Performing nationalisms: Tamil migrant politics in Switzerland

Authors: Pia Hollenbach*, , Tanuja Thurairajah*, Ms./Mrs.
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: migrant politics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 1, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The chequered history of post-war Sri Lanka has raised questions around the increasing intensity of colliding nationalisms. Post-2009 with the end of the war the re-production and re-framing of rhetoric around nationalism has seen an increased intensity, mainly in channelling anti-Muslim sentiments and also around homegrown protests demanding accountability to protracted injustices against minority Within the context of Switzerland certain events often align to processes in Sri Lanka. For example, sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva are used by the Swiss Tamil Diaspora to perform the reproduction and reframing of Tamil nationalism. In doing so, the Swiss Tamil Diaspora is challenging politics of nationalism in the ‘motherland’ but also in the host country. Our paper looks at how Tamil nationalism is manifested through certain formal and informal activities as collectives and/ or as individuals within the socio-political landscape of Switzerland. We draw reference to the conceptual framework around performance (Goffman, Butler) to study how migrant politics straddles nationalisms on a transnational level through political events, negotiating the geographical boundaries of dual homes - one representing the lived reality while the other representing the imaginary. We argue that these performances are motivated by existential angst and collide with performances spurred by Sinhala nationalism especially in arenas such as the Human Rights Council sessions.

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