Absence in technicolour : protesting enforced disappearances in northern Sri Lanka
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This essay examines the political uses of photography in the protests of the Tamil families of the disappeared in northern Sri Lanka. Enforced disappearances have long featured as an instrument of state terror. Their lingering effects have been noted as a significant challenge to transitional justice processes in the aftermath of the island’s civil war. By examining how protesters make their political demands and grievances known through photography, I explore the tensions between visibility and surveillance. The competing photographies of the protests subvert conceptual understandings of the medium as an ideological tool, but also vex claims of its capacities for enabling emancipation. Against a backdrop of ethno-nationalist conflict, this mobilization of and through photography serves as a defiant articulation of post-war ‘irreconciliation’. It is further tethered to a global visual vernacular of civilian resistance challenging state atrocity, as well as irreconcilable assertions of nation and state.
Buthpitiya , V 2022 , ' Absence in technicolour : protesting enforced disappearances in northern Sri Lanka ' , Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute , vol. 28 , no. S1 , pp. 118-134 . https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.13758
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Anthropological Institute. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
DescriptionThis research is a part of ‘Photodemos: Citizens of Photography – The Camera and the Political Imagination’ at UCL Anthropology. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) as part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 695283.
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