Theses Doctoral

War and Grief, Faith and Healing in a Tamil Catholic Fishing Village in Northern Sri Lanka

Hatsumi, Kaori

Sri Lanka's thirty-year civil war brought about tremendous suffering upon the lives of the Tamil civilian population in northern Sri Lanka. In May 2009, when the war ended, not a single civilian remained within the Vanni, the former rebel territory, as they had all been killed or displaced. More than one hundred thousand civilians were dead or disappeared and three hundred thousand survivors were held in so-called "transit camps" without freedom of movement.

The data for this dissertation is based on extensive anthropological field research conducted in northern Sri Lanka during the last phase of the civil war and into its aftermath over a period of two and a half years between July 2007 and May 2010. It sets out to explain the experience of suffering among a Tamil Catholic fishing community, which, due to the war, had been displaced from its coastal home, Perunkalipattu in 1999, and has been relocated to the City of Santa Marta, an internal-refugee camp. Between July 2007 and May 2009, this community was part of the four hundred thousand Tamil civilians trapped in so-called "no-fire zones," where they suffered violence at the hands of the state as well as the rebels.

This dissertation takes a unique approach to the exploration of the community's suffering by incorporating the effects of the war on the community's Catholic devotion and the possibility of healing of traumatic experiences of war through that devotion. The study thereby opens up a new field of anthropological investigation of displacement, social suffering, faith and healing. It contributes, among others, to the anthropology of violence, South Asia studies, and the anthropology of Christianity, and provides unique materials for anthropological reflection on ethnographic writing and the art of fieldwork.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Daniel, E. Valentine
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 23, 2012