Symbolic Gestures: The Development Terrain of Post-Tsunami Villages in (Southern) Sri Lanka

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Nebraska, Lincoln]On: 10 October 2014, At: 14:52Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK</p><p>The Journal of DevelopmentStudiesPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:</p><p>Symbolic Gestures: TheDevelopment Terrain of Post-Tsunami Villages in (Southern)Sri LankaPia Hollenbach a &amp; Kanchana N. Ruwanpura ba Department of Geography , University of Zurich ,Switzerlandb School of Geography , University of Southampton ,UKPublished online: 01 Aug 2011.</p><p>To cite this article: Pia Hollenbach &amp; Kanchana N. Ruwanpura (2011) Symbolic Gestures:The Development Terrain of Post-Tsunami Villages in (Southern) Sri Lanka, The Journalof Development Studies, 47:9, 1299-1314, DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2010.527950</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, orsuitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressedin this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not theviews of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content shouldnot be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions,claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilitieswhatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connectionwith, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.</p><p></p></li><li><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expresslyforbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ebra</p><p>ska,</p><p> Lin</p><p>coln</p><p>] at</p><p> 14:</p><p>52 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p><p></p></li><li><p>Symbolic Gestures: The DevelopmentTerrain of Post-Tsunami Villages in(Southern) Sri Lanka</p><p>PIA HOLLENBACH* &amp; KANCHANA N. RUWANPURA***Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland, **School of Geography, University of</p><p>Southampton, UK</p><p>Final version received July 2010</p><p>ABSTRACT This article analyses how rituals and ceremonies were deployed in the post-tsunamirehabilitation process in Sri Lanka to incorporate development projects into the habitus andsocial reality of local communities. It argues that even though the aid delivery process isrepresented as a gift, in reality it is more concerned with strengthening the social capital of thelocal and foreign donors. Through this process there is an expectation and an implicit demand foracquiescence from the beneficiaries, which leaves them with a social debt. This, in turn, compelsthem to participate in the game of development rituals and ceremonies, in order to express their(ambivalent) gratitude and thankfulness. Through two case studies, we explore how the goodintentions of donors to provide aid and alleviate suffering and the acceptance of this aid by thelocal communities, results in an asymmetric relationship where both become accomplices ofBourdieuian notions of subtle and gentle violence.</p><p>I. Introduction</p><p>Rituals in Sri Lanka are not uncommon. In a country that proclaims to be steeped ina 2,500 year old history, there is often great fanfare marking particular moments asauspicious, celebratory occasions. From the mundane, for instance shifting to a newabode, to the more propitious occurrences such as marriage, the performance ofnumerous rites is considered a crucial aspect in the cultural life of Sri Lanka. Eventhough rituals are largely associated with peoples private life, there is no shortage ofways in which ceremonies are drawn upon to legitimise activities in the publicworld whether it is for opening a newly constructed hospital or a prize-givingceremony at school (see also Spencer, 2007). Unsurprisingly, development efforts inpost-colonial Sri Lanka too have employed ceremonies and rituals. In such cases</p><p>Correspondence Address: Dr. Kanchana N. Ruwanpura, Senior Lecturer Development Geography,</p><p>School of Geography, Shackleton Building 2065, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1B1,</p><p>UK. Email:</p><p>Authors names are in alphabetical order.</p><p>Journal of Development Studies,Vol. 47, No. 9, 12991314, September 2011</p><p>ISSN 0022-0388 Print/1743-9140 Online/11/091299-16 2011 Taylor &amp; FrancisDOI: 10.1080/00220388.2010.527950</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ebra</p><p>ska,</p><p> Lin</p><p>coln</p><p>] at</p><p> 14:</p><p>52 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>tradition is copiously invented in state rituals, political speeches, (and) officiallysponsored revivals (Brow, 1988: 316). Given the involvement of the state indevelopment projects in the immediate post-independence years, it became theleading actor in creating, reinventing and advancing traditions to legitimisenumerous development practices and projects (Brow, 1988; Tennekoon, 1988). Inmore recent decades, Sri Lanka has witnessed an explosion of non-governmentalorganisations (NGOs) making incursions into the world of development. Inparticular, in the immediate post-tsunami period there was an intense flurry ofactivity by both NGOs and private philanthropic foundations. Given that theseinstitutions are increasingly the primary vehicles of development practice, a keyquestion is how do they deploy ceremonies and rituals in the Sri Lankan context?In the immediate post-tsunami phase, the authors became intimately linked to the</p><p>efforts at reconstruction in two separate villages in southern Sri Lanka. Ourassociation with each village was arrived at through different means. In what weterm E-village, one of us was an implementing officer for more than two years, andtook on management responsibilities for reconstructing a new village. In L-village,the other author has strong ties, as a close relative is the founder involved inrebuilding the village; it was also a site where previous fieldwork had beenundertaken. Because of these unusual connections, we were able to easily gain accessto, and hold frank and lengthy discussions with, respondents. These associations alsomeant that there were numerous opportunities to become participant observers overan extended period of time and record the different phases of a village construction.It was during this time (2005-2008), we had the chance to partake, observe, and eveninitiate ceremonies and rituals. Given the extensive use of symbols and ceremony ascritical markers of achievements, of moving onto another phase, we thought it wasimportant to understand what the use of symbols and ceremonies signalled regardingthe reconstruction process in the post-tsunami context.Existing debates on the post-tsunami Sri Lankan context have explored a range of</p><p>themes including: the temporality and places of recovery (Ruwanpura, 2009); themultiple dilemmas and ambiguities embedded in the recovery process (Brun andLund, 2008; Brun, 2009); the politics of memorialisation and purification (Simpsonand de Alwis, 2008; Hasbullah and Korf, 2009); the gendered world of post-tsunamispatial politics (De Mel, 2007; Hyndman, 2008; Ruwanpura, 2008); and thegeographies of goodwill (Korf, 2007; Korf et al., 2010). A key theme which underliesthese interventions is the impossibility of understanding the reconstruction processwithout recognising the wider political, cultural, social and cultural terrain of war,ethno-nationalism and uneven development in Sri Lanka. The recurrent failures tograsp the fissures in the countrys social fabric mean that the mantra of buildingback better1 has not really tackled existing fault lines or the continuing tensions inan already fragmented sociality. Our article extends these debates to look moreclosely at the symbolic gestures deployed in reconstructing the post-tsunami villages.We argue that these gestures underscore the prevailing modes of social hierarchy.The literature on the politics of development highlights the importance of how</p><p>authoritative interpretations have to be made and sustained socially and wheresupporting actors need reasons to become stakeholders in interpretive communitiesof development (Mosse, 2004: 646). As post-tsunami reconstruction efforts shiftedfrom humanitarian relief to development work, a cornerstone of numerous initiatives</p><p>1300 P. Hollenbach &amp; K.N. Ruwanpura</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ebra</p><p>ska,</p><p> Lin</p><p>coln</p><p>] at</p><p> 14:</p><p>52 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>taken to socially legitimise these activities was that of generous giving. The generosityof the giving state as an imperative of development is well documented, where inputsare framed as gifts, and they are ritualized accordingly (Li, 1999: 314; see also Brow,1990). Ceremonial idioms highlight the processes of generosity; at the same time, thegift is reified through the mundane visits by state officials, at which people constantlyrecord their gratitude. What the logic of gift then does is to preclude an alternativeframing in terms of rights and entitlements (Li, 1999: 314). The post-tsunami milieu inSri Lanka presents a situation in which villagers have survived the onslaught of thetsunami waves noting their good fortune to live, where gratitude rather than claims torights and entitlements is registered for any gifts obtained.</p><p>We show through our article that it is not simply the state that invests in theconstruction of generous giving and evokes tradition through ritual, but so do theprivate philanthropists and NGOs (Simpson and Corbridge, 2006; Simpson and deAlwis, 2008). As NGOs and private philanthropists participated in post-tsunamidevelopment via the process of gift giving, their involvement in creating andparticipating in ceremonies and rituals became a central plank in legitimising theways in which they uphold their custom and culture. More critically from aBourdieuian perspective, these ceremonies and rituals are important for deepeningthe NGO/philanthropist power base by investing in initiatives which enhance thesocial capital of these individuals and institutions (see also Jeffrey, 2008, 2009).</p><p>A corpus of existing literature points to the ways in which Bourdieus work isdeployed by scholars of South Asia to tender perceptive readings of ethnographicmaterial (Thapan and Lardinois, 2006; see also Jeffrey, 2009). These contributions areuseful in analysing the ceremonies deployed in the post-tsunami development contextsince they show how symbolic systems (are) efficacious in maintaining relations ofdomination . . . in the obscurity of habitus (Jain, 2006: 111). Within every field, symbolicforms, struggles and violence are constitutive elements of each symbolic system (Jain,2006). We show how ceremonies and rituals deployed unravel the ways in whichinternalized orientations to action . . . reflect peoples (agents) histories and structurefuture action (Jeffrey, 2009: 186). These symbolic manifestations are then expressions ofthe social and material environments where class-power and its representational formsare transferred across multiple communities in seemingly durable forms. Yet even assome of these rituals are portrayed as vital aspects of Sri Lankan life, Bourdieu (1990,1998) serves as a critical entry point to show how they are also social practices whichconvey habitus of power, symbols of domination and even gentle violence.</p><p>II. A New Lease of Life: The Process of Rebuilding Villages</p><p>The two institutions under scrutiny here became involved with the reconstruction ofvillages in the post-tsunami context in different ways. In this section a synopsis of thecritical particulars of this involvement relevant for the purposes of this article isoffered.2 We show that despite the different trajectories of the organisations involvedwith rebuilding the villages, both establishments used ceremonies, rituals andsymbols as key aspects to their reconstruction efforts.</p><p>Research in L-village came about through the involvement of a local foundation,which had an active base of philanthropic work in the community. The tsunami, asunexpected and unfortunate as it was, offered the opportunity for the foundation to</p><p>Post-Tsunami Villages in (Southern) Sri Lanka 1301</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ebra</p><p>ska,</p><p> Lin</p><p>coln</p><p>] at</p><p> 14:</p><p>52 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>become a significant agent in attending to the needs of the neighbourhood. Rebuildingdestroyed and partially damaged houses became a significant aspect of thereconstruction efforts put into place by the organisation. These efforts had rudimentarybeginnings in the immediate post-tsunami context. Although a significant portion ofthe village was devastated by the tsunami, the local founder did not have the finances tocommence a village rebuilding scheme. Financially, the initial rebuilding plans weremade possible through the generosity of a network within the Sri Lankan diasporas. Itstarted with building the destroyed residences of the poorest members of thecommunity with a woman who lost her spouse to the tsunami waves being the firstrecipient. Over time, however, the local foundation given its impressive achievementsof reconstruction efforts and well established links moved on to acquire an NGOstatus and struck partnerships with corporate and foreign donors to embark upon anambitious programme of rebuilding smaller compounds of houses within the village. Asof today, the foundation has built or renovated some 600 houses in L-village. Theceremonies and rituals that went on display in this shifting scene of events moved fromthe small scale to the large scale, and in the following pages we present the ways inwhich the events came to be performed.Events unfolded in E-village rather differently. Here the rebuilding of the village</p><p>occurred through a concerted plan of putting in place a new village housing 90dwellings. The purpose was to relocate villagers from the coastal belt3 who werecaught in the tsunami waves, losing their homes and belongings, to a new placeinland up to 18 km away from their original location. The impetus for building thisnew village was the coming together of a small group of foreigners who had previouslinks to Sri Lanka through their work and business. They used their social andpolitical standing in their home countries to raise large-scale funding and started thev...</p></li></ul>


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