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“Who are we without the war?”: the evolution of the Tamil ethnic identity in post-conflict Sri Lanka

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post-conflict society, ethnic identity, Sri Lanka Tamils, ethnic conflict

Abstract (summary)

Studies of post-conflict societies have often focused on inter-ethnic group dynamics following the end of conflict, specifically the process of reconciliation between groups, or resurgence of violence across groups. This paper focuses on intra-ethnic differences with respect to defining ethnic identity. This paper will examine how the end of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict created cleavages amongst Sri Lankan Tamils with respect to how they define their ethnic identity and their ethnic group. Drawing upon 66 semi-structured interviews conducted in three regions of Sri Lanka, this paper presents three perspectives that were held among Tamils in post-conflict Sri Lanka. The first perspective was that the end of the ethnic conflict led to a loss in the fundamental tenets of the Tamil ethnic identity. The second perspective considered the promotion of a distinct Tamil ethnic identity to be a gateway to conflict. The third perspective articulated that the end of the ethnic conflict meant that the Tamil ethnic identity could move forward in a more cosmopolitan direction. The findings of this study demonstrate the importance of considering the social construction of ethnic identities, and their implications on post-conflict reconstruction.

Publication Information

Thurairajah, K. (2020). 'Who are we without the war?': The evolution of the Tamil ethnic identity in post-conflict Sri Lanka. Ethnicities, 20 (3), 564-586. DOI: 10.1177/1468796819846960


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