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Accepted Paper:

From Battlefields to 'Inner Emigration': Reintegration into Civilian Life of LTTE Fighters  
Giacomo Mantovan (CRIA ISCTE-IUL)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper examines how LTTE fighters in exile in France live within their new lifeworlds. Transitioning from a public role to an individualized and anonymous life path, the fighters live between the need to build a civilian life and the nostalgia for the struggle for independence of their homeland.

Paper Abstract:

Based on extensive fieldwork among former LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) fighters exiled in France, this paper addresses the process of reintegration into civilian life in exile. These fighters, both men and women, had participated in the war for the independence of the Tamils in the north-east of Sri Lanka for about a decade (1983-2009).

During military training and service in the LTTE, the fighters formed strong bonds, becoming a collective subject where previous class and caste differences were nullified. Gender relations also shifted towards greater equality. However, during demobilization and exile the reverse process occurs: what was once a closely-knit community begins to disintegrate, and the life journeys of the fighters become individualized. With demobilization comes the end of their political careers: nationalist associations in the diaspora close their doors to them, and the Tamil community does not offer them any social recognition.

This paper aims to examine two aspects of the transition from military to civilian life: on one hand, the rebuilding of a civilian life in exile, including finding employment, starting a family, etc.; on the other hand, the continued identification as an LTTE fighter, not regretting the choices made, and experiencing nostalgia for a life where they held significant social status and were dedicated to what was most important to them: the fight to build the Tamil nation. In other words, the fighters are experiencing what Arendt (1974) refers to as "inner emigration", the abandonment of a public life to withdraw into their own interiority.

Panel P096
Afterlives of armed conflict: former rebels, new political formations, and shifting gender norms
  Session 1 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -