Struggling to Construct “Home” in Ethno-Nationally Divided Sri Lanka

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Anton Piyarathne DEEGALLA DURAGE, The Open University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka
This paper will discuss the everyday struggle of multi-ethnic Sri Lankans to construct “home”, and is based on ethnographic research that was conducted for my PhD work. In this discussion, the “home” refers to a concept I used in my research as “commongrounds”, a process in which people belonging to conflicting ethno-national groups continuously struggle to create a social space favourable for (peaceful) living. The everyday life of the members of the multi-ethnic community in the country became uncertain and insecure in post-independent Sri Lanka. This was a result of the politicization of ethnic and religious groups, in post-independence party politics, which were established under the Westminster democratic model by British colonisers. This situation was further reinforced by the strengthening of ethno-religious identities during the 500 years of colonial administration in the country. The peak of these divisions was experienced by all Sri Lankans - Sinhalas, Tamils, and Muslims - during the internal war that continued for nearly three decades. In the post-conflict context, the Sri Lankan state has not satisfactorily addressed the ethno-national conflict. My paper will explain ways and means through which local people of multi-ethno-national backgrounds construct and maintain a harmonious relationship and create a peaceful environment, a social space that can be identified as “home”, within this context.