Migration and Diasporas
A significant consequences of Sri Lanka’s civil conflict has been the movement of its Tamil population; internally and internationally. In the decades after independence, tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority escalated – culminating in civil war between the State and the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from 1983. In 2010 the Tamil diaspora was estimated at one million people - approximately one quarter of the entire Sri Lankan Tamil population. Despite their diversity – including date of arrival, length of stay and legal status in host countries, gender, caste, region, socio-economic standing and political orientation – Tamils abroad usually see themselves as belonging to the diaspora which is partly a product of the exclusionary politics of the Sinhala nationalists that came to power after the parliamentary election in 1956.
This panel will focus on Tamil politics in the transnational space of diaspora following the LTTE’s defeat in 2009. After having been politically and culturally dominated by the LTTE, the Tamil diaspora is restructuring itself. New associations have been founded and new spaces for mobilization are available - although some previous organizations are still operating. Through discussion of research in European countries with a significant Tamil presence, the panel will consider the shapes these new forms of expression are taking. Are dissidents gaining renewed legitimation in the diasporic public sphere? How are former LTTE fighters negotiating legitimacy and recognition in host countries and among Tamil communities?
Memory of the war has a paramount role in shaping Tamils’ identity and maintaining collectivity in diaspora. What is the articulation between personal and collective memory? How is remembering linked to nationalist mobilization? How is this expressed in artistic productions and reproductions in diasporic spaces?
Politics and memory are established by local and transnational links among diaspora sites and Sri Lanka itself. How are these changing post-LTTE hegemony? Does the end of the LTTE’s leadership open doors for new expressions and voices? What are the different forms of continuation of conflict (or post-war activism) that appear in Europe? Now that the homeland has become more accessible for some Tamils living abroad, how has the relationship between Tamils in diaspora and Sri Lanka altered, and how have the altered dynamics of the post-war decade impacted upon the possibility of a pan-Tamil diasporic consciousness; inclusive not only of Sri Lankan Tamils, but globally dispersed Tamils of diverse state origins and heritage?