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The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict & the deportation of Sri Lankan Tamil torture victims from the UK

June 11, 2014

This week in London, a global summit is being held on the topic of sexual violence in conflict, co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and the actor Angelina Jolie in her capacity as Special Envoy for UNHCR.

While any move towards a concerted international effort to address sexual violence in conflict is to be welcomed, the conference’s presence in London and the high profile support espoused for its aims by members of the British Cabinet has led to charges of hypocrisy, due to this and previous UK administrations’ appalling track record of unsympathetic treatment of victims of sexual violence (and other forms of torture) who have fled to the UK and are going through the UK asylum system. Some of the highest profile recent cases have concerned Tamil refugees who have fled torture (including sexual violence), but have had their asylum cases refused despite independent medical evidence, and face detention and deportation. One such case, of ‘Siva’, was reported in the Guardian newspaper this week.

Asked what he felt about the global summit on preventing sexual violence being held in London Docklands, a few miles from where he is staying, he said: “I feel like the British government has double standards hosting this summit; they are showing two different faces to the world.”

Yesterday, the Guardian reported that as a result of the criticism levelled at his government by NGOs, lawyers and refugee advocacy groups, William Hague has promised to investigate claims that Tamil asylum seekers who have suffered sexual violence and other forms of torture are being deported to Sri Lanka:

The foreign secretary pointed out that asylum decisions were handled by the home secretary, Theresa May, but that the Foreign Office contributed to country-by-country assessments of human rights. He promised an investigation and training for immigration officers to make them more sensitive to the plight of rape victims.

The article also makes reference to a report from earlier this year by Yasmin Sooka of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, which found that:

abduction, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual violence have increased [in Sri Lanka] in the postwar period.

New network member – Jerome Mariadhasan, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Munster, Germany

June 3, 2014

Jerome is from Tamil Nadu, India. In the years 2009-2011, he did an M.Phil at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India, where he researched the topic, ‘Ethnicity and Identity: A Case study on Tamil Migrants in Mumbai’. In 2011 Jerome commenced his doctoral studies at the Institute for Ethnology, Muenster University, Germany, where he is conducting research into ‘Christian Sri Lankan Tamils in Germany and their political, religious and cultural identity’. Jerome is interested in the research topics: Christianity in Asia, diaspora religions, and diaspora Tamils.


Publications of interest

May 20, 2014

Several journal articles have appeared in recent months which may be of interest to network members:


Gratitude and hospitality: Tamil refugee employment in London and the conditional nature of integration

Ruth L Healey

Environment and Planning A

Abstract. Refugees are often one of the most economically and socially excluded groups in host countries. The policy of integration attempts to address different elements of exclusion, yet relatively little research has considered what integration means to the refugees themselves. This paper explores one key area for supporting integration: employment. Understandings of integration are advanced by exploring how a group of twenty-six Tamil refugees and nineteen people who worked with refugees in the UK perceived an underlying rhetoric of anticipated gratitude within the policies around refugees. These perspectives are theorised within a framework of hospitality. The participants believed that refugees were expected to be grateful to the host society, and subsequently felt a debt for what the host society had given them: safety and education. However, they also identified frustration towards the host society where they felt marginalised or discrimination. It is possible to analyse employment as both an opportunity to give back, and something for which to be grateful. However, gratitude may not necessarily be felt towards the host society. If employment is found through the ethnic community, gratitude is likely to be concentrated there, rather than in the wider society. For the refugee participants in this research, asylum is a debt which can rarely be fully repaid, leaving them to seek acceptance and respect beyond the tolerance they are offered.


Making Tigers from Tamils: Long-Distance Nationalism and Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto

Sharika Thiranagama

American Anthropologist

Abstract: This article discusses the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Toronto and its relationship to the Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Taking the case of the Sri Lankan Tamils, oft-cited as the example par excellence of long-distance nationalism, I argue against naturalizing diasporic ethnonationalism to investigate instead how diasporas are fashioned into specific kinds of actors. I examine tensions that emerged as an earlier elite Tamil movement gave way to the contemporary migration of much larger class-and caste-fractured communities, while a cultural imaginary of migration as a form of mobility persisted. I suggest that concomitant status anxieties have propelled culturalist imaginations of a unified Tamil community in Toronto who, through the actions of LTTE-affiliated organizations, have condensed the Tigers and their imagined homeland, Tamil Eelam, into representing Tamil community life. While most Tamils may not have explicitly espoused LTTE ideology, as a result of the LTTE becoming the backbone of community life, Tamils became complicit with and reaffirmed the LTTE project of defending “Tamilness” militarily in Sri Lanka and culturally in Toronto. I suggest that the self-presentation of diasporic communities should be analyzed within specific histories, contemporary conflicts and fractures, and active mobilizing structures.


Before and After 1983: The Impact of Theorising Sri Lankan Tamil Migration History around the 1983 Colombo Riots

L. Michael Ratnapalan

South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies

Abstract: This paper discusses the material effects of the theorisation of the contemporary Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora around the 1983 Colombo riots. In the complicated aftermath of the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009, it is necessary to rethink the way in which diasporic history has been constructed in order to factor in its multiple dimensions and underlying dynamics. By critically foregrounding the key literature on the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, which is definitive to understanding the history of Sri Lankan Tamil emigration around the 1983 riots, the modern diaspora can be framed anew by longer and more diverse historical perspectives.



Demonstrating Identities: Multiculturalism, Citizenship, and Tamil Canadian Identities

Anuppiriya Sriskandarajah

Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies

Abstract: Looking at political demonstrations that occurred throughout 2008 and 2009 in Toronto, this article explores popular understandings of diasporic identities within a Canadian multiculturalism framework. It also examines second-generation Sri Lankan Tamils’ (SLT) (re)negotiations of these representations in forming and informing their identities. Drawing on Kathleen Hall’s (2002) framework, identities are understood as constituted through processes of power, discourse, and representation. Through a critical discourse analysis of newspaper editorials and narrative explorations of second-generation Canadian Tamils, this article investigates how diasporic identities are incorporated into the wider Canadian polity. Fifteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with second-generation Tamil Canadians (ages nineteen to twenty-nine). I argue that popular constructions of diasporic identities and Canadian national identity as understood within a multiculturalism framework are not entirely in concurrence with Tamil diasporic minorities’ own identity narratives. The resultant “othering” causes feelings of marginalization and undermines notions of social citizenship. Concurrently, resistive practices by the second generation embodied by the political demonstrations of 2008–2009 contest “Canadian” identity as promoted in hegemonic representations by dominant elements of society, including the state. Divergences that emerge between the resistive discourses of second-generation Tamils and “mainstream” integrationist discourses demonstrate the need for a more sophisticated conceptualization of how Canadian multiculturalism and citizenship might incorporate the transnational political and cultural practices of its citizens.


If network members know of any other relevant recent publications that they would like to share, please email details to Demelza Jones at

New book January 2014: ‘Migration and Religion in Europe: Comparative Perspectives on South Asian Experiences’, Edited by Ester Gallo, with chapters on Tamils in Europe

December 13, 2013

Migration and Religion in Europe: Comparative Perspectives on South Asian Experiences


Migration and Religion in Europe
  • Imprint: Ashgate
  • Edited by Ester Gallo, Gediz University, Turkey


  • Religious practices and their transformation are crucial elements of migrants’ identities and are increasingly politicized by national governments in the light of perceived threats to national identity. As new immigrant flows shape religious pluralism in Europe, longstanding relations between the State and Church are challenged, together with majority-faith traditions and societies’ ways of representing and perceiving themselves. With attention to variations according to national setting, this volume explores the process of reformulating religious identities and practices amongst South Asian ‘communities’ in European contexts, Presenting a wide range of ethnographies, including studies of Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Islam amongst migrant communities in contexts as diverse as Norway, Italy, the UK, France and Portugal, Migration and Religion in Europe sheds light on the meaning of religious practices to diasporic communities.  It examines the manner in which such practices can be used by migrants and local societies to produce distance or proximity, as well as their political significance in various ‘host’ nations. Offering insights into the affirmation of national identities and cultures and the implications of this for governance and political discourse within Europe, this book will appeal to scholars with interests in anthropology, religion and society, migration, transnationalism and gender.


  • Contents:
  • Introduction: South Asian migration and religious pluralism in Europe, Ester Gallo;
  • A universal Hinduism? Dancing coloniality in multicultural London, Sitara Thobani;
  • ‘Our future will be in India’: travelling nuns between Europe and South Asia, Gertrud Hüwelmeier;
  • The status and role of the Norwegian-Pakistani mosque: interfaith harmony and women’s rights in Norway, Farhat Taj;
  • The mobility of religion: settling Jainism and Hinduism in the Belgian public sphere, Hannelore Roos;
  • Sikh associational life in Britain: gender and generation in the public sphere, Kaveri Qureshi;
  • Temple Publics as interplay in multiple public spheres: public faces of Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu life in Switzerland, Rafaela Eulberg;
  • Buddhist, Hindu, Kirati, or something else? Nepali strategies of religious belonging in the UK and Belgium, David N. Gellner, Sondra L. Hausner and Bal Gopal Shrestha;
  • Hindutva and its discontents in Denmark, Stig Toft Madsen and Kenneth Bo Nielsen;
  • Sikhs in Italy: Khalsa identity from mimesis to display, Federica Ferraris and Silvia Sai;
  • ‘Our Lady of Carmo is the patroness of our family’: migration, religion and belonging of Portuguese-Goan Brahmans converted to Catholicism, Marta Vilar Rosales; Ganesha Caturthi;
  • Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Paris: inventing strategies of visibility and legitimacy in a plural monoculturalist society, Anthony Goreau;
  • From Sanskrit classicism to Tamil devotion: shifting images of Hinduism in Germany, Kamala Ganesh;
  • A suitable faith: Catholicism, domestic labour and identity politics among Malayalis in Rome, Ester Gallo; Index.


  • About the Editor: Ester Gallo is Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Gediz, Izmir, Turkey.


  • Reviews:
  • ‘In recent years, South Asian religions and people have increasingly made themselves visible in European towns and cities. New grand architecture and open processions, but also societal controversies, shifted South Asian minorities from invisibility to public awareness accompanied by both tribute and trouble. The volume brings together new and fascinating research and highlights the diversity and vitality of South Asian religions in Europe.’ Martin Baumann, University of Lucerne, Switzerland
  • ‘Migration and Religion in Europe will stimulate readers’ understanding of the diversity of minorities’ migration experiences and religious profiles in many states of Western Europe. Particularly fascinating are the disclosures of intersections between gender, politics and caste in this series of expert ethnographies.  The comparative dimension of many chapters (between groups and between historical periods) is particularly illuminating.’   Eleanor Nesbitt, University of Warwick, UK

New article: ‘Diaspora identification and long-distance nationalism among Tamil migrants of diverse state origins in the UK’

October 25, 2013

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.

If other network members have new articles, chapters, events or initiatives they would like to share, please email or tweet @Melzi_J

‘Roots of Diaspora’ project

October 25, 2013

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)

London photography exhibition: ‘Healing Gods – Rituals and Memories of a Waltham Forest Community’

August 19, 2013

The photographer Chiara Contrino is holding an exhibition in Waltham Forest, London this week (18 – 24 August). The exhibition depicts the festivals and Hindu rituals in the Tamil Temples in the borough, and features the stories of local Tamil people who Chiara interviewed.

healing gods leaflet A5


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