Grief, Trauma and Healing in Post-War Sri Lanka: Anthropological Perspectives
15:30 Opening remarks & Introduction of speakers
15:40 Talk by Dr. Udeni Appuhamilage (Yamanashi Gakuin University)
“Grief, Trauma, and Affect in Post-War Sri Lanka: An Anthropological Inquiry into the Affective Potencies of Materiality”
(40min presentation, 10min Q&A)
16:30 Talk by Dr. Kaori Hatsumi (Nagasaki University)
“Tamil Mourning, the Longue Durée of Catholicism, and Healing in Northern Sri Lanka”
(40min presentation, 10min Q&A)
17:20 Tea Break 17:35 Comments from Discussant(s) (TBA)
(18:30 End of the day)
“Grief, Trauma, and Affect in Post-War Sri Lanka: An Anthropological Inquiry into the Affective Potencies of Materiality” (Dr. Udeni Appuhamilage)
This paper critically engages with literature on the ‘affective turn’ in social sciences, specifically on the affective potencies of human and non-human entities, by way of studying lived experiences of trauma/grief among the members of a resettled community in the North-Central province of Sri Lanka. Theoretically, it draws from the emerging theoretical frameworks of affect, primarily informed by the works of Spinoza and Deleuze, and Actor Network Theory (ANT). Drawing insights from long-term ethnographic work to explicate and base the discussion, the paper asserts how traumatic grief, as an affect, in the post-war Sri Lankan context is neither bounded in a singular subjectivity, nor in an objectivity; nor is it outside socio-political meaning. Instead, it is subjective and objective, corporeal, and very much within social meaning. Hence, the paper argues that, 1) the ‘autonomous’ affect fails to acknowledge the plurality of grief experiences, and, 2) contrary to ANT’s take on the agency of ‘actants’, the affective potency of materiality is, in fact, ‘qualified’.
Udeni Appuhamilage is Adviser to the Dean and International Student Counselor at the International College of Liberal Arts, Yamanashi Gakuin University. Her current focus includes affect, trauma, silence and materiality in South Asian context. She received a PhD in Psychological Anthropology from Australian National University. Before joining Yamanashi Gakuin University, she was a fulbright Scholar, and a Trauma and Global Health Fellow, at McGill University, Canada.
“Tamil Mourning, the Longue Durée of Catholicism, and Healing in Northern Sri Lanka” ( Dr. Kaori Hatsumi)
Drawing on my fieldwork, conducted during and in the immediate aftermath of Sri Lanka’s civil war, this talk examines the therapeutic effects of Catholic rites and local funerary tradition in the lives of Catholic Tamils, who became the victims of the thirty-year war. I will do so by understanding traditional Catholic rituals and the local culture of mourning in the paradigm of longue durée (Fernand Braudel; Seremetakis 1991; Ariès 1981), as opposed to events happened during the war. During the time of my fieldwork, the rhythm of life, lived according to the Catholic ritual calendar, radically differed from that of life lived under the war. While the former was restorative and promising, involving longings, the latter was disruptive, daunting, and often excruciating. I suggest that it was the recurring cycle of liturgical rites, marked in the Catholic calendar, that provided the victims with the sense of normalcy and order, sense of time, and sense of belonging. Through the ethnography of All Souls Day of November 2009, hardly six months after the war, I will illustrate how observation of this day and mourning rites that took place during the month of mourning were effective in restoring and regenerating life.
Kaori Hatsumi is Director of International Exchange Programs in the School of Global Humanities and Social Sciences at Nagasaki University. Her current research projects focus on the effects of neoliberal economy on the family and ethics, and the role of religion, especially Christianity, in contemporary Japan. Her earlier work on the role of faith in the lives of Catholic Tamil war victims in Sri Lanka has been published in The Australian Journal of Anthropology (2017). She received a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University. Before joining Nagasaki University, she was Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Kalamazoo College (USA) and Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame (USA).