Sanmugeswaran: Hindu Temple Conflict, Bhakthi Religiosity, and Village Temple Consiousness among the Jaffna Tamils in Post-War Sri Lanka

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Research Proposal: Hindu temple conflict, bhakthi religiosity, and village temple consciousness among the Jaffna Tamils in Post-War Sri Lanka A summary of the research question and the project The central question of this research concerns changes in terms of what I am calling 'village temple consciousness' that have occurred in Tamil, Hindu Jaffna during and after the Sri Lankan Civil War. By 'uurkoovil consciousness' 1 mean the kind of consciousness Sri Lankan Tamil people have about their places of origin (villages, cities, regions, and at times, their ethnic community) as mediated through their affiliations (or sense of rightful ownership or urimai) to local temples, new and old gods, local landscapes, and each other (Appadurai 1976, 1981; Ananthanathan 1993, Whitaker 1999). For the purposes of my research, I will be looking primarily at changes in three components of this 'uurkoovil consciousness': (I) temple allegiance and conflict, including notions of caste and hierarchy (Banks 1957, 1969; Pfaffenberger 1982); (2) 'bhakthi' religious practices; and (3) 'village (uur) consciousness' as this relates to the landscape as imagined and lived in. My preliminmy hypothesis is that all three of these components of village temple consciousness will have changed as a result of the dislocation and trauma experienced during the war combined with an increased vulnerability to globalization since the war's conclusion. To address (I) I will be asking why the cultural practices of' bhakthi' religiosity and what I am calling uurkoovil (village temple) consciousness have been so visibly altered by Sri Lanka's recently completed Civil War and current post-war circumstances while practices of conflict related to temple 'urimai' do not appear to have been altered very much at all. I suspect the answer lies in the meaning the notion of rights has for people at a moment of great historical and political upheaval even when other aspects of local identity- including individual spirituality and feelings of connectedness to specific communities, caste, local and ethnic - have been transformed more definitively. I will address (2), changes in religious practices, by looking at changes in 'bhakthi' religiosity that seem to be occurring now in Jaffna, paiticularly those relating to altered wedding ceremonies, coming of age ceremonies, and funerals -- such as how these rituals are now 'produced' for public Internet consumption -- that appear to be making daily Hinduism more 'modern', 'capitalist' and 'cosmopolitan' (Lawrence, 1986; Srinivas, 2010). I suspect that such changes actually represent just part of a continuum of religious strategies which work, along with more 'traditional' practices involving 'caste deities' (kula teivankal) and 'favorite deities' (ishta teivankal) (Pfaffenberger 1982; Mines 2005), to help people deal with their changed circumstances. Finally, I will address (3), changes in' uur consciousness' as this relates to the landscape, by comparing how people imagine the landscape in daily discourse, including the 'sacred landscapes' associated with temples (Whitaker 2015), versus how they have to traverse those landscapes in their daily, postwar lives, including the new, expanded 'landscape' of cyberspace and the diaspora that now intersects with the Jaffna Peninsula at every moment. Altogether, then, this proposal seeks to discover why these sudden shifts in consciousness and practice took place, as well as, sometimes, why they did not. It is my larger hypothesis that the enmeshment of postwar Jaffna village temples and villages in global capitalism and newly accessible diasporic cyberspace networks -- via the proliferations of temple Facebook pages, temple websites and village websites - has forced the production of new forms of 'being', and, hence, of uur consciousness. Here issues of global engagement, diaspora connectivity, voluntary and involuntary migration, and the worries of Jaffna's older generation about a loss of 'social control', 'kaddupaadu' (including loss of control through caste and gender), are all a pmt of the postwar changes that I am trying to explicate with my research on uurkoovil consciousness.
Effective start/end date6/30/166/1/18


  • Lambda Alpha: $2,000.00


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