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Eloquent bodies: conflict and ritual in northern Sri Lanka

Derges, Jane (2009) Eloquent bodies: conflict and ritual in northern Sri Lanka. Anthropology and Medicine, 16 (1). pp. 27-36. ISSN 1364-8470

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13648470802425930


It is increasingly apparent that hostilities continue in the aftermath of war and conflict, where presuppositions of peace and safety are rarely reflected on the ground. In Sri Lanka, the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has recently collapsed. This collapse developed slowly over a period of several years, beginning with cautious optimism before descending into deep pessimism with increasingly high levels of violence brought about by the absence of any real progress. Efforts to rebuild and reintegrate both rural and urban communities in the north of the country have had to take place within an atmosphere of silence, suspicion and a marked escalation towards the renewed outbreak of war. This article, following sixteen months of fieldwork in the northern Jaffna peninsula, examines how Tamil youths – many of whom were imprisoned and tortured during the war – have transformed a well-known ritual that has seen a dramatic increase since occupation of the far north by government troops in 1996. The ritual, previously an act of devotion to a popular Tamil god, Murugan, has transformed into a demonstration of strength and youthful challenge. This article examines how toleration of ritual pain can be contrasted with the pain and suffering of war, and articulated not only for the self, but also for the entire community.

Item Type:Article
Research Community:University of Westminster > Life Sciences, School of
ID Code:10912
Deposited On:24 Jul 2012 16:21
Last Modified:24 Jul 2012 16:21

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