traveller and dancer whose journeys have influenced her interest in social activism and narrative writing. She is currently doing a BA double major in Equity Studies & Women and Gender Studies, and a minor in Diaspora and Transnational Studies at University of Toronto.
Delon Madavan is a Tamil from the French diaspora, born and raised in à Paris. He holds a PhD in Geography from Université de Paris-Sorbonne. His early research focused on the consequences of the Sri Lankan interethnic conflict for the town of Jaffna and its inhabitants. He studied in his thesis the socio spatial integration of the Tamil minority in Colombo, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. He is also one of the co editors of the online website Sri Lanka & Diasporas.
Ahila Poolagaindran is the daughter of Tamil refugees, raised in Canada. She has an interest in Migration, Asylum and Immigration, Public Policy and Urban Planning. She is currently studying Public Policy and Refugee/Migration/Urban Studies at the University of Toronto and has received her BA in Development Studies from McGill University, Montreal.
Jeyabharati Sivan is a daughter of the British Tamil diaspora, born to Tamil refugees in India and raised in the UK. She has an interest in developing arts projects, marketing the arts and is involved with the Southasian arts scene in London. She currently works as a Licence Manager for the Financial Times and holds a BA in Business Studies from London Metropolitan University.
Nayani Thiyagarajah is a daughter of the Yalpanam-Tamil diaspora, born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She is a writer, a performance artist, a filmmaker, and a doula in training. She is currently completing her MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (Diaspora/Performance/Women’s Studies) at York University and has a BA in Journalism from Ryerson University, Toronto.
Ram Sabaratnam is a son of the Canadian Tamil diaspora, born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He has an interest in Feminist Theory and Democratic Theory and is completing his MSc in Political Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He holds a BA in Political Science, Philosophy, and Women’s Studies from McGill University, Montreal.
We are currently looking for volunteers to help the project grow. If you have an interest for migration and diaspora and have skills in social media, PR, webdesign, photography, interviews, research and editing, please contact us under firstname.lastname@example.org
The project is run independently and is not affiliated with any political body, academic institution or alternative funding body.