Militarizing Sri Lanka: Popular Culture, Memory and Narrative in the Armed Conflict

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Neloufer de Mel

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    ‘Things start to become militarized when their legitimacy depends on their associations with military goals. When something becomes militarized, it appears to rise in value. Militarization is seductive.

    But it is really a process of loss.’

    Cynthia Enloe, The Curious Feminist, p. 145

    Acknowledgements

    I am grateful to many friends, colleagues, institutions and my family who supported me throughout my research. Special thanks are due to the International Center for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the ICES-NORAD, Sri Lanka Project for funding a large proportion of the research for this book; to Samira Wijesiri for his invaluable help as my research assistant; and to the students and faculty of the Department of English, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. I am also grateful to Ashok R. Chandran, Maneet Singh and Tejeshwar Singh of SAGE Publications for their support in publishing this book.

    I wish to thank the Sri Lanka-US Fulbright Commission for a senior research fellowship at Yale University, USA, which enabled me to finish writing this book; to my colleagues there: Professors Laura Wexler and Dhooleka S. Raj for their insightful views and valuable friendship, Professor Elizabeth Wood for her timely, encouraging comments on the manuscript, and Linda Anderson for all the office support. I also wish to acknowledge the Five College Women's Studies Research Center (FCWSRC), USA, and the Ford Foundation for a Ford Associate in Global Women's Studies fellowship, which enabled me to teach and finish my research at Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges. I am very grateful in particular to Professor Amrita Basu, Anissa Helie and my colleagues at the FCWSRC for their comments on the presentations I made, based on the chapters of this book. Mention must also be made of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University at which I was a visiting scholar in 2004, and Professor Carolyn Dinshaw for her support for my work.

    Very special thanks are also due to friends who engaged themselves in various ways with this work, providing valuable information and perspectives on its range of issues. Particular mention needs to be made of Professors Geeta Patel and Kath Weston for their insights, suggestions and invaluable friendship; and Marina Fernando, Kumkum Sangari, Anjali Arondekar, Kumari Jayawardena, Kumuduni Samuel, Sunila Abeysekera, Gameela Samarasinghe, Yasmin Tambiah, Chandragupta Thenuwara, Prasanna Vithanage, Asoka Handagama, Madhava Palihawardena, Alan Keenan, Vasuki Nesiah, Maithree Wickremesinghe and Nuzhat Abbas. I would also like to thank Suhanya Raffel for granting permission to use Chandragupta Thenuwara's painting Camouflage on the cover of this book.

    I am grateful to the following for their time, and for sharing their experiences with me during my interviews with them: Brigadier Sanath Karunaratne, the Managing Director and creative team of Leo Burnett Solutions Inc., and the CEO of Ogilvy Outreach; the disabled soldiers of the Butterflies Theatre Workshop Productions, Sunethra Bandaranaike, Rohana Deva Perera and the staff of the Sunera Foundation; Dr Narme Wickremesinghe and the staff of the Rana Viru Seva Authority; Asoka Dayaratna of the Association of Disabled Ex-Service Personnel (ADEP), and the children, the animators and Paul Hogan of the Butterfly Peace Garden, Batticoloa.

    Acknowledgement and thanks are also due to the IISH SEPHIS small grants project and the Tulana Media Unit of the Tulana Research Center, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, which enabled me, together with Robert Crusz, to complete a video archive of war affected women entitled Bearing Witness: Women's Experience of Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka from which I draw on for Chapter 6 of this book. Many people helped us collect the archive and translate some of the interviews. Thanks are due first and foremost to all the women who shared their experiences with us, and the following organizations and people: Shanthiham, Jaffna, Mr R. Chandrasegara Sharma, V. Anavarathan, Thedsanamorthy Vijaya Songar, Maheswaran Thushyanthan, the Jeevodayan Methodist Mission, the Center for Peaceful Co-Existence Batticoloa, Mr Kamaladas, S. Matheeswaran, K. Pakianathan, M.L.M. Mubeen, Major General Vajira Wijegunewardena, Brigadier L.A.D. Amaratunga, Thangavel Sakthiyalingam, T. Sakthivel, WACCO Trincomalee, Prema Gamage, Rohini Attanayake, K.P. Somalatha, Husna Azad, Nilanthi Balachandran, Gayathri Daniel, Amila Jayamaha, Dinusha Pathiraja and Sumika Perera.

    I also wish to thank UNICEF and ICES, Colombo, for sponsoring a research project entitled ‘Gendering the Tsunami: Women's Experiences from Sri Lanka’ which I draw on for Chapter 6 of this book. Thanks are due to Dr Kanchana N. Ruwanpura, my co-principal researcher on the project, Anasuya Collure our research assistant, Pushparani Figurado who translated the Tamil interviews, and Sunny Ockerz who arranged for many of the Batticoloa interviews.

    Abbreviated or partial versions of the following chapters have been previously published: Chapter 3 in the Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities (vols. 29 & 30, nos. 1 & 2, 2003 & 2004), Chapter 5 in The Indian Journal of Gender Studies (vol. 11, no. 1, 2004) and Chapter 6 in Interventions (vol. 9, no. 2, 2007).

    This book could not have been written and published without the encouragement and support of all those mentioned, as well as other friends and my family who I have not individually named but acknowledge with grateful thanks. Of these, Robert Crusz is especially important and it is to him that this book is dedicated.

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    About the Author

    Neloufer de Mel is Professor of English at the Department of English, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. She is the author of Women and the Nation's Narrative: Gender and Nationalism in 20th Century Sri Lanka (Kali for Women, 2001) and co-editor of At the Cutting Edge: Essays in Honour of Kumari Jayawardena (Women Unlimited 2007) and Writing an Inheritance: Women's Writing in Sri Lanka 1860–1948 (WERC, 2002). She is the recipient of many distinguished research awards, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Research and Writing Grant, a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship at Yale University, and a Ford Associate in Global Women's Studies Fellowship at the Five College Women's Studies Research Center, USA. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University, and the Women's Research Center at the University of Rutgers.

    Neloufer de Mel has served on the Regional Advisory Panel of the Social Science Research Council, and serves on the management board of Women and Media Collective, Colombo. She was the founder editor of Options, a journal on Sri Lankan women's issues, and has published several essays on postcolonial theatre, literature and film.


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