The plantation workers of Sri Lanka were brought over from South India as indentured labour in the 19th century by the British and were settled in the hill country of Sri Lanka to work first in coffee and later tea plantations. Disenfranchised by the Citizenship Act of 1948, the struggles of the community had been primarily in relation to wages and trade union politics on the one hand and on moves toward recognition of citizenship, on the other, which was finally granted to ‘all’ in 2003. The new millennium also saw the ‘Bindunuwewa’ riots in many parts of the plantation, in which the estate youth, Sinhala villagers and the police clashed. Taking this as the defining and restraining framework for the exploration, the paper looks at emerging identities of the community in terms of belonging and movement toward citizenship. It is an exploration of identity making among selected groups of the community, exploring the dynamics of their negotiation with the Sri Lankan state and its attendant violences, desire and the different emergences of belonging, nation, class, gender and community. Through a creative use of the popular cinematic medium, the research was structured around workshops and sustained group discussions which emphasized the processes of identity-making as a gendered mapping of individual subjectivity and political action.
How to Cite:
Sumathy, S., 2014. Gendered Fictions: Media and the Making of the Malaiyaha Identity in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, 38(1-2), pp.43–62. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljh.v38i1-2.7213