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Accepted Paper:

War trophy images, Tamil Dalit identities and shared corporeal suffering  

Author:

Jill Reese (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will examine how 'war trophy' photographs are visible evidence that locates the body of the child as the representative site of the mutual, corporeal suffering of violence and oppression that links Dalit communities in Tamilnadu with Sri Lankan Tamils.

Paper long abstract:

Hundreds of posters depicting the image of a young boy's bullet-ridden body created a stark visual rupture when pasted over the daily circulations of imagery along the streets of Madurai, Tamilnadu in March 2013. The photograph was one of a series of images taken on a mobile phone smuggled out of the Sri Lanka depicting twelve-year-old Balachandran, son of LTTE leader Prabhakaran, before and after he was killed by military forces while in their captivity. After broadcast in a series of documentaries on Channel 4 years after the end of the civil war in 2009, the photographs were disseminated via news media in Tamilnadu. Local olitical parties commissioned posters with Balachandran's photograph in a call for a UNHRC investigation into what they claimed were atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan military against Tamils. This paper will examine the global media flows that help to produce and reify local Madurai Tamil identities by demonstrating that for those in the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), a Dalit political party, the 'war trophy' photographs are visible evidence of the mutual, corporeal suffering of violence and oppression they articulate links Dalit communities in Tamilnadu with Sri Lankan Tamils.

Panel P106
Provoking Visuals: Creative Engagements with Borders, Wars, and Conflicts [PACSA Network]