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Thesis defence

Opposition Politics from Afar: The Case of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora

Add to calendar 2021-10-26 17:00 2021-10-26 19:00 Europe/Rome Opposition Politics from Afar: The Case of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora Sala Europa Villa Schifanoia YYYY-MM-DD


26 October 2021

17:00 - 19:00 CEST


Sala Europa

Villa Schifanoia

Based on an in-depth analysis of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, this thesis by Lola Guyot analyses the ways in which diasporas oppose authoritarian regimes from afar in situations of conflict and post-conflict.

Transcending the traditional debate about diasporas as radical or pacifying actors, and understanding diaspora politics as part of a broader opposition movement, it seeks to explain the conditions under which different configurations of relations between opponents at home and abroad prevail and the modalities of opposition that tend to be associated to each configuration.

The thesis argues that political mobilisations of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora during the war (1983-2009) and in the post-conflict period (since 2009) are representative of two distinct ideal-typical models of opposition politics from afar, which rested on two different kinds of relations between the opposition in the homeland and abroad. During the war, Tamil diasporic actors at large were subordinated to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed organisation which exerted its domination over the diasporic political field. Tamil migrants were ascribed an auxiliary role in which their primary task was to financially support the LTTE’s insurgency in Sri Lanka. After the LTTE’s defeat in 2009, the Tamil diaspora continued to fiercely oppose the Sri Lankan authorities from afar, but through entirely different modalities, which were representative of another ideal-typical model of diaspora opposition politics. Tamil opposition forces abroad operated as autonomous actors, with their own political agenda, and prioritised the international arena as a site to conduct the struggle. Their practices consisted in attempts to convince international actors to take measures against the Sri Lankan government and in the promotion abroad of the nationalist cause in its pure and authentic form. In both cases, though differently, diaspora politics were strongly grounded in the political environment of migrants’ host-country and conductive to their broader political integration in their host-country.  

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