Accepted paper:

Social Suffering and the Governance of Affect: Multicultural Discourse and the Tamil Diaspora in Canada


Glynis George (University of Windsor)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines transformations in the social suffering of Canadian-Tamils in Canada. It considers how Canadian multiculturalism as a contested site governs affect in the Diaspora post-war and enables Diasporic mobilization, including its’ gendered and generational dimensions.

Paper long abstract:

The defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka in May 2009 was a watershed in Tamil recognition struggles. In Canada, the Diaspora assembled as it did worldwide to protest and mourn the death of family members and the demise of its nationalist claims. This paper examines transformations in the social suffering of Diasporic actors in Canada. It considers whether Canadian multicultural discourses frame and contain the emotive terrain of Tamil identity making. Multiculturalism arguably governs 'affect' in the Diaspora post-war to constitute the conduct of diasporic actors and cultivate their identities through emotionally laden registers of belonging that supports nation building ties. The nation building imperative privatizes suffering so that Tamil bodies - asylum seekers and citizens alike, are contained by an "economy of fear" (Ahmed, 2004) that marks the Canadian 'mainstream'. Yet, multiculturalism is a contested site which ethno-cultural groups, including Canadian-Tamils, mobilize and re-interpret. This ethnographically situated account foregrounds the gendered and generationally situated ways in which suffering, fear and the realities of care were produced, shared and eased within diasporic space, before and after the civil war. Affective ties that circulate within and beyond the Diaspora are filtered through a dynamic and transnational diasporic imaginary that complicates and disrupts the circulation of affective ties towards Canadian nation building.

panel MMM04
Mobile sentiments: transformations of affect amid transnational migration