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Title: Violence and shame : local constructions of masculinity in a Sinhala village.
Author: De Silva, Jani Ravina.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3420 6937
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2000
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My thesis explores a violent episode which took place in a Sinhala village in Sri Lanka. This episode involved a series of events which unfolded between November 1989-January 1990, when 22 schoolboys were abducted from their homes, tortured and killed by personnel based at a neighbouring army camp. This episode took place in the wake of a popular armed upnsmg. Yet an Intelligence investigation conducted by the regime-in-power in 1991 exonerated all the boys from any complicity in insurgent activity. Though Sri Lanka has seen collective violence ranging from inter-ethnic to class-based to gender-specific, in this event, both victims and perpetrators share the same Sinhala-Buddhist ethnic, linguistic and religious ethos and male gender. Thus local constructions of masculinities within Sinhala society become increasingly pivotal; it was not their politics, I argue, but their demeanour as young boys which was central to their fate. This involves the posture of deference (lajja-bhavu or the 'fear of being [publicly] shamed') that adolescent offspring in Sinhala society almost involuntarily assume vis-a-vis parents, older sibling and other figures of authority. Bodily demeanour, remarks Bourdieu, exemplifies social class and gender identity (1977; 1984). But I would argue that in the South Asian context demeanours of deference do not always imply hierarchichal relationships of power, though sometimes of course they may. They remain a courtesy which retains the fiction of precedence. Withdrawal of such deference creates anxiety and unvoiced rage. But with the incursions of the global into everyday life, local demeanours of self-hood are pervaded by the effects of the tabloid/electronic media, mass education, discourses on political rights etc. and fraught with new ambiguities. And even more than a withdrawal of deference, such ambiguity provokes unease. But since - much of the time - demeanour is involuntary, the young actor may not always perceive that his demeanour is now more charged, and he may not grasp the enormity of the emotions this occasions. It is in the public domain that such withdrawal/ambiguity is most clearly seen to undermine the role of it's receiver, whose outrage becomes to that extent culturally validated. This creates a space for the performative acting out of such emotions. The act or violence now becomes an attempt to restore meaning/significance to the life of the actor. seen to have been in some way untenably diminished by the withdrawal of deference.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sri Lanka; Self-hood