Accepted Paper:

Institutions and ethnoscapes: the BBC World Service Tamil and Sinhala services amidst the Sri Lankan civil war  

Author:

Sharika Thiranagama (Stanford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses archival sources and ethnographic data with Bush House BBC journalists to explore how the BBC services attempt to negotiate the Sri Lankan war, and how in fact the BBC World services far from being a dispassionate global observer has become a key part itself of Sri Lanka’s ethnically fractured landscape.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I examine one of the world's most enduring institutions the BBC World Service, through its two regional language Tamil and Sinhala services broadcasting to Sri Lanka. This paper uses archival sources and ethnographic data with Bush House BBC journalists to explore how the BBC services attempt to negotiate the Sri Lankan war, and how in fact the BBC services far from being a dispassionate global observer has become a key part itself of Sri Lanka's ethnically fractured landscape. The paper examines how journalists in the Tamil and Sinhala services - small fry within the larger BBC but highly powerful within the Sri Lankan media landscape - continue to reproduce ethnically structured audiences even as they attempt to negotiate them. Thus the paper also uses the BBC to reflect on a much deeper malaise within Sri Lanka.

Panel W081
Modern institutions in a 'cross-cultural' perspective - ethnographies of adaptation and code-switching