Talk by Malathi de Alwis, University of Colombo
Building on previous work which sought to understand how ʽchronic mournersʼ for the disappeared ʽreinhabit the worldʼ in the face of continuously deferring loss and atrocity, this paper explores how survivors of the tsunami contend with not only the non-availability of bodies but also the loss of familiar spaces and faces, and deeds and certificates and photos which substantiated and legitimised those relationships. How do you claim tenancy rights when habitation can no longer be proven? How do you negotiate old relationships now contaminated with bitterness and enmity over unfair distribution of tsunami aid? How do you keep alive the memory of your dead daughter when you no longer have any mementoes of her?
Malathi de Alwis is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo and a member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Colombo. She received her PhD in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago and is the Co-author, with Kumari Jayawardena, of Casting Pearls: The Women's Franchise Movement in Sri Lanka (Colombo: Social Scientists' Association, 2001), Editor of Cat's Eye: A Feminist Gaze on Current Issues (Colombo: Social Scientists' Association, 2000) and Co-editor, with Wenona Giles et al., of Feminists Under Fire: Exchanges Across War Zones (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2003) and of Embodied Violence: Communalising Women's Sexuality in South Asia (Delhi: Kali for Women/London: Zed Press, 1996), with Kumari Jayawardena. She is a founder-member of the National Women's NGO Forum and the Women's Coalition for Peace, Sri Lanka and is presently coordinating a research project on post-tsunami reconstructions in contexts of war: a grassroots study of the geo-politics of humanitarian aid in Aceh and Sri Lanka.
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