Anthropology Seminar Series - Mark Whitaker, University of Kentucky

Thursday, March 7, 2019 - 16:00 to 17:30
Anthropology Seminar Room, RH2.20 Rowan House

“They get more miracles than us!”
Negotiating identity boundaries at postwar Sri Lankan multi-religious ritual sites.

Despite a sometimes violent, post-colonial history of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict Sri Lanka continues to have ritual sites such as, most famously, Sri Pada and Kateragama, where people of various religious and ethnic identities mingle. Moreover, though some sites have been the focus of efforts, primarily though not exclusively by the state, to impose narrative and identity homogenization, other sites, invigorated by post war circumstances, such as  Our Lady of Madhu Shrine in Mannar, attract ever larger, ethnically and religiously mixed, crowds. In this paper, based on research conducted in Colombo, Kandy, Mannar, Jaffna and Batticaloa in 2018, the very notion of ‘identity boundaries’ will be examined in light of the complex dance of identity recognition, reaction, and strategic ignorance practiced by devotees at Sri Lanka’s multi-religious sites. Ultimately, standard notions of tolerance and intolerance also will be re-examined and, perhaps, multiplied.

Prof Mark Whitaker
University of Kentucky