New article: ‘Diaspora identification and long-distance nationalism among Tamil migrants of diverse state origins in the UK’
Jones, Demelza (2013) ‘Diaspora identification and long-distance nationalism among Tamil migrants of diverse state origins in the UK’, Ethnic and Racial Studies. I-First
Accounts of Tamil long-distance nationalism have focused on Sri Lankan Tamil migrants. But the UK is also home to Tamils of non-Sri Lankan state origins. While these migrants may be nominally incorporated into a ‘Tamil diaspora’, they are seldom present in scholarly accounts. Framed by Werbner’s (2002) conception of diasporas as ‘aesthetic’ and ‘moral’ communities, this article explores whether engagement with a Tamil diaspora and long-distance nationalism is expressed by Tamil migrants of diverse state origins. While migrants identify with an aesthetic community, ‘membership’ of the moral community is contested between those who hold direct experience of suffering as central to belonging, and those who imagine the boundaries of belonging more fluidly – based upon primordial understandings of essential ethnicity and a narrative of Tamil ‘victimhood’ that incorporates experiences of being Tamil in Sri Lanka, India and in other sites, despite obvious differences in these experiences.
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Roots of Diaspora is an interactive project on refugeehood and migration which aims to collect personal and family stories of flight and immigration of Tamils from Sri Lanka dating back as far as 1948. The project aims to trace the routes, modes of transportations, encounters and experiences of an estimated one million Tamil refugees and immigrants who left the island of Sri Lanka to reach sanctuaries abroad. The aim of the study is to map journeys of (pre)war migration to provide visual understanding and context for the impact of racialized forms of violence and discriminatory policies on affected communities.
With this project we aim to find answers to questions such as what happened following the final departure? Where did Tamils move to? Which points of transit did they move through? How did they cross borders and natural boundaries? What did they experience throughout their journeys? What was the context of borders and geographies then? Which policies aided/obstructed their decisions on their final pathways?
The study intents to historicise our departures, arrivals and importantly the period between both departure and arrival. As a community we have so far spent few efforts and resources on documenting the many stories of hardship, violence and displacement we have faced. With this project, we hope to counter the profound silence surrounding questions of migration amongst the Tamil community. To counter the erasure and silencing of our stories and voices, we aim to begin a meaningful conversation about our diasporic presence, identities and memories.
Please do lend us your support and keep your ears and eyes open for more news to follow.
‘Roots of Diaspora’ is on Facebook and Twitter (@rootsofdiaspora)
My new article on the experiences of students and young professional migrants from Tamil Nadu in the UK has just been published in Ethnicities.
Among student and young professional migrants to the UK the opportunity for a global or cosmopolitan experience emerges as a motivating factor for migration. This article takes the example of student and young professional migrants to the UK from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and explores how this cosmopolitan ambition plays out in the formation of UK social networks. Two ‘types’ of research participant are identified; ‘self-conscious cosmopolitans’ whose social networks are cross-ethnic, and others whose networks are largely co-ethnic and who are often derided by their self-consciously cosmopolitan counterparts as ‘clannish’ or ‘cliquey’. The article asks how ethnicity emerges as salient (or not) in these migrants’ talk and practice around UK social network formations. It then considers whether a co-ethnic social network necessarily limits the cosmopolitan experience, or whether this interpretation reflects a narrow understanding of cosmopolitanism which excludes the multiple inter-cultural encounters these migrants experience in their everyday lives.
Extract from a longer piece on the ‘Free Movement’ blog, written by barristers in the immigration team at London’s Renaissance Chambers.
Why are asylum seekers so often disbelieved? How is it that clinical evidence of torture is oftentimes rejected on the grounds of ‘credibility’? Why has the UK judged so many Tamil asylum seekers not to be at risk, forcibly returning them to Sri Lanka where they have gone on to be tortured? All who are involved in asylum work wrestle with some or all of these questions.
Professor Anthony Good, Professor Emeritus in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, has sought to provide answers through conducting analysis of Home Office policy documents and guidance for asylum caseworkers. Professor Good presented his findings at a MEDACT conference last month. Drawing heavily upon his excellent analysis, we follow suit in examining the Home Office guidance and policy materials. Analysis of these documents goes far to explaining why the Home Office has rejected asylum claims from Sri Lanka despite the applicants demonstrably being at risk.
For anyone interested, here is my PhD thesis which was examined and passed at the University of Bristol last month, and which looks at the everyday identifications experienced by Tamil migrants of diverse state backgrounds in the Midlands and South West of England.
New articles of potential interest:
‘La Chapelle : un lieu de mémoire pour la diaspora tamoule ?’ (‘La Chapelle: a place of memory for the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora?’) Anthony Goreau-Ponceaud
‘Towards Integration in Norway: Dynamics of Cultural Incorporation in the Context of Transnationalization‘. Sarvendra Tharmalingam. Journal of International Migration and Integration.
‘Immigrant protests in Toronto: diaspora and Sri Lanka’s civil war‘ Ishan Ashutosh. Citizenship Studies
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