Accepted paper:

Fractured communities: conflict and belonging in a Southern Sri Lankan fishing village


Maurice Said (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper draws parallels between the process of community building and local notions of the nation [jatiya] in a fishing village in post-tsunami Sri Lanka.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores conflict, as well as notions of community and trust between fishermen in a Southern Sri Lankan post-tsunami village. The Asian tsunami of 2004 killed over 35,000 people and displaced almost half a million in Sri Lanka alone. In the Southern Sri Lankan district of Matara, fishing families were among the most affected and, consequently, those that least benefited from aid in the aftermath. Following the disaster, the introduction of a no build buffer zone along most of coastal Sri Lanka prevented those most affected by the disaster from rebuilding their homes and, subsequently, many families were relocated to tsunami villages far from their original localities and their protective kin networks. This paper takes one such 'tsunami village', Ragama, as its case study. Composed of fishing families from four different and rival fishing villages, Ragama experienced some of the highest rates of violent conflict in the district in the years following the tsunami. I specifically explore the process by which fishing families built trust and kinship with former rivals through a common narrative of exclusion. In doing so, I explore fishermen's discourses of nation [jatiya] as one of exclusion by the state and inclusion through collective suffering.

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