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Eloquent bodies: communicating violence in northern Sri Lanka.

Derges, J.; (2008) Eloquent bodies: communicating violence in northern Sri Lanka. Doctoral thesis , University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

Following twenty-five years of civil war between the Sri Lankan government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LITE), a ceasefire was called in February 2002. This truce is now on the point of collapse, due to a break down in talks over the post-war administration of the northern and eastern provinces. These instabilities have lead to conflicts within the insurgent ranks as well as political and religious factions in the south. This thesis centres on how the anguish of war and its unresolved aftermath is being communicated among Tamils living in the northern reaches of Sri Lanka. There is an atmosphere of intense mistrust where notions of loyalty and betrayal are demonstrated through speech. Articulating grief, anger and powerlessness is therefore complex within a milieu where there are high levels of both internalised and externalised despair - none more so than among the 'war generation'. The underlying brutalisation created by the war is implicitly recognised as the root cause of much current social unrest. It is also feared that exposure to depictions of violence through access to recently imported modern cultural artefacts, such as videos, have exacerbated the problem. Within this mood of silent tension, communication seems to be taking place through existing, but adapted cultural forms. For the younger generation whose experiences included combat, arrest and torture, it has taken shape through a propitiatory ritual involving inscriptions of pain on the body - thuukkukkaavadi, which has increased exponentially in the last ten years. For others, it is through adherence to gang traditions, which have raised considerable anxieties within the local population. Both 'performances' can be seen as efforts to communicate and articulate the brutalising effects of war through the utilisation of bodies to convey meaning: "(Rituals)...use objects and substances as well as the bodies of the performers to transmit...meta-messages, difficult or even impossible to convey" (Rappaport 1999:252). In this case the message seems to be one of entrapment, anger and disillusionment within a conflict that remains unresolved.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Eloquent bodies: communicating violence in northern Sri Lanka.
Identifier: PQ ETD:591568
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by Proquest
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1444266
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