“Even as neo-liberalism attempts to trans-nationalize the globe, the nation continues to be popular among many communities in both Europe and the postcolony. For Marxist postcolonial thinkers like Neil Lazarus (1999:48) and Timothy Brennan (1999:25 – 26), the nation and the nation-state function mainly as communities of resistance to globalization and American-centered global cosmopolitanism. But in places like the UK, Spain and Belgium and in many parts of the postcolony such as Somalia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the nation exists as a vibrant political entity primarily because it refuses to tolerate the character of the state under which it lives and due to its desire to have a state exclusively for itself. Nations in these places predicate their demand for self-rule on historical claims over territory, the differences that they draw between themselves and other nations in terms of culture and language and the ripening of their collective self-consciousness into nationhood. The dominance of one nation over others in these places intensifies the marginalized nation’s thirst for national liberation. Claiming to resist the hegemonic Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist project of the Sri Lankan state, Tamil nationalism invokes many of these arguments to legitimize the Tamils’ right to self-determination in the north-east of Sri Lanka which the nationalist narrative inscribes as the historical habitat of the Tamils.”
The Sri Lankan state’s power to narrate the war and characterize the enemy is an expression of “triumphalist nationalism” and is a selective remembering of war. Based on photographs taken during several field visits to these sites by both authors between December 2012 and January 2014, we analyze the relationship of war and tourism and how a particular Sinhala nationalist remembering of the war and landscape of memory are being constructed in post-war Sri Lanka. Today, Sri Lanka is a former war zone where the Government’s troops defeated the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) and ended 26years of violent conflict in May 2009. The end of the war came at a huge cost to civilian life in the northern part of the country ; the UN estimates that over 40,000 people were killed, most of whom were Tamils who form the majority in Northern Sri Lanka. Despite the end of military conflict, war continues by other means, and its representation encapsulates anationalist politics of victory that at once vilifies the defeated LTTE “terrorists” and excludes Northern Tamils from the Sri Lankan polis. The LTTE’s former hideouts, training facilities, weapons, and vehiclesare now tourist sites on display for public viewing.
“Lastly, Dayan makes a claim of surpassing ignorance that I wish he never did when he says that, “In the case of Sri Lanka the case of pluri-nationalism is patently absurd, because one ethnic group constitutes almost 75% of the island’s population, and according an equal status of nationhood to a far smaller formation is logically untenable. With such overwhelming preponderance of one community, how could the entity that is Sri Lanka be described as pluri-national or bi-national?” He then goes on to substantiate this claim with exactly the same kind of asinine analogy from international relations that I have previously said makes the argument in his book more unpersuasive than it should be.
There is a book to be written as to why this is complete nonsense, but suffice it here to say one thing. There is nothing ‘patently absurd’ about this. Every plurinational state is dominated by a large majority nation. That is a fact, a given, a reality, and as can be seen from basic statistics, this is even more pronounced than in Sri Lanka in
the three most advanced plurinational states in the world.”
Yet as long as the threat of intervention hangs over Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa can tug at his countrymen’s nationalist heart strings, rally ultra-nationalists and galvanise support for a government seemingly under attack from foreign interests. His government can deploy an “us-and-them” framework and brand broader anti-government views as anti-nationalist.
This, coupled with the glacial pace of international justice and an almost pathological ability by mainstream Sri Lanka to overlook violent abuses of power, means Rajapaksa’s political opponents will gain little traction for a campaign based on alleged war crimes.
Rajapaksa, like so many before him, enjoys an impunity no international bellowing is likely to overcome.
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”
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.
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