The Self at a Time of War in Northern Sri Lanka



The article takes one young Tamil woman, Vasantha, and her account of growing up in the northern war zone of Jaffna in Sri Lanka. Vasantha's narrative and her adolescence, like others of her generation, was framed by living at the margins of the Sri Lankan state (though under its bombardment) and under the control of a repressive quasi-state actor, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In this article, I twin Vasantha's fashioning of her life-story with a meditation on the ways in which the Sri Lankan war, specifically LTTE control over Tamil lives, has come to ambivalently frame and produce particular understandings of selfhood, articulations of collectivity and individuality. Here, I argue that individuation takes many different forms, and, specifically, that the ruptures of war produces individuation in unexpected ways. I take Vasantha's story to explicate the experiences of young people in northern Sri Lanka, and, as an illustration of the contraction and expansion of particular possibilities of selfhood in the midst of political.