Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Smoke, shadow, light : conflict, photography, and the Tamil imagination in postwar Sri Lanka
Author: Buthpitiya, Vindhya Lakshmi
ISNI:       0000 0004 9359 6674
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
This thesis is an ethnography of the political work of popular photography in northern Sri Lanka. For this purpose, I have understood photography as comprising a constellation of images, material objects, and social and representational practices. It is central to the conceptual and methodological undertakings of this research, which interweaves war and image-making. Based on fourteen months of fieldwork located principally in Jaffna, I consider photography’s manifold social and political conjugations as a lens through which to delve into questions of conflict, nation, state, and citizenship, focused on the northern Tamil community. In the burdened ‘peace’ that followed the civil war (1983-2009), acts and spaces of Tamil civilian resistance against the violences and erasures of the Sri Lankan state have been thick with photography. Consequently, this thesis examines a variety of co-existing actors, spaces, practices and ‘genres’ relating to photography and its production, circulation and political mobilization as grounded in the wider visual economy of the post/war. From portraits of the disappeared wielded in roadside protest, the visual debris of wartime atrocity, the animated afterlives of National Identity Cards, studio snaps and cinestyle wedding albums mediating new citizenships to Instagram posts tethering transnational political claims, the local photographic economy remained shaped by the causes and consequences of the war. I highlight the ways in which the social, political, and economic conditions and ambitions bound to the ethnic conflict gave rise to responsive and mediatory forms of photographic practices. These connections offer a rich site to explore the empirical disquiet between contrasting theoretical positions which conceive of photography as ideological tool or emancipatory practice. Where war and image-making have been deemed inextricable in terms of surveillance, militarization, propaganda, and the representational tropes of suffering, I demonstrate how the unruly circuits of popular photography reveal instead its vexed democratic possibilities. Mapped against postwar Sri Lanka, I contend that photography was integral not only to the consolidation of competing nation-state imaginaries and securitization, but the disruptive formation of de-territorialized, transnational political socialities and solidarities that in turn strengthened located claims of homeland.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available