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Under the Giant’s Tank. Village, Caste, and Catholicism in Postwar Sri Lanka

Esler, Dominic; (2020) Under the Giant’s Tank. Village, Caste, and Catholicism in Postwar Sri Lanka. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis is an investigation of the relationship between the village, caste, and Catholicism in northern Sri Lanka. Drawing on almost two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Mannar District, as well as subsequent archival research, it provides a detailed analysis not only of the postwar context but also of prewar history, with a particular focus on the nineteenth century. In this thesis, I analyse three overlapping topics. First, I problematise ‘village’ through an examination of ‘cultural’ and ‘state’ village concepts, before arguing that within the complex social diversity of the village of Marudankandal there is a numerically dominant Tamil caste group, the Kadaiyars, whose prominence is reflected both rhetorically and through the control of institutions such as the Catholic village church. From this, I turn to two central dimensions of local caste praxis. First, I offer a historical explanation for the regional prevalence of village churches controlled by single castes, which remains a key characteristic of local Catholicism today. Second, I argue that despite the lessening of certain kinds of hierarchical caste relationships in recent decades, caste identities continue to be mobilised and expressed through regional communities, some of which maintain caste associations. In the absence of the LTTE, expressions of caste have become more visible, the most notable example of which is the Mannar Martyrs Social Welfare Organization. Created after the war by the Catholic Kadaiyars, the Mannar Martyrs Social Welfare Organization articulates the caste’s identification with the earliest Catholic converts in the district. It is unusual in the public nature of its activities and in the way that it has catalysed a stronger Kadaiyar identity throughout Mannar and beyond.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Under the Giant’s Tank. Village, Caste, and Catholicism in Postwar Sri Lanka
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10112094
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