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Title: Eloquent bodies : communicating violence in northern Sri Lanka
Author: Derges, Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 2670 9069
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available