Caste within the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora: Ūr Associations and Territorial Belonging

Thanges Paramsothy

Abstract


This article considers data on London Tamils from Jaffna peninsula, northern Sri Lanka, to examine caste interactions in relation to their efforts to reconnect with people in the diaspora and ‘at home’. The Tamils are part of a substantial number of ūr (home/native place) associations in London and areas outside London. I consider their efforts through changing and unchanging attitudes to caste to recreate a sense of community away from home. They do so by forming associations comprising members of a specific caste group, hailing from a particular village, region, or island in Sri Lanka. I examine the diaspora communities’ understanding of the institution of caste as a wider landscape of belonging. This further considers how caste divisions in the ūr become re-territorialized among the Tamil diaspora. The historical context of these activities relate to the wide dispersal and separation of Tamils from their Sri Lankan homeland during the upheaval of the armed conflict. The article also demonstrates how caste-based relationships and kinship ties shape the lives of members of the Tamil diaspora in London, and how caste-based and fragmented identities operate in such transnational Tamil diaspora localities.


Keywords


Caste; Tamil Diaspora; Territorial Belonging; Ūr Associations; Fragmented Identities; United Kingdom

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Anthropology Matters Journal ISSN: 17586453 Publisher: Anthropology Matters url: www.anthropologymatters.com