I have recently published a new chapter drawing on my doctoral research with Tamil migrants in Britain.
The chapter – ‘Identifications with an ‘aesthetic’ and ‘moral’ diaspora amongst Tamils of diverse state origins in Britain’’ – employs Pnina Werbner’s notion of diasporas as moral communities of suffering and co-responsibility, as well as aesthetic communities of shared transnational consumption of culture and performance of ritual, and relates this to the case of Tamil migrants of diverse state origins in Britain. Sri Lankan Tamil migrants I interviewed towards my research imagine membership of a Tamil diaspora as based on personal (or familial) experiences of suffering in the Sri Lankan civil war, which acts both to create bonds with other Sri Lankan Tamils, and to distinguish from Tamils of other state origins (Indian, Singaporean etc.) despite cultural commonalities (Werbner’s aesthetic diaspora). Conversely, many of the non-Sri Lankan Tamil migrants I interviewed imagined these boundaries in more flexible terms, and claimed membership of the ‘community of suffering’ in ways which did not necessitate personal experience, but rather privileged symbolic constructions of the ethnic community, and an interpretation of historical and current events in India, Sri Lanka (and other sites of Tamil population) as components of a single narrative of Tamil victimhood.
The chapter appears in Dismantling Diasporas: Rethinking the Geographies of Diasporic Identity, Connection and Development, edited by Elizabeth Mavroudi and Anastasia Christou and published by Ashgate.
Applications are now open for the annual Tamil Summer School to be held at PILC in Puducherry, South India from 27 July – 5 September 2015.
The summer school’s focus is on spoken, rather than classical Tamil, and it is aimed at students and researchers aiming to conduct fieldwork among Tamil speaking populations. The course is offered at basic and intermediate levels. Further information can be found in the attached documents.
New book (in Italian) edited by network member Giuseppe Burgio – ‘Oltre la nazione’ [Beyond the Nation]
Why does nationalism still seem widespread in a globalized world? How does nationalism interact with gender policies? Can we still call “migration” a phenomenon like the diasporas that are transforming our society? How can we talk about interculturalism in the presence of international terrorism?
The volume edited by Giuseppe Burgio tries to answer these questions focusing on the case of the Tamils of Sri Lanka, analyzing the complex relationship between terms that seem antithetical (identity, nationalism, differences, interculturality) and framing explicitly the link between nationalism, difference and violence.
The transformations of migratory movements force us to reconsider the old theoretical model based on the couplet emigration-immigration: in fact, today the transnational migrants develop identities within complex networks that connect them to two or more societies at the same time. As a result Interculturality is no longer a relationship with two, but with three poles: the country of origin, the country of destination, the diaspora. So the Tamil diaspora can be considered paradigmatic of a broader discussion and it questions us about the processes of integration and transformation of our Western societies.
Contributions of Clelia Bartoli, Giuseppe Burgio, Jude Lal Fernando, Thanushan Kugathasan, Cristiana Natali, Ambra Pirri, Sebastiampillai Dunstan Rajakumar, Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo.
New book by Martin Baumann and Andreas Tunger-Zanetti on the Sri Manonmani Ampal temple in Trimbach, Switzerland
Network member Martin Baumann and his colleague Andreas Tunger-Zanetti have published a book about the first purpose-built Hindu temple in Switzerland, the Sri Manonmani Ampal temple in Trimbach. The book (in German) describes the planning and construction processes, provides a detailed presentation of the various gods and shrines (including professional pictures), and sets this temple in the context of Tamil Hindus in Switzerland and Europe.
Hildegunn Valen Kleivea is a PhD candidate at Volda University College, Norway. Hildegunn’s research explores forms of spirituality among young Tamils in the North West of Norway, and focuses on migrant religions outside the bigger cities as well as the everyday life dimension of religiosity. The research is qualitative, employing questionaires, in-depth interviews and photo-elicitation.
Gratitude and hospitality: Tamil refugee employment in London and the conditional nature of integration
This new paper by Ruth Healey of the University of Chester has been published in Environment and Planning A, 46(3).
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.
Tamil diaspora and the political spaces of second-generation activism in Switzerland
Published in Global Networks (early view) by Monika Hess and Benedikt Korf.
Abstract: In this article, we study the emergence of the political spaces of activism of second-generation Swiss Tamils resulting from a critical event – the suffering of Tamils during and after the final battle in early 2009 of a civil war in northern Sri Lanka that had lasted for decades. We contend that we can explain the geographies of newly emerging second-generation activism committed to achieving Tamil Eelam through two factors. These are first, this generation’s multiple senses of belonging both to Switzerland and to the Tamil ‘nation’ and, second, the way a specific politics of affect remoulded second-generation identities because the pain of witnessing the brutality of war and suffering of Tamils occurred concurrently with a perceived lack of interest from their ‘new home’ (Switzerland). The combination of these factors made them want to acknowledge their Tamil ‘roots’ and encouraged them to become politically active. Consequently, these second-generation activists primarily sought to engage with their host society – to awaken it from its indifference to the suffering of Tamils and from its passivity in taking action on an international level. We thereby witness the emerging of a new type of Tamil activism in Switzerland, which is firmly located in and bound to the host country.
XVIII World Congress of Sociology paper on Third Culture Kids and Intergenerational Challenges in Migrant Communities: Korean Christians and Tamil Hindus in Germany
One of the presenters, Sandhya Marla of Ruhr-Universitat Bochum’s Centre for Religious Studies, has written other papers on Tamil Hindu religosity in Germany – details here (in German), and is undertaking a doctoral project on ‘Religious dynamics in the intergenerational field: 2nd generation Tamil Hindus in North Rhine-Westfalia‘.
Abstract: After several decades of coexistence, the research fields migration studies and the sociology of religion have built a strong theoretical and empirical exchange. The impetuous was a sociological conceptualization of migration as a decisive factor of religious dynamics in modern societies. This idea, in turn, triggered investigations of religious dynamics within migrant communities as they transmit religious knowledge to second generations and their way of adapting religion (doing religious culture). We propose, that intergenerational dynamics in migrant religions are reflected in areas of tensions between and among generations. The paper presents the results of two research projects on intergenerational dynamics in Asian migrant communities in Germany: Korean Christians and Tamil Hindus. The parental generations of both communities were highly engaged with re-establishing a religious life in a foreign land. They created a “home away from home”, not least to transmit religious knowledge to their children in an authentic setting, linked to their country of origin. However, the second generation, who will inevitably take over the community, was raised in two cultures. Do these youngsters still relate to their parents’ beliefs and practices? Which kind of intergenerational tensions challenge the transmission and reproduction of religious identities and thus institutionalized religion? We will discuss such questions in the paper. Special attention will be given to three areas of tension that affect religious continuities and discontinuities in the Korean and Tamil milieu: (1) religious practices now considered “obsolete,” (2) differing ideas of religion and gender and (3) critique of religious organizations. In accordance with the topic of this panel, the main focus of our comparative analysis between second generation Korean Christians and Tamil Hindus will be drawn to dynamics, which emerge during the transition to adulthood phase.
There are also several new publications looking at various aspects of Tamil migration and settlement in Canada and Australia, which may be useful from a comparative perspective:
Finally, a new book, The Encyclopedia of the Sri Lankan Diaspora, edited by Peter Reeves, has been published by EDM and the Institute of South Asian Studies, NUS.
If you have written, or come across, a new publication (or have any other news or details of conference calls, events etc.) which may be of interest to network members, please send the information to Demelza Jones at d.jones4 (at) aston.ac.uk
The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict & the deportation of Sri Lankan Tamil torture victims from the UK
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.