Intimacy - negotiating proximity and distance in social media in Sri Lanka

Authors: Christine Schenk*, University of Zurich
Topics: Sexuality, Asia
Keywords: Intimacy, digital media, youth, Sri Lanka
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In social media, intimate questions are increasingly discussed in a semi-public sphere. This is not only true for Western, but more and more for post-colonial societies, too. Many of these societies undergo social and political crises which cause temporal and symbolic ruptures to the social fabric of affected families. These crises open spaces where questions of intimacy including sexual identities are (re-)negotiated. Drawing on post-war Sri Lanka, the paper investigates how Sri Lankan youth define intimacy in social media and thus analyses societal transitions, shifts in social attitudes and practices, and new modes of narrative expression in light of religious-ethnic tensions and boundaries in Sri Lanka (Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu). In so doing, the paper is situated at debates around re-negotiating the understanding of the intersections of bodies, territory and borders (Smith et al 2016) and feminist digital geographies (Elwood S and Leszczynski A 2018). The paper draws on a collaboration in the field of digital humanities between the University of Zurich and University of Colombo, Sri Lanka aiming to explore methodologies in digital humanities where ethnographic fieldwork touches its limits.

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