Thiruni Kelegama

Biography

Thiruni Kelegama is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. She is an anthropologist and a political geographer whose research focuses on post-war reconstruction, development, militarisation and nationalism in Sri Lanka.

Abstract

Consolidating Control: Frontier Governance in Post-war Sri Lanka

This paper studies contentious forms of territorialisation and the spatial dynamics that have been part of state expansion processes into the northeastern Dry Zone frontier in postcolonial Sri Lanka. From early postcolonial attempts to civilise this frontier through high-modernist development projects, this region has continually been subject to long-standing state and military interventions driven by an objective to bring “development” to the peripheries, which continue to date. Through a discussion of such interventions and its post-war revival in 2009, I trace the manner in which the military assumed extra-ordinary powers and became critical to the carrying out of development projects and the militarised practices that enable this. Building on 11 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I argue the post-war state enabled the security-development nexus in a four-fold manner: by normalising the presence of the military, by ensuring the military is seen as charitable, by blurring the boundary between the military and the civilians and finally by portraying the work carried out by the military as transformative. The paper concludes by demonstrating how the military and militarised practices of exerting control are essential to the long-standing project of expanding and claiming of the frontier, and therefore critical to the postcolonial state territorialisation agenda.

Affiliation: University of Zurich