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A Certain Gesture: Reflections on the Murder of Sivaram

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Abstract

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a generation of young Tamils in Sri Lanka joined one or other of the militant separatist groups that sprang up in opposition to the Sinhala-dominated government of Sri Lanka. This paper examines the life of one member of this generation, the journalist and intellectual, Sivaram Dharmaratnam, who was abducted and murdered in Colombo in 2005. Sivaram's death provoked a flood of reflections from his peers and these are used to ask questions about the relationship between personal biography, intellectual trajectory and political commitment in a post-colony in long-term crisis. The subsequent appearance of a biography of Sivaram, written by his friend the anthropologist Mark Whitaker, provides an opportunity for further reflection on ethnography, friendship and the limits of biography.

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