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People, place, and politics: Everyday-life in post-tsunami coastal Sri Lanka

SAID, MAURICE (2015) People, place, and politics: Everyday-life in post-tsunami coastal Sri Lanka. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (People, place, and politics: Everyday-life in post-tsunami coastal Sri Lanka) - Accepted Version


This thesis emerges from a critical event; the Asian tsunami of 26th December 2004. It takes an analytical approach to narratives of everyday life events in two coastal communities in southern Sri Lanka. The villages of Po and Thomale, were both severely affected by the tsunami. They received varied and contrasting outside attention and aid in the aftermath of the disaster as a consequence of their different geographic and social characteristics. The thesis draws on my extended contact with these two communities over almost a decade, in the beginning as an aid worker, and later as a field-researcher. This extended contact has enabled me to explore the transformations in social and spatial organisation in the two communities, from the immediate aftermath of the tsunami up to the present day. Whilst Po benefited from numerous projects, aid, and development, as a result of its tourism and capital-generating potential, the fishing village of Thomale was largely side-lined. The characteristics of Po, and the changes that took place post-tsunami, promoted ‘outsider’ driven development and the appropriation of local land, by both foreign and Sinhalese entrepreneurs. The thesis answers two key questions: a) what strategies have locals developed to counteract this uninvited intrusion into their community? And b) how have the events and developments that have transpired as a result of the tsunami, affected locals’ ‘sense of place’ and their social relations?
In tackling these questions, I explore local interpretations of kin and community, the role of kin-based factions, and the subsequent reconfiguration of a sense of place around novel kin-based social networks. Narratives of place are also explored, and in this context the thesis outlines how ritual is utilised to voice individual and communal concerns over the changing face and politics of place, as well as exploring violent conflicts that arise as a result of seemingly misplaced power relations, and identity. Ultimately, this thesis presents a segment of an on-going narrative of the relationship between people, politics and place in the aftermath of a disaster.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Sri Lanka, kinship, politics, post-disaster, development, place, ritual
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:02 Oct 2015 12:21

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