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Tigers on the mind: an interrogation of conflict diasporas and long distance nationalism. A study of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in London

Pragasam, Nirad (2012) Tigers on the mind: an interrogation of conflict diasporas and long distance nationalism. A study of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in London. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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In contrast to orthodox presentations of 'long distance nationalism' as an abstract politics without accountability or responsibility by theorists like Benedict Anderson, I argue that it is essential in the case of conflict diasporas to conceptualize the nature of diaspora support for homeland insurgencies as a contingent product of lived experience, perception, culture and history. Based on qualitative, ethnographic fieldwork, including an analysis of in-depth personal narratives from within the London Tamil diaspora, I attempt to describe the (trans) formative effects of violence, loss and displacement. I contend that the resulting viewpoints and aspirations carry the imprint of the de-territorialised ‘imagining’ of relationships, belonging and moral community which define the content of long distance nationalism. Using inter-disciplinary ideas from a range of theorists including Arjun Appadurai, I focus on a ‘process of becoming’ by which a specific transnational consciousness is engendered. The idea that conflict diaspora identity is defined by a complex interplay between a contextual and subjective understanding of political discourse; as well as the intellectual, moral, psychological and existential experience of being in diaspora is developed and held up against the current literature. Rather than seeing such displaced communities through the prism of a society in conflict in a distant homeland, I argue that we should consider how conflict has produced a particular epistemology of diasporic space and identity. I conclude by arguing that diaspora identity has its roots not only in a distant homeland but also in the hearts, minds and imagination of diaspora Tamils, where the complex obligations of being human in a time of conflict, override that of being a citizen, physically emplaced within a particular territory. I contend that such a perspective is both essential and yet often overlooked when seeking to interrogate the content of long distance nationalism in the dominant literature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Nirad Pragasam
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Keen, David

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