Researching Masculinity and Violence in Sri Lankan Politics: Subject Construction as Methodology
De Silva, Jani
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This article discusses a research methodology study which worked with young men – members of a formerly armed Tamil group in Sri Lanka, now struggling to survive in electoral politics. Study participants had security concerns which made a conventional ethnographic approach problematic. An alternative methodology was needed, offering a contextualised analysis of events that could capture the background, political persuasion and motivations of actors without actually revealing specificities of personal identity and geographic location. The research sought to analyse the context of Tamil militancy, the changing dimensions of Tamil masculinity, and the way in which combat training transformed notions of selfhood and political dissent among young Tamil men. There was an activist element to the project, aiming to open up a discursive space which would enable participants to interrogate their own political praxis in a supportive environment, allowing them to conceive new ways of acting out their political rages. In this, it had partial successes and some failures.