Accepted Paper:

Chronic suffering as a way of life  
Emily Graham (Swinburne University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic research in a Vedda-Tamil fishing village in eastern Sri Lanka, this paper contributes to an understanding of the lived experience of suffering, and the kind of reasoning about the past, present and future that are fostered in conditions of chronic suffering.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers how people living in chronic suffering make sense of their life trajectories. It is informed by seven months of ethnographic fieldwork in a small Vedda-Tamil fishing village in eastern Sri Lanka. The community has experienced multiple significant hardships. These include natural disasters such as cyclones, yearly flooding and the 2004 tsunami, and human-made disaster with 30 years of civil war and ongoing discrimination and marginalization.

Yet participants spoke about poverty as the hardest thing of all. This paper examines the way villagers told their life stories through a lens of suffering. For them, the ongoing experience of poverty has 'normalized' long-term suffering. While their suffering is real, people have become accustomed to it, and resigned to its continuance, to the extent that it is difficult for villagers to imagine a different life. Many believe that life will always be full of suffering, and that their children can never escape from it, affecting the way they plan for the future. This discussion contributes to an understanding of the lived experience of chronic suffering, and the kind of reasoning about the past, present and future that are fostered in conditions of chronic suffering.

Panel P01
Trauma subjectivities - the experience and imaginaries of suffering in the 21st century