Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings by Margaret Trawick


Margaret Trawick taught Anthropology in the United States for fourteen years before joining Massey University in 1992 as Professor of Social Anthropology. She received her BA with high honours in anthropology from Harvard in 1970, and her PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1978. She has carried out four extensive fieldwork projects in southern India, one extensive fieldwork project in Sri Lanka, and one fieldwork project at her former home in New York State. Her publications address the status of women in India, literate Chinese and Indian medical systems, South Indian poetry and poetics, spirit mediumship and possession, the anthropology of emotion, family and kinship, life histories, and the experience of untouchability in India. Professor Trawick´┐Żs current research is about the war in Sri Lanka.

2007 Enemy Lines: Warfare, Childhood, and Play in Batticaloa (Philip E. Lilienthal Books) 2002 Photos from the Field -"Terrorists"& "Commonfolk""Scenes"
November 1999

Women in Combat

 "....Traditionally, when there has been violent conflict, men have been the principal fighters, because men are bigger on the average and have stronger arms and shoulders on the average than women. Traditionally, large bodies and strong arms and shoulders have been necessary to wield weapons effectively. But small arms technology has developed in such a way that one no longer needs great muscular power to handle a modern combat rifle, or a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, or whatever else advanced stuff is out there. The playing field has been levelled. A troop of well trained and well armed teenaged girls can route a battalion of big strong men who are not so very well trained. The more so as little girls can hide in treetops more easily than big men..."

May 1999 Lessons from Kokkodiacholai

"My aim for this paper is not just to provide another recitation of the horrors of the war in Sri Lanka. While you should certainly know what has happened and continues to happen there, it is more important for you to know what you can do about it, and for you to be motivated to do it. My advice is simple. Go there.I especially recommend that you visit the town of Kokkaddichcholai..."

September 1996 Cyberspace, War & Sri Lanka
July 1996 Towards a Tamil Transnationalism 

 "Those who identify themselves as Sri Lankan Tamils are involved simultaneously in the globalization and the localization of Tamil culture. On the one hand, a war is being waged for a separate Tamil homeland within the small island currently named Sri Lanka. On the other hand, efforts are being made throughout the world to make Tamil culture better known to, and understood by, non-Tamil peoples, toward the end of establishing cross-cultural and cross-national alliances. The immediate and most urgent need is to free Tamil people remaining in Sri Lanka from the domination of a Sinhala-controlled government that is hostile to Tamil interests, and has been directly responsible for the deaths of many thousands of Tamil civilians..."

July 1996 Open letter to President Kumaratunga

"Time after time the LTTE has conducted surprise attacks upon army camps, killed soldiers, and stolen weapons. Time after time, unwary soldiers marching down the open road have been picked off by LTTE snipers. When only a handful of soldiers gets killed, we read that the LTTE is "harassing" the army. When the LTTE shoots a few soldiers here and a few soldiers there, we hear that they are engaging in "the war of the flea" with "pinprick attacks." Some flea and some pin! These soldiers are human beings with families, bleeding their lives out in the dust. Do the families of those dying soldiers feel nothing more than pinpricks and flea-bites? How do the families of the soldiers at Mullaitivu feel at this moment, not even knowing whether their own sons and brothers are alive or dead? My sister Chandrika, how would you feel if the young men dying were your own children? Would you have risked their becoming Tiger-bait in the first place? But this is just what those soldiers have turned out to be: Tiger-bait..."

June 1996 Combatant's Position in Sri Lanka Conflict - An Account from the East
May 1996 Focus on Sri Lanka

"...The danger to me in observing these things was not so much physical as professional. If I speak too much about what I have seen, I might not be allowed to return, to see and write more. To be denied the opportunity to revisit the Tamil people whom I have grown to love would be a greater hardship to me than to have an arm or a leg shot off. But a greater hardship still would be to lose the ability - the courage, or the foolishness, or whatever - to speak my mind. What to do? What to do? Such are the painful decisions of life..."

April 1996 Make the Facts of the War Public

I have been struggling in my mind against the conclusion that the SL government is trying to kill or terrorize as many Tamil people as possible; that the government is trying to keep the conditions of the war unreported internationally, because if those conditions were reported, the actions of the military would be perceived as so deplorable that foreign nations would have no choice but to condemn them. And this would be embarrassing to everybody. But it seems now that no other conclusion is possible.

1992 Notes on Love in a Tamil Family [Winner of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize, 1992 ]

"...The central topic of this book-in Tamil, anpu, in English, "love" is a feeling, and my approach to the study of this feeling has been through feeling. I have tried throughout the course of my research and writing to remain honest, clear-headed, and open-minded, and to follow the dictates of reason and empirical observation in my descriptions and analyses of the events I have sought to comprehend. But I have not attempted to be "objective" in the common sense of this term. I have never pretended to be disinterested or uninvolved in the lives of my informants, and I have never set my own feelings aside. Only by heeding them have I been able to learn the lessons that I try, in this volume, to pass on..."

1990 War and Tamil Women: A Women's Eye-view  

"Women with their memories haunting with the sights of the distorted forms of bodies of their beloved, but still with the responsibilities awaiting their services as women, tending the young, the elderly, adjusting life in the worst of living conditions, still made incomprehensible, due to indiscriminate shelling, aerial bombing and torture. Complete majoritarian Democracy, in countries divided on ethnic lines will never satisfy the minority. In circumstances where the majority refuses to come to an amicable settlement with the minorities, the minorities have no way other than fighting for their right for self determination. Even in such a situation the majorities are the gainers as they easily brand these freedom fighters as "terrorists", a word often used to gain the attention and sympathy of all the so called parliamentarians around the world. Ultimately it is again the minorities who are the losers..."


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