P36
Anthropology and the post-war present in Sri Lanka: ethnographic reflections

Convenors:
Tom Widger (Durham University)
Chair:
R.L. Stirrat
Format:
Panels
Location:
Science Site/Maths CM107
Start time:
4 July, 2016 at 14:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

The panel invites ethnographic reflections on the temporalities of the post-war present in Sri Lanka, the orientation of individuals, communities, and society to history, time, and change, and the scope and role of anthropology in making sense of, and contributing towards, these processes.

Long abstract:

Six years after the end of a long civil war in Sri Lanka, meanings and values attached to deep and recent pasts have especially evocative (and provocative) roles in the ways that current and future problems, from the transition to peace to questions as seemingly far removed as environmental justice and climate change, are being dealt with. Processes of post-war reconstruction and reconciliation, armed service redeployment, IDP, diaspora, and land return, urban and rural renewal, market, social, and governmental reform, and political, moral, and subjective reorientation - all are full of claims and counter-claims of what was, what is, and what could be. This panel reflects on the play of the past and the future in the present in Sri Lanka and how a strong tradition of anthropological research has sought to make sense of the relationships between mythological and documented histories in the emergence of Sri Lankan nationalist movements and religious and ethnic conflict over the course of the twentieth century, and at the same time been criticised and censured in the country for doing so. Anthropological concepts have also informed policy and public debate in the island, including understandings of social problems like homicide and suicide and the idea of nationalist 'culture' itself. The panel invites ethnographic explorations of the temporalities of the post-war present in Sri Lanka, the orientation of individuals, communities, and society to history, time, and change, and the scope and role of anthropology in making sense of, and contributing towards, these processes.