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Farzana Haniffa | Documenting Ethno-Religious Violence in Post War Sri Lanka: Lessons From the Recent Past

April 26, 2019, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Join us on April 26 for a presentation by Farzana Haniffa of her paper “Documenting Ethno-Religious Violence in Post War Sri Lanka: Lessons From the Recent Past”. The paper reflects her experience of documenting the violence of Aluthgama in 2014 and the recent violence in Digana in the Kandy district in March 2018.

Event Details:

Featuring: Farzana Haniffa (University of Colombo, and Smuts Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge)
Respondent: Thushara Hewage (University of Ottawa)

Moderator: Vasuki Nesiah (NYU Gallatin)

When: April 26, 5 pm
Where: Room 701, The Gallatin School, 1 Washington Place

Wine and cheese will be served. 

About Farzana Haniffa

Farzana Haniffa is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Colombo and is currently Smuts Visiting Fellow in Commonwealth Studies at the University of Cambridge. Haniffa obtained her Ph.D in Anthropology from Columbia University, New York in 2007. Her publications and activism have concentrated on gender politics, Islamic reform movements, post-civil war anti-minority sentiment, and Sri Lanka’s post-war transitional justice process. In January 2016, Haniffa was appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office to the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms. In 2018 Haniffa was a member of the University of Colombo Experts Committee drafting the National Policy on Women. Haniffa serves on the management council of the Social Scientists’ Association, and the Board of Directors of the Law and Society Trust.

About Thushara Hewage

Thushara Hewage is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Ottawa. He is an historical anthropologist of South Asia whose work focuses on nationalism, democracy and the theorization of the postcolonial state.

Paper Abstract

“This paper emerges from my experience of documenting the violence of Aluthgama in 2014 and more recently the violence in Digana in the Kandy district in March 2018. Sri Lankanist Academics and activists have taken on the need to document such acts of violence seriously and considered the creation of an account of such events an important academic intervention and a necessary political act. Authors as diverse as S.J Tambiah and Tarzi Vittachchi have seen themselves as documenting violent events in order to impact the politics of which they were a part. Tarzi Vittachchi expressed these sentiments in 1958, and Stanley Tambiah wrote in the aftermath of 1983.  Valentine Daniel, Pradeep Jeganathan, and many others continued to write about 1983 for more than a decade after the event.  Sri Lanka has since experienced far greater violence than that which these writers documented and theorized, and the question as to the nature of the politics that these interventions intended is inevitable today. Are they to be understood only as interventions of misrecognition and failure and as no longer speaking to Sri Lanka’s contemporary political reality?  Might we understand them as attempting to frame a narrative regarding the violence that imagines a more positive future? Or were they participation in a rarified discourse that had little purchase in the everyday life of communities struggling with the impending possibility of violence? Today, in post-war Sri Lanka at a time where the country is experiencing a relatively new form of ethno-religious violence, targeting Muslim communities, this paper explores what lessons are to be learnt from the many earlier attempts at documentation and theorizing violence. Thinking through the documentation of Aluthgama and Digana, and looking into how violence was understood in the accounts referenced above and what the writers suggest are the possibilities for a positive politics in the country, this paper will critically examine the practice of documenting political violence in Sri Lanka.” – Farzana Haniffa

This event is open to the public. For non-NYU attendees, please bring a photo ID for security purposes.


April 26, 2019
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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Gallatin, 1 Washington Place, Room #701
Gallatin, 1 Washington Place
New York, NY United States
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