Birds of Freedom
Young People, the LTTE, and Representations of Gender, Nationalism, and Governance in Northern Sri Lanka
Author: Cathrine Brun
The article explores how the dominant discourses of identity politics in the Sri Lankan conflict have silenced people in northern Sri Lanka and closed spaces for political participation. In order to understand the discursive processes and their material outcomes, the article addresses in particular the role of young people in northern Sri Lanka and explores their relationship to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The author examines the LTTE's discourse on gender, young people, nationalism, and governance through the lens of two books written separately by Anthon Balasingham and by Adele Balasingham. Birds of Freedom, the LTTE's women's wing, is shown to be an example of how the warring parties have monopolized liberation discourse through the uncompromised nationalism of a militant movement. The article discusses how this dominant discourse informs young people's lived experiences, material realities, and life opportunities for participation as social actors in their communities in the Jaffna peninsula. A particular feature of people's everyday lives in northern Sri Lanka is described as a complex citizenship characterized by the presence of several governing and uncompromising actors to whom people must relate. The latter part of the article analyzes the way young people in the north of Sri Lanka relate to this context of complex citizenship, with particular reference to the LTTE.