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Abstract

Since 1983, war has dominated the perception of Sri Lanka. This has affected scholarship on the country, such that the subjects of an overwhelming number of research proposals and publications have been on the war and the prospects and prescriptions for peace. This survey paper is an attempt to locate the system of caste in transition in the Jaffna Peninsula by reviewing recent literature written after the commencement of the war. While detailed ethnographies of caste in Jaffna may have temporarily come to a halt, caste practices have not and remain a salient part of everyday life among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. As the war ended in 2009, it is therefore important that social scientists on Sri Lanka revisit the topic of caste, that is an integral part of not just Tamil culture or society, but being Tamil itself. As the study of caste is dominated by research in India, a microanalysis of Jaffna and Sri Lanka, particularly the nuances of this system in transition due to war and militancy, could contribute to the macro-study of caste at a sub-continental perspective.