Gendering the Internally Displaced: Problem Bodies, Fluid Boundaries and Politics of Civil Society Participation in Sri Lanka


Hewamanne, S. 2009. “Gendering the Internally Displaced: Problem Bodies, Fluid Boundaries and Politics of Civil Society Participation in Sri Lanka.” Journal of International Women's Studies 11 (1): 157-72.

Author: S. Hewamanne


In this paper I argue that the internally displaced Muslim women’s experience of displacement and their perception of new developments since the last round of peace initiative between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE are significantly different from their male counterparts in that the women find these experiences as empowering in some respects. The paper also evidence that this empowerment is differently experienced by women belonging to different social classes. Women have been identified as a problem body within the Muslim community and restrictions on Muslim women have been justified through discourses on family honor and frivolous women. The forced regional boundary crossing had resulted in Muslim women playing a different role in public space as the targeted population for NGO activities. They have become “a needed body of persons,” through a skillfully negotiated traversing among fluid boundaries, most of which are not physical. While the state, the humanitarian agencies and the urban Muslim community amidst they live now all shape the gendered subjectivities of internally displaced Muslim people the very same discourses allow women to transcend barriers they formally faced in entering public space and to negotiate positions within and against the subjectivities created for them.

Keywords: Muslim women, internal displacement, Sri Lanka, qualitative research

Topics: Displacement & Migration, IDPs, Gender, Women, Humanitarian Assistance, NGOs, Peace Processes, Religion Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 2009

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