Journal Article

Between the Local and the Diasporic: The Shifting Centre of Gravity in War-Torn Sri Lanka's Transnational Politics

Published 1 January 2012 / By Nicholas Van Hear, Cathrine Brun

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Introduction

In May 2009, Sri Lankan government armed forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after more than a quarter of a century of civil war. With the elimination of most of the LTTE leadership and the waning of its hold over Tamils in Sri Lanka and abroad, the scene was set for a transformation of relations between the diaspora and those at home. It is the dynamics of this transformation that we explore in this article, which traces the shifting centre of gravity in Tamil politics between actors in the homeland and those in the diaspora. Drawing on Bourdieu’s notion of a ‘political field’, we characterise what we call the local, diasporic and transnational political fields in the Sri Lankan setting. This article shows how the LTTE’s power derived largely from its control of the transnational political field, including in places that were otherwise isolated from diasporic connections. The defeat in 2009 fundamentally changed the dynamics of transnational politics by greatly weakening the LTTE’s grip over the transnational political field, and this article explores the new dispensation that is now unfolding.

Van Hear, N. and Brun, C. (2012) 'Between the Local and the Diasporic: The Shifting Centre of Gravity in War-Torn Sri Lanka's Transnational Politics', Contemporary South Asia, 20(1): 61-75