Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Producing Home Elsewhere: The Changing Place-Making Practices of Sri Lankan Tamils In Toronto
by Embuldeniya, Gayathri Eugenie, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2011, 473; 3481967
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the place-making practices through which immigrants reproduce home in a diasporic context, and the impact of this work on immigrant subjectivities. It focuses on Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto who immigrated to Canada in the context of marginalization by the Sri Lankan state, civil war, and the growth of militant Tamil separatism, making Canada the home of the largest Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in the West. Based on fifteen months of fieldwork conducted in 2008 – 2009 in Toronto, this dissertation draws on participant observation, observation, life histories, and semi-structured interviews, to trace the material, affective, symbolic, spatial, embodied, and strategic ways through which the homeland is (re)produced by people who now occupy a new locale. I argue that the meaning of home/ the homeland transformed over time, inter-generationally as well as in relation to specific socio-political events. In addition, their diasporic context also shaped Tamil subjectivities by informing the form and content of place-making. New diasporic subjectivities were constructed in the nexus of these socio-temporal processes. As such, historic and contemporary events related to the homeland acquired new political meaning when collectively embodied and commemorated from a diasporic location, producing rejuvenated, newly politicized nationalist subjectivities. The meanings given to the homeland also transformed across generations, producing a second generation whose identity was rooted in the increasingly politicized nation, rather than in local lived contexts of place; contexts which were accessible to the first generation. Therefore, this research suggests that place and time derive meaning when they are understood together, for while the meaning of place was temporally inflected, immigrants' memories of the homeland derived new meaning through their re-emplacement in diaspora.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hancock, Mary
Commitee: Bhavnani, Kum-Kum, Yang, Mayfair
School: University of California, Santa Barbara
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Canadian studies, South Asian Studies
Keywords: Diaspora, Identity formation, Memory, Nationalism, Place making, Sri lanka, Tamils
Publication Number: 3481967
ISBN: 978-1-267-01985-1
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