“Complexity of “Loyalty”, “Betrayal” and Metaphors of Eelam in Shobhasakthi’s “Traitor”” by

“Shobhasakthi’s Traitor ends with a surrealistic description where an old man wandering about the mountains with a corpse which he carries – a corpse which he uses to entertain, disgust and even to drive away people; which he sometimes uses for his own sustenance – encounters a carter going uphill caught in a predicament with its horse which wouldn’t budge. The carter whispers in the horse’s ear, tries a mild stroking from its whip and – all failing – thrashes the beast with all his might. The old man, who with his corpse is seated nearby, is visibly moved and intervenes. This abstraction with which the novel ends is a surrealistic summing up of the fate of the Eelamist struggle and the fate of its various stakeholders.”

via: http://slwakes.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/complexity-of-loyalty-betrayal-and-metaphors-of-eelam-in-shobhasakthis-traitor/

2nd volume of Ben Bavinck’s diary “Of Tamils and Tigers: A Journey Through Sri Lanka’s War Years”

We would like to bring to your attention anew book on Sri Lanka, volume 2 of Ben Bavinck, Of Tamils and Tigers: A Journey Through Sri Lanka’s War Years (Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2014).

The first volume, which was published in 2010, covered the period 1988 through 1994.  Valentine Daniel’s foreword to this volume noted that Bavinck’s diary entries provide ‘a record of what he had seen and has now witnessed; an emotionally charged landscape that was at once subtle and plain, complex and transparent, objective yet interpreted. This diary is a gift, not only to the historian and research scholar, but to every (Sri Lankan) citizen, whatever be the state with which he or she chooses to identify himself/herself with.’

The second volume covers the period 1994-2004, when Bavinck was mostly in Jaffna.

Both volumes have been made available through the efforts of the Rajani Thiranagama Memorial Committee.
source: AISLS

new book by Zoltán Biedermann on Portuguese in Sri Lanka and South India

Zoltán Biedermann’s book explores the Portuguese presence in Sri Lanka and South India with an emphasis on connections, interactions and adaptations. An introduction, six freshly revised case studies and an afterword provide historical insights into the making of Portuguese power in the region and point out new ways forward in the study of the subject. Themes explored include Portuguese diplomacy in Asia, the connected histories of Portugal, Sri Lanka and the Habsburg Empire, the importance of cartography for the development of Iberian ideas of conquest, the political mechanisms that allowed for the incorporation of Sri Lanka into the Catholic Monarchy of Philip II, and the remarkable resilience of elephant hunting and trading activities in Ceylon during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A long chapter delves into the comparative urban histories of Portuguese and Dutch colonial ports in South Asia and reveals intriguing connections between colonialism, local identities and cosmopolitan attitudes. Taken together, the essays in this book question simplistic contrasts between Europe and Asia as well as between the Portuguese and the Dutch empires. The Portuguese in Sri Lanka and South Asia highlights the complex connections between the global and the local in early modern European-Asian interactions.

Biedermann Z., 2014, The Portuguese in Sri Lanka and South India Studies in the History of Diplomacy, Empire and Trade, 1500-1650, Harrassowitz Verlag/Maritime Asia, 205 p.

“Life Beyond Survival: Social Forms of Coping after the Tsunami in War-Affected Eastern Sri Lanka” by Katharina Thurnheer

We would like to draw your attention to a new book by Katharina Thurnheer, Life Beyond Survival: Social Forms of Coping after the Tsunami in War-Affected Eastern Sri Lanka.  It is published in Germany by Transcript Verlag, and distributed in the United States by Columbia University Press.  Ordering information is at http://www.cup.columbia.edu/book/978-3-8376-2601-8/life-beyond-survival.

below the publisher’s description of the book.

At the heart of this in-depth ethnographic study lie the daily life situations of tsunami survivors in war-torn, eastern Sri Lanka. Each chapter is built around the empirical themes derived from the stories and recollections of Tamil women and their families during their stay in relief camps, anticipating relocation. The specifics of the socio-cultural context are firmly embedded in the discussions. Ten years after the tsunami, this publication offers a timely contribution to a better understanding of what it means to cope with the combined effects of disaster, war, and international aid in this matri-focal region of the island.

About the Author

Katharina Thurnheer (PhD) is an associate researcher at the Institute for Social Anthropology, University of Bern. Her research interests focus on war, disaster, international aid, and gender.

Research Paper from the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, “Competing for Victimhood Status: Northern Muslims and the Ironies of Post-war Reconciliation, Justice, and Development.”

The International Centre for Ethnic Studies is pleased to announce the launch of Working Paper No: 13 on the theme of Post War Reconciliation titled,Competing for Victimhood Status: Northern Muslims and the Ironies of Post-War Reconciliation, Justice and evelopment by Farzana Haniffa.

The northern Muslims together with all protracted IDPs displaced prior to 2008 became a low priority case load for return and resettlement assistance in the aftermath of the ‘end’ of the war in Sri Lanka in 2009. Framed in terms of an ethics of ‘greatest need’ connected only to funding availability, all Old IDPs lost out in the resettlement process. This paper attempts to decentre this idea of economic limits and humanitarian need by discussing the manner in which such ideas of ‘greatest need’ actually emerge from discourses about victimhood that are part of an ethical humanitarian project to which local politics are irrelevant. This paper will show, however that these initiatives consistently intersect with local power hierarchies and local ideas of legitimacy and belonging. Therefore this paper will look at the manner in which the war related victim discourse of International Humanitarianism, helped to exacerbate northern Muslims own marginality and continued exclusion from the north. Looking also at the manner in which victimhood narratives are mobilizsed in Sri Lanka by electoral politics, and displaced IDP activists themselves, this paper will speculate about the efficacy of the victim identity for political and social transformation during this time of transition in Sri Lanka.

This paper can be downloaded via this link

Box: PDF 

Scribd PDF (Facebook required for download)

source: ICES

Collection Archives ouvertes du Centre d’études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud (CEIAS)

La collection Archives ouvertes du Centre d’études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud (CEIAS) regroupe les documents (articles, pré-publications, chapitres d’ouvrages, actes de colloques) des membres du Centre et de leurs co-auteurs.

Lien pour y accéder:


“Indians in Singapore, 1819 -1945: Diaspora in the Colonial Port City”, a book by Dr Rajesh Rai


Singapore is home to Indian ethnic groups and Indian individuals have long made indelible marks on the nation. Indian Independence Day, celebrated annually on August 15th, commemorates India’s independence from Great Britain in 1947. “Indians in Singapore, 1819 -1945: Diaspora in the Colonial Port City”, a book by Dr Rajesh Rai (Assistant Professor, FASS South Asian Studies Programme), explores the Indian diaspora in colonial Singapore and reveals how this immigrant community affected and was affected by Singapore’s evolution.

Abstract: Indians in Singapore, 1819 -1945 is the first comprehensive study of the Indian diaspora in colonial Singapore. Drawing on administrative archives, intelligence reports, observer accounts, newspapers, oral testimonies, and community-based records, the book provides a meticulous historical account of the formation of the diaspora in the colonial port-city, and its socio-political, religious and cultural development from the advent of British colonial rule to the end of the Japanese occupation. Indians in Singapore examines how the conditions of living as a minority in a multi-ethnic port-city; changes in colonial ideologies, administration and economy; developments in information-communication technologies; and transnational religious and socio-political currents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, shaped Indian identity formations. What emerges is a fascinating account of how these Indian emigrants, by virtue of their unique vantage point in a frontier settlement that transformed into a metropolis of global significance, negotiated their position vis-à-vis the powers at hand and external processes in motion. In doing so, it reveals the distinct and complex nature of the historical journey of Indian migrants in the urban landscape of the colonial port-city – an aspect of diaspora studies that has received little attention in erstwhile scholarship.

Check out the links for more about the book!




“Childhood in a Sri Lankan Village : Shaping Hierarchy and Desire” by Bambi L. Chapin


Like toddlers all over the world, Sri Lankan children go through a period that in the U.S. is referred to as the “terrible twos.” Yet once they reach elementary school age, they appear uncannily passive, compliant, and undemanding compared to their Western counterparts. Clearly, these children have undergone some process of socialization, but what?

Over ten years ago, anthropologist Bambi Chapin traveled to a rural Sri Lankan village to begin answering this question, getting to know the toddlers in the village, then returning to track their development over the course of the following decade. Childhood in a Sri Lankan Village offers an intimate look at how these children, raised on the tenets of Buddhism, are trained to set aside selfish desires for the good of their families and the community. Chapin reveals how this cultural conditioning is carried out through small everyday practices, including eating and sleeping arrangements, yet she also explores how the village’s attitudes and customs continue to evolve with each new generation.

Combining penetrating psychological insights with a rigorous observation of larger social structures, Chapin enables us to see the world through the eyes of Sri Lankan children searching for a place within their families and communities. Childhood in a Sri Lankan Villageoffers a fresh, global perspective on child development and the transmission of culture.


“What makes this book so special is that it does not stop at description, as do most ethnographies. It goes on to explain Sinhalese childhood and child rearing, doing so within a well-considered, smartly-deployed psychoanalytic framework.”

—Naomi Quinn, professor emerita, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University

“Chapin’s work is a significant contribution to the anthropology of childhood. It tackles important questions about the meaning of child care practices and patterns.”

—Jill E. Korbin, Department of Anthropology and Schubert Center for Child Studies, Case Western R

Author / Editor Bio

BAMBI L. CHAPIN is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Table Of Contents

Note on Translation and Transliteration

1. Introduction
2. Sri Lanka: Setting the Ethnographic Context
3. Socializing Desire: Demanding Toddlers and Self-Restrained Children
4. Shaping Attachments: Learning Hierarchy at Home
5. Making Sense of Envy: Desire and Relationships in Conflict
6. Engaging with Hierarchy outside the Home: Education and Efforts at Change
7. Culturing People


“Social Stratification in Jaffna: A Survey of Recent Research on Caste” by Prashanth Kuganathan (Sociology Compass)

In its last release, Sociology Compass has published the article of Prashanth Kuganathan, PhD candidate at Columbia University, on : “Social Stratification in Jaffna: A Survey of Recent Research on Caste”.

The can be bought at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/soc4.v8.1/issuetoc


Since 1983, war has dominated the perception of Sri Lanka. This has affected scholarship on the coun- try, such that the subjects of an overwhelming number of research proposals and publications have been on the war and the prospects and prescriptions for peace. This survey paper is an attempt to lo- cate the system of caste in transition in the Jaffna Peninsula by reviewing recent literature written after the commencement of the war. While detailed ethnographies of caste in Jaffna may have temporarily come to a halt, caste practices have not and remain a salient part of everyday life among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. As the war ended in 2009, it is therefore important that social scientists on Sri Lanka revisit the topic of caste, that is an integral part of not just Tamil culture or society, but being Tamil itself. As the study of caste is dominated by research in India, a microanalysis of Jaffna and Sri Lanka, particularly the nuances of this system in transition due to war and militancy, could contribute to the macro-study of caste at a sub-continental perspective.

reference: Prashanth Kuganathan, “Social Stratification in Jaffna: A Survey of Recent Research on Caste”, in Sociology Compass, Volume 8/Issue 1 (2014): 78–88

“Pathways to Power: The Domestic Politics of South Asia”, edited by Arjun Guneratne and Anita M. Weiss Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014

Pathways to Power introduces the domestic politics of South Asia in their broadest possible context, studying ongoing transformative social processes grounded in cultural forms. In doing so, it reveals the interplay between politics, cultural values, human security, and historical luck. While these are important correlations everywhere, nowhere are they more compelling than in South Asia where such dynamic interchanges loom large on a daily basis. Identity politics—not just of religion but also of caste, ethnicity, regionalism, and social class—infuses all aspects of social and political life in the sub-continent. Recognizing this complex interplay, this volume moves beyond conventional views of South Asian politics as it explicitly weaves the connections between history, culture, and social values into its examination of political life.

South Asia is one of the world’s most important geopolitical areas and home to nearly one and a half billion people. Although many of the poorest people in the world live in this region, it is home also to a rapidly growing middle class wielding much economic power. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, together the successor states to the British Indian Empire—the Raj—form the core of South Asia, along with two smaller states on its periphery: landlocked Nepal and the island state of Sri Lanka. Many factors bring together the disparate countries of the region into important engagements with one another, forming an uneasy regional entity.



Introduction: Situating Domestic Politics in South Asia
Arjun Guneratne & Anita Weiss

Chapter 1: The Colonial Legacy
Shabnum Tejani

Chapter 2: India
Christophe Jaffrelot

Chapter 3: Pakistan
Anita M. Weiss

Chapter 4: Sri Lanka
Arjun Guneratne

Chapter 5: Nepal
Pratyoush Onta and Seira Tamang

Chapter 6: Bangladesh
Haroun er Rashid

source: AISLS

“Laments from a Lacerated Terrain” by Malathi de Alwis, in Journal of Postcolonial Cultures and Societies 4, 2 (2103)

we would like to share a link to read and download Malathi de Alwis’s last article, “Laments from a Lacerated Terrain”, published in Journal of Postcolonial Cultures and Societies 4, 2 (2103)



This is a collection of Sri Lankan women’s poetic responses to the varied forms and kinds of violence they have experienced during the protracted civil war in the north and east of Sri Lanka, that spanned almost three decades (early 1980s to May 2009) and during the youth uprising that took place in the south of the island, from 1987 to 1993. The Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim, and Burgher/Eurasian women represented here not only live(ed) and work(ed) in disparate regions of the island resulting in divergent experiences of the war but they also differ(ed) from each other in terms of class, caste, religion, language and sexual orientation. While all the poems may not be equivalent with regard to literary merit, what they do have in common is their ability to move, inspire, provoke, and challenge.

source: http://writingbeyondthemargins.org/journal-of-postcolonial-culture-and-societies/2013-3/special-issue-2-2/

“Metallic Modern: Everyday Machines in Colonial Sri Lanka” by Nira Wickramasinghe


Everyday life in the Crown colony of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was characterized by a direct encounter of people with modernity through the consumption and use of foreign machines – in particular, the Singer sewing machine, but also the gramophone, tramway, bicycle and varieties of industrial equipment. The ‘metallic modern’ of the 19th and early 20th century Ceylon encompassed multiple worlds of belonging and imagination; and enabled diverse conceptions of time to coexist through encounters with Siam, the United States and Japan as well as a new conception of urban space in Colombo. Metallic Modern describes the modern as it was lived and experienced by non-elite groups – tailors, seamstresses, shopkeepers, workers – and suggests that their idea of the modern was nurtured by a changing material world.

“Once every few years, a book comes along to transform the study of modern South Asia: this is such a book…[It] is deeply scholarly and yet playful; it is both empirically thorough and rich with metaphor. The book is a model of a way of writing history—non-linear, allusive, braided together—that reflects its arguments and materials. Form and content work together perfectly, and this makes Metallic Modern a wonderful read: the book is as enjoyable as it is stimulating.”  ·  Sunil Amrith, University of London

“This is a most engaging book from a well-known author… a timely contribution concerning an important subject that is attracting renewed and sustained interest from historians of late….”  ·  Crispin Bates, University of Edinburgh


List of Illustrations and Maps
Preface and Acknowledgements
Introduction: Exploring Sri Lanka’s modern: Multiple Loops of Belonging
Chapter 1. Following the Singer Sewing Machine: Fashioning a market in a British Crown Colony
Chapter 2. Creating a Market Imaginary
Chapter 3. Paths to a Buddhist modern: From Siam to America
Chapter 4. Gramophone. Soulful Sounds and Sacred Speeches
Chapter 5. An Asian Modern. Japan
Chapter 6. Trams, Cars, Bicycles: Modern Machines in the City
Chapter 7. A Tailor’s Tale and Machines in the Home
Chapter 8. Working like Machines
Conclusion: Metallic Modern

“A Star for Esther: On Sumathy’s “Ingirnithu”, Some Other Interventions and the Relevance of Education” by Vihanga Perera (In Love With a Whale)

“In a recent submission to “Raavaya”, Kumudu Kusum Kumara had attempted a reading of Sumathy’s Ingirinthu as a text of subaltern identity. As implied in that essay — and as it can be conjured from the text itself — the story of Esther Valli is the “silence” of a community that has been the subject of multiple oppression ever since the set up of the Colonial plantation economy. In fact, the very heart of the Hill Country Estate Tamil question was tied up with the case of “legitimacy” as a part of the citizen body: where, in the collective consciousness of Lanka, these marginalized communities were, at best, seen as the vassals of an export economy; while, at the worst, they were condemned to a sub-human status.”

via: http://slwakes.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/the-way-ahead-for-esther-valli-on-sumathys-ingirnithu-and-the-relevance-of-education/

source: www.slwakes.wordpress.com

“The Encyclopedia of the Sri Lankan Diaspora” General editor Peter Reeves, Edited by Rajesh Rai and Hema Kiruppalini


Well over a million people of Sri Lankan origin live outside South Asia. The Encyclopedia of the Sri Lanka Diaspora is the first comprehensive study of the lives, culture, beliefs and attitudes of immigrants and refugees from this island. The volume is a joint publication between the Institute of South Asian Studies, NUS, and Editions Didier Millet. It focuses on the relationship between culture and economy in the Sri Lanka diaspora in the context of globalisation, increased transnational culture flows and new communication technologies. In addition to the geographic mapping of the Sri Lanka diaspora in the various continents, thematic chapters include topics on “long distance nationalism”, citizenship, Sinhala, Tamil and Burgher disapora identities, religion and the spread of Buddhism, as well as the Sri Lankan cultural impact on other nations.

For further information about the book and sales related matters, please visit this website:  http://www.edmbooks.com/Book/6880/The-Encyclopedia-of-the-Sri-Lankan-Diaspora.html

Reference: Reeves, Peter., Rai,  Rajesh and Kiruppalini, Hema (eds), 2013, The Encyclopedia of the Sri Lankan Diaspora, Singapore, Editions Didier Millet, p.200