Tamilnet.com: Some reflections on popular anthropology, nationalism, and the internet

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40 Scopus citations


In this essay I argue that Tamilnet.com, an Internet news agency put together by a group of Sri Lankan Tamils to address the Tamil diaspora and influence English-speaking elites, subverted international news coverage during Sri Lanka's civil war by making "ironic" use of the discursive styles of journalism and anthropology. I also claim that this constituted a particular form of autoethnographic popular anthropology that challenged professional anthropology, and in some ways sought to replace it. In the first two sections of this essay, I dismantle the concept of "the popular" by showing that when anthropologists and social theorists use the term they are often referring to connected but distinct aspects of popularity which should be distinguished: Baudrillardian market popularity on the one hand, and Habermasian identity-resistance popularity on the other. I then show how the Internet, given its technology and software, is best seen as market popular in form but identity-resistance popular in content. In the remaining four sections I illustrate, ethnographically, how the creators of Tamilnet.com, while deeply embedded in civil war and a world-wide diaspora, recognized this aspect of the Internet and used it - again, "ironically" - to construct a site that advances their own nationalist interests,.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-498
Number of pages30
JournalAnthropological Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


  • Agency
  • Autoethnography
  • Diaspora
  • Ethnography
  • Internet
  • Irony
  • Journalism
  • Nationalism
  • Popular anthropology
  • Sri Lanka
  • Tamil
  • Toronto

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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