“Placing the Past in the Present: Tamil Oral History in London” by R. Mahan (ROTA)

Placing the Past in the Present: Tamil Oral History in London chronicles the stories, memories and experiences of Sri Lankan Tamils in London. It is one piece of the larger, one-year Through the generations: Tamil oral history project conducted in 2012.

To download the book for free click the link: http://www.rota.org.uk/webfm_send/194

Référence: Mahan R., 2013, Placing the Past in the Present: Tamil Oral History in London, Race on the Agenda (ROTA), London, 53 p.

We also invite you to visit the  website presenting the very interesting project “Through the generations: Tamil oral history”

Via: http://tamilgenerations.rota.org.uk/about/

Source: Race on the Agenda (ROTA)

ROTA is a social policy organisation focused on issues impacting on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

http://www.rota.org.uk/

“Nationalism as meaningful life projects: identity construction among politically active Tamil families in Norway” by Stine Bruland

We would like to announce the release of an article written by Stine Bruland on “Nationalism as meaningful life projects: identity construction among politically active Tamil families in Norway”

Abstract

This article explores the motivations for how and why national Tamil identity becomes so desirable for politically active Tamil parents in Norway. What leads them to socialize their children into an embodied understanding of what it means to be Tamil – closely related to the Tamil Tiger discourse and practice? The article discusses how private practices of relatedness become technologies of nationhood, and vice versa. I argue that in their transnational lives, the children’s Tamil identity offers a way for the politically active parents to ease nostalgia for their own childhoods and a way to create a meaningful life for themselves and their children in a transnational context.

Author biographies

STINE BRULAND is a research assistant at the Department of Ethnography at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. From August 2011 she will be a PhD fellow at Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Reference of the article: Stine Bruland, “Nationalism as meaningful life projects: identity construction among politically active Tamil families in Norway”, in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Volume 35, Issue 12, 2012

source: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/ref/10.1080/01419870.2011.599851#tabModule 

The simulated politics of diaspora by Nirmala Rajasingam

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If you listen to nationalists within the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, it’s still the mid-1970s, and a Tamil Eelam is right around the corner.

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s very public failure to gain recognition in a quintessentially British elite establishment, the Oxford Union, exposes his confused strategy towards the West. The President’s grandiloquent claims about his ‘anti imperialist’ credentials run contrary to his desire to be feted by his old colonial masters, and to be rehabilitated with them. This, we must remember, is a President who warmly embraced the Bush doctrine of the ‘war on terror’ and now upholds neoliberal solutions of economic development as the panacea to all of Sri Lanka’s problems.

Having conquered the LTTE, the President and his nationalist allies now want to take on the Tamil diaspora overseas. If so, however, the Oxford Union debacle was a signal that the regime is far from clear on how to do so. The reality is that the regime can only make the diaspora ‘irrelevant’ by alleviating the plight of the Tamils displaced by war inSri Lanka, making the reconciliation process transparent and independent, and by sitting down with the minorities in the country to discuss their political future.

While the Rajapakse regime’s exclusivist Sinhala ultra-nationalist position is not lost on anyone, the Oxford incident also highlighted the shortcomings of the Tamil nationalist diaspora’s campaign to internationalise the plight of the Tamils. The demonstration by diaspora Tamils holding Tiger flags indicates that it is of no consequence to them that the LTTE is now discredited amongst Lankan Tamils. Does this movement’s evolution, at its heart, speak for the Tamils of Sri Lanka, or is it bent on creating a pseudo-politics for its own misguided ends? The Tamil-nationalist diaspora community is pursuing as delusional a strategy as the Rajapakse regime, banking on Western governments and institutions to offer deliverance to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. Distancing themselves from the LTTE’s armed violence, the leaders of the Tamil nationalist diaspora are also engaged in hard lobbying of governments and institutions to rehabilitate themselves. Pressurising these governments to prevail upon the Sri Lankan government is currently their sole strategy.

The diaspora seems to believe that, despite the decimation of the LTTE, it will be able to deliver self-determination and independent nationhood for the Tamils through its diplomatic efforts. It has a very short memory, forgetting its bitterness at how the international community did not come to the aid of the LTTE and the beleaguered Tamils in May 2009, at the end of the three-decade war. As recent history would tell us, the contest between the Sri Lankan State and the Tamil nationalist diaspora, in wooing the West and winning favours, has not brought dividends to either party, or to the Tamils ofSri Lanka.

Diaspora nationalism is often a hideous caricature of its original version. Nationalisms of ethnic groups in their own habitats often have to deal with the vicissitudes of accompanying political and economic developments, the aspirations of contesting identities, the changing realities and the possibilities therein. In the diaspora, on the other hand, nationalism can be incubated in a bubble, its ambitions becoming almost an abstract fetish, with an autonomous logic of its own, bearing no relation to changing realities on the ground. Over the years, this writer has seen such bubble-logic firsthand. For instance, at a 2004 meeting of the international watchdog Human Rights Watch in London, dissenting Tamil activists (including this writer) were verbally attacked by both pro-LTTE activists for ‘daring’ to criticise the LTTE, and by Sinhalese nationalists who eventually held up a map of India and Sri Lanka, to tell the Tamils while pointing to India, ‘Go back to your country!’

Dangerous guilt

There is no doubt that the nationalist Tamil community in the West has embraced nationalism with greater fervour than the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Over the years of war, after all, the latter gradually became disillusioned with the liberation struggle – the internecine fighting amongst the militant groups, the autocracy of the LTTE, and its callous disregard for the Tamil people’s welfare. All of this worked to dispel the myth of nationalism.

In the West, on the other hand, most members of the nationalist diaspora have not had the same experiences of living through the war. However, they left behind families and communities who they have subsequently felt an obligation to support. As the war intensified, information and propaganda about the sufferings of Tamils back home resonated through the diaspora, mobilising many to support the separatist cause. This soon became a money-making venture for the LTTE lobby, as a complex sense of nostalgia, longing, guilt and exile got fashioned into political solidarity. This continues today: at this year’s Heroes Day celebrations in London, on 27 November, nearly 10,000 people were in attendance. The LTTE might be gone but Tamil nationalism lives on in the diaspora.

Like any other migrant community, Sri Lankan Tamils have banded together in their host countries as a strategy for survival. Affected by the vagaries of racism, discrimination and economic deprivation, the diaspora Tamils have organised in order to gain political representation and equal treatment. Tamil nationalism becomes the underpinning ideology that facilitates such mobilisation in multicultural cities such as London and Toronto. Tamils have now penetrated local government structures, having won elections using the Tamil vote-bank with rallying cries of Tamil nationalism. The local politicians in precincts with large Tamil presence attend rallies organised by the Tamil nationalist lobby, which in turn is interpreted as the local political establishment backing the Tamil nationalist cause. These are methods of buying political influence and goodwill within the main parties of government in the UK and Canada, and it must be admitted that in this regard Tamils are no different from other migrant communities.

The majority of diaspora Tamils are from the Northern Province (indeed, mostly from the Jaffna peninsula), from upper-caste and lower-middle or middle-class backgrounds. Also, the vast majority are here to stay, and have little material stake in what happens back home. The poor, those from Dalit or lower-caste communities, and those from more marginalised areas (such as Mannar, Amparai or Batticaloa) have left in much smaller numbers. These other groups of Tamils do not feature prominently within the nationalist lobby in the diaspora – and express doubts about the current nationalist campaigns. It is the elite leadership of the Tamil diaspora, which once backed the LTTE, that now invests its faith in the Western governments and campaigns hard to buy some leverage with them.

Diaspora vacuum

The LTTE left the Tamil community bereft of a credible leadership. While its departure has left the field clear for a variety of independent leaders to emerge, the Tamil community largely remains quiescent, unable to find a voice. The nationalists in the diaspora are now staking a claim to the mantle of the LTTE to represent Tamils in SriLanka. The Sri Lankan state’s ongoing failure to deal with the problems facing the Tamils on the ground gives energy to this movement. What the diaspora nationalist community forgets, however, is that while the Sri Lankan state played its part, the total political disenfranchisement and subjugation of the Tamil people was wrought by the LTTE – with the backing of the diaspora – over the war years. The diaspora leadership abdicated its responsibility towards the Tamil people by being dismissive about the LTTE’s transgressions, including serving innocents up for slaughter by the armed forces in the final phase of the war.

Some in the diaspora nationalist community are currently attempting to distance themselves from their original ideological moorings of LTTE militarism and nationalism. But keen observers can see no evidence of a departure, either ideologically or politically, from the erstwhile LTTE positions, beyond a welcome disavowal of armed struggle with positions on independent statehood and separatism remaining unchanged. On the other hand, the diaspora nationalists are confronted by a general splintering. Previously, the LTTE exercised highly centralised control over its diaspora outfits; but of late, multiple factions have emerged. For the new groups, future control and use of the large funds and assets left behind by the LTTE has become an increasingly contentious issue. The absence of the LTTE thus presents a power vacuum not just in Sri Lanka but among the diaspora organisations as well.

Since the end of the war, three events have been particularly significant for the diaspora. The first was the seeking of a re-endorsement of the Vaddukoddai Resolution of 1976 – which put forward that the demand for an independent Tamil state – through an international referendum in April 2010 amongst diaspora Tamils. Second was the setting-up of what is known as the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), through an election held among diaspora Tamils in May 2010. Third, a Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has been set up, an alliance of important diaspora Tamil-nationalist groups.

In fact, the Vaddukoddai resolution, if not flawed to begin with, is now certainly redundant. The TGTE and the GTF reiterate the principle of self-determination and the pursuit of independent nationhood utilising the same format, language and principles as the Tamil political parties did more than three decades ago. These organisations are not paying heed to the very public expressions of bitterness that were made about the diaspora’s role during the war by many displaced in the Vanni – much less enunciating any need for introspection on what went wrong within the Tamil national struggle.

At the same time, suspicions are being raised even within the Tamil diaspora itself regarding the exact motivations of the renewed nationalist push. After all, earlier, there was an LTTE, waging war in the island for an independent state; today, however, there is no force on the ground. As such, some are questioning whether the recent actions have really been money-making schemes in righteous nationalist garb. The collection of funds and sale of nationalist paraphernalia amongst the diaspora communities still continue.

In attempting to reconstruct a nationalist political movement amongst diaspora Tamils – without reference to what is happening on the ground in Sri Lanka – these groups are trying to create a Tamil nationalist politics and discourse overseas to parallel that back home. Indeed, this parallel politics is replete with elections and referendums, all taking place among a Tamil population that really has no wish to return. This political practice can only be termed a simulated politics, a distortion of the hopes and desire of Tamils on the ground, expending huge energies and resources but lacking in substance – and, as a result, legitimacy.

Obsession with separation

The diaspora today needs to recognise that the Tamil community’s future lies in peaceful democratic coexistence with the other two primary communities on the island. The problems that Tamils face are immense, especially in the face of growing Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism and state repression; but they are also inextricably intertwined with the issues faced by the other communities, such as land, livelihood territory and political power. The politics of diasporic Tamil nationalism, on the other hand, continue to prescribe separate development, which will ghettoise and marginalise Tamils further.

Even if the Sri Lankan state does not offer solutions, politics can begin at the grassroots with negotiation, mediation and building alliances with the other communities and political groupings. Tamils need to demand accommodation at the heart of the SriLankan polity, and wrest a foothold and stake in the country’s political mainstream. The Tamils from the east, Mannar, the hill country, and Dalits and women who do not have a voice in the diaspora’s nationalist project need to be a part of this mainstream. One must note that none of the programmes of the diaspora nationalists indicates any interest in speaking to the Muslims, a community that suffered horrifically at the hands of the LTTE. The sterile incantation of self-determination and nationhood expose how out of touch the diaspora Tamil nationalists are with people on the ground.

The diaspora Tamils activists must now decide whether they want to sing from an old hymn sheet, in a different key, creating dissonance with what progressive activists – Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim – in Sri Lanka are hoping to build: a movement for democracy, to challenge the Rajapakse regime’s efforts at dismantling Sri Lankandemocracy. What the diaspora nationalists must understand is that its members are not the protagonists in this theatre of politics. Instead, the people of Sri Lanka are, including the Tamils, who need to play a central role.

This article was published in Himal, January 2011.

Nirmala Rajasingham is a Sri Lankan Tamil activist and writer living in exile in London.

Sri Lankan Cinema and Its Diaspora

Sponsored by the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies, this preconference calls attention to a group of films largely concerned with the Sri Lankan armed conflict. This event will feature the most recent manifestations of a film movement called the “third revolution,” whose concerns have revolved around the socio-political transformations brought about by three decades of civil war. Together this new wave of filmmakers represented by Pradeepan Raveendran, Suba Sivakumaran, and Sanjeewa Pushpakumara capture a complex profile of contemporary cinema from Sri Lanka and the diaspora.

 

Location: University Room, The Madison Concourse Hotel

Tentative Schedule
1:00-1:05 Introduction by Jeanne Marecek (Swarthmore College)
1:05-1:20 Opening Remarks by Nalin Jayasena (Miami University)
1:20-1:35 Pradeepan Raveendra, A Mango Tree in the Front Yard (11 min).

Set in war-ravaged Sri Lanka and filmed in South India, this short film centers on a group of Tamil schoolchildren for whom violence is an everyday reality.

1:35-1:45 Preaddepan Raveendran, Shadows of Silence (11 min.)

A middle-aged Tamil man living in exile with his young family contemplates numerous ways to commit suicide.

1:45-2:00 Suba Sivakumaran, I Too Have a Name (12 min.)

A Tamil woman, living with the memory of pain, goes about her daily existence as a nun in the ravaged northeast of Sri Lanka at a time when her country is slipping in and out of war. As the world around her continues to be made and unmade by violence, she carves out a small space to breathe and to find power and meaning in her life.

2:00-2:30 A conversation with Suba Sivakumaran

2:30-3:00 Tea Break

3:00-5:10 Sanjeewa Pushpakumara, Flying Fish (125 min.)

Shot in a seemingly idyllic village by the first-time director Sanjeewa Pushpakumara, this startlingly assured film follows three interwoven stories (two Sinhala and one Tamil) involving forbidden love and ethnic tension. The languid pace of the villagers belies the hostility that has built over quarter century of warfare.

5:15-6:30 Roundtable discussion (Neloufer de Mel, Suba Sivakumaran, and Nalin Jayasena)

 

“La transmission de l’identité religieuse dans un contexte d’immigration : Le cas de réfugiés tamouls hindous d’origine sri-lankaise à Montréal” par Mark Bradley

Nous avons le plaisir de partager un lien pour télécharger le mémoire  de Mark Bradley qui porte sur “La transmission de l’identité religieuse dans un contexte d’immigration : Le cas de réfugiés tamouls hindous d’origine sri-lankaise à Montréal”. Ce travail à été réalisé dans le cadre d’une maîtrise en sciences des religions à l’université du Québec à Montréal. Mark Bradley est actuellement doctorant en sciences des religions à l’université du Québec à Montréal et le sujet de sa thèse porte sur “La pratique religieuse comme vecteur de culture et d’identité chez les hommes de seconde génération en contexte migratoire. Le cas de la communauté tamoule sri-lankaise hindoue de Montréal.”.

Mark bradley

Référence: Bradley M., 2007, “La transmission de l’identité religieuse dans un contexte d’immigration : Le cas de réfugiés tamouls hindous d’origine sri-lankaise à Montréal”,maîtrise en sciences des religions, Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, p.138

Arrêt sur image: Une manifestation pro LTTE à Batu Caves en Malaisie par Delon Madavan

Ce billet a été publié à l’origine dans la rubrique carte postale du site en ligne Les Cafés géographiques. Les rédacteurs du site invitent leurs auteurs à commenter une photographie. Dans le cadre de cet exercice j’ai choisi d’analyser puis de commenter la mobilisation organisée, le 24 mai 2009 à Batu Caves en Malaisie, en soutien aux Tigres de Liberation pour le Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
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Une manifestation à Batu Caves, Malaisie, le 24 mai 2009
Source : Photographie de Delon Madavan

Le choix du lieu n’est pas anodin. Batu Caves, avec sa grande statue en or du dieu Murugan, est l’un des plus grands temples hindous en dehors de l’Inde. C’est de ce lieu sacré, situé à 13 km de Kuala Lumpur, que les Tamouls de Malaisie se mobilisent pour dénoncer le génocide dont sont victimes ceux de Sri Lanka. Ainsi, des photographies d’enfants et de femmes victimes des bombardements font échos aux banderoles explicites dénonçant, en tamoul ou en anglais, les atrocités qui ont été délibérément commises à l’encontre des civils (“Stop genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka”, “Punish Sri Lankan State Terrorism”, “Your silence smacks of approval of genocide”). Les organisateurs souhaitent attirer l’attention de l’opinion publique malaisienne et internationale sur la catastrophe humanitaire qui frappe la principale minorité de ce pays. En effet, la dernière phase du conflit, qui a opposé l’armée sri lankaise aux séparatistes du L.T.T.E. (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), a coûté la vie à 20 000 civils. Par ailleurs, malgré la proclamation de la victoire de Colombo, 280 000 civils se retrouvent, après plusieurs mois de combats, enfermés dans des camps d’internement surpeuplés et sans la moindre présence d’observateurs internationaux.

La communauté tamoule de Malaisie entend également faire pression pour que son gouvernement retire son soutien à l’État sri lankais qui cherche l’appui de pays tiers pour présenter un projet de résolution empêchant l’ONU d’ouvrir une enquête sur de possibles crimes de guerre et crimes contre l’humanité commis durant les derniers mois du conflit.

Les portraits du défunt leader historique des Tigres, V. Prabhakaran et les drapeaux des Tigres arborés par les manifestants ne laissent aucun doute quant à leur engagement en faveur de la création d’un État indépendant pour les Tamouls à Sri Lanka : l’Eelam.
A l’inverse, les dirigeants de certains États sont clairement présentés comme des ennemis objectifs de la cause séparatiste. Plusieurs banderoles caricaturent comme des démons les leaders politiques sri lankais (le Président Rajapakse) et indiens (le Premier Ministre indien M. Singh et Sonia Gandhi, Présidente du Parti du Congrès et femme de l’ancien Premier Ministre Rajiv Gandhi assassiné par les LTTE). Le chef de l’État sri lankais est comparé à Hitler et est présenté comme le principal responsable du génocide tamoul alors que les manifestants reprochent aux dirigeants indiens le soutien apporté à Colombo pour son projet de résolution, empêchant ainsi l’ouverture d’une enquête internationale et indépendante contre Rajapakse et son état-major. Les pancartes appelant au boycott des produits fabriqués dans ces deux pays expriment également la colère des manifestants (“Boycott ! Boycott !! Boycott !!! Air travels to India by Indian air lines, Tours to India, Relationship and Dealings with Indian High Commission”).

Pour compenser l’absence du soutien d’un État souverain, les militants pro Eelam insistent sur la mobilisation de la communauté tamoule transnationale. Plusieurs pancartes la présentent comme une entité unique et solidaire. Mais l’observation de certaines banderoles met vite en lumière son caractère artificiel. On peut ainsi lire sur certaines d’entre elles « N°1 Tamils ennemis traitors » avec les portraits de deux personnages. Le premier représente Karuna, ancien responsable militaire du LTTE pour la province Est de Sri Lanka qui a fait scission et a rejoint le gouvernement Sri Lankais. Le second portrait représente M. Karunanidhi, Chief Minister de l’État du Tamil Nadu (Inde), qui est accusé de n’avoir rien fait pour forcer l’État Central indien d’intervenir pour arrêter l’offensive militaire de l’armée sri lankaise et avoir ainsi permis le massacre des Tamouls et favorisé la défaite des Tigres. Ainsi malgré le discours des manifestants, la communauté transnationale tamoule est bien diverse et les militants présents à Batu Caves n’en sont pas les porte-parole.

Si cette mobilisation est présentée comme une réaction spontanée de défense des Droits de l’Homme en faveur d’une population civile en détresse, la manifestation n’en reste pas moins un instrument politique pour le L.T.T.E qui veut faire valoir ses positions. Pour preuve, de nombreuses manifestations se sont déroulées à travers le monde avec les mêmes slogans et la même mise en scène. A Batu Caves, le mouvement transnational tamoul pro LTTE donne une dimension religieuse à son combat politique. En organisant leur protestation dans ce temple sacré, les Tigres font également appel à la foi des fidèles pour croire, malgré la défaite militaire, à la naissance future d’un autre territoire qui a été sacralisé, celui du Tamil Eelam. Ce dernier regrouperait les parties septentrionale et orientale de l’île, considérées par les séparatistes comme le foyer historique des Tamouls à Sri Lanka. Ainsi, le LTTE présente l’obtention d’un État indépendant, non pas comme l’aboutissement du rêve des seuls Tamouls sri lankais mais comme celui de la nation tamoule dispersée à travers le monde.

Source: Delon Madavan, 2010, Carte postale de Batu Caves (Malaisie), in Les Cafés Géographiques

URL pour citer cet article: http://www.cafe-geo.net/article.php3?id_article=1981

“Sri Lankan Cinema and its Diaspora”, Preconference to the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sponsored by the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies, this preconference calls attention to a group of films largely concerned with the Sri Lankan armed conflict. This event will feature the most recent manifestations of a film movement called the “third revolution” whose concerns have revolved around the socio-political transformations brought about by three decades of civil war. Together this new wave of filmmakers represented by Pradeepan Raveendran, Suba Sivakumaran, and Sanjeewa Pushpakumara capture a complex profile of contemporary cinema from Sri Lanka and the diaspora.

Tentative Schedule

1:00-1:05 Introduction by Jeanne Marecek (Swarthmore College)
1:05-1:20 Opening Remarks by Nalin Jayasena (Miami University)
1:20-1:35 Pradeepan Ravindran, A Mango Tree in the Front Yard (11 min.)
Set in war-ravaged Sri Lanka and filmed in South India, this short film centers on a group of Tamil schoolchildren for whom violence is an everyday reality.
1:35-1:45 Pradeepan Raveendran, Shadows of Silence (11 min.)
A middle-aged Tamil man living in exile with his young family contemplates numerous ways to commit suicide.
1:45-2:00 Suba Sivakumaran, I Too Have a Name (12 min.)
2:00-2:30 A Conversation with Suba Sivakumaran.
2:30-3:00 Tea Break

 

3:00-5:10 Sanjeewa Pushpakumara, Flying Fish (125 min.)Shot in a seemingly idyllic village by first-time director Sanjeewa Pushpakumara, this startlingly assured film follows three interwoven stories (two Sinhala and one Tamil) involving forbidden love and ethnic tension. The languid pace of the villagers belies the hostility that has built over a quarter century of warfare.
5:15-6:30 Roundtable Discussion (Neloufer de Mel, Suba Sivakumaran, Nalin Jayasena)