Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood

This multi-sited island ethnography illustrates how the embattled politics of (im)mobility, belonging, and patronage among coastal fishing communities in Sri Lanka´s militarised northeast have intersected in the wake of civil war. It explores an undertheorized puzzle by asking how the conceptual dualisms between co-operation and contestation simplify the complex lifeworlds of small-scale fishing communities that are often imagined by scholars through allegories of rivalry and resource competition.Drawing on ordinary interpretations and lived practices implicated in the vernacular term sambandam (bearing multiple meanings of intimacy and entanglement), the book traces how intergroup co-operation is both affectively routinised and tactically instrumentalised across coastlines, and at sea. Given its distinct focus on translocal and ethno-religiously plural collectives, the study maps recent historic formations of diverse practices and their contentions, from networked ‘piracy’ and dynamite fishing, to collective rescue missions and coalitional lobbying.Moreover this work serves as an open invitation to academics, policymakers and activists for re-imagining multiple modes of ethical being and doing, and of everyday sociality among so-called ‘deeply divided’ societies. A rich ethnography that pays meticulous attention to a complex social fabric made up of locals, settlers and migrants, with multiple linguistic and religious affiliations, sometimes contending fishing practices, and migration and livelihoods patterns as they have been affected by tsunami, war and the aftermaths of both. It draws from and speaks to a range of disciplines – from political science and sociology, to critical geography and cultural studies, and contributes to diverse fields of inquiry, including conflict and its relationship to a “cold” peace; coastal/maritime livelihoods; identity, cooperation, and collective action. - Aparna Sundar, Assistant Professor of Politics, Ryerson UniversityBy unveiling the vast heterogeneity of fisher migrants and settlers, the book demonstrates in an excellent way how research should not merely focus on the articulations of identity, but more so the inherent properties and qualities of the diverse interdependencies they come to sustain. - Conrad Schetter, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Bonn


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MARE Publication Series 20

Rapti Siriwardane-de Zoysa

Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood Coastal Socialities in Postwar Sri Lanka

MARE Publication Series Volume 20

Series editors Maarten Bavinck, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands [email protected] Svein Jentoft, UiT-The Arctic University of Norway, Norway [email protected]

The MARE Publication Series is an initiative of the Centre for Maritime Research(MARE). MARE is an interdisciplinary social-science network devoted to studying the use and management of marine resources. It is based jointly at the University of Amsterdam and Wageningen University (www.marecentre.nl). The MARE Publication Series addresses topics of contemporary relevance in the wide field of ‘people and the sea’. It has a global scope and includes contributions from a wide range of social science disciplines as well as from applied sciences. Topics range from fisheries, to integrated management, coastal tourism, and environmental conservation. The series was previously hosted by Amsterdam University Press and joined Springer in 2011. The MARE Publication Series is complemented by the Journal of Maritime Studies (MAST) and the biennial People and the Sea Conferences in Amsterdam. More information about this series at http://www.springer.com/series/10413

Rapti Siriwardane-de Zoysa

Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood Coastal Socialities in Postwar Sri Lanka

Rapti Siriwardane-de Zoysa Department for Social Sciences Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) Bremen, Germany

ISSN 2212-6260     ISSN 2212-6279 (electronic) MARE Publication Series ISBN 978-3-319-78836-4    ISBN 978-3-319-78837-1 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1 Library of Congress Control Number: 2018941460 © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover Illustration: Nihal Fernando, Courtesy Studio Times Ltd, Sri Lanka. Printed on acid-free paper This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

In memory of Regi, Theja and Gnanaratnam and the bold, compassionate politics for which they stood

Foreword

I grew up by the sea in Colombo and the back wall of my school ran alongside the Colombo-Galle railway line. The waves of the ocean crashed on the rocks that fringed the railway line. It might seem an idyllic picture, but there were several occasions when dead bodies were found on the railway lines. Given this childhood, I find Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood to be a meaningful and rich empirical study of what it means to live with the sea in wartime and post-war Sri Lanka. For to think with the sea is to revisit standard frames of theorizing in the social sciences and humanities; it is to consider programmes of boundary-making and self-fashioning anew and to trouble models for explaining the island of Sri Lanka built from generations of scholarship devoted to interior polities, plantation systems, ethnic conflict, land tenure, agriculture and development. It is to denaturalise the island as a space of intellectual work, connecting it across the waters while scrutinising its bounding by polities and forms of capital and work. In the words of Sisira and Laksiri recorded below, their ‘quarrel was with the net’; the sea, in other words, was a way of working out the meaning of oppressive times while countering such times in a narrative of what was shared. Siriwardane-de Zoysa’s book covers more than a dozen villages and settlements in Northeast Sri Lanka in the liminal space not only of the beach, but across the thresholds of war and peace, the tsunami and reconstruction and across ethnic and cultural divides as well as modes of settlement and migration. In this sense, it uses the space of the sea to get to a series of in-between acts of making place, memory and identity. If there is a key concept here it is sambanda/m, meaning co-operation, but including at least three valences, ‘the lateral, a-sociative and hierarchical’. Siriwardane-de Zoysa explains that the term literally means a relationship, ‘often embodying a dynamic of interdependence’. It stretches across formal and informal means of association, relations of instrumentality as well as affect and romantic and conjugal associations too. As a concept it allows her to get to the myriad contradictions of life for these fishing communities; it doesn’t only mean peace but also conflict. Perhaps the contradictions are best illustrated here with respect to some of the wonderful vignettes which I noted in reading this manuscript.

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The role of co-operation emerges for instance in how rule-breaking with respect to fishing has collective consequences: there is a local saying that one wo/man’s lavish meal was another’s empty plate, or in other words to over-fish was to break the rule of collective and ethical acceptability. Fortune itself was perceived as rotational in these communities. Yet such meanings of co-operation were in turn twisted by periods of war and peace: at some times, but not others, militarisation and ecological depredation interlocked, allowing a continually changing sense of how and how much to fish. Ethnicity was certainly not effaced, but co-operation could at times create everyday forms of associational culture and protest that crossed ethnic communities. Fascinating here is how fishermen utilised dynamite; yet as Siriwardane-de Zoysa explains, dynamiting, purse-seining and the use of strong lights increased in the context of post-war liberalisation. The tsunami also twisted co-operation, and here I note how householders sought to damage their own property when a second tsunami was expected in 2012, in case the sea ‘failed to adequately do its work’. Further valences of sambanda/m are evident, below, for instance in practices such as kappam, keeping rule-breakers in check by levying protection money, in order to redistribute illicitly harvested catches among the janathawa or community. The particular role of the sea and its relation to land as a way of working out relationships is clear for instance in the story of the only woman fisher who Siriwardane-de Zoysa encountered, a migrant from a Catholic village in Chilaw: ‘[t]here were references made to “masculinised” women who fished and subverted gendered norms by consuming copious quantities of kasippu, and donning sarongs.’ The way in which conflict and the sea are interlaced is powerfully illustrated in how some fisherfolk saw the tsunami as completing the work of the war on land. These are just some stories that caught my eye – indeed this book is laced with dozens of them. I leave it to colleagues in the field of anthropology to scrutinise the precise theoretical and scholarly contribution of this work, but reading this work from Indian Ocean historiography, I look forward to further research that can provide a historical context for it. There is still much to know about the patterns of migration of fisherfolk over the longue durée, the nature of the long-distance connections sustained from the shores towards Southeast Asia and the Middle East over time, or the ways in which seaborne collectivities were reforged across time as a result of differing imperial and postcolonial regimes. For a historian, every-day maritime sociabilities and interdependences are notoriously difficult to extract from the historical archive and so this work is wonderful too for it what evokes for the past. For opening up questions while presenting us with excellent ethnography, Siriwardane-de Zoysa deserves congratulations. I welcome this book into the field of not only Sri Lanka Studies, but also within contemporary scholarship in oceanic and island studies. Reader in World History and Fellow, Gonville and Caius College University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Sujit Sivasundaram

Series Editors’ Preface

South Asia has bred social anthropologists of repute and is also the site of important anthropological studies on fishing peoples. Paul Alexander’s ‘Sri Lankan Fishermen’ (1982) is a classic, as is Jock Stirrat’s ‘On the Beach’ (1988), with Kalpana Ram’s ‘Mukkuvar Women’ (1991) and Ajantha Subramanian’s ‘Shorelines’ (2009) following closely behind. To this set we are now happy to add Rapti Siriwardane-de Zoysa’s fascinating study on coastal socialities in post-war Sri Lanka. Not only is her work placed apart from earlier Sri Lankan studies by a 25-year-long civil war that has affected the country in profound ways, but her fieldwork also took place in a relatively unfamiliar and distinctive part of the country, the Eastern Province. This region is characterized by strong ethno-religious diversity, and it is on the implications hereof that this book speaks loudly. But Siriwardane-de Zoysa’s work also stands out through its emphasis on cooperation rather than rivalry, and the manifold meanings and practices this involves. The book will be of value to all those concerned with ‘salt water life worlds’ and the relational dynamics of their inhabitants. It also provides a unique window on one important fishing society in what John Kurien (2002) has called the ‘tropical majority world’. The MARE Publication Series, which commenced in 2004, has hitherto contained nineteen edited and single-authored volumes on a variety of regions and topics in the field of people, coasts and seas. As Series Editors, we are more than happy to be able to host this new and exciting monograph on Sri Lanka, and expect it to be followed by studies on other coastal regions of the world. Fritz Schmuhl and other staff of Springer have again facilitated the production process, for which we are more than grateful. UiT-The Arctic University of Norway Tromsø, Norway University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Svein Jentoft Maarten Bavinck

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Acknowledgements

In many ways, it seems fitting for a book on multiple mobilities and social entanglements to have lived its fair share of wayfaring. Considering its formative conceptual stages at the Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment, and latterly at the CGIAR WorldFish Center in Penang and the University of Bonn, leading up to fieldwork in Sri Lanka between 2011 and 2016, every step of the way has enriched its narrative development until its completion in Bremen, Germany. This book began as a doctoral thesis presented at the Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn under the title Sambandam: Cooperation, Contestation and Coastal Lifeworlds in Postwar Sri Lanka. There I am indebted to Conrad Schetter, Aram Ziai and Katja Mielke, my advisors and tutor respectively, for their steadfast encouragement and critical feedback given throughout my years as a PhD candidate. The research was funded by a Doctoral Fellowship from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development via the German Academic Exchange Program (DAAD), together with a fieldwork grant from the Dr. Hermann Eiselen Doctoral Program of the Foundation Fiat Panis. Meanwhile, there are those who make a life by what they give, and my debts of gratitude in this project are plenty. My deepest appreciation to the many participants across the districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu, Jaffna, and Puttalam, Sri Lanka, who so unreservedly shared their stories and insights with me, for without their lively engagement this study would not have been possible. I also thank the great many district- and village-level Fisheries Co-operative Societies that unreservedly let me sit in on their meetings, and who shaped this research by contributing a wealth of historic and institutional knowledge. To the many friends and colleagues during my Bonn days who were so crucial in shaping earlier renditions of this book: Guido Lüchters and Milena Djourelova for their assistance with the statistical component; Sebastian Ekhert for the film editing support; Epifania Amoo-Adare, Mibi Ete, Elena Kim, Günther Manske, Volker Merx, Stefanie Rinn, Antonio Rogmann, Karsten Schulz, Ruchika Singh and Anna Schwachula for their inspiration and luftmensching throughout these past few years; Ulrike Guthrie and Yana Felber for their editorial assistance. xi

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Acknowledgements

To my colleagues at the Social Sciences Department, Leibniz-Center for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), particularly to Anna-Katharina Hornidge, Andrea Zinzani, Maria Jose Barragan Paladines, Naomi Taylor, Ryan McAndrews and Yannie Fygle for creating an intellectually stimulating environment that enabled me to complete this work in Bremen. In particular, I thank members of the Development and Knowledge Sociology working group, in particular Lucas Barning for the timely support with the mapwork and its layout. Furthermore, I express my gratitude Amatoritsero Ede and Leonard Ng for their constructive input on the monograph title. In Sri Lanka, I extend my thanks to Azhar J.  Abdeen for being a wonderful source of support during my fieldwork, to M.S.M Irfan and other members of RECDO, Kantale along with Mohammed Nihar and staff at Kinniya Vision for their invaluable assistance during fieldwork. Also, a special thanks to my primary research assistant Kugan Dharshini, together with N.  Sanas, Sandika Kaminee, John Fernando and Rajeswari K. Aiyer, for helping with translations and data entry. To Manoj Rodrigo for his invaluable input on statistical survey design, and Nandana Ajith for assisting with the interpretation of GIS data while on fieldwork. To Siva Subramaniam for accepting me as member of his family, and for all the warmth, laughter and for those nutritious meals prepared during fieldwork. To Prasanna Alahakoon, Manuel Indrasuriyam and S. Sarawanabawan for lively discussions during my stay in Trincomalee. Moreover, I thank a host of people in Colombo and elsewhere whose interest with my research proved invaluable. They include Oscar Amarasinghe, Visakesa Chandrasekaran, Dileepa de Croos, Matej Faller, Pascal Haltiner, Michael Roberts, Shanthi Satchithanandam, Joeri Scholterns, Ranjith Silva, Dhivya Sivanesan, Chaminda Weerawardhana, Lal Tennekoon and Yuvi Thangarajah. In particular, I thank Nireka Weeratunge and Gowrie Ponniah for their steadfast encouragement during the formative stages of conceptualising this study, and for the invaluable counsel offered during the entire project. In continuation, I acknowledge a host of state agencies and local and international organisations that enriched this work including the Ministry of Fisheries (the Trincomalee and Mullaitivu District Offices and the Statistics Department, Colombo); the District Secretariat (Katchcheri) of Trincomalee; staff at the Eastern Provincial Council and the CIRM Department; Ministry of Co-operatives (Trincomalee District Office); the Pradeshya Sabha offices of Kinniya, Kuchchaveli, Muthur and Trincomalee Town and Gravets; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Trincomalee; the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO); the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operatives (Negombo); the CGIAR-WorldFish Centre (Penang); and the Center for Maritime Research (MARE). I also express my gratitude to the Springer Nature production team, in particular to Fritz Schmuhl and Daniel Joseph. Moreover, I am deeply grateful to the series editors Maarten Bavinck and Svein Jentoft, together with the two anonymous reviewers whose timely and perceptive comments proved immensely valuable. One of my greatest debts is to my family. So I thank my parents, Asoka and Damayanthi, for the contemplative space created since the inception of this project,

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and for their knack in pointing out things that I might have been quick to dismiss. To my aunt Shakuntala (Ranji) Karunasiri and my uncle Asoka de Zoysa, my sincerest thanks for providing me with an equally stimulating home away from home, and for keeping my spirits high during my brief visits to Colombo. Finally, this book is also dedicated to the memory of three people  – Regi Siriwardena, Gnanaratnam Sachithanandam and Theja Fernando – who, since my youth, have shaped the realisation of these ideas in different ways. Therefore it is to all the nepantlas like them  – people who co-create shared worlds of inbetweenness – to whom I devote this work.

Prologue: The Market Day that Never Was

This is my home this thin edge of barbwire. But the skin of the earth is seamless. The sea cannot be fenced, el mar does not stop at borders. (Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera)

‘This time they have gone too far to turn back. If this [issue] is not resolved within the next three days, a great disaster will ensue,’ Saahir remarked prophetically in Sinhala. When we first met a year before that during my preliminary visit to Pulmoddai in northern Trincomalee, he had been the president of a large lagoon Fisher Co-operative Society (FCS). When I met him again a year later, he had stepped down from co-operative leadership and had taken to local politics. ‘In a livelihood such as this [fishing], you need to be in politics,’ he would often remark. It was the last day of June 2012, a date I had noted quite deliberately. Among other things, it also signified the day on which I moved to Uppuveli on the northern fringes of Trincomalee town. Those were particularly parched days in eastern Sri Lanka; it was the height of the tourist season when the southwest monsoons lapped at the western seaboard, and local coastal currents along the northeastern shoreline were perhaps at their mildest. For as long as I stayed in the northeast, I came to regard the sea as being intimately bound with the rhythm of my own life. I began relating to the sea as not just ‘place’ to be understood in the context of human and multispecies mobility; in the words of Kimberley Peters and Philip Steinberg (2015), the sea materially embodies ongoing processes of ‘repetition and differentiation, dissolution and recomposition, statis and dynamism’, which closely resembled the motion of my own fieldwork routine that year. Later that afternoon, I had met with my research assistant Dharshini as we made our way up to Pulmoddai where Saahir lived, approximately 52  km north of the main town. We had planned to have an early lunch together and visit a migrant fishing camp not too far from Saahir’s village. Lunch was a hasty affair, for Saahir had just received a phone call during our drive to Pulmoddai. Saahir was fondly referred xv

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to by some of his contemporaries as a busybody, and given how well networked he was, the fact that Saahir should have been one of the first in his village to receive this piece of unfortunate news came as no surprise. The night before, a small-scale fisherman from Samudragama a predominantly Sinhala-Buddhist settler village located close to the central fish market in Trincomalee town, was said to have drowned while out at sea. Daily nocturnal fishing cycles often begin at dusk and end at dawn the following morning, particularly during the mid-year when stocks of squid are plentiful, and are usually fished at night. July in particular was often referred to as the seasonal ‘squid month’ in coastal Trincomalee. Over lunch, he made several hurried phone calls to a number of fisher co-­ operative members, mosque trustees, and one or two Kuchchaveli pradeshya sabha (local government) councillors he knew in the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the political party with which he was affiliated. A local wave of mobilisation had begun. This time, however, collective response was to assume a mantel of cautious calculated inaction. The event that sparked it off had only occurred the night before, and in Saahir’s view, the fatality itself did not spell the key tragedy. He perceived the event more as a symbolic harbinger to a cycle of ‘great disasters’ (maha aparadaya: Sinhala) in the near future, a very near future in fact, for he had even placed a time duration of 3 days upon it, until which time things would simmer before precariously blowing over. We postponed our plans and after lunch made our way towards Trincomalee town. Nocturnal fishing misfortunes are all too common in the lives of coastal fisherfolk in the east. I was told that a village of 300 households may report as many as two or three occupationally related male deaths per year since 2009 that may occur as a result of rough waters 30 nautical miles out to sea, tides that weaker 15 or 20 horse-powered fibre-glass day-boats with outboard motors at times struggle to withstand. On the other hand, the risk of a motor engine defect in the dead of night was said to be higher, and a number of co-operative members often bemoaned how costly it was to maintain a good engine. Many were accustomed to using diesel fuel to start their engines, thereafter supplementing the rest of their trip with cheaper, low-grade kerosene (lamp) oil that was said to shorten the average lifespan of an outboard motor. Nocturnal fishing trips therefore were often undertaken at the very least in pairs and often in small groups of four to eight male kinsfolk or friends (depending on the type of craft) from the same hamlet or village. Indeed, it was the ‘accidental’ nature of Vidu’s1 death that raised alarms across the district. In many ways, Saahir’s use of the Sinhala noun ‘aparadey’ to describe the narrative is rife with meaning. Often, the term signifies a past or impending disaster that is implicitly de-naturalised, in the sense that it could be humanly circumvented. Furthermore, the term intimates a sense of shared experience. While fishing-related catastrophes routinely affect households, the death of this fisherman the previous night was rumoured to have repercussions for collective livelihoods not only locally, but in regions of the district as far north as Kokillai that lies nestled on  A pseudonym.

1

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the Mullaitivu border (see Fig. 2). Administratively, Saahir’s village fell under the Kuchchaveli Divisional Secretariat. Geographically at least, it was far removed from the main Trincomalee town where Vidu had lived. More important however, the nature of the death was rarely spoken of as a coincidental mishap, despite our hearing several fisher families across the district referring to it as ‘vipattu’ (accident: Tamil). Over the four or five days that followed, Vidu’s death prompted a temporary suspension of all craft-based fishing activity – any form of fishing in fact that warranted some degree of mobility over coastal waters. At first, this hiatus in fishing activity was not spurred by official decree, but was a voluntary decision made after extensive consultations with other neighbouring fisher co-operatives, one that was driven by fear and caution. Ironically, Vidu, a non-descript artisanal fisherman whom many had never heard of, became the very embodiment of a livelihoods-­ related faux pas. His was an unfortunate tale that assumed a life of its own, morphing into a metaphor that was ultimately ethnicised with fervour. The facts themselves, as two older children from Samudragama told us that very evening, were somewhat threadbare. The night before, a crew comprising four crewmen (goloyo: Sinhala) had set out after midnight, rather an irregular time to take off on an all-night fishing trip. The boat had returned early the next morning with a member of its crew missing. Yet it was only 10  h after its return that the Trincomalee Town and Gravets police had been alerted. Key office-bearers of the Samudragama FCS were notified closer to noontime, the children emphatically stated, perhaps because Vidu’s friends ‘trusted he was still alive… and they took it upon themselves to rescue him’. Meanwhile, the sequence of events that had befallen Vidu that night was narrated to us with much conviction and alacrity. We were told that while Vidu fished, a boat from the nearby predominantly ethnic-­ Muslim village of Jamaliya had thumped their vessel, demanding a share of their landings: there was a jostle as they [Vidu and friends], wanted to safeguard their catch. The Muslim men had brought long knives and threatened to cut them… and while they fought, one of them pushed Vidu and he fell into the sea and he drowned. The Muslim boat swiftly took flight. The culprits are still in hiding, and the police have taken Vidu’s friends in for questioning. They are the only witnesses. This afternoon another fleet of boats from our village went out to look for the body, but could not find it. They returned close [to] 5pm. Vidu’s widow weeps ceaselessly. The funeral house is open, and they have brought in a closed coffin. The police will now give a grace period of three days for the assailants to turn themselves in and confess. If they don’t there might be trouble in Jamaliya. Apart from the palpable trope of ethnic othering, the moral placement of the two sets of protagonists (vis-à-vis the relative passivity of one group as opposed to the other) was arguably predestined to play their assigned roles in such a narrative. When asked whether there was a prior history between the two groups of men, the responses became vague.

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As we watched the evening sun slink behind the horizon, it struck me how uncanny it was to see the shoreline of Samudragama this desolate. The canvas of the evening sky cast a pale gold hue upon the sand along with the scores of fibreglass boats parked in long rows, pulled above the scaly contoured line at which the tides broke. A few dogs sauntered by, stopping occasionally to scratch at their flea-bitten backs. Samudragama sits behind the old Trincomalee town fish market, in fact, the only market in town that was operational during the time of my main fieldwork stay between June 2012 and May 2013. What remained exceptional about the day after Vidu’s death was that the market was shut down. The characteristic iceboxes had been drained and stacked high, and the floor hosed clean. The sandy stretch in front of the market was bereft of the usual fleet of lorries and smaller trucks that often parked there as the fish were iced and packed for transport. Apart from a frayed signpost there was nothing to indicate that this grey, dank wall-less concrete structure functioned as the district’s central fish market. As we left the market street and made our way back, we noticed a truckload of policemen stationed on the adjacent street. There were a few army personnel among them. The following day, the market remained closed and I learned from a traffic policeman that the market might not be open for a few more days for fear of a hartal, or a public protest with a propensity for violence. He then stated that his compatriots would keep close watch over the next few days, for the facts were seemingly simple: a Sinhalese fisherman allegedly had been killed by a group of Muslims. This emphasis on Vidu’s singularised identity as a Sinhalese fisherman (as opposed to the non-­ descript ‘Muslim’ rabble) was reproduced in most of the narratives that I came across among local state officials. These discourses certainly bore far-reaching implications. In outlying areas like Pulmoddai and Kokkilai, not to mention closer divisional spaces such as Kinnya and Muthur that had sizeable neighbourhoods with closely knit mosque associations, the cessation of all fishing activity in the peripheral areas translated into a strategy of lying low. Indubitably, this collective response came at the great cost of foregoing daily disposable incomes, particularly during an already short fishing season, and the advent of Ramazan. Meanwhile, over the first week of July, a number of Sinhalese-owned boats operated as usual, particularly among the migrant encampments (vadi) in the far north and south. In Samudragama, few if any fishing boats set out to sea on regular fishing trips. This hiatus was often articulated as an act of respect for the deceased and his surviving kin. At first glance, Vidu’s ill-fated demise, and its dominant and countervailing narratives, have little about them that is particularly noteworthy. Plotlines are often reconstructed against dominant boundary politics. Ethno-religious othering has often remained an anticipated dynamic in the context of inter-communal mobilisation and the fashioning of everyday dissent. What was so different about Vidu’s case, as a number of fishermen and women said, was the fact that he was evidently Sinhalese. Violent intra-group clashes out at sea did occur with some degree of regularity in Trincomalee, at least during the aftermath of wartime. Arguably then, an intra-ethnic tussle, irrespective of whether or not it implicated members from two

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distinct villages, may not have warranted the same sequence of cautionary action taken by the local state authorities. Over the course of that month, I collected at least twelve different narrative interpretations and renditions of that single fatality. Some described Vidu’s death as an insiders’ cabal, for one of his so-called friends had not too long ago threatened the dead man with a switchblade during a tavern scuffle. His ‘set’ was said to have been predisposed towards rancour and retribution, for why then would this motley crew have included Vidu in their boat: a man who had only recently taken to fishing after he had married a woman from Samudragama, a man who owned a simple outrigger canoe, and could barely swim? Others pointed towards the incidence of small-scale piracy (or a slightly modified extortive practice evidenced in the demand for kappam or protection money). It was widely believed that it was the Samudragama crew that had plundered the Jamaliya boat’s catch. Other versions embossed this narrative by claiming that while the kappam-seekers often originated from Samudragama, they had to have a legitimate reason to attempt to bully the Jamaliya group into submission. Therefore, an uncommonly bounteous catch at night was hardly providential or seen as a matter of sheer luck. On the contrary, it often pointed to the use of unauthorised fishing gear and other illicit practices such as fishing with lights, for what other reason then did Vidu and his crew have to venture out to sea past midnight, if not for the fact that they may have been tipped off by another seafarer about a company of rule-breakers from Jamaliya? Ultimately, Vidu’s death brought about a ripple effect of its own: a series of significant local events and localised policy shifts. These transformations inevitably hewed the thin red line that forms the backbone of this book and its key arguments. Contrary to official narratives, which in part concealed the mysterious circumstances of an artisanal fisherman’s death, inter-village and inter-communal coalition building became an immensely swift affair. The issues at stake were not at first identity-based gripes. They comprised a litany of grievances that were framed by the context of scores of cross-ethnic village co-operative fisher societies living in close proximity with one another. These grievances most often centred on shared and seemingly quotidian livelihood predicaments and insecurities. These included the pervasive use of illegal fishing practices amid other forms of exploitative resource extraction, ineffective top-down partisan and patronage-led governance structures, together with informal piracy networks, extortion and rent seeking while out at sea. Some village leaders were steadfast in arguing how the ethnicisation of the ‘Vidu case’ unwittingly diluted the possibility of attention towards more immediate bread-and-butter issues and political injustices. Despite the diverse versioning of the same event, the re-alignment of grassroots fisher collectives and alliances crosscutting place-based, linguistic, ethno-religious and other political boundary markers remained particularly striking. Ultimately, Vidu’s fatality implicated an entangled web of seasonal migrants, settlers and local collectives, whose lives were diversely patterned by post-war circulations of labour, knowledge, capital and normative discourses on belonging and rights to livelihood.

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Meanwhile, as seemingly fixed ethno-nationalist insider-outsider boundaries went, such events often laid bare amoebic forms of inter-communal life across proximate villages and distant places – as unities and loyalties continually flowed, ebbed and morphed according to the grievances that were being politicised at a given time and place. Against the varied canon of wartime ethnography, Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province has often been regarded as the most ethnically and religiously diverse region of the island (Spencer et al. 2015). Yet its socially heterogeneous spaces, from Amparai to the northern fringes of Mullaitivu have often run the risk of being metaphorically imagined as ethno-religious patchworks or mosaics of Tamil-Muslim-Sinhala enclaves. In this vein, the ‘Balkanisation of the northeast’ has been a phrase that been in circulation among certain NGOs circles, scholars and actor networks across the international aid and development landscape since the late 1970s. More recent empirical research, over the past decade at least, have had much to contribute in the way of how interfaith and civil society encounters unfolded and were sustained in moments of interspersed ‘peace’ during Sri Lanka’s civil war, which at the same time fused with recalibrated grievances and power asymmetries that followed in wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 (see Hyndman and de Alwis 2005; Gaasbeek 2010; Lawrence 2010; Walker 2010; Thiranagama 2011; Spencer 2012; Spencer et al. 2015; Orjuela et al. 2016). Yet within these figurations, another equally salient narrative has remained relatively muted. The socio-spatially and historic stories of hundreds, if not thousands of transient migrants – some translocal and others more sedentary – who have seasonally followed monsoonal winds, oceanic currents, migratory fish species and even flows of tourists, between and within island coastlines, its peripheries and its edges. Moreover, the book explores the complex lifeworlds of diverse fisherfolk who inhabit a tense, contemporary landscape of militarised shorelines, while rendering particular attention to how localised independencies and ties of networked patronage form and are sustained across spaces of ordinary life. It is here that I turn to the fluid, liminal coastline of Trincomalee, where place-based and state-driven projects in ethno-religious surveillance and b/order-making have remained divisive. In situating my exploration within distinct saltwater lifeworlds that the littoral northeast affords, I focus on manifold meanings and ordinary practices that pattern everyday kinds of sociality between small-scale fisherfolk that live markedly dissimilar lives from more sedentary agrarian communities that reside in close proximity. In retrospect, this project in its entirety has been the outgrowth of a question that I, as maritime anthropologist and a political ecologist, was initially inspired by: How is a universal phenomenon such as social co-operation discursively constructed and practiced among resource-dependent communities, communities whose lifeworlds are often framed by scholars with allegories of competition and vigorous rivalry? As a point of departure, I regard everyday pluralism and relational dynamics that crisscross dominant or hegemonic modes of national(ist) differentiation, such as religion and ethnicity, remain the default mode of social existence, even during times of violence and armed conflict (Das 2013).

Prologue: The Market Day that Never Was

xxi

In taking this view further, I echo the late decolonial queer feminist theorist Gloria Anzaldúa (1987) in stating that we, in every possible way, inhabit social spaces of inbetweenness that are sedimented through historic and contemporary trajectories of rupture and transformation that realign ways we think about ourselves and others. However, at the same time, it is important to bear in mind that these ‘threshold perspectives’ encrusted in the ways of reading and cohabiting the world do not always and evenly chip away at restrictive identity politics in ways one would expect. In this regard, I take a step back by considering this project a modest intervention on comprehending the many ways in which people who inhabit plural spaces imaginatively and ethically interpret, legitimate, normalise and, at times, politically challenge oppressive extramundane structures – structures that more profoundly pattern the lives of those they perceive as being ‘Other’ or markedly different from themselves. In the same vein, this journey – through the making of this book – foregrounds an ethnography of selfhood and of ‘home’. While completing the manuscript from the distant proximity of northern Germany, a crucial part of my challenge has been how to write about diverse modes of sociality while sidestepping the tendency to romanticise processes of inter-communal interaction in their entirety. Moreover, since the inception of this project, I have grappled with the question of how relational hierarchies and power-laden patronage ties could be further integrated into the equation, while examining the situated gaze that my own socio-spatial privilege affords. Irrevocably my focus on social co-operation, as an analytical lens, has continually proved a precarious endeavour. The project often ran the risk of being misinterpreted as a naïve effort on my part to over-emphasise the presence of inter-communal solidarity and togetherness, well above the harsh post-war realities of everyday fear, suspicion and of structural violence that vein Sri Lanka’s securitised north and east. Therefore while navigating the labyrinthine terrain of fisher lifeworlds and post-war sociality (in its plural sense), this book attempts at unhinging a host of normative meanings (and their performativities) that pattern codes of everyday conduct along and between liminal coastlines, and at sea. A more immediate peril was the risk of unwittingly essentialising the particularities of small-scale fisher ‘cultures’ against more grounded societies, while at the same time acknowledging the context-laden complexities that contemporary Sri Lanka offers. Meanwhile this journey signifies a different kind of homecoming. While engaging with my cultural insider-outsiderliness (which I will further explore in the following chapter), the many convivial and ethnographically driven encounters in the making of this book prompted, encouraged me to more expansively engage with the rich saltwater lifeworlds of an island-state in which I was born, but had barely spent much time. Given my childhood fascination in maritime history, my early anthropological referents stemmed from Nusantara, Oceania, the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean Worlds besides other accounts on diverse ‘peoples of the sea’  – from the Orang Laut and the Vezo, to the decolonial writings of Epeli Hau’ofa. To start with, my formative fieldwork was in the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago, so to regard this project as a long-awaited return would seem somewhat ironic. Nevertheless, these

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Prologue: The Market Day that Never Was

last five years have sharpened an imaginative eye towards unequivocally witnessing the intricate diversity of Lanka’s fluid coastal spaces, many of which are only beginning to be explored across contemporary ethnographic contexts. Ultimately, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood is not simply about how or why ostensibly diverse coastal communities comprising affines, strangers and rivals simply interact (or do not). It is about the ways in which everyday ethics, varied interpretations and practices of sociality (i.e. relationally being-in/with-the-world) themselves are continually negotiated and reconfigured against the backdrop of ordinary livelihood struggles and aspirations. The study is also about the manifold ways in which broader vernacular meanings of relationality remain spatially and historically contingent, particularly in times of militarised peacebuilding.

References Anzaldúa G (1987) Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Aunt Lute Books, San Francisco Das V (2013) Cohabiting an inter-religious mileu: reflections on religious diversity. In: Boddy J, Lambek M (eds) A companion to the anthropology of religion, Wiley, Oxford Gaasbeek T (2010) Bridging troubled waters? everyday inter-ethnic interaction in a context of violent conflict in Kottiyar Pattu, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Ph.D. dissertation, Wageningen University, Wageningen Hyndman J, de Alwis M (2005) Bodies, shrines, and roads: violence, (im)mobility, and displacement in Sri Lanka. Gend, Place Cult 11(4):535–557 Hughes D (2013) Violence, torture and memory in Sri Lanka, Routledge, Oxford Lawrence P (1997) Work of oracles, silence of terror: notes on the injury of war in Eastern Sri Lanka. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Colarado Orjuela C, Herath D and Lindberg J (2016) Corrupt peace? corruption and ethnic divides in Post-war Sri Lanka. J South Asian Dev 11(2):149–174 Peters K, Steinberg P (2015) A wet world: rethinking place, territory and time. Soc Space. Available online: https://societyandspace.com/tag/wet-ontologies/. Accessed on 12 June 2016 Spencer J, Goodhand J, Hasbullah S, Klem B, Korf Benedikt, Silva KT (2015) Checkpoint, Temple, Church and Mosque. Pluto Books, London Thiranagama S (2011) In my mother’s house: Civil War in Sri Lanka. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia Walker R (2010) Violence, the everyday and the question of the ordinary. Contemp South Asia 18(1):9–24

On Transliteration

For readability, the main text employs a simple transliteration system without the use of diacritics for Tamil and Sinhala words, and does not distinguish between short and long vowels, or between retroflex and dental consonants. The standard diacritical forms of these words, however, are provided in the glossary. For words that are commonly used in local English (e.g. hartāl, mudalāli), I have adopted the more conventional forms of their English spelling. Where possible, I note differences and variations (e.g. theppam/theppan), and I use the same variant throughout the entire text for the sake of clarity.

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Contents

Part I Coastal Entanglements in Everyday Life 1 Introduction����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������    3 1.1 Fishing in the Wake of War��������������������������������������������������������������     5 1.2 Locating Co-operation in Conflict Settings��������������������������������������    13 1.3 Ethics Amidst Everyday Lifeworlds ������������������������������������������������   19 1.4 Unlearning the “Field”: Tracing Figurations Across  Fluid Spaces��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������    22 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   33 2 Sri Lanka’s Littoral Northeast ��������������������������������������������������������������   39 2.1 Social Diversity in Coastal Trincomalee������������������������������������������    41 2.2 Wartime Transitions and the (Mis)fortunes of a Tsunami����������������    50 2.3 Militarised Shorelines: Edges and Peripheries ��������������������������������    52 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   56 3 Fisher Lifeworlds, Relational Practices ������������������������������������������������   57 3.1 Reclaiming the Sea: Beyond Violence and Dwelling ����������������������    59 3.2 Fishing Lifeworlds and the Salience of Co-operation����������������������    63 3.3 The Grammar of Sambandam����������������������������������������������������������    72 3.4 Co-operation Institutionalised: Fisher Co-operative Societies in Perspective������������������������������������������������������������������������������������    77 3.5 Conclusion����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������    90 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   90 Part II  Sambandam: The Lateral, A-Sociative, and the Hierarchical 4 Change and Continuity After Wartime��������������������������������������������������   95 4.1 Situating Ethics in Everyday Livelihoods����������������������������������������    96 4.2 Mythologies of Postwar Liberalisation��������������������������������������������    99 4.2.1 “Militarised Liberalisation”: The Political Economy of Postwar Fishing����������������������������������������������������������������   100 4.2.2 Declines in Postwar Fortunes������������������������������������������������   104 xxv

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Contents

4.3 Contested Narratives of Entropy and Catch Depletion ��������������������   105 4.3.1 Chains of Culpability������������������������������������������������������������   108 4.3.2 Spatial Mobility in the Wake of Liberalisation��������������������   110 4.4 “Kappam” and the Ethnicisation of Rule Breaking��������������������������   115 4.4.1 The Social Biography of a Fishing Net��������������������������������   117 4.4.2 The Interplay of “Kappam” As an Institution ����������������������   122 4.5 Conclusion����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   126 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  127 5 Transversal Ties Across the Local-­Migrant-­Settler Complex��������������  129 5.1 Bilingual Seafarer Vadis and the Boundaries of Otherness��������������   131 5.1.1 Hybrid Identities and Spaces of In-Betweenness�����������������   134 5.1.2 Migrant Camps As Perceived Sites of Exemption����������������   139 5.1.3 Pioneer Narratives, Local Antagonisms and Cold Dependencies��������������������������������������������������������   143 5.2 Beach-Seine Padu Sites As Borderscapes����������������������������������������   147 5.2.1 Dwelling in Diversity������������������������������������������������������������   149 5.2.2 Local Interactions and Practices of Conviviality������������������   152 5.3 Reverse Migration and Its Discontents ��������������������������������������������   155 5.4 Sinhalese Settlers and the Ambivalence of Belonging ��������������������   157 5.4.1 “People of Malee”: Local Histories of Settlement����������������   158 5.4.2 Enclaved Settler Spaces at the Periphery������������������������������   159 5.4.3 Settlers As Bridging Agents?������������������������������������������������   162 5.5 Conclusion����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   163 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  165 6 Vertical Alliances During Popular Protest��������������������������������������������  167 6.1 Fictions and Factions: Moral Discourses in Purse Seining��������������   168 6.2 Speaking for the Other: Local-Settler Mobilisation��������������������������   176 6.3 Political Patronage and the Dynamics of Grievance Trading ����������   178 6.4 Conclusion����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   185 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  186 7 Postscript: Thinking Through the Sea ��������������������������������������������������  189 7.1 Towards an Anthropology of Everyday Co-operation����������������������   190 7.2 Narratives of Return��������������������������������������������������������������������������   194 7.3 Everyday Life After the “Rainbow Coalition”����������������������������������   195 7.4 Mundo Mar: Of Islanded Presence and Belonging��������������������������   197 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  203 Afterword: Pacem per Maribus—The Ocean As Boundary Object��������������  205 Statistical Survey Results��������������������������������������������������������������������������������  207 Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  221

Abbreviations and Acronyms

BOA CPR DF DFI DS ECC EPC FAO FCS GA GN HSZ IDP IUCN JVP LTTE MoD NARA NGO OB OBM ODI RDO STF TMVP TNA SLFP

Boat Owners Association Common Pool Resources Department of Fisheries District Fisheries Inspector Divisional Secretary/Divisional Secretariat Environmental Conflict and Co-operation Eastern Provincial Council Food and Agriculture Organization Fisheries Co-operative Society Government Agent Grama Niladari Division (a district sub-section) High Security Zone Internally Displaced Persons International Union for the Conservation of Nature Janatha Vimukthi Perumuna Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Ministry of Defence National Aquatic Resource Agency Non-governmental Organization Out-of-bounds (markers) Outboard motor (engine) Overseas Development Institute Rural Development Organization Special Task Force Tamil Makkal Viduthailai Pulikal Tamil National Alliance Sri Lanka Freedom Party

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xxviii

SLA SLN SLMC STF UC UNP UPFA WRDO

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Sri Lankan Army Sri Lankan Navy Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Special Task Force Urban Council United National Party United People’s Freedom Alliance Women’s Rural Development Organization

Glossary of Local Terms

Ārpattam Arrack Attāi Attam Bheeshanaya Cadjān Chäitiya Grāma-nilādari Goigama/Vellalar Goloyo Havul rassāva Hartāl Inaperachchenai Jāthi Jāthi vādaya Kappam/kappam Karaiyār/Karāwe Karaivalāi kuli Kariku meen Katchcheri Kasippu Kili Kolahala Kolam Korea/Koreāva Kovil

People’s protest (Tamil) Alcohol distilled from fermented coconut sap or toddy Aunt (Tamil) Agricultural labour exchange networks (Tamil) Times of terror during the JVP insurrection (Sinhala) Coconut fronds Pagoda or stupa of a Buddhist temple (Sinhala) Official representative of a village or administrative settlement appointed by the Divisional Secretariat (Sinhala) Cultivator-caste (Sinhala/Tamil) Friends, also taken to mean fishing crew, labourers, apprentices or helpers (Sinhala) Partnership work/job (Sinhala) Organised street protest that results in a shutdown of public life and that has the potential for violence (Tamil and Sinhala) Inter-ethnic troubles/strife (Tamil) Often interpreted as ethnicity (Sinhala) Inter-ethnic hostility, implicating rabble rousing (Sinhala) Protection money Occupational fishing castes (Tamil/Sinhala) Beach-seine labourer or fishworker (Tamil) Fish suitable for making a curry or broth (Tamil) Government Agent’s Office or District Secretariat Illicitly brewed or distilled liquor (Sinhala) Social pollution (Tamil and Sinhala) Social trouble or political trouble (Tamil and Sinhala) Form of masked satirical theatre, nonsense in everyday contexts (Sinhala) Local underworld; a space inhabited by thugs and other unsavoury political elements (Sinhala) Hindu temple, usually governed by a board of trustees xxix

xxx

Kudi

Glossary of Local Terms

Matriclans among Tamil and Muslim communities found primarily on the East Coast (Tamil) Kumbura Paddy field (Sinhala) Kuttam Village or local council meetings (Tamil) Mādäl Beach-seine net (Sinhala) Maha aparāda Great disasters, misfortunes, heinous crimes (Sinhala) Marrakalai Beach-seine crewmember in charge of organising and supervising operations (Tamil and Sinhala) Marippu Social prohibition or prevention of activity (Tamil) Muham Camp for the displaced (Tamil) Mudalāli Local entrepreneur, trader or financier (Tamil and Sinhala) Mukkuvar A historic Tamil-speaking Malabar fishing caste Mulgama Ancestral village, not necessarily place of birth (Sinhala) Nidahas Freedom, either from confinement or wartime (Sinhala) Nombu The period of fasting in the Islamic calendar Onraha seyatpadal Working together or in unison (Tamil) Oruwa Low hulled outrigger canoe Pādu Allocated space or allotment for a beach-seining operation Pāramparika Traditional/handed down from generation to generation (Sinhala) Pottu Red vermillion dot placed by women between their eyebrows; locally associated with Tamil identity Prādeshya Sabha Local government Puja/pooja Ceremony of worship usually among Hindus and Buddhists, often involving material offerings Pusāri Presiding priest of a Hindu temple (Tamil) Rajakāriya Pre-colonial term that implies non-monetary obligatory service to a king/queen, a noble or a temple (Sinhala) Rajarata Northeastern dry-zone and a spatio-temporal term of reference denoting ancient ‘Sinhalese’ civilization (Sinhala) Reddai-hattai Lungi and jacket worn by southern Sinhala women (Sinhala) Sambanda/m A relational association or loose form of social connection (Sinhala/Tamil) Samithi Co-operative society (Sinhala) Sangam Formal association or union, including a co-operative (Tamil) Sānkramika Migrants (Sinhala) Sulal Environment (Tamil) Sulu panna Small-scale (Sinhala) Suruku väl/hambili Purse-seine net (Tamil/Sinhala) Thāipusam Hindu festival celebrated in January during a full moon Theppan/theppam Catamaran traditionally used in the west coast and Jaffna Peninsula (Tamil and Sinhala) Thundal/bili-katu Long-lining (Tamil/Sinhala) Udgoshanaya People’s protest (Sinhala) Vallam Artisanal craft used in beach seining

Glossary of Local Terms

Vādi/wādi Vanchā Variga Verdar/Veddha Vesak Vipattu Werala Wewa/Weva Ziyaram (Dargah)

xxxi

Fishing camps or cadjan structures on the beach (Tamil and Sinhala) Wheeler-dealing, nefarious activities, misdeeds, corrupt practices (Sinhala) Caste (Sinhala) Member of an indigenous group (Tamil/Sinhala) Chief Buddhist festival in May, during the full moon Accident (Tamil) Beach space or frontage (Sinhala) Man-made reservoir or ‘tank’, implicating the island’s pre-­ colonial hydraulic civilization (Sinhala) Tomb-shrine of an Islamic saint

Fig. 1  District map of Sri Lanka with marked research regions

Kokkilai Pulmoddai Padavi Sri Pura

Kuchchaveli Gomarankadawala

Morawewa

Trincomalee Back Bay Town and Gravets Tamhalagam Bay

Shell Bay

Sampur

Thampalakamam

Koddiyar Bay

Muttur

Kinniya

Kantale Verugal Seruvila N

0

10 Kilometers Vakarai

Fig. 2  Coastal Divisional Secretariats (sub-district) in Trincomalee

List of Figures

Fig. 1.1 Gill netters arriving at dawn, Kinniya. (Source: Asoka Siriwardane, reproduced with permission) ��������������������������������������   12 Fig. 1.2 A migrant cadjan vadi, Kokkilai Lagoon������������������������������������������   23 Fig. 1.3 Beach-seiner in front of a traditional vallam vessel, Town and Gravets. (Source: Author)����������������������������������������������������������   30 Fig. 2.1 Lagoonways in northern Trincomalee. (Source: author)������������������   42 Fig. 2.2 A seasonal migrant beach-seine crew working, Kuchchaveli. (Source: author)��������������������������������������������������������������������������������   46 Fig. 3.1 A Karaiyar-fisher family seeking asylum in Tamil Nadu, with their refugee number—after first having arrived by boat via Mannar in 1985. (Source: author with permission from the family to reproduce the image in print)������������������������������   63 Fig. 3.2 Communal cooking and eating space on a padu site, Pulmoddai. (Source: author) ������������������������������������������������������������   66 Fig. 3.3 Spatial distribution of new post-tsunami FCSs in Trincomalee by number Data source: Compiled by author based on raw data from the Co-operative District Office in Trincomalee (February 2013)����������   86 Fig. 4.1 Untangling passi from beach-seining nets, Salapiyaru ��������������������  106 Fig. 5.1 Migratory patterns from the west to the east coast. (Source: author)��������������������������������������������������������������������������������  135 Fig. 5.2 Migratory patterns along the eastern coastline and from east to west. (Source: author)��������������������������������������������  136 Fig. 5.3 A self-built chapel by Chilaw migrants in Salapiyaru����������������������  139

xxxv

List of Graphs

Graph 1 (Professed) Ethnic breakdown of all respondents����������������������������  208 Graph 2 Religious breakdown of all respondents ������������������������������������������  208 Graph 3 Ethnic division of local villages��������������������������������������������������������  209 Graph 4 Ethnic division of migrant camps ����������������������������������������������������  209 Graph 5 Religious diversity in local villages��������������������������������������������������  210 Graph 6 Religious diversity among migrant camps����������������������������������������  210 Graph 7 Linguistic diversity of all respondents����������������������������������������������  211 Graph 8 Gender breakdown of all respondents����������������������������������������������  211 Graph 9 Primary source of income (60% of the time)������������������������������������  212 Graph 10 Boat ownership of all respondents����������������������������������������������������  212 Graph 11 Birth districts of all respondents in local villages����������������������������  213 Graph 12 Birth districts of all respondents in migrant camps��������������������������  213 Graph 13 War displacement by mixed and monoethnic villages����������������������  214 Graph 14 Migrants fishing between 2005 and 2009 ����������������������������������������  214 Graph 15 Proportion of migrants who arrived before 1983������������������������������  215 Graph 16 Proportion of migrants who arrived after 1983��������������������������������  215 Graph 17 Ethnic breakdown of locals without land titles��������������������������������  216 Graph 18 Ownership of land titles by village type ������������������������������������������  216 Graph 19 Proportion of first-generational fishers ��������������������������������������������  217 Graph 20 Ethnic breakdown of first-generational fishers ��������������������������������  217 Graph 21 Kappam reports by locals and migrants (post 2009)������������������������  218 Graph 22 Overall change in family economic situation (post 2009)����������������  218 Graph 23 Overall change in fish catch (post 2009)������������������������������������������  219 Graph 24 Estimated probability to determine that catch size worsened since 2009, by age����������������������������������������������������������������������������  219 Graph 25 Estimated probability to judge that catch size worsened since 2009, by age and ethnicity����������������������������������������������������������������  220 Graph 26 Estimated probability to determine that catch size worsened since 2009, by age and migrant-local status ������������������������������������  220

xxxvii

List of Tables

Table 1.1 A cross-sectional map of fisher participants ������������������������������������   31 Table 3.1 Variations in the number of FCSs formed by number (2005–2011)��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   87

xxxix

Part I

Coastal Entanglements in Everyday Life

Chapter 1

Introduction

Abstract  Following from the Prologue that briefly sketches a series of events that followed in the wake of a fisherman’s mysterious drowning at sea, this introductory chapter frames the empirical and conceptual basis for a study on multiple coastal (bio)socialities in the wake of war. It first starts by mapping a brief history of Sri Lanka’s multistranded fishing and conflict intersections. In arguing for the necessity to explore local theorisations and vernacular meanings and practices around everyday co-operative entanglements, the chapter proceeds to interrogate diverse analytical entry points that are utilised in the book for (a) drawing attention to multiple modalities of everyday sociality and (b) problematising simplified dualisms between conflictual and collaborative (bio)social relations, particularly in tense political spaces. Keywords  Conflict and co-operation · Biosocialities · Collective action · Everyday life · Ordinary ethics This book is about the agency of people in shaping often ambivalent and crosscutting relations of co-operation and conflict in everyday life. It also explores mundane performativities and the articulated contradictions of inter-group civility and contestation, which in turn co-produce multiple socialities and socialisations across spaces in which livelihood and natural resource-based contestations are rife. At its broadest, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood serves as an open invitation for revitalising a de-centred anthropology of everyday co-operation. It aims at extending imaginative and contemplative spaces for the study of diverse modes of everyday sociality, particularly among seemingly a-sociative or atomistic societies that have actively shaped and continue to live shared lives, at times tangentially, in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami and through the long shadow of war. What is presented here is a multisited ethnography of 15 fishing hamlets across one of Sri Lanka’s most linguistically and ethno-religiously plural coastlines— located in the littoral District of Trincomalee. For comparative value, selected spaces across Mullaitivu, Batticaloa, Puttalam and Jaffna have also been enlisted, given how they organically emerge out of the narratives and events that foreground the local-migrant-settler figurations explored in this book. Meanwhile, the main © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1_1

3

4

1 Introduction

narrative also embodies the tale of a structurally violent and mutable political regime amidst a highly charged climate of transitional peace. What began with an exploratory visit to the Eastern Province in early 2011, marked by enduring times of militarisation, led to fieldwork between two fishing seasons of June 2012 and May 2013, during which time I primarily resided in Trincomalee while occasionally— upon invitation—following migrants back to their villages of origin in Puttalam and Batticaloa. Since 2014, I have been returning to Trincomalee almost annually, particularly as this book was completed during a time of transition between two distinct political regimes—the Rajapaksa oligarchy and the Sirisena-Wickramasinghe coalition. This work also entails a conversation between three markedly different yet overlapping disciplinary themes. First, it contributes to diverse anthropological and sociological literatures on peace, conflict and boundary crossing(s) by engaging with how ordinary forms of inter-group co-operation are diversely interpreted and routinised during wartime and its immediate aftermath (see, e.g., Schafer 2007; Lederach 2010; Moodie 2010). In particular, I write of a lacuna that owes much to how normative conceptualisations of social co-operation itself, often bearing singularly occidental meanings, have been understood through a series of implicit dualisms. These lines of differentiation may include, for example, positive and negative interaction, the more durable versus the sporadic, the affinitive (amity) versus the instrumental (utilitarian) and co-operation as outcome as opposed to process. Taken together, these dualisms offer little recourse to understanding co-operation and contestation as dynamic and interdependent processes. Therefore at its core, the problematic analytical dichotomy that regards social relations as being either co-operative and solidaristic or on the other hand conflictual and atomistic will be further complicated. Second, the study inevitably speaks to the crisscrossing disciplinary fields of fisheries anthropology, coastal and saltwater geographies and political ecology, among others, that have often problematised questions of collective action against the complex backdrop of political hierarchy, vested interests and manifold social heterogeneities. Often enough, the interlocking contexts of livelihood contestations and marine species depletion (or abundance) have served as a potent backdrop against which ostensibly small-scale fishing communities in particular have often been cast as socially disconnected and rivalrous groups. This trope remains a veritable necessity, against the broader canvas of transboundary governance and neoliberal power and the prevailing contradictions of economic production, of environmental conservation and of territorialisation (see Bresnihan 2016). Yet an overwhelmingly resource-centric gaze runs the risk of masking a host of nuanced saltwater socialities and relational assemblages implicating both people and the non-human (animals, flows, technologies, organic and inorganic materials, etc.) through richer, more vibrant interspecies worldings. Curiously enough, earlier studies in maritime anthropology have sought to explicate how different coastal and seafaring groups interact, internalise and negotiate relations of power, from Basque male-dominated whaling fraternities to indigenous Maori collectives and more formalised fisher co-operative networks (see Jentoft 1989; McCormack 2007; van

1.1  Fishing in the Wake of War

5

Ginkel 2007; Hess 2010). As Adrian Peace (1996, p.  85) in writing about Irish salmon drift netters in Clontarf Bay compellingly argues, co-operation and conflict occupy two sides of the same coin, as “sustained camaraderie on the one hand, recurrent conflict on the other (occupy) …the poles between which the politics of fishing relationships…are persistently strung”. In line with earlier ethnographies such as these, the book contributes to contemporary debates on small-scale fisher relationalities, particularly through ordinary ethical frames of work, dwelling and justice that will be explored in the chapters to follow. Third and finally, this volume sets out to deepen existing work on multiple socio-­ spatial mobilities, together with their lived sensibilities on translocality across proximate and distant places. On one hand, much research on the dynamics of mobility and migration in conflict-affected societies has been overwhelmingly “land-locked”, in part betraying the geographic and historiographic biases of grounded spaces and continental civilisations (Peters 2010). On the other hand, the few dedicated pieces of work that have focused on mobile flows and migrant traversals—particularly in the context of small-scale fisheries—have often paid greater emphasis to short-term resource-driven mobilities, their drivers and/or insider-outsider relations that have squarely been read through the lens of livelihood functions (see Roychaudhuri 1980; Pramanik 1993; Jul-Larsen 1994). Few studies, for example, Ragnhild Overå’s (2002) on the Ghanian Fante and Aoi Sugimoto’s (2016) on Okinawa migrants, have more attentively traced their relational dynamics across coastal waters and within host sites, in ways that further shape possibilities and constraints for future mobility. Yet much of this work still remains dyadic in the sense that manifold mobilities implicating vastly diverse groups of very different migrants have seldom been explored within a single social field. Furthermore, far less work on such encounters has considered the place of settlers in these assemblages, some of whom may constitute former migrants who now play an influential role in patterning both the reproduction and contestations of insider-outsider boundaries within host sites.

1.1  Fishing in the Wake of War Sri Lanka has often been invoked as a classic textbook case for studying the multistranded trajectories that went into shaping the colonial and postcolonial ethnicisation of public life and in marking the progression of an intensely politicised and internationalised civil war that spanned three decades, from the late 1970s until mid-2009. Extensive volumes have been written on its multistranded conflict arcs, and I do not wish to revisit well-trodden ground. Noting the context of missing or muted histories, Jessica Schafer (2007) similarly argues in reference to the return of Mozambique’s war veterans to civilian life that the narratives and fortunes of fisher migrants are as intimately bound to historic narratives and political understandings of violence and the armed conflict.

6

1 Introduction

Unlike war veterans, the figure of the seasonal rural migrant may not seem as centrifugal to a grand political narrative. Yet what this volume attempts to rethread are a number of under-researched strands into a somewhat familiar chronicle while revisiting a sequence of recent historic events from the sea. By no means does this beg for the privileging of a singularised narrative that draws on the sea as an interpretative lens. By extension such an endeavour would potentially offer a simplified and problematic imaginary of a land-sea dichotomy, one that the many narratives contained in this book will inevitably contest. While setting out to explore the complex life histories and contemporary lived realities of diverse fisher collectives, what I have done is to draw attention to manifold oral histories and life experiences that have unfolded over a span of at least 50 years, lives that have largely remained less visible, due to the scholarly overemphasis on rural-peri-urban hinterlands and their conflict trajectories over land-based and dry zone irrigation, of resettlement and displacement. Historic Forces  As a point of departure, I turn to post/colonial “island” framings of Sri Lanka in exploring the situatedness of its complex macro-political narratives. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean and with a relatively shallow continental shelf, Sri Lanka stretches approximately 200 km from east to west and around 450 km from Point Pedro in the north to Dondra Head in the far south. Interestingly Ceylon/Sri Lanka’s geo-cultural framing as an island territory—and subsequently as a nation-­ state—could be regarded against the backdrop of a predominantly European imperialist construct. As Tariq Jazeel (2009, p. 400) asserts, “like all geopolitical facts… the Sri Lankan island is also a mapping; a way of seeing and imagining space that itself has a representational history”.1The naturalisation of Ceylon’s island form through the sequential actions of three colonial powers, the Portuguese (1505– 1658), the Dutch (1658–1796) and the British (1796–1948), all in particular ways deepened this insular, self-contained culturalist imaginary. It was only in 1815, with the defeat of the Kingdom of Kandy, that Ceylon was “unified” as an island, to be governed separately from British India. Put differently, against the broader canvas of British state-making, Ceylon was “partitioned and islanded” (Sivasundaram 2013, p. 17), not only in terms of the way in which it was governed but also with regard to how colonial knowledges of the peoples that it governed came to be naturalised. If knowledge was a means by which to govern, the “cosmopolitanism” of Ceylon, in the words of one of the earliest British travel writers Robert Percival, displayed “…a mixture of nations, manners and religions…Moors of every class, Malabars, Travancorians, Malays, Hindoos, Gentoos, Chinese, Persians, Arabians, Turks, Maldivians, Javians, and natives of all the Asiatic isles; Parsees… [and] also a number of Africans, Caffres, Buganese, a mixed race of Africans and Asiatics” (cited in Sivasundaram 2013, p. 21). While the colonial and post-independent trajectories by which the ethno-demographic canvas of Sri Lanka was reduced to four 1  This assertion of course by no means denies its material form, in which cross-coastal mobility and circumnavigation from the southwest to the northeast, for example, remain a prevailing route for sea-borne mobility particularly among larger deep-sea multiday fishing vessels.

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7

principal institutionalised “ethnic” orders (Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Burghers) warrant a volume of its own (see Rogers 1994), I wish to echo two key arguments that numerous other scholars have made in regard to Sri Lanka’s colonial and post-­ independence history. As an island polity, Ceylon/Sri Lanka’s historiographies were first and foremost bound to trajectories of mobility, sojourning and sociocultural exchange over the course of at least 2000 years. The founding narratives of prevailing ethnolinguistic groups (and more tellingly, the “Sinhalese”) are invariably a tale of settlerhood and colonisation when invoking the supplanting of older indigenous Veddha/Verdar tribes. Indeed, the referencing of ethnolinguistic and religious identity markers is by itself deeply contradictory and ambiguous. Yet precolonial and colonial entanglements, grounded in legacies of genetic and cultural “mixing” from (non-European) spaces as diverse as the Malabar and the Swahili coasts to the Red Sea and the South China Sea, barely feature in the narration of contemporary historiographies. Therefore by extension, this book treats diverse mobilities and flows—across both land and sea—as default social order. If the charting of movement(s) between diverse precolonial kingdoms, taking, for example, Kandy and its connections with the littoral east was a case in point, sedentary being was then never always a dominant mode of emplacement. The second argument rests on how contemporary modes of “ethnic” belonging are to be interpreted against a host of broader social identifications in this book, which in turn treats the embattled notion of race and ethnicity as a primarily unstable and an incomplete sociocultural construct. Here, I follow L.  Sabaratnam’s (2001) line of reasoning in stating that ethnic-like imaginations were very much present in medieval Lanka, a land that was largely governed by disparate kingdoms and chiefdoms. Yet these differentiations were also affected by internally diverse feudal, kinship, caste, geographic and religious configurations and loyalties that were just as salient. While I refer to ethnicised categories—as self-identified labels—it must be borne in mind that while these constructions are materially lived, they remain as equally brittle when overridden by other frames of reference that are livelihood-based or infer geographic belonging (e.g. drawing on Catholic Chilaw, Rajarata, etc.). The third argument focuses on how Sri Lanka’s dominant conflict arcs could be interpreted. The separatist civil war was never merely an ethnic one. After Ceylon’s independence from the British in 1948, its efforts at deepening a Westminster-styled liberal democracy (and later a populist-socialist-inspired one) warranted the “tyranny of a (liberally) democratically elected majority” (ibid, p. 229), borne out of a complex assemblage of neoliberalising processes since the early 1970s, the centralisation of a unitary government and growing youth unrest in the face of un- (and under) employment. Two linear and seemingly disparate political struggles arose by the early 1970s, ethnonationalism and latterly its armed conflict, which first implicated a multiplicity of secessionist groups in the north and east and second a similarly youth-led, largely Sinhalese Marxist JVP insurrection that spanned the south and the central highlands. As Daniel Bass (2013, p. 6) argues, state violence in Sri

8

1 Introduction

Lanka did not only imbricate ethnic cleavages, for the war was not simply between the “Sinhalese” and the “Tamils” but also between political and cultural entrepreneurs and institutions vying for power and prestige. Over time violence became no longer the pathological result of nationalist and separatist ideologies, but [quoting Feldman 1991: 21] “a developing ideological formation in itself”, and to echo Bass, “violence was…not a just a tool for political ends, but developed into both the ends and means for ethnic nationalism”[italics mine]. Therefore against the broader backdrop of the armed conflict, this book offers plethora of disparate narratives that slip easily between macro-nationalist identifications and localised interpretations and loyalties, which at the same time appear contradictory. The objective of this work—and its selection of stories—is not to derive a series of patterns, but to explore inherent nuances and the spaces in between. Contemporary Sri Lanka  Today Sri Lanka’s domestic population entails a little over 20 million and is intersectionally divided by language, religion and what has come to be naturalised as “ethnicity”. In the contemporary context, the Sinhalese constitute roughly 70% of the population and remain divided by spatio-political categorisations crosscutting southern, central highland and dry zone regions of the island. Today many Sinhalese groups are overwhelmingly Theravada-Buddhist with a sizeable number of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Dutch Reformists and members of other Christian denominations. Indeed, as Spencer et al. (2015, p. 3) rightly note: “the oddities of history and politics have combined to pull the classification one way and then another”. The second significant minority comprising Tamils have naturally been regarded as Tamil speakers, while the intensely polyglot construction of ethnic “Muslims” speak both Tamil and Sinhala depending on their geographic situatedness. For example, the Eastern Province which holds the largest concentration of Muslims within the local population (McGilvray and Raheem 2007, p.  6) is also home to relatively heterogeneous groups broadly referred to as “east coast Muslims”, many of whom speak Tamil as their first language and share a long history of social connectedness with the island’s ethnic Tamils. Their rules of kinship are distinct from other Sri Lankan Muslim groups and have historically been characterised by matrilineal social structures, incorporating matrilocal marriage and household patterns (McGilvray 2008; Ruwanpura 2006). Furthermore, they often represent markedly different socio-political interests from those in the southwest, particularly among the mercantilist classes that have disproportionately been represented in formal parliamentary politics until the 1980s (Ismail 1995, p. 57). While the conflation of the Muslim label connotes the layering of both faith-­ based and ethnicised meanings, most Hindus in Sri Lanka are regarded to be Tamil. Historically however, the presence of Tamil-speaking Buddhist collectivities perhaps long before the advent of independence or even British colonialism has been relatively under-researched. Given how pervasive internal differences are, as in the case of regionally differentiated ethnic Sinhalese and Muslims, Tamil groups residing in the matrilineal east coast are seen to be different from those in the Jaffna Peninsula, with a sizeable number bearing Mukkuvar ancestry, a Malabar fishing

1.1  Fishing in the Wake of War

9

caste (Whitaker 1990, p.  152). An even smaller political minority, comprising Burghers of Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial descent, have historically remained a less visible category in these conflict narratives. But to stop here would be somewhat of a betrayal, negating the existence Sri Lanka’s less visible polyglot littoral and urban communities, comprising Malays, Sindhis, Borahs, Memons, Kaffringhas and ethnic Chinese, among others. Geographically disparate events implicating macro and micro versionings of a densely meshworked conflict appear almost kaleidoscopic. Indeed, these narratives are coloured by where and how the story(ies) begin (Spencer et al. 2015, pp. 3–4). Officialised accounts trace the beginning back to the events of July 1983 with the Tamil secessionist LTTE killing 13 government soldiers in Jaffna, which later spiralled into a countrywide “retaliation” of Sinhalese mob violence and killings directed at ordinary Tamil civilians, often clandestinely buoyed by state paramilitaries. This historiography stretches up until May 2009, spanning decades of failed international intervention—from the arrival of New Delhi’s Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) through to attempts at a Norwegian-brokered peace deal. With the Rajapaksa regime firmly in power by 2006, “peace through war” was touted as the only means to a decisive end. After the Eastern Province fell under state control with the breakaway faction of the LTTE—the paramilitary Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) under “Karuna’s” leadership—the final 2  years of the military onslaught marked the bloodiest phrase of its protracted conflict, considering the loss of civilian life. The decimation of the LTTE as a fighting force on a narrow coastal strip in Mullaitivu (during what was termed as the Eelam War IV) commemorated a military-declared victory by May 2009. What tellingly followed in war’s wake was an unsettled state of “oppressive stability” (Wickramasinghe 2014, p. 379) in the former war-torn north and the east, which to differing degrees inscribes the present. The aftermath of war not only marked the beginning of what seemed like an enduring military presence but also strengthened the continued militarisation of civilian life, often through spaces and processes of bureaucratic administration. Yet these early years that bore witness to the fortification of military peacekeeping were also flecked with anticipative political moments. The Eastern Province participated in its first ever Provincial Council elections in 2013, in which the Tamil National Party (TNP) won a landslide in comparison to the TMVP that was swiftly losing the little legitimacy it once had (Spencer et al. 2015, p. 153). These postwar years also signified the time when Buddhist shrines and “sacred” spaces were being resurrected or assembled all across the littoral north and the east, legitimated by reinvested micro-histories and grand narratives while being soundly protected by barbed wire military installations. It was also a time marked by the resurgence of militant Buddhist movements, most notably the Bodu Bala Sena (BSS), led by vitriolic monks, wielding tremendous political patronage (see Hyndman and de Alwis 2005; Siriwardane 2014). Moreover sweeping land grabs and claims to economically lucrative agricultural spaces and coastal stretches in the east implicated a far-reaching military-industrial complex bound to the former Rajapaksa regime. While military rule prevailed, new circulations of labour and

10

1 Introduction

capital, together with large-scale infrastructural projects in the north and the east— from roadways to tourist fortress resorts—fundamentally sought to alter the sociocultural landscape of the Eastern Province. By the time I had embarked on my fieldwork the summer of 2012, emergency rule had been lifted. Former landholdings that had been marked as High Security Zones were now being redesignated as Special Economic Zones. Considerable stretches of coastline had been turned into construction sites, of which the world-­ famed Passekudah beach was one. Stories of local fishing operations and vadis being evicted and demolished due to the lack of formal land titles were not uncommon. During the 5 years following May 2009, stretches of favourable beach land passed several hands, implicating not only provincial and Colombo-based political families and its economic elite but also of absentee Tamil and Sinhala diaspora businessmen and women, eager to make the most of the postwar tourist gold rush. Fishing and Conflict Intersections  In many ways Sri Lanka’s small-scale fisheries sector2 offers a timely and relevant case study to illustrate local dynamics around everyday patterns of conflict and co-operation around livelihood practices and natural resource access. Historically, Sri Lanka possesses rich and vastly heterogeneous coastal fishing practices. What remains obscure, however, is the historic evolution and transformation of these coastal lifeworlds over the last five centuries at least. Yet, fishing-based seasonal migration that was primarily internal was patterned along the southwest and northeast monsoonal cycles and remained a prevailing feature that facilitated movement along and between coastlines and at times crisscrossed to the Maldives and parts of southwestern and eastern India. For example, fisherfolk off the Coromandel Coast were recorded to have followed shoals of flying fish down to the northeastern seaboard of Ceylon as late as the early twentieth century, much as other southern Indian fishers were encouraged to migrate seasonally to the island’s western seaboard (Sivasubramaniam 2009, p. 298). The value of contemporary Sri Lanka as a case study lies in its thwarted and intertwined histories of civil war and coastal fisher livelihoods.3 During the protracted armed conflict, military-imposed fishing bans and other restrictions along state-designated High Security Zones (HSZ) undoubtedly had a crippling effect on coastal livelihoods—from fishing and ice-making to salt extraction and local tourism. It must be borne in mind that contested territories over which the LTTE fought were overwhelmingly littoral, meaning that the shoreline played a decisive role in maintaining transborder movement and trade, entailing flows of people, goods and information. Moreover, the depression of small-scale fisher livelihoods in the 2  The island’s small-scale coastal fisheries sector accounts for 70–80% of the total landings. Although the fisheries sector accounts for less than 3% of its GDP, it bears tremendous implications for local livelihoods, and within the context of national food security, accounting for almost 70% of the animal protein consumed (Maldeniya 1997, p. 72; Rackowe et al. 2009). 3  Some scholars (see Weeratunge 2009) have looked to livelihood and resource contestations within the Sri Lankan fisheries sector as yet another arena in which the protracted armed conflict was instrumentalised.

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­ ar-­torn north and east was often regarded by the state as a potential hotbed for w LTTE mobilisation. Often, military anxieties were projected on small-scale fishing communities that were subjected to manifold forms of state violence and surveillance. Local vulnerabilities were further compounded by widespread displacement across ethnic Tamil and Muslim communities, doubly affected by cycles of state-led and LTTE measures since the mid-1980s and subsequently the Indian Ocean or Boxing Day Tsunami that struck on December 26, 2004. With the gradual ease of fishing restrictions, although unevenly since 2010, the waters of northeast witnessed another conspicuous transformation in the wake of war. Older patterns of seasonal fishing migration from the south and western shorelines resumed to the Districts of Trincomalee, Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Batticaloa, particularly from the island’s more densely populated spaces located across Negombo, Chilaw, Galle, Matara and Hambantota. With flows of transient small-­ scale fisher migrants arrived newer collectives that previously had little or no interaction with the fishing grounds they accessed or the “host” sites in which they temporarily settled. Despite the ostensible prevalence of majority ethnic Sinhala-­ Buddhist fishers, the social diversity of the island’s postwar fishing migrants remained diverse, comprising bilingual Roman Catholic and Muslim collectives from Negombo and Puttalam, together with a significant number of predominantly Tamil-speaking beach-seine operators from the northwest. What has also remained visible yet underexplored are the more recent waves of young Hindu and Christian Tamil landless beach-seine crewmen who not only seasonally migrated northwards from Batticaloa to Trincomalee during the fishing months between April and October but also travelled cyclically to the opposite coastline for work during the northeast monsoons, sometimes being employed by the same beach-seine owner. By the time I began my research in mid-2012, migrant fisher campsites densely dotted the northeastern coastline, marking the fact that seasonal west-to-east coast mobility was stolidly gaining momentum as a recurring livelihood pattern..4 Indeed, I will later proceed to explore the ostensible lack of “reverse” migration (from the eastern to the western or southwest coastlines), particularly during the northeastern monsoonal months of November and January, which marks a particularly unforgiving time for small-scale coastal fishers of the east coast. Meanwhile, the resumption of some pre-war and other more recent patterns of mobility was often framed as sparking communal tensions between spatially mobile western and southern coastal fisherfolk and those living in the littoral east. These contemporary scuffles and clashes have often singularly been conceived as articulations of inter-group ethnic discord by official sources. At times they have openly 4  Deshingkar and Start (2003, p. 2) posit that notions of seasonal and circular migration entered into academic and development lexicon in the 1970s and can be defined as “characteristically short-term, repetitive or cyclical in nature, and is adjusted to the annual agricultural cycle”. Definitions of seasonal/cyclical migration remain relatively vague within fisheries literature. This study will use seasonal and cyclical migration as interchangeable terms, given the fact that spatially mobile fishers being studied more often than not return to their sites of origin and that much of Sri Lanka’s internal fisher migration occurs repeatedly during the monsoonal months.

12

1 Introduction

Fig. 1.1  Gill netters arriving at dawn, Kinniya. (Source: Asoka Siriwardane, reproduced with permission)

been expressed through verbal confrontations, the sabotage of livelihood capital (e.g. the tearing and burning of fishing nets and boats) or sporadic encounters that include physical violence. Outsider access to traditional fishing grounds, exploitative fishing practices, market capture and the monopolisation of infrastructural support services such as landing sites and fishery harbours constitute grievances usually articulated by local fisher collectives in the east. Furthermore, south Indian incursions from trawler fleets and other boats fishing intensively in the Palk Straits add another layer of complexity to their social dynamics (see Gupta 2007, 2008; Scholtens et  al. 2012; Scholtens and Bavinck 2014)— a parallel narrative that exceeds the scope of this book. While these elements seemingly articulate the incidence of inter-communal resource competition, this is not entirely the case. For to focus on the interaction between resource struggles and ethnolinguistic identity politics alone arguably runs the risk of masking other forms of unequal social relations, entailing a host of coastal interdependencies among mudalali (local entrepreneur) financiers, ice-mill owners and their broader market and transnational linkages, for example (Fig. 1.1). As I go on to explore, the diversity of fishing practices and social affiliations illustrated often do not easily align with social constructions ethno-cultural, linguistic, religious and caste-based belonging that have often been instrumentalised during the island’s 500-year trajectory of imperial and postcolonial politics. At the same time, however, it must be borne in mind that Sri Lanka’s recent civil war did invariably deepen inter-ethnic divisions, yet as Sharika Thiranagama (2011, p. 12) posits, it was one among many “new categories and identities that had emerged

1.2  Locating Co-operation in Conflict Settings

13

precisely as a consequence of the war…inaugurating new forms of subjectivity, gave life and voice to particular kinds of biographies, bodily regimes, manners of coping”. In this context, the complex social fabric of Sri Lanka’s small-scale fisher communities made up of local, migrant and settler groups with multiple linguistic and religious affiliations stand to offer a nuanced glimpse into how multiple forms of sociality are locally interpreted, enacted, normalised and contested amidst continued processes of militarisation and boundary-making. Meanwhile since the 1980s, interdisciplinary marine research for the most part has often squarely regarded diverse forms of capture fishing as a predominantly competitive endeavour given its open access nature and the indivisibility of coastal and oceanic resources. Yet, sea-based lifeworlds of fishing prefigure vastly different ways of being-in-the-world, marked by multiple flows and movements, diverse routinal and ritual practices and varied associational human and non-human ties, combined with particular modes of knowledge. Moreover, the inherent material circulations, liminal spaces of work and dwelling and, at times, the translocality of identities that sea-related peoples often take for granted tend to, at times, sit in stark contrast to the lived realities of more land-based grounded societies that have traditionally been over-researched within peace and conflict studies, together with scholarship on migration and mobility.

1.2  Locating Co-operation in Conflict Settings Intimacy and antipathy, conflict and co-operation—these immense themes have often chiselled the earliest cultural tales that humanity has told itself, a vast expanse of communal founding myths to the tragi-comedies of post-Dionysian Greek theatre. Yet what is sociality, given its definitional haziness? The Manchester Anthropology debate of 1989 has often been invoked as a key moment in its conceptual unpicking/remaking, during which Marilyn Strathern was known to remark that the “concept of society is theoretically obsolete” (see Toren 2013, p. 46). This statement intimates many things. As Nicholas Long and Henrietta Moore (2013) argue, not only is sociality capable of entailing anything and nothing. At its broadest conceptual moment, if sociality can be seen to entail “a dynamic and interactive relational matrix through which human beings come to know the world through the world they live in, and to find their purpose and meaning within in it” (Long and Moore 2013, pp. 2–4), where does this leave other forms of intersubjective engagement that do not prefigure bonds or pacts such as conflictual relationships? Moreover against the backdrop of a steadily growing corpus of work on human, multispecies, technological and other inorganic encounters in everyday life, the very primacy of human sociality comes into question. In the light of Paul Rabinow’s (1996) seminal work on “biosociality”, together with Tim Ingold’s and Gísli Pálsson’s later conceptualisations of “biosocial becomings” (Pálsson 2013), the human remains intimately bound in historic, contemporary and future assemblages of biosocial relations, prefiguring vastly different types of socialities implicating,

14

1 Introduction

for example, animals and materials. Thus, it is this co-constitutive element of becoming and remaking that ultimately makes it impossible to speak of sociality in purely anthropocentric terms. By the same token however, sociality can never stand to be taken as an empirical fact or an “object” of scientific inquiry unless it is conceptualised as being part of wider biosocial and material relations. Etymologically the “sociality” remains a derivative of the Enlightenment term society (socius as in companion/ship). Yet as Christina Toren (2013) avers, society nor what could be understand to encompass the social was never a priori—meaning that it entails multiple modes of being, knowing and doing that were both historically constructed much as it is contingent to socio-spatial circumstances. Therefore it hardly seems surprising that one of the longest standing debates that have pervaded scholarly forays into multiple forms of sociality is the question of where and how to locate dynamics of revulsion and refusal, hostility and atomism. It is here that I make the argument that turning to scholarly interventions within the predictable disciplinary domains such as civil conflict and violence would to some degree be self-defeating. After all, as a number of scholars such as Peter Geschiere (2013, p.  75) observe, when studying trust, jealously, fear and intimacy as overlapping dynamics in witchcraft attacks, for example, among the Maka of Cameroon, “intimacy, trust is never given or self-evident. It has to be studied as a product of specific historic circumstances, as a constantly emerging event”. Similarly, taking, for example, Alessandro Monsutti’s (2013, p. 151) study of contemporary Afghanistan, the workings of complex transversal patronage networks, emic and vernacularized notions of honour, hospitality and reputation all come to occupy interlocking “spheres of reciprocity, exchange and vengeance” while being “superimposed on one another”. As a point of departure, I begin with the premise that crosscutting socialities always remain in a constant state of flux and emergence within a broader canvas of biosocial relations. It is within this frame that the relationalities of everyday co-­ operation and contestation are explored in the book. At its very minimal, co-­ operation and conflict constitute diverse dimensions that make up the complex fabric of entangled biological, material and social relations. As much as the historicity of conflict and conflict trajectories have been studied, vastly dissimilar bodies of theoretical work have sought to explain how communal and institutionalised forms of co-operation unfold and are sustained, particularly during moments of group affinity, mobilisation and problem solving. This corpus of work has traditionally entailed literatures spanning from social psychology and sociology (Deutsch 1949, 2000; Sennett 2011), philosophy (Tuomela 1993) and social capital and civic movements (Hardin 1982; Putnam and Feldstein 2003) to collective action schools (Olson 1965; Axelrod 1984; Ostrom 1990; Poteete and Ostrom 2004) and moral economy approaches (Scott 1976; Ireson 1992, 1996). Yet like many of its kind, co-operation and collective action research remains firmly engrained within the life of a bounded community. Within their paradigms, co-operation and reciprocity are seen primarily as productive or generative processes that go to shaping cohesive relations or, on the other hand, leading to a rupture evidenced in the breakdown of rules, norms and capacities for collective action. For example, much fine-grained attention has been

1.2  Locating Co-operation in Conflict Settings

15

paid to how (far) negative reciprocity and communal sanctioning mechanisms have influenced the legitimation of group-based values, norms and rules. Moreover there is little evidence to show that biological and material relations are conceived beyond a resource-centric frame. While a more expansive understanding of the biosocial is certainly a prerequisite to rethinking co-operative and conflictual relations in general, there are also conceptual difficulties related to the question of how sociality as such is defined or understood (Toren 2013). From the diverse social dimensions of co-operative versus conflictual relations arise questions that draw attention to the pervasiveness, durability and transformation of everyday socialities, particularly in politically tense environments. Manifold epistemologies on co-operative relations, some more phenomenological, others more mathematical and game theory-based, present an increasing awareness that hierarchical relationships are inimical to social relations (see Rogers 1999; Helbing and Johansson 2010; Dovidio et al. 2009). The difference however lies in the extent to which conflict and co-operation are simultaneously woven into the social equation as oppositional as well as interdependent processes (Chen 2008). The anthropology of peace and non-violence perhaps comes closest to interrogating the ambiguous and fluid boundaries between co-operation and contestation (see Dentan 1968; Sponsel and Gregor 1994; Lederach 2010). While much work has been done in conceptualising relations that prefigure forms of “sociative” and “separative” peace (Gregor 1994, pp. 105–106), attention has also been drawn to the fact that civility, mutuality and tolerance cannot simply be taken as default modes of being and doing. As Laura Ring (2006, p. 3) posits in her Karachi-based study Zenana, peace itself is “the product of a relentless creative labour”. Certainly, no non-conflictual spaces exist in everyday life. While everyday conflict can empirically co-exist or lay nested in co-operative relations, co-operative relations themselves may not necessarily generate reciprocal or productive dynamics in themselves, since some stand to gain more from an event or an encounter than others. Moreover, the practice of co-operation itself need not always prefigure interpersonal contact or intimacy. While recent ethnographic accounts on non-violence may have successfully problematised the naturalisation of peaceful relations (while violence has often been regarded as the aberration and therefore a focus of meticulous study), there has been less emphasis on the need to grapple with diverse forms of interaction that transcend the conflict-co-operation binary. While this slippage is arguably more apparent within mainstream peace and conflict studies in which terms such as co-­ existence, cohesion, inter-communalism, solidarity and pluralism are bandied, they do slip, even unwittingly, into contemporary anthropological imagination in which everyday civility is juxtaposed against its corrosive violent “other” (Spencer 2007, p. 145). Here I do not argue for less attention to violence manifest in inter-group struggles. Instead, I draw attention to the need to acknowledge less visible forms of social interaction and modes of being that pervade spaces of “cold peace” while at the same time acknowledging that multiple forms of sociality do overlap—some to

16

1 Introduction

deferring degrees utilitarian and affective, routinised and sporadic. Similarly taking Marcel Mauss’ (1923) seminal workon the Polynesian moral economy of gift giving, calling to attention obligations and power asymmetries implicated in the exchange, I make the case for de-romanticising the oversimplified conflation of co-­ operative action with inter-group cohesiveness, particularly against the mainstream rationalities of liberal peacebuilding. Troubling the Conflict-Co-operation Dualism  As a means to partially untangle the conceptual knot of the conflict-co-operation dualism, I would like to recall a paper that the sociologist William F. Whyte—better known for his Street Corner Society—published in the American Ethnologist in 1975. The short conceptual piece was based on his fieldwork in the rural Peruvian Andes in the mid-1960s. What Whyte proposed was a two-dimensional two-continuum model, a quadrant that allowed four broad permutations: low conflict-low co-operation, low conflict-­ high co-operation, high conflict-high co-operation and high conflict-low co-­ operation. Whyte himself ascertained that it was a rather preliminary and crude framework yet to be tested. Moreover, he argued that there was possibly little predictive power in the model, for it relied heavily upon intersubjective perceptions of how people classified one another and their relationships. Also, he rightly pointed out that it lacked the ability to evaluate relationship quality, together with historical trajectories of discourses and events that have divided specific groups in the past (p.  389). Furthermore, Whyte’s model was perfunctorily normative, because it barely questioned locally dominant framings of conflict and co-operation. Victor de Munck (1987) was one of the few anthropologists who attempted to apply Whyte’s model in a Sri Lankan village fictitiously named “Kutali”—a predominantly Muslim space with a smattering of Sinhalese households. Kutali was a village in which reciprocal labour exchange networks called attam were common, a system that also combined paid farm work. Munck’s study revealed that conflictual relations stemmed not only from outside pressures. In Kutali’s case, they were spurred by the development of a new reservoir to which state resources flowed. He also argued in favour of introducing two additional layers of differentiation to Whyte’s model: (1) interpersonal co-operation against the collective and (2) co-­ operative forms within the public and the private spheres of sociality. While acknowledging the loaded meanings of the terms used in his questionnaire, the paradox Munck found was that many were likely to claim that their village was more conflict-ridden (i.e. “combative”) while at the same time purporting to be “peaceful/friendly” with regard to inter-household relations, a finding that could only be gleaned if quantitative study data could be triangulated with interview and ethnographic participant observations. The second complexity arose from the political party factionalism rife in Kutali, spurred by state-driven irrigation projects that were underway. Co-operation, or its appearance, was understood as a performative facet in the conduct of everyday village, for as Munck argues, “public displays of co-operation may represent a symbolic expression of community cohesion in order to enhance the reputation of the village for the sake of soliciting development funds” (p. 105). As the empirical chapters of this book demonstrate, the p­ erformativity

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17

of a seemingly cohesive collective lends interest groups much weight in strengthening their reputational bases, leading to very real material outcomes. Ambiguous Presence? Everyday Sociality in Sri Lankan Scholarship  Intriguingly, much Sri Lankan scholarship within this subfield of plurality and non-violence seems to have steadfastly focused on two interrelated domains. The first group can largely be categorised under the aegis of counter-mobilisations or as rejoinders to organised violence. Differently put, in conflictual settings, co-operative enactments emphasised sporadic and individualised characteristics. The problem with this framing is that it tends to cleave out spaces of routinal practice or exist vis-à-vis dominant articulations of violence (see Daniel 1996; Spencer 1990a, b). Moments and events such as one-sided protection during physical violence, rendering shelter, providing assistance during flight or withholding information from roving mobs arguably congeal into a singularly blinkered narrative of co-operation of protection. Meanwhile, a second strand of interrelated scholarship sits within the sphere of the shared religiosity and syncretism. For example, in the case of Rohan Bastin’s (2002) study on Munneswaram, it is argued that plural worship does not always offer a way out of inter-ethnic hostility. Temples and spaces of prayer themselves endure as sites of power. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that a vast corpus of seminal historic and anthropological studies on Ceylon/Sri Lanka have comprised micro intra-village analyses that have added great nuance to how rural co-operative practices and relations of uneven reciprocity have prevailed and at times been transformed (see Obeysekere 1967; Yalman 1967; Roberts 1982; Stirrat 1992; Brow 1996; McGilvray 2008). These studies entail broader questions of ethico-moral obligations and focus on fluid intra-group rivalries. Most often, however, the existence of envy and jealousy is not perceived to be dichotomous but rather exists to reinforce a sense of sociality, for example, among local variga (caste) groups. Edmund Leach (1961, p. 131) and Sarah Southwold-Llewellyn (1994, p. 193), for example, illustrate how asymmetric reciprocal relations among kin groups may work to the disadvantage of their wealthier relatives, as insiders constantly make trying demands in the name of mutual assistance. Concomitantly, one of the few dedicated pieces of work that seeks to explicate diverse mechanistics of inter-communal exchange in the everyday spaces of the northeast is Timmo Gaasbeek’s monograph Bridging Troubled Waters (2010). In invoking varied inter-communal forms of exchange and relations in the context of agrarian irrigation, Gaasbeek himself opts for a more neutral term, “social interaction”, given its conceptual extensibility. The concept is perceived as occupying a middle ground, countering what he sees as the passivity of co-existence on one hand and the formalised boundedness that the term co-operation conveys on the other. As he argues, the latter conveys a sense that there “is always something to cooperate about”, excluding other forms of sociality across generations, between friends, lovers, acquaintances and so forth (pp. 20–21). While I agree with Gaasbeek’s assertion on the need to broaden the conceptual horizon when studying manifold forms of inter-group sociality, empirical and ethical questions on how to more expansively

18

1 Introduction

understand varied forms of social interdependence and intimacy warrant further engagement. First, what is fundamentally considered to be co-operative remains rather undifferentiated. Everyday practices such as the sharing of irrigation water and grazing pastures, labour hiring, land leasing, and inter-household protection during times of political unrest could be involuntarily be conflated with a host of diverse monetary, utilitarian, affective and routinal interactions. Second, the endurance and pervasiveness of quiet forms of inter-communal sociality that are far removed from open displays of collective action often remain concealed, precisely because their interactions were so rigidly policed (see Bayat 1997). Herein lies the implicit assumption that co-operation inhabits oppositional poles mandated by fixed ethnonationalist loyalties and bipolar imaginaries (see Rajasingham-Senanayake 1999). Indeed, categorical (im)purities of ethnic belonging have often been coercively enforced, often at gunpoint: take, for example, in Batticaloa during the mid-1980s and 1990s when the Special Task Force (STF) meted out violence to Burghers and Sinhalese who they found to be living among Tamils (Thangarajah 1995 p. 193), later resounding in momentous events such massacres among Islamic communities in the east and the mass expulsion of ethnic Muslims from the Northern Province by the LTTE (see Haniffa 2008: 350; Imtiyaz 2013: 55). Lately, the geopolitics and technologies of borderscapes, flows and circulations have also constituted an emerging theme in Sri Lankan scholarship, with a renascent interest in the structures and dynamics of boundary crossing (see Jeganathan 2004; Goodhand 2008; Goodhand et al. 2009; Klem 2014; Spencer et al. 2015). Boundaries here are taken to mean more than material disciplinary devices—military installations such as checkpoints and fortifications at the entrance of battalion bases, no-fire zones, High Security/Special Economic Zones, barbed wire fencing around Buddhist statues and pilgrimage sites, refugee shelters and IDP camps. They also entail spheres of belonging and interaction—traversals between religion and political governance, dirty politics and its non-politics and the morally pure and the irresolutely tainted. While boundaries are implicitly taken to mean material, relational and symbolic-ideational lines and spheres of demarcation (van Houtum 2005), the multiple modalities of boundary crossing, policing and normalisation are only beginning to be more comprehensively explored, particularly in terms of their social networks and quotidian practices (e.g. military-administrative routines, forms of intergenerational mobility and livelihood-based functions).5 Therefore a mere acknowledgement of the productive dynamics of boundaries is but a point of

5  A cogent example of boundary enforcement, perceived as such by a number of participants in this study, was the mysterious emergence of nocturnal “Grease Devils” across minority-populated enclaves in the rural east in mid-2011 and their even more surreptitious disappearance. In-depth studies of the phenomenon have been few and far between, particularly in the ways in which insider-outsider narratives around them (going beyond widely acknowledged tropes of ethnicisation and militarisation) were constructed by victims and terror-stricken neighbourhoods alike (see Goodhand 2012; Venugopal 2015).

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19

d­ eparture in understanding how social spaces come to be enforced, transgressed or crossed through everyday sensibilities, knowledges and behavioural practices. While boundaries serve to demarcate fluid and overlapping insider-outsider relations, a trope that will revisit in the following subsections, I draw inspiration from Richard Sennett’s (2011: 79) differentiation between boundaries and borderscapes, in which the former takes on the qualities of a territorial edge and the latter exists as a zone of interaction between places, people, animals, material flows, exchanges, travelling discourses and narratives. Indeed, while fisher lifeworlds constitute multiple forms of movement and meanings of liminality, coastlines themselves exist as liminal spaces (Mack 2011, p. 165) and as pluri-cultural borderlands (Ferrari 2015, pp. 130–131). Ultimately, multistranded meanings and practices of inter-group co-­ operation, replete with their inherent paradoxes, cannot be generalised and taken as lived experience, thereby blanketing most forms of inter-group sociality.

1.3  Ethics Amidst Everyday Lifeworlds As a historical concept, the notion of co-operation as cohabiting a moral universe has become relatively unfashionable since of late. For example, at the beginning of his volume Together, Sennett (2011, p. 18) dismisses the practice of co-operation “as an ethical disposition”, instead describing it as a practice that emerges from practical activity. While his observation of routinal and performative enactments of everyday co-operation proves immensely valuable in the understanding of civic and political life, the relationship between ethics and sociality-as-process remains ambiguous at best. For one, such a conceptualisation implies that co-operation itself sits precariously perched upon the mutable moral precincts of modern life. In part, the difficulties inherent in imagining an alternative space arise from the very confines of the few disciplines that have sought to critically engage with the question of the “ethical” in social life. Social anthropology, for example, has been more engaged with the ethics of its own epistemologies, while the study of ethical life in its entirety has only been a recent development (see Faubion 2001; Laidlaw 2002; Zigon 2009; Beldo 2014). In the past, the study of ethics has often been relegated to the domain of social and political philosophy, revolving around universal questions of human freedom, moral obligation and judgement (see Scherz 2010). The most significant problem is the question of the ethical within broader contexts of lifeworlds which has been empirically studied in a limited fashion. Michael Lambek (2010) begins his edited volume on ordinary ethics by asserting that: Ethnographers commonly find that the people they encounter are trying to do what they consider right or good, are being evaluated according to criteria of what is right and good, or are in some debate about what constitutes the human good. Yet anthropological theory tends to overlook all this in favour of analyses that emphasize structure, power, and interest.

20

1 Introduction

I do not propose doing away with these analytical angles at the cost of others. To rephrase my conceptual focus in a way that better fits the broader context of this monograph, co-operation then is not seen singularly or quintessentially as an ethical act. Yet it is patterned, legitimated, contested and reproduced in conjunction with wider ethical sensibilities and quandaries that people contend and grapple with in their everyday lived realities. Indeed, distinctions between the ethical and the moral warrant closer consideration. Here, I take my cue from Charles Stafford’s (2010, pp. 187–188) distinction between morality as judgement against ethics as reflection. As Stafford argues, morality connotes a sense of structure and agency, for one can act ethically, while seeming immoral in the eyes of society (p. 188). It is this everyday domain of individual and group reflexive action that I wish to consider, particularly with regard to why people often embrace opposing legitimacies or contradictory modes of doing and being. To develop an appropriate conceptual frame, I turn to the phenomenological notion of the “lifeworld” (Ger: Lebenswelten). It is a concept that has been refashioned in a multiplicity of ways, by philosophers and social theorists such as Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Alfred Schütz, Peter Berger, Thomas Luckmann, Jürgen Habermas and Michael D. Jackson, among others (see Siriwardane-de Zoysa and Hornidge 2016). While a condensation of their paradigmatic shifts is beyond the scope of this subsection, I will however spell out the common interrelated threads on diverse saltwater lifeworlds (see Nieuwenhuys 1994; Astuti 1995, Sharp 2002). These works have sought to explicate (1) how the everyday assumes a taken-for-granted reality, (2) how intersubjectivity is patterned through shared meanings and how certain forms of experience assume a “togetherness” even in moments of conflict and rupture and (3) how structures and practices of communicative action unfold, particularly in the context of social institutions and their unmaking and legitimation. In short, my primary interest is in understanding how everyday ethics intersects with routinal livelihoods, as well as the socio-­ political and material realities that continue to pattern them. Having then turned to lifeworlds as a heuristic frame, two analytical problems emerge. First, the concept of the lifeworld sits uneasily with the framing of individual and collective agency. People do not merely exist, embedded in lifeworlds. What come to the fore are broader questions of understanding how lifeworlds themselves change and how they are shaped by people and events. I look to the everyday not merely as the normed, the ordinary and the routinal but as a site of active production, regardless of its taken-for-grantedness (see Ring 2006, p. 179). The second and related dilemma entails what Barry Sandywell (2004) aptly terms the “myth of everyday life” and its seemingly unproblematic theoretical conflation with the notion of ordinariness (as doxa, the routinal). Recent scholarships from the post-phenomenological and the postmodern schools to the theorists of micropolitics of everyday social practices like [de] Certeau (1984) and Deleuze and Guattari (2004) have unwittingly bracketed out and reified a series of binaries (ordinary and its extra, the mundane and the exceptional, ritual and practical life, etc.). Nevertheless, the value of this scholarship is in forewarning against the “false security” of everyday life as a homogenous entity while pointing towards the necessity

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of acknowledging pluralities within experience and in historicising them in terms of their material relations and networks of power (Sandywell 2004, p. 175). While Sandywell arguably adds little novelty to the re-conceptualisation of the notion of multiple lived realities, the utility of his argument lies in encouraging more fine-grained engagements with the differences inherent in people’s seemingly extramundane existences. The lifeworld then is not taken as a blanket term to encompass and “explain away” every (ambiguous) facet of lived life, in all its heterogeneity. In the context of this study, my use of the concept of lifeworlds will be primarily attuned to everyday livelihood experiences, delineated using the following heuristic layers that are by all means interconnected. For empirical clarity, this book operationalises the lifeworld through three crosscutting tiers: 1. The relational, or what is subjectively perceived as comprising one’s “community”, encompassing not only diverse forms of social and political relationships but also social norms and institutional structures 2. Socio-cognitive perceptions of individual and collective well-being and what it takes to achieve the “good life” and how it is to be achieved, through a sense of being-in-the-world, thus combining the material, relational and the symbolic-spiritual 3. The ethical and moral foundations that shape knowledge and spontaneous action, in which animals, inorganic materials, technologies and mobile flows are continuously entangled and re-configured (i.e. of being-with-the-world) It is particularly the third layer that takes us to a conceptualisation of everyday ethics or where the ethical can be located in this approach. I start with the premise, following James Laidlaw (2002), that ethics can be conceptualised largely as a realm of human experience. A turn to ordinary ethics, however, requires unhinging the “ethical” from its standard scholarly interpretations, which combine the study of ethics in the contexts of religion, theodicy and questions of evil on one hand and law, regulation and justice on the other (Lambek 2010, p. 3). The focus of ordinary ethics rests on understanding ethical sensibilities in the sense that the “ordinary” most importantly implies an “ethics that is relatively tacit, grounded in agreement rather than rule, practice rather than knowledge or belief, and happening without calling undue attention to itself” (ibid, p. 2). At its simplest, the ordinary is the ethical, in the sense that it patterns daily consciousness and comports the very condition of being human. Co-operation therefore is not an intrinsically moral or ethical act in itself, but forms one among many practices and relational configurations that are based upon implicit socio-ethical perceptions of how particular livelihoods ought to be practised and how life itself is lived under varying circumstances. Ethical premises, while diverse and implicit, are therefore mutable and may at times be deeply incongruent with other dimensions of a singular lifeworld, for example, those that are embedded in livelihoods. In other words, we may speak of bundles of ethics that are not only ambiguous but also display some degree of disparateness and ambivalence within an individual’s lifeworld.

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1 Introduction

One of the most revealing encounters I had that captures well the dynamics of boundary-making, fluid borderscapes and ethical as well as ethnical reasoning in everyday action was at a police checkpoint in Trincomalee town. The anecdote from my fieldwork that is shared here marks a transition to the next section on research methodology. Intentionally, I leave this narrative open-ended to enable multiple interpretations. Dharshini and I were making our way towards Thirukadaloor, having been stopped at a guard post. The presiding traffic sergeant said that many a time he had seen us about town. Having asked for Dharshini’s identification card, he asked us where we were heading. “Thirukadaloor,” we both nonchalantly affirmed. He regarded us with renewed interest. “But Thirukadaloor is Tamil village,” he remarked soto voce. Before I could frame an answer, Dharshini sardonically quipped, “that’s all very well, but aren’t we at peace now?” The policeman suppressed a faint smile. To our surprise, he then straightened up, looking visibly more comfortable all of a sudden. His expression and tone of voice changed. He introduced himself, giving us his name and said that he had spent much of his childhood in Jaffna town. His father had run a small bakery in the 1970s. He continued on, stating that his knowledge of Tamil was very good. We absently nodded and a few minutes later we were sent on our way…

1.4  U  nlearning the “Field”: Tracing Figurations Across Fluid Spaces The bulk of my research in the District of Trincomalee took place between June 2012 and May 2013 while residing in Uppuveli, with follow-up visits undertaken between 2014 and 2016. When I first moved to Trincomalee, I barely had preexisting social connections and took up residence with an elderly family that lived on an ancestral plot of land in Alles Gardens. Years prior to my arrival, Alles Gardens had housed one of the largest post-tsunami refugee centres in the district. In 2012, it was home to a spacious and seldom used GIZ compound, together with a host of smaller hotels and backpacker hostels that lined its lengthy beachface. Fieldwork along coastlines and saltwater spaces is as mutable and liminal as the shoreline itself. Indeed, the very term “field” betrays the inherently terrestrial bias of the early anthropological and sociological research evolved among grounded communities. More recently there has been increasing attention paid to re-­ conceptualising fieldsites, not as bounded terrains but as relational networks and as flows of materials and ideas (Burrell 2009: 183). The term also offers several conceptual challenges particularly in the practice of multisited ethnographies that go beyond linear modes of comparative analyses. As a result of following or charting relationships, processes and events, including people, material flows and non-­ human actors that are constantly in motion, numerous places come to be enrolled in loose figurations, namely, as assemblages implicating power-laden dependencies.

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Fig. 1.2  A migrant cadjan vadi, Kokkilai Lagoon

During the first 3 weeks, I travelled along the cracked edges of shorelines for as much as I could, often along byroads in a small self-driven Maruti car and sometimes by chartered boat, stopping at fishing villages, migrant encampments and other informal settlements. While many of these spaces were marked on a GIS tracker, it must be borne in mind that residential camps and cadjan beach shelters (both referred to as vadi) are themselves temporarily constructed. Indeed, as Jazeel (2003, p. 588) reminds us, “describing any coast is problematic because of its continual change, its eternal impulse to both hide and reveal itself afresh each day with the tides”. But while the coastline remains materially recalcitrant to the disciplinary practices of mapping and naming, particular socio-spatial identifications of beachfaces—and their historicized liminal presence—often emerge as strong tropes in fisher narratives on emplacement, belonging and revisitation (Fig. 1.2). Moreover they proved invaluable for establishing the basis by which key layers of differentiation and similarity were identified by participants themselves in this ethnography. Ultimately, the 15 villages I selected spanned spaces as disparate as Kokkilai, Pulmoddai, Kuchchaveli, Nilaveli, the core Town and Gravets area, Thoppur, Muttur and Vergual. Four axes of (crosscutting) differentiation marked my selection of sites and the people who worked and inhabited them6: 1. The diversity of fishing practices: these often colour the social organisation of family and kinship networks, together with village collective life in general. The village sites were also differentiated by whether they entailed mainly traditional craft-based techniques (e.g. longlining, gill netting) or shore-based fishing practices (e.g. beach-seining) and other variations such as ornamental fish diving or clam and shell gleaning.

 The purposive stratified sampling frame of the survey followed the same sequence.

6

24

1 Introduction

2. Migrants-settlers-locals: whether hamlets primarily constituted more long-term-­ based local groups or settler communities who had moved to Trincomalee since the 1930s. Attention was paid to how old migrant encampments themselves were and their diverse histories. 3. Linguistic and ethno-religious heterogeneity: combining homogenous (predominantly Muslim, Tamil-Hindu/Christian and Sinhala-Buddhist/Christian hamlets) and those that were more plural, with varying mixes. 4. Core-periphery dynamics: settlements located in the rural hinterland, against more peri-urban spaces in and around the fringes of the Trincomalee Town and Gravets area. Of these settlements, one was Thenamaravadi, an old predominantly Tamil village and a site of very recent resettlement activity after wartime. Interviews were also conducted over 3 days in August 2012, in three refugee (interim) camps in Muthur, largely among residents who were displaced from Sampoor, when the space was progressively being de-civilianised by the military. Besides this, shorter comparative visits were made to the Districts of Mullaitivu and Jaffna (Point Pedro), in an effort to combine material from secondary sites against the specificity of the micro-­ contexts presented in this book. Second, several groups of fishermen and women with whom I worked in the migrant camps were followed back to their villages of origin in Batticaloa and Puttalam during the northeast monsoons, between November and March 2013. These visits aimed at gleaning manifold narratives of return in their natal villages or those they considered to be their base. Plotlines and their interpretive frames tended to be spatially and temporally contingent, varying according to the teller’s unfolding experiences and contextually embedded discourses. In this light, I paid particular attention to amplifications, omissions and slippages, primarily the ways in which anecdotes and vignettes were re-storied several months later. Moreover, it is unsurprising that forms of sociality between fisher collectives and other livelihood groups across coastlines may vary considerably. Seasonal migrants from the west coast when residing in the northeast often adopt a different form of habitus, far removed from their villages of “origin”. Furthermore, the stark contrast in material and social circumstances led to very real outcomes in terms of group affinity, belonging and notions of legitimacy. Yet, what was left to be seen were a series of juxtapositions—for example, the austerity of migrants’ cadjan camps in “host” sites compared with the more impressively constructed homes they left behind along the west coast, together with differences in normed behaviour among the same groups of fisher collectives on either coast. These narratives of return were largely explored during the months of the northeast monsoon, as small craft-based fishing seasonally ebbed along the east coast. The multisited ethnography that was largely based on qualitative oral history narratives and other forms of in-depth interviews and field-based observations further builds a sequential mixed methods approach that integrates an open-coded quantitative survey on livelihood forms, mobility patterns and group membership

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(N = 265).7 The random purposive sampling frame adopted the same axes of differentiation and enrolled 11 local and settler villages together with two distinctly different migrant encampments. The surveys were conducted only after I had visited the same villages at least six to eight times over the first 5  months, so a greater degree of familiarity had been established with the householders interviewed. The survey was conducted both in Tamil and in Sinhala with the help of three experienced field assistants known to Dharshini, and after each round, our team of five would sit together for an hourly discussion back in Uppuveli. My comparative journeys to Mullaitivu (Nayaru), Jaffna (Point Pedro) and Batticaloa (Vakarai and Valachchenai) were more exploratory in nature. Within the District of Trincomalee, great diversity existed between proximate fishing hamlets, with respect to their histories, mobilities, livelihood patterns, levels of war and tsunami-­affectedness and more. To claim that my objective was in the name of a linear comparison would therefore prove problematic. However, these cross-district journeys allowed for more insights on shared patterns of similarity at both a historic and a contemporary discursive level. In its entirety, my empirical research objectives were twofold. First, I set out to glean as much nuance as possible in terms of what people understood to constitute “co-operation”, in order to build on a vernacular classification of its multiple meanings, registers and slippages. The second aim was to capture as much breadth and internal diversity as possible in mapping co-­ operative relations and practices. Conceptually, my ethnographic research was led by a grounded theory approach, and I likewise selected narrative analysis over other variants of discourse analysis. Paul Ricoeur’s (1984) later work on narrative identity was one that granted more analytical flexibility and rigour to the task of using grounded theory to construct typologies of relational dependencies, as it integrates both spatial and temporal scales. Thus the Ricoeurian notion of emplotment8 was used not just as an interpretative analytical device but also as a social fact in itself. Narratives themselves actively shape identities, perceptions of selfhood and sameness and are not merely deployed as a means to communicate them. Interpretive frames of individuals and groups are constantly in flux, mediated not only by their social setting but also by the distance or immediacy of time. This method of analysing transcripts was used to counter the question of shifting frames, particularly against the context of how co-­ operative norms that were often recast as seemingly universal were also selectively followed or sanctioned. 7  The statistical data presented in this book are used as supporting material for archival and ethnographic findings and do not make the contested claim of representativeness. Indubitably, village sites are never really representative or typical, and the coastal mapping exercise aptly illustrated great internal diversity between fishing collectives themselves. 8  Drawing upon Aristotle’s notion of muthos, which integrates both the imaginary fable and a cohesively structured plot, Ricoeur (1984) sees emplotment as an inherently dynamic and unstable process. It entails how people interpret and reconfigure events and perceptions of others constantly in the act of retelling. It also encompasses representations of pastness, both in terms of the tellers’ past and one that is actively shaped by the seemingly passive listener-researcher—what Dowling (2011, p. 12) aptly terms a “double temporality”.

26

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Of Insider-Outsiderliness and Sinhala Privilege  Much has been written on the interplay of insider-outsider micropolitics during the ethnographic encounter, and this is further complicated by research conducted in counterinsurgency environments (see Theidon 2001; Begley 2009). Recently, there have been attempts to rework simplified readings of insider-outsider boundaries by introducing more classifications that render greater nuance (Carling et al. 2014) and, in part, by building on earlier critical work that destabilises problematic notions of “native anthropology” (see Razavi and Devereux 1992; Halstead 2001; Nadjmabadi 2004). My intention is not to repeat these old conceptual conundrums and their challenging situational and ethical questions or the paradoxes inherent in working in militarised environments. More specifically I wish to draw attention to a few of the dynamics encountered between my (ambiguous) positionality and (reflexive) presence9 during fieldwork in particular. In the past, I had comfortably eased into my role as a quintessential outsider-­ researcher, whether it concerned previous fieldwork in rural Cornwall, inner-city Singapore or central Timor-Leste. This time I found myself returning to the country of my birth, having spent just 4 years of my life in Sri Lanka. By then, my parents had retired in Colombo, and in that respect I was not a complete “outsider”, and neither was I a prodigal daughter of the diaspora. However at the same time I was intensely conscious of my accented (yet fluent) Sinhala and my paltry knowledge of Tamil that a couple of months of tutoring in Singapore had predictably not remedied beyond bare small talk. Over the course of that year between the summer of 2012 and 2013, I worked primarily with Dharshini, my research assistant who doubled as translator. An acutely sharp and witty young woman, she had lived most of her life in Trincomalee town and worked on an ad hoc basis as a field officer at a local NGO. Dharshini was a natural bilingual. With Tamil as a first language, she possessed an equally good command of Sinhala.10 Her maternal family had moved from Negombo, on the western coastline, a decade before she was born, and given that some of her distant relatives were engaged in fishing, Dharshini felt she could identify well with the diverse groups of coastal fishers with whom we associated. It was imperative that I worked with a woman, since I would often be seen with my translator and at any hour of the day. In shorter rounds to villages, two friends who lived in Kantale and Kinniya, respectively, and ran their own community-based organisations sometimes 9  Here, I draw on Nagar and Geiger’s (2007, p. 2) definition of reflexivity as a “radical consciousness of self”, of how the production of knowledge and everyday interaction is shaped by perpetually shifting contextual and relations contours of the researcher’s own identity and the manifold ways in which it is reinterpreted. Positionality then can broadly be taken as a form of “social situatedness” with respect to everyone else, patterned across myriad axis of difference, both structural (e.g. gender, class, ethnicity, etc.) and the more biographical. Indeed, it must be pointed out that the “knowability” or transparency of context, agency and power is often a fraught process (p. 5), for as Lynch (2000, p. 47) argues, reflexivity itself does not guarantee “sight or revelation”. 10  Transliteration often proved to be problematic. Often anecdotes and transcripts were translated from Tamil into Sinhala and finally into English.

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joined me. Both were male members of local mosque communities, and by blending our diverse social networks, we were able to explore a wealth of divergent narratives across the district’s vast expanse. In many ways I was a cultural outsider, and this worked in my favour, at least as long as I was perceived to be a newcomer. As I listened to the manifold narratives not only on loss and immense suffering, of hostility and regret, but also of hope and fortitude, they often brought to mind Michael Taussig’s (2003: 12) oft-cited words relating to the art of learning silence, of “knowing what not to know…not only as an art of survival but the basis of social reality”. Often, what remained unarticulated was the most telling. Retrospectively, a few years after Gaasbeek’s (2010) doctoral research in Kottiyar Pattu, some of my own experiences seemed to match his almost identically. Violence and loss were inscribed in spuriously factual terms: the dates of flight and return, a military raid or an ad hoc arrest, for example. Family members and friends who were victims of political disappearances were often described as having “gotten lost” (nathiuna: Sinhala), as opposed to having “gone missing” (athurudhanguna Sinhala).11 Similarly, in recounting events of the past, I was almost always referred to others in the same village who seemed to have been imbued with a more legitimate memory of recall. These were often elderly people, mostly men of distinguished rank: a former fisheries co-operative president, a local justice of the peace and a long-serving local headmaster or schoolteacher. Privately, I often referred to such referrals as communal memory palaces. While their narratives proved to be of immense use, I had to start explaining why I wanted particular participants to narrate their side of the story. Yet often it was more meaningful to draw upon a shared sense of pride, so histories of particular village spaces or social groups served as good framing devices. Similarly, for me to ask about perspectives of change and transformation proved to be useful ways of approaching more sensitive topics indirectly. Eliciting oral history narratives helped me to access information too. I do not claim that this conveniently erased the power-laden unidirectional quality of a conversation in shaping its contours, or the problematic process of transcription, and the privileging of certain narratives over others in this monograph. However, the open-ended nature of the discussions to an extent opened up moments to talk about them, rather akin to paying homage to events (and their related emotions) that are largely left unspoken. At the same time, I was acutely aware of the fact that, like most critical social science research of this kind, this work may in the end translate into little practicable change in the lives of the women, men and children featured here, particularly given the amount of time people dedicated to spending with us (see Nadjmabadi 2004, p. 611), a predicament that I shared openly with my informants. The second concern entails the notoriously contentious process of “representation”.12 It was hard critically to think through and engage with the moral  This is strikingly similar to Gaasbeek’s (2010: 140) account of families of tsunami victims who described their significant others as having been “washed away”. 12  In particular, this entails the primacy of the authorial voice, alongside other text-based sources of power, which in turn embody deep-seated ontological assumptions and ethico-political charges, 11

28

1 Introduction

weight bestowed by countless participants who wanted their “story told to the world”. As Dhana Hughes (2013, p. 22) contends, reporting on a similar predicament among victims of the JVP Bheeshanaya, social expectations of relating diverse people’s micro “counter-truth” against the grain of the official narrative left her with “confusing questions of whose truth, what kind of truth?” and the conclusions that there were multiple truths, each carrying their own “value, credibility and meaning for the teller”. Nevertheless, in the context of this study, my perceived “Sinhalese-ness” and the legitimacy of re-narrating their stories conveyed an additional layer of complexity, often in jarring ways given the political climate that firmly dictated who could produce legitimate critique and knowledge in counterinsurgent spaces. Similarly, I was aware of the fact that I could negotiate access to securitised sites more easily or at least with less suspicion than others by virtue of my imagined ethnonational identity. Not that my presence was not scrutinised. At times, naval guards would make frequent trips to vadi sites at which I had noticeably lingered (uncharacteristically during the sweltering mid-afternoon heat), under the pretext of buying a few measures of salted fish, for example. The closest idiom I could find to explain this is “Sinhala privilege”. At the time of writing up almost a year later, in August 2014, critical discourses, particularly among African-American scholars and journalists, were in full swing in the wake of Michael Brown Jr.’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. The point that I am making is rather simple. A fundamental power asymmetry invariably contributed to my gleaning bits of information across a range of contexts, a diversity I would not have had the opportunity to witness or access had I not been a “Sinhalese” in the eyes of state authorities, particularly the military. Questions were certainly asked of me, often in a deliberately casual manner, to which I likewise proffered casual answers. Intriguingly, this trope re-emerged several months after I returned from the field, following a rumour that started circulating among local extension departments of my clandestine involvement with the LTTE, presumably through the Tamil diaspora. Bizarrely, my social networks were never the focus of the informal investigation process, and neither was much attention paid to the specifics of my research. The probability of my having appropriated a false Sinhala identity was. Ironically then, it was the hard-boiled proof of a Sinhala identity (through the materialities of institutionalised existence and personhood, inscribed through such things as identification cards and birth certificates) that ultimately “absolved” me—that and the privilege of class that often masks the gendered and ethnicised realities of structural violence in postwar Sri Lanka. Fishing Collectives and Beyond  In order to garner an internally diversified cross section of co-operative norms and practices, I first needed to gain a broader understanding of peoples’ perceptions and experiences of change. A relatively fluid temporal frame was used, drawing upon people’s narratives during the course of directed at anthropology, and not in the least from within the camps of postcolonial scholarship (Mosse 2006, p. 937; Nagar and Geiger 2007, p. 2).

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wartime, in the aftermath of the tsunami. This foundational basis permeated almost every aspect of my fieldwork. Essentially my empirical research was non-directive, and I often seized the opportunity of speaking to anyone I possibly could outside my primary group of interest (i.e. fishing collectives), from school children to home guards and shopkeepers and ice-factory workers to diving instructors. Furthermore, I held the view that a more nuanced picture could be gleaned by situating oneself outside the more obvious interactional settings of the research, that is to say, contexts that have seemingly little or nothing to do with fishing or coastal livelihoods. Therefore the time spent during religious festivals, the opening ceremony of a new kiosk or attending a village celebration of a newborn child for which I was invited became just as salient or more so as the time spent at landing sites, on the beach or at fish markets. Fishermen and women, particularly members of crews who are geographically mobile, are often hard to trace over time, despite the pervasive use of mobile phone technology across the island. On the other hand, the very term “community” proves to be a highly problematic category that carries implicit assumptions of stability and internal homogeneity and the existence of a shared collective reality that obscures everyday relations of power. The tension here lies in treating particular formations, whether they constitute actors within an ethnic group or a fisher organisation, as an internally uniform, singularly bounded and impermeable entity, a pervasive critique that has been launched by symbolic interactionism, rational choice and actor-­ network theorists alike, among other schools (see Brubaker 2003, p. 554). In the same vein, it would seem counterproductive to adopt an individualist social ontology that reveals little about the wider institutional landscapes that shape normative frames which people draw on to act out and reflect upon their everyday lives. This study adopts the analytical category of fisher “collectives” as a primary unit of analysis. Collectives comprise dynamic, though not necessary stable, groups that come together for a common purpose. In some respects, the term would come closer to Elias Canetti’s (1960) notion of “packs”, far removed from a Le Bonion type of “crowd theory”, and it often remains variable to the extent to which collective boundaries remain permeable or closed. Collectives themselves constitute a part of wider actor constellations and assemblages that may comprise “external” actors such as organisations and political entrepreneurs that are mobilised to further a cause. In this context, collectives can be defined by their shared socio-economic and cultural values borne by everyday artisanal practices, yet are not determined entirely by their socio-livelihood practices alone. In meandering between individual and collective perceptions and actions, two categories of fishing collectives served as the primary frame for differentiation: first, fisher groups that were resident in Trincomalee throughout the year and were engaged via formal fishing co-operatives, and second, migrant fisher collectives that seasonally arrive in Trincomalee during the southwest monsoons and remain for 6 months or more. These migrants were further differentiated across two axes: the spatial and temporal. The first entailed those who were cross-coastal migrants from districts such as Chilaw, Puttalam, Negombo and Matara and usually came in small

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1 Introduction

Fig. 1.3  Beach-seiner in front of a traditional vallam vessel, Town and Gravets. (Source: Author)

family groups, kin- and village-based teams, and fished in their own vessels and were often bound to contracts of mudalali (middlemen) and local tradesmen. Many of them were gill netters and longline fishers. The second group constituted fishworkers or crewmembers that seasonally migrated from Batticaloa and to a lesser extent from Amparai and across the coastline from Puttalam and Chilaw. They were usually a mix of Hindu-Tamil, Christian-Tamil and Sinhala Christian/Buddhist workers, at times with a smattering of members from coastal Verdar groups that usually formed male-only teams (karaivalai kuli) and worked for financier (mudalalis) and licensees of padu sites in beach-seine operations (Tamil/Sinhala: karaivalai/ma-dal), along the northeastern coastline between Nilaveli and Pulmoddai (Fig. 1.3). The second (temporal) layer of differentiation focused on whether groups shared collective histories of seasonal migration (and settlerhood) before the war years (i.e. pre-1970s). These groups were compared against relatively newer fishing networks that started migrating after 2009 and sometimes long before many of the fishing bans and restrictions in the north and northeast were lifted (Table 1.1). Among resident fishing villages, fisher co-operative societies served as my analytical entry point into village communal life. Small-scale fisher co-operatives have always been central to local dispute settlement and act as channels through which state resources are directed. Moreover as institutions, they play a central role in enabling the mobilisation of resources and actors and are thus seen to be a dominant form of social organisation in fishing villages (Amarasinghe 2009, p. 18). Yet, they are relatively powerless as concerns formal fisheries regulation and rule setting, a role that is usually assumed by the state fisheries authorities and more recently local

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Table 1.1  A cross-sectional map of fisher participants Ethno-religious and regional affiliation Local villages Christian and Hindu-Tamils

Fishing types/production practices

Longlining, gill netting, beach-seining, prawning and crabbing Christian and Buddhist Sinhalese Longlining, gill netting, diving (ornamental fish), crabbing, (largely settler villages) beach-seining and purse seining East coast Muslims Longlining, gill netting, diving (for ornamental fish, conch and sea cucumber), clam and shell gleaning, beach-seining, purse seining, fish farming and aquaculture Migrant camps (VADI) Longlining, gill netting Halawatta (Chilaw) bilingual Catholic migrants (Sihalese-­ Tamil mix) Udappu (Puttalam) Tamil-Hindu Predominantly beach-seining (karaivalai)—padu licensing and Catholic migrants Beach-seine crewmembers (karaivalai kuli) Hindu and Catholic/Protestant Tamils (Batticaloa) Catholic-Sinhalese (Negombo, Venapuwa) Tamil-Hindu and Catholic (Udappu) Multiday boat crewmembers (Cod Bay Harbour) Predominantly Sinhala-­ Buddhist, some Catholic and Christian Sinhalese

naval units. Within the context of this study, however, they were instrumental in revealing group norms, setting customary rules and sanctions and in mediating particular facets of everyday co-operation, even if these arrangements did not directly involve a FCS as an acting entity. During that year of fieldwork, I participated in local life to the extent possible, attending FCS meetings, magistrate court hearings, public consultations and street protests, paying my respects at village funerals and attending kovil festivals, Sunday masses and local feasts to which I was invited. Much camerawork went into these village-based occasions, and I became known as something of a local photographer and was often called upon to document events, a role I readily accepted. Meanwhile, a host of diverse participants were included in this study. Apart from fish traders and middlemen, these included religious figures such as imams, kovil pusaris and members of the Catholic clergy, together with school teachers, local journalists, NGO staff, tourist boat operators, professional divers and to the extent possible fisheries inspectors and local officials such as district secretaries and provincial and urban counsellors, together with a small number of police, army and naval personnel. Requirements for obtaining official research permits were an ambiguous grey area, and I did not want to make myself too visible lest I be called upon to seek official clearance from the Ministry of Defence, which may have

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stalled my research. Therefore, the officials I interviewed were often introduced informally, through contacts established in the field. Limitations of the Study  This study offers but a snapshot of everyday coastal intervillage life over a time span of at least 2 years. Indeed, the historic forces shaping the longue durée of intervillage co-operative practices and other forms of group dependencies are not comprehensively analysed or thoroughly explored in this monograph. Moreover, the study attends less to questions of “why” such interdependencies prevail and come to be meaningfully shaped in their present forms and more to an investigation of “how” these practices unfold and what they constitute. Thus the study focuses more deeply on the substance and the relational ties that are implicated in these interdependencies. Second, I have intentionally steered clear of using the term case studies to describe the situational contexts that are invoked in this volume. In essence, a thorough case study approach that adheres to the rigours of process requires close associative characteristics for comparability, and the selection of such “cases” often proved problematic. Given some of the unique village histories, varying patterns of multiple displacement and resettlement, livelihood transformations and physiognomies of military surveillance and land acquisition, for example, it proved difficult to account for the tremendous intervillage diversities that existed. These nuances could only be gleaned through a meticulous plotting of coastal fishing villages that lie dotted across the shoreline of the northeast. A preliminary mapping found that no two local or settler villages were alike. This book therefore offers insights with regard to the generalisability of the findings, yet given the extensiveness of the study (in spatial terms) attends less to questions of depth, particularly with regard to singular village dynamics. Moreover, one of the least visible themes that emerge in this monograph constitutes structural differences borne by gendered relations and their diverse discursive spheres. First, as there was little focus on intra- and inter-household dynamics, the interactional spheres discussed in this study were largely restricted to associations within and between migrant camps, village sites, the politics of FCSs and informal social movements against the backdrop of popular protest. This is not to state that the presence and agency of women have been unwittingly muted.13 Diverse narratives and experiences of women and young people have been woven in; however the analysis itself is not intentionally gendered, a trope that promises exciting avenues for further research. Lastly, there is little analytical engagement with crosscurrents between village-­ level plebeian cultures, regional and international civil society networks and INGO  As the social demographics of my survey show (Graph 9, Statistical Survey), the number of women interviewed shows an immense skewing with regard to men and older youth (above 18 years of age). While the households within villages were randomly sampled, we intentionally tried to interview as many women householders as possible. Often couples participated jointly in answering the questionnaire, and by default the “male” category was selected. This therefore reveals little about the quality of female participation in the survey. However the skewed nature of this demographic could not be redressed in time.

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References

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influences in shaping everyday communal interactions and the discourses around them. I do not argue that particular co-operative practices exist in isolated vacuums, or came to be organically shaped, entirely independent from translocal discourses on sustainability, local resilience, notions of “empowerment” or the broader vagaries of development-speak. Indeed, terms in English such as “marginalisation” and “mobilisation” (the latter formerly associated within military contexts), that were once exclusively in the lexical domain of INGOs and the disaster aid apparatus, seem to have permeated everyday vocabulary in localised contexts, as evidenced in the following chapters.

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Weeratunge N (2009) Living in the wind: gendered perceptions of poverty and well-being in fishing communities in Sri Lanka. Paper presented at the MARE conference on ‘living with uncertainty and adapting to change,’ Amsterdam, July 2009 Whitaker MP (1990) A compound of many histories: the many pasts of an east coast Tamil community. In: Spencer J (ed) Sri Lanka: history and the roots of conflict. Routledge, Oxford Whyte WF (1975) Conflict and co-operation in Andean communities. Am Ethnol 2(2):373–392 Wickramasinghe N (2014) Sri Lanka in the modern age: a history. C. Hurst & Co, London Yalman N (1967) Under the Bo tree: studies in case, kinship and marriage in the interior of Ceylon. University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles Zigon J  (2009) Within a range of possibilities: morality and ethics in social life. Ethnos 74(2):251–276

Chapter 2

Sri Lanka’s Littoral Northeast

Abstract  This chapter explores the socio-spatial backdrop of this multisited ethnographic study, presenting Sri Lanka’s littoral northeast as a fluid borderland characterised by manifold historic flows and mobilities. Drawing on biographical narratives, the District of Trincomalee, in particular, is portrayed as a space that is intensely distinct in terms of the Sri Lanka’s intersecting lines of sociocultural and political differentiation crosscutting ethno-linguistic and faith-based belonging and geographic and livelihood-based affiliations, together with occupational caste structures. The chapter also presents a canvas of experiential narratives on what it meant to live through wartime and after the tsunami, further elucidating the fact that the encounters of diverse fisher collectives themselves remain intensely differentiated. These experiences and their broader socio-political lives were patterned not via locality and ethno-religious identity making but also through intergenerational and biographical relationships to the coastline and the sea. Keywords  Coastal frontiers · Boundaries and borders · Historic migration · Identity intersections · Pluralism

Tamils and Muslims once lived here; we fished in the same waters…The regime seems to say is that the war is over, and that it should never be allowed to happen again. But they never ask themselves why we lived through this turmoil in the first place. All that is now left is a victory not a history, and its ashes still float in the sea. (Abdul Alim, middle-aged beach-­ seine owner, Pulmoddai)

Among disparate fishing collectivities along Sri Lanka’s eastern seaboard, Trincomalee as a sociocultural space is often symbolically described as a microcosm of coastal life in rural Sri Lanka. It is an intensely diverse ecosystem, replete with a lagoon-laced and patchy coral-reefed coastline comprising one of the world’s largest natural deep-sea harbours, and an estuarine delta flanked by interior scrubland jungle, cliffy outposts, seagrass beds, dunes and mangrove wetlands. Metaphorically it has been framed by diverse fisherfolk as a resource frontier, as an archetypal space host to almost every form of cultural fishing practice that can be found on the island. Trincomalee itself has been perceived as a space of liminality, © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1_2

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as a host site to diverse groups of migrants and seafarers over a span of at least a millennia and, finally, as a borderscape during times of war. Nevertheless, one of the intriguing questions that remain is the extent to which Trincomalee’s social complexity has been overshadowed through its spatial identification in seemingly ethnic terms. Village hamlets almost always retain a distinctly ethnicised identity, and these representations are often seen to appear starkly in local narratives. Spaces in areas such as Kokkilai are described as having earlier been either “Tamil” or “Muslim”, and during moments of self-representation, village leaders often allude to distinct ethno-religious categories. Indeed, it may seem that the first frame of reference is repeatedly an ethnicised one, despite trajectories of complex social movements and communal mixing, dating back to Lanka’s contested feudal precolonial times. Since the first millennium (AD), the town of Trincomalee, known as Gokarna/ Gokaana, was a bustling trading port connected to other centres in the Bay of Bengal, Madurai, and later with China, the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago, the Arabian and Persian Gulfs and Europe. Muslim populations moved to the east (via the Kandyan Kingdom) in the sixteenth century following persecution under Portuguese imperialism [1505 and 1658] (McGilvray 2008: 9), and Roman Catholic Paravar caste groups settled along the eastern seaboard, during persecution when western and northern Sri Lanka was under Dutch rule [1640–1796] (Gaasbeek 2010: 15). As a historically plural place comprising coastal indigenous Verdars, Malabars, “Moors”, Chetties, Sinhalese and Kaffirs, among others (ibid., p.  76), Batticaloa and Trincomalee were a part of that vast swath of dry zone forest known as the Vanni, once a borderland demarcating kingdoms of the Tamil-speaking Jaffna Peninsula, some Sinhalese (e.g. Kotte, Sitawaka), and others more hybrid (e.g. Kandy), ruled by shifting local chiefdoms (vanniyars), and as McGilvray (2008, p.  9) argues, “some of them more Sinhala and some more Tamil in cultural inflection, that pledged only tenuous and opportunistic fealty to the kings of Kandy and Jaffna”. As a way forward, it can be argued that the lived ethno-religious identities of particular spaces (however enclaved they may seem) do not preclude imaginaries of pluralism. Put differently, older generations are more likely to balk at the pretense of purity, which brings us to another salient point: that articulated, overarching identities themselves should not be used as reference points to foreclose profounder vernacular sensitivities of mixedness. The second issue concerns the question of “scripted” speech acts. By this I mean the fact that by having an outsider-­ anthropologist around (an all too familiar figure in the lives of overstudied “subjects” in conflict-ridden spaces), dominant political identities of ethnicity and religion can all too easily be treated as a conceptual vantage point. Put simply, people relate what they think you to expect to hear. This is in no way to dismiss the extent to which politicised identities have profoundly structured the lives and imaginaries of the women and men in this monograph. However, while the salience of “groupist” identities remains apparent, shape-shifting self-referential tropes (such as kinship, shared sub-livelihood existence, regional belonging, etc.) that undergird a particular situational milieu (such as the confines of a migrant camp or a teeming marketplace) remain equally salient. Thus, in drawing on Rita Astuti’s (1995, p. 32)

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work on the Vezo in coastal Madagascar, “identity” could also then be seen as activity, experienced contextually, rather than a “state of existence”. This brings to light a third and all-too familiar conundrum, the question of how to write on diverse village clusters, bearing in mind the structural violence of representation—or the prerogative to speak for the other (see Spivak 1988; Said 1989; Alcoff 1999). This book offers no easy way around this question. However, what it does do is engage with the dominant identity labels that are used and alluded to during the process of narrativisation and those that were explicitly drawn upon during the events that are explored. In some instances, it proffers container-like categories pertaining to ethnic, religious, and caste-based identities. In others, it presents more implicit identity frames, according to modes of dwelling or production as expressed by the teller. Indeed, at its simplest, collective memories and lived realities of a particular “Tamil-Karaiyar” or a “Muslim” village remain far more complex than the sum of their purported macro-identity framings. After all, it is individuals and not subjects who interact and render meaning and therefore also who embody intimate social histories and complex biographies.

2.1  Social Diversity in Coastal Trincomalee In the context of historically acknowledged cultural flows and cross-coastal circulations, what frames of self and collective identifications exist among diverse fishing collectives? For the most part, at least within rural Trincomalee, references were made to bilingualism, particularly among those who moved between eastern and western coastlines, meaning beach-seine crewmembers, gill-net fishers, and diving groups, among others. Moreover, among local collectives, interethnic and cross-­ local forms of intermarriage (though not necessarily interreligious) were hardly invoked as transgressive unions, but were vocalised with some degree of pride, or at the very least with managed neutrality. Elderly migrant fishermen and women often noted how pervasive bigamous and extramarital alliances were during the time of their great-grandparents, when places were not as densely linked through road networks suited for frequent travel, and it may not have been uncommon for a man to have a family—or progeny—on either coast (Fig. 2.1). Talk of intermarriage and ethno-linguistic plurality did not merely embody notions of (sociocultural and political) boundary crossing; they also held more nuanced meanings that were associated with one’s ability to form more durable relationships across spatio-temporal scales. Arguably, much of the value inherent in such networks was rooted in its perceived sense of extensiveness or elasticity (as opposed to the frequency of contact), irrespective of whether these relationships cut across administrative district boundaries or were able to weather the long years of war. While longevity was taken as proof of the solidness and positive qualities of such affiliations, such networks and ties also spoke of necessity. Respondents often invoked non-kin-based associations, both in the past and at present, in the context of material exchanges that were mediated by trust. Often a

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Fig. 2.1  Lagoonways in northern Trincomalee. (Source: author)

host of contexts in everyday economic life were implicated. For example, when older boats and capital changed hands or technological know-how was shared, territorial user rights were customarily granted for limited periods of time to clusters of migrants (usually from the same district). These arrangements were often mediated through the involvement of FCSs. As the lines crisscrossing insider-outsider boundaries (beyond ethnicity) will be a prominent trope that weaves through the narrative of this book, it is necessary to revisit broader questions around sociocultural pluralism and hybridity, particularly the ways in which forms of separation and differentiation come to be negotiated, often across manifold spheres—within migrant vadi sites, at the marketplace, during a Church feast or during a temple ritual, for example. In one sense, plurality implies intra-group homogeneity in the face of inter-group difference. The term veers closer towards notions of coexistence and shared space, for in order to refashion ideas of “mixedness”, social boundaries, whether they concern the macro-­ structural/political (e.g. class, ethnicity, religion, caste or indigeneity), are required to remain perceivably visible and legitimate, ostensibly differentiated, pure, authentic and seemingly stable. Hybridity on the other implies meanings of bricolage, mélange and a sense of overlapping historic identities, in which differentiating boundary markers remain less discernable and more fluid. The very notion of cultural hybridity seems paradoxical, given the fact that all ethno-cultural forms are hybrids insofar that they have undergone long historic trajectories of sociocultural and political reinvention and transformation. In Raju’s case, figments of lived experience and a shared set of (at times) contradictory historic narratives may serve to mutually reinforce one, while muting other aspects, resulting in a composite identity with interlocking

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threads that are as inseparable as his multistranded family biography. As Neluka Silva (2002: i–ii) writes (drawing on the work of Homi Bhabha), while inhabiting spaces of the “in-between”, in the Sri Lankan context (as of many others), hybridity continues to unveil the “ambivalence of the nation”, for historic processes of intermingling invariably unsettle both colonial projects of racial purity and ethno-­ nationalist reinventions of exclusory heritage. Yet, rather than valorising hybridity, she argues in favour of reassessing critical moments “when hybridity is empowering and when it is not” (ibid., p. ii). How then can we engage with social complexity in the northeast? Gaasbeek (2010, p.  82) identifies nine axes of communal differentiation in order to draw attention to the fact that identity constructions were more nuanced than the ethnicised bi- (or tri-)polar political narratives that circulated during wartime and in its wake. His overlapping categories entailed: caste, class, employment, religion, gender, age, length of stay (in Kottiyar Pattu), political affiliation and the extent of military control. During a round of focus groups that were convened in order to design a survey questionnaire for this study, participants identified as many as 16 self-defining groupings, some of which entailed more macro-political structural categories such as ethnicity and religion, others more localised classifications such as family name, one’s natal village and current site of habitation, differences in expressing local belonging with village or district as one’s first frame of reference and style of dress, among others. The statistical findings of the quantitative survey (N = 265) revealed that between migrant and local groups (across ethno-religious categories spanning 11 villages within the Trincomalee District), the most relevant and significant difference is within classifications of nationality and birthplace/ancestral village (i.e. natal village). At first glance, the results may look rather comparable, as both micro- and macro-social identities have been bundled together. Interestingly, however, a strong pattern of disassociation appeared among migrant and local groups. Locals give more emphasis to nationality than birthplace, while migrants focused more on birthplace than nationality, followed closely by greater importance attributed to kin identification through the privileging of family name. In other words, migrant participants often opted to choose more localised identities. This finding illustrates in part the linkages between family names and historic reputational (personal) histories, particularly in migrant “host” sites, as I will discuss in Chap. 5. Moreover, religious identifications were implicated as a close fourth or fifth identifier in answers, but these emerged only rarely as a primary defining identity. Only 18 among 205 local fishers alluded to religion as a primary category of self-­ identification, and even more intriguingly none of the migrants—even among the Roman Catholics—whose social capital in host sites is intricately connected with cross-regional church networks, selected religious belonging (or religiosity) as a principal feature. Two more intriguing facets of the data have a particularly strong bearing on the analysis in the following empirical chapters. First, political affiliation was seen to be among the least salient identifiers. Second, livelihood-based identification gained relative importance in the second and third tiers. However, migrant groups, given

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the context in which seasonal mobility and cross-coastal fishing is immensely politicised, were less prone than local respondents to indicate livelihood as a defining category. While there is more to be said on these findings than fits the scope of this study, overall the responses highlight how multiple layered identities themselves are negotiated. I would not go so far as to state that ethnicity is relatively unimportant as a first category of self-definition; after all, given its politicisation, one should question the extent to which respondents wished either to downplay or to draw attention to ethnicity as an overarching category. The same could be argued for caste; at first glance it seems that members of fisher collectives downplay the salience of caste as a prejudicial force compared to wealth and class-based differentiation. Again using ranking cards, another question asked the same respondents about what they thought were the most salient categories of social differentiation since the war’s end in 2009. Respondents primarily selected income-/wealth-based disparities and political party differences (28.6% and 27%, respectively), and responses were tightly coupled, meaning that respondents who chose one were likely to pick the other as well. Religious differentiation surpassed that of ethnicity (12% versus 8%), while regional and caste-based distinctions came in as a close fourth and fifth. Taken together, the northeast—particularly the District of Trincomalee—offers an interesting counterpoint to Sri Lanka’s grand ethno-nationalistic conflict narrative. Many of the older fisherfolk I encountered, who had been born in or before the 1950s and had grown up in places such as Kinniya, Verugal and Kuchchaveli, often concurred that before the 1960s localised forms of inter-communal tension, perceivably spurred by prefigured ethnic group sensibilities, were virtually non-existent. What they did draw attention to were interlocal scuffles over livelihood practices, such as customary sea tenurial rules, that were compounded by casteism. It is worth noting that much has been written about the formation of ethnicised enclaves, which can be traced back to processes of colonial and postcolonial nation building, and that these situations are typically further polarised by violence and displacement (see Rajasingham-Senanayake 1999; Skinner 2005). However, the dynamics that result from an interlocking of caste-based enclaves with the ethno-religious is just as salient when one considers how broader coalitions, for example, are mobilised for dissent and collective lobbying (see Chap. 6). Indeed, these very ethno-national categories as self-defining identity markers did not contain the same rigidity or legitimated animus prior to the 1950s at least, if relatively more hybrid groups—for example, the much-studied Mukkuvar matriclans or kudis of the east coast—are invoked (McGilvray 2008). Second, while ethnic frames are used to refer to social groups, their boundary lines were more cogently drawn along regional interfaces. Interestingly, his migrants are inevitably Sinhalese (presumably Buddhist) fishers from the deep south, and there is little mention of the coast-to-coast bilingual Tamil-Sinhala Catholic groups from areas such as Negombo, Chilaw and Puttalam. Indubitably, the extent to which the bilingual fishers (with Catholic Church networks) seasonally migrated to Nilaveli prior to the 1940s and locally settled as a visible self-contained subcommunity warrants scrutiny. Moreover, I would be cautious about surmising that these

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migrant groups were routinely less differentiated or othered by virtue of their bilingualism, given their detectably regional Tamil-Sinhala accents. However, the lingua-regional differences that remain more apparent in Raju’s retelling somewhat harmonise with many “old Ceylon” narratives of coastal fishing, seafaring and cross-border smuggling among older residents of Tamil-Karaiyar settler villages, such as those clustered on the outskirts of Trincomalee town, like Thirukadaloor. In many such family narratives, regions of origin remained important, for many older residents in Thirukadaloor were not only aware of where their forefathers originated but were often quick to remark on the settler histories of other Tamil-Karaiyar families. Some harkened back to the Jaffna Peninsula and particular spaces in Point Pedro that not only included Valvettithurai, while others traced their origins back to precise village names in Tamil Nadu, which they had heard their parents and grandparents mention over the years. Unsurprisingly, among younger generations, the collective imagination and recollection of regional fluidities diminished over time, particularly due to the internecine war that hardened ethno-national and religious fault lines. However, as subsequent chapters of this book argue, ethno-­ religious boundary lines do not always remain stable, and neither are they legitimated as primary signifiers of difference in collectively organising for dissent, or in maintaining more informal co-operative networks, for example. Intersections: Caste, Ethno-regionalism and Livelihoods  In his thesis, Gaasbeek conclusively argues that up to the first half of the twentieth century, the predominant conflict contours in Kottiyar Pattu in southern Trincomalee were largely restricted to intra-ethnic grievances, for example, Tamil inter-caste hostilities, bouts of violence among Muslims during the establishment of new mosque sites in Muttur and to a greater extent between local residents and errant (largely Sinhalese) male migrant labourers temporarily brought in for railway construction during the expansion of the British naval base and post-World War II irrigation projects such as the Allai Extension Scheme (p.  145). In such accounts, the involvement of recently settled Sinhalese colonists in the re-territorialised spaces of newly irrigated Mahaweli lands was negligible. More significantly, in drawing upon earlier work of Stanley J.  Tambiah and Tarzie Vittachi, he argues that the widespread localised Sinhala-Tamil violence that broke out sporadically between 1956 until 1983 largely blotted out areas like Kottiyar Pattu. In fact the first significant incident marking Tamil-Sinhala tensions towards the late 1970s came in the form of religious contestations over a “sacred” bo tree that was identified to have been growing on the premises of a Hindu kovil in the predominantly Tamil village of Kilivetti (ibid., p. 147). Yet Gaasbeek’s study was largely concentrated among agrarian groups, and in the context of relatively more mobile and plural fishing collectivities, the study often downplayed the pervasiveness of cross-ethno-religious hostilities. Conflicts and grievances, while they sometimes alluded to caste schisms and hierarchies, were often framed in the context of socially admissible livelihood practices, ­customary rights and entitlements that were largely linked to the use of local spaces and other resources.

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Of the 28 village settlements and migrant encampments that I identified during the coastal mapping exercise along the district, from Kokkilai down to Eachchalampattu, there were reportedly three times as many conflicts that were more intra-local in flavour (i.e. intra- or inter-village) as inter-ethnic conflicts. These often included cross-village rivalries among Sinhala settler villages over the use of purse-seine nets or grievances among predominantly coastal Muslim villages in Kinniya over the harvesting of live shellfish, sea cucumbers and dead seashells that were observed to be significantly depleting local fish stocks. In instances where diverse ethnic or religious groups were often locked into overt or cold conflicts, macro-social identities (such as ethnicity or religion) were certainly invoked to frame the nature of their respective struggles. However, as I will proceed to argue, these identity frames served as a thin veneer to contextualise (and legitimate) particular grievances that typically were really about everyday livelihood contestations and access to particular resource bases. For example, predominantly Tamil groups that were resettled in Kuchchaveli after the tsunami may harbour more hostility towards a distinct group of west coast migrants dependent on the same style of gill-net fishing they themselves practiced, as opposed to a similar group of seasonal migrants hailing from the same western shoreline, but practicing beach-seining—a vastly different form of fishing (Fig. 2.2). Similarly, newly resettled villages after 2009, such as Thenamaravadi that border the Mullaitivu District, often found it difficult to lay claim to particular resource bases, such as a lagoon body, which they had not been using for over two decades since their displacement. Thus, the “Muslims on the other side” were not simply reconstituted as an ethno-religious other in the eyes of newly returning Tamil refugees who were reclaiming old village sites and tracts of land they had occupied before the advent of war. These “new” resettlers were often perceived as veritable outsiders, for at least one generation may remain unremembered during the course

Fig. 2.2  A seasonal migrant beach-seine crew working, Kuchchaveli. (Source: author)

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of wartime as entire villages were collectively displaced and spaces of dwelling reassigned. Conflict intersections such as these go beyond predictable ethno-­ nationalistic identity framings, together with reductivist resource-centric interpretations of localised collusions. Contestations and prevailing tensions were therefore often inseparably bound in complex dynamics of social memory, of ethical livelihood practices, of moral economies and of multilayered and contradictory perceptions of belonging to place, time as well as livelihood. In exploring the intricate layering of social memory among older fisherfolk, I turn to Raju, a 78-year-old Tamil Hindu gill-net fisher (now tourist boat operator) in Nilaveli, who narrates the fragmented past of what he remembers in the early1950s: If you look back, practically everyone in Trincomalee was once a migrant. The folk from Pathanumer, Thirukadaloor, and Padika are from India, from places like Nagapattinam. In Jamaliya and other Muslim villages… some come from Nahar Anandapuram. And as far as I can remember, the migrants from the south used to come from Deundara [Dondra] and Gandara. In fact those days very few were from Galle or Matara. The Sinhalese from Matale and Kurunegala are very different from the folk who come from the Deep South. The Sinhalese migrants from the south at that time were among the poorest. They used to fish with baskets, in small oru [outrigger canoes]. They were almost exclusively near-shore fishers. The Tamil folk used to fish, especially for flying fish near the Kamburu, in mid-deep waters with large sails. You hardly see old vessels like that, with billowing sails anymore. Over time the Sinhalese got used to this place because they felt a sense of freedom. There was less competition here and the fish stocks were among the best in the island. They used to earn well, so some of them decided to stay on. That was how my grandparents met. The migrant Sinhalese folk those days used to call settlers from India “kalathoni” -named after the thoni [dhoni] boats they used to bring in, sometimes to smuggle things across. A lot of Tamil folk who migrated from India used to talk about Sri Lanka the way we would talk about Australia now. There was a roaring business those days, when goods used to be ferried across from southern India. In the fifties, folk who lived in Tamil Nadu would sometimes inquire after their seafaring kinsmen…”where is so and so?” they would ask. Later they may hear that uncle Selva had married and finally settled in Lanka. There were a lot of alliances like that, which were later discovered when we ourselves subsequently fled to India as refugees in the eighties. A woman once tearfully hugged me when I was in Tamil Nadu, and it was then that I discovered that she was a relative, an attai [aunt: Tamil]. She and her late husband ran a liquor shop. Long after I had returned to Trincomalee I heard that she had been stabbed to death… perhaps during a tavern brawl.

Regardless to claims of historic accuracy or comprehensiveness, Raju’s narrative embodies several tropes with respect to how meanings of social identification and personhood, biography and collective histories, circular mobilities and networked relations come to be entwined, at times in paradoxical ways. First, it reveals a fluid sense of place-based identity against circularities of spatio-temporal mobility, resulting in a sturdy set of self-perceptions as migrant-settlers. In many ways, this dispels static and atemporal primordial interpretations of both Sinhala and Tamil ethnonationalisms in articulating legitimacies of homeland and origin. On the other hand, Raju’s loose categories of migrant-settlerhood still draw upon classificatory ethnic meta-frames of “Muslims”, “Tamils” and “Sinhalese” that gain some degree of stability and reification in his narration.

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Second, the northeast is framed as a space of prospect and opportunity, yet its value does not derive from the fact that it is just a resource frontier. The sense of “freedom” to which Raju alludes conveys a host of meanings—and not in the least a sense of autonomy from past enmities and more localised anxieties that people choose to leave behind when they decide to settle or even a sense of latitude from more restrictive forms of governance witnessed in the densely populated southwest. Moreover, migrant narratives often made references to one’s “peace of mind” coupled by a sense of “freedom” (nidahas: Sinhala) or leading an unfettered life, and these will be explored further later on. Interestingly, it is Raju’s comparison with Ceylon in the 1950s against the collective re-imagination of contemporary Australia as a land of fortune and as sanctuary from the militarised present that attracted thousands of boat migrants since 2008 (or earlier), predominantly of Tamil descent seeking asylum status. However, the modalities of movement in the past between southern India and eastern Sri Lanka and the choice to settle there are starkly different from the dynamics of asylum boat migration (see Howie 2013). Arguably, long-standing social relationships and marriage networks effectively blurred national boundaries between the here and there, if national borders were ever imaginatively lived among seafaring groups prior to the 1950s. Third, the narrative reveals more about changing forms of translocality among settler-migrant families, and predominantly those who shared histories of mobility between the east coast and southern India, which were in part linked to vibrant smuggling networks of contraband goods that increased as a result of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s (SLFP) import substitution and import control policies from the early 1960s (Biziouras 2014: 103). A quiescent sense of rootedness arguably may have prevailed when more sedentary forms of engaging with the sea were established and older links from the past consequently became weakened. It was during moments of political conflict and forced displacement to spaces in Tamil Nadu that previous alliances were re-established, like in the case of Raju’s attai. Unlike Raju, however, a significant number of Tamil refugees from the east coast, northwest, and the Jaffna Peninsula who left in the mid-1980s and 1990s continued to remain or settle in India. More tellingly, Raju’s flight to southern India was hardly perceived as a journey of return. Home, as an ideational realm, remained firmly bounded to a sense of place and belonged to the northeast. Similarly, the predominantly southern Sinhalese migrants from the deep south are inscribed with qualities of as much outsiderliness, if not more, through the perspective of Tamil-speaking seafarers from southern India. In the case of southern migrants, their choice of place was often associated with possibilities of socio-economic opportunity, and the (historic) embeddedness of Tamil-speaking settlers is symbolised through their sturdier thoni vessels that are capable of going much further out to sea. Finally, what these histories convey is an imaginary of the northeast itself, not simply as a polyvalent space of overlapping and often contested histories, nor ­simply as a borderland. They invoke a geo-cultural crossroads, one that is very

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much imprinted into the collective memories of older generations at least, a crossroad in which the south and the west traverse the northeast and the Jaffna Peninsula, and where the northeast marries southern and eastern India. Indeed, in recent years, a fascinating corpus of historic and anthropological scholarship has explored the complex textures of flows, circulations and translocal identities and more so in the context of ancient and colonial maritime trade and sojourn. This scholarship serves as fertile ground to advance conceptual projects relating to the decolonisation of history/historiography (see D’Arcy 2006, 2013; Malekandathil 2010, 2013). Moreover, in seeking to understand intricate regional webs of cultural and knowledge circulations across history, the materialities of fishing capital, technology and enskillment have had much to add. This can be glimpsed in the historic tracing of technological transfers (e.g. ma-dal/karaivalai), including forms of artisanal crafts/ vessels (oru, theppam, vallam and catamarans) within fishing communities between Ceylon and the Indian coastlines of Goa, Malabar, Coromandel and elsewhere (see Roberts 1982: 22–23; Sivasubramaniam 2009: 149 & 425). What is particularly important, at least in the context of this study, is to bear in mind that the coastlines of Ceylon were immensely more plural and culturally hybrid than its agrarian interior. As I will discuss in Chap. 5 (on the dynamics of seasonal mobility and settlerhood), the seeming “fixity” of coastlines, particularly in the Sinhalese south, as atemporal, bounded spaces warrants further contestation. Finally, despite its overwhelming identity as an island state, what remains are patchworked accounts of maritime trade and shoreline livelihoods, for example, from historic accounts of the highly lucrative precolonial pearl banks and chank fisheries spanning southern India and Mannar in the northwest, to the early exploration of finfish and shellfish resources when Ceylon was a British crown colony (Sivasubramaniam 2009: 52–53). Even when woven together, historic accounts of aspects such as seasonal migration often remain partial, given the overwhelming colonial bias on rural pastoralism, the lionisation of Rajarata and the seemingly golden past of ancient Sinhalese hydraulic civilisations that spanned approximately 337 BC–1310 CE. Certainly accounts by historians like R.L. Brohier (1965, 1975) were typical of their time, and the reimagined renaissance of the Dry Zone served as what Mohan (2012: 4) calls a “powerful counter-discourse to the Manichean politics of the colonial metropolis…an autochthony against the colonial present”, a call that was later legitimated through extensive state-funded irrigation and land colonisation schemes, most notably the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Program. Indeed, the symbolic triad of the vava (irrigation tank), chaitiya (temple pagoda) and kumbura (rice paddy field), a trenchantly static and orientalist image of “village republics“ that not only formed the basis of modern Sinhala-Buddhist identity but also as the very microcosm of the utopian albeit singularly rural imaginary of the postcolonial nation-state (pp. 132–134). The inclination was therefore to look inwards, towards the land, to privilege agrarian life and settlerhood, thereby erasing or flattening a plethora of crisscrossing histories of mobility, coasting, maritime trade and other forms of sojourning.

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2.2  Wartime Transitions and the (Mis)fortunes of a Tsunami Trincomalee remained one of the most contested parts of the Eastern Province during the 30-year armed conflict, partly because of its ethnic composition and strategic importance given that it held one of the state’s largest military complexes on the island. When mapping microhistories against sweeping officialised narratives of events such as a ceasefire during armed conflict or a natural disaster, the structure and direction of the retelling often differ depending on its narrator. Muslim, Tamil and mixed villages in Trincomalee all concurred that the “war came to our doorsteps” only in 1985, when it was first felt in full force during the outbreak of armed violence between governmental military forces and the LTTE, interspersed by attacks on civilian spaces after the explosion of two landmines that killed 11 Sinhalese soldiers. On the other hand, bilingual Sinhala-Tamil migrants from the Catholic west would argue that their war began with the “death of the thirteen”, referring to the LTTE ambush of July 23, 1983, near their campsites in Nayaru, that killed 13 soldiers, an event that is occasionally invoked to mark the beginning of the armed conflict and that set in motion the trail of deadly anti-Tamil pogroms known as Black July that rapidly spread throughout the island. Yet for others, particularly among Tamil-speaking groups in Trincomalee town and in the peripheral hinterland, the breakaway of the Batticaloa-based “Karuna faction” (latterly the TMVP) from the Jaffna-dominated LTTE hierarchy signified a new stratum of civilian terror, in which rates of extortion, rent-seeking and abduction were perceived to have been at their highest. Tamil-speaking collectives often described those years as times of despondent lawlessness. Yet the years I visited, between 2011 and 2013, also harkened significant changes throughout the District of Trincomalee. While its key INGOs were packing up, military presence in the region had not only intensified since war’s end in May 2009 but permeated the fabric of everyday life in profound ways. Lengths of barbwire effectively demarcated considerable military landholdings for both recreational and agricultural use, and naval and army checkpoints dotted the entrances of larger predominantly Tamil-speaking villages and hamlets. Meanwhile, considerable swathes of the coastline were being claimed and resold for the construction of tourist infrastructure, often implicating well-known political figures, members of their patronage networks or absentee owners of the Tamil and Sinhalese diaspora who often resided in the far climes of Europe, Australia and Northern America. Indeed, Sri Lanka’s east coast was where fortress tourism, at times, melded with its national military-industrial complex (see Chap. 1). Meanwhile much has been written on the intersection of wartime and tsunami dynamics particularly with respect to fisher livelihoods and other dimensions of lived life (see Lawrence 2010; Lehman 2013). When considering broader questions of livelihood trajectories, it would be historically problematic to question whether wartime or (post-)tsunami transformations had a more adverse impact on small-­ scale coastal fisheries in Trincomalee. Much of its complexity arose due to the high

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volatility of shifting power dynamics during wartime between state, LTTE-­ controlled areas as “grey zones” and the highly charged and politicised forms of disaster aid response and development assistance that followed in the wake of the tsunami (see Gamburd 2010; Kuhn 2010). Furthermore, sweeping statements that wartime uniformly depressed fisher livelihoods (at least in terms of earnings) remains too simplified a reading. Thus, the question as to whether war or the tsunami resulted in more enduring material implications among littoral households in the northeast over a span of two decades will ultimately depend on who is being asked the question, given the tremendous degree of internal diversity among fishing collectives (see Chap. 3). Indeed, either/or questions prove futile given how abstract their degree of comparability may seem; and yet they do provide a glimpse into how events come to be positioned in social memory. For example, Andavan, a former Hindu-Tamil stake net fisher residing in a hamlet along the highly securitised Inner Harbour stretch, would contend that the tsunami left a more lasting impact upon his village through what he perceived to be an enduring reversal of fortunes: A: The tsunami affected us more than war…in fact the folk in Jaffna suffered more from the conflict. From 1995 the Inner Harbour was restricted and pass systems came into place after a gunboat was blown up. But I could still hang my nets here (in the Inner Harbour)…I used to earn as much as 35,000 LKR a day. You see, this gold chain around my wife’s neck was bought with just a day’s catch of squid…But money like this comes and goes. I got into debt because there was no livelihood after the tsunami, I used to take more debts to pay off old debts. That’s how a lot of people exist here. By first, pawning their women’s jewelry. R: Who would you say are relatively wealthy in this village? A: The moneyed people here are usually those with relatives abroad. Certainly not those who settled in India, but in places like Canada, Norway and Switzerland.

While this interview excerpt reveals why it would seem misleading to correlate catch size or landings with household income (when taking into account foreign remittances from Gulf labour migration for example), it illustrates the long-lasting effects that institutional responses during a post-disaster phase had on everyday livelihoods. Arguably, it was not the tsunami—a “natural” calamity—but the very politicised processes of international development assistance and state resource redistribution that came in its wake that changed people’s fortunes (Hyndman 2009; Lawrence 2010). Yet many contended that it was the beach-seine owners and licencees—at least those who continued to fish and did not have their padu sites confiscated or disbanded—who stood to earn considerably over the course of wartime. Their relative prosperity was partially attributed to the decreased density of craft-based fishing. On the other hand, seafaring fishers (e.g. gill netters and longliners), those who received little or no post-tsunami assistance, or had lost beach-front housing and vadi land as a result of the 200-meter buffer zone policy, predictably spoke of the tsunami in highly charged ways and downplayed the role of wartime vulnerabilities.

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2.3  Militarised Shorelines: Edges and Peripheries While narratives of change and stagnancy since 2009 will be subsequently discussed, alongside their contested meanings in the wake of postwar “liberalisation”, significant transformations (and gains for some) that played out over three decades of wartime must not be discounted. As illustrated in Chap. 4, some of these wartime dynamics left a deep imprint on forms and legitimacies of resource exploitation that continued to be witnessed well after 2009. In the context of rural fisher livelihoods, the long trajectory of protracted armed conflict has often been perceived as a time of deprivation and insecurity. Indeed, wartime restrictions such as traveling distance, the number of hours allowed for fishing, combined with restrictive controls over technology that was used (mobile telephony, GPS trackers, etc.), especially in state controlled areas, effectually translated into depressed earnings. However, as the narratives suggest, these controls, as a result of militarisation, also posed veritable checks and balances concerning the catch per unit effort of individuals, indirectly amounting to a levelling off of landings and earnings deemed as being sufficient over the long years of wartime, provided households were able to, and continued to, fish. However, wartime resulted in a great deal of livelihood experimentation and diversification and not in the least due to a predictable host of push factors but also because of the opportunities that presented themselves. After wartime, these livelihood mixes or trajectories prevailed, and if diversification was simply a matter of compelled survival, these practices may not have continued well into the present. Pulmoddai, in northern Trincomalee, was seen as a grey zone, a patchworked space that fell between LTTE and state control. It is also home to a significant number of the district’s Muslim hamlets. Before wartime, local communities in Pulmoddai were largely considered to be agrarian, engaging in livestock rearing and the cultivation of rice, onions and other legume varieties, for example. While those in a number of local Tamil villages in northern Trincomalee—some that never returned after wartime and re-established themselves elsewhere—together with migrants from the west coast often expressed having long family histories of fishing, a significant number of Muslim Pulmoddai fishers who spoke with me indicated that they were first-generation fishers. In other words, fishing was a livelihood that came to be adopted during wartime. Nonetheless, it is necessary to curtail the tendency to essentialise ethno-religious identities against particular livelihood trajectories. Indubitably there were coastal Muslims in northern Trincomalee who did fish over generations, but as local village residents and provincial council members who were born before the 1960s contend, the number of fishing families that are officially registered as such are almost twice as many today as then. At first glance, the number of local first-generation fishers as revealed in the survey statistics is striking (see Graphs 20 & 21, in the Statistical Survey Results). What remains particularly salient is that both Muslim and Tamil fishers were seen to have diversified their livelihoods during wartime or at least as having taken to

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fishing as a primary means of earning a living. A breakdown of the approximate dates indicates that these shifts, principally among local fishers, occurred not after postwar liberalisation, but progressively over a span of two decades. Interestingly, there were no professed Sinhalese or bilingual Tamil-Sinhalese fishers among the first-generation migrant cohort. The large slice of Tamil fishers in the migrant chart also reflects the rise in the number of karaivalai-kuli (beach-seine workers) crewmembers from places in Batticaloa, and to a lesser extent Ampara and Puttalam, who started to migrate seasonally to padu sites in Trincomalee after wartime. This dynamic, and the contestations inherent between intergenerational migrants and new local entrants, will be explored further in Chap. 5. Predictably, the findings also reveal that livelihood shifts occurred more in the rural hinterland of Trincomalee, as opposed to spaces clustered in and around the Town and Gravets area. Nonetheless, statistics reveal a partial story. Oral history narratives may substantiate the rest. Mohammed Munir is a local karaivalai owner who runs a successful operation close to Arasimalee, staffed almost entirely by Batticaloa crewmembers. His is one of the few local padu sites that are in operation, next to a string of other beach-seine camps that have been licenced by migrants based in Puttalam. Munir’s story starts in his school days, when, as a 10-year-old boy in the mid-­ 1960s, he was caught stealing a king coconut from the compound of a distant relative of his school headmaster. As a result, his schoolteachers had hounded him, and, given the “shame” that his parents had to endure in their village because of his theft, Munir decided to leave school and run away. This was when he professedly first took to fishing, working for a small prawning enterprise in Mullaitivu in 1965, where he earned 6000 LKR a month, a considerable sum at that time. Fishing then was a lucrative occupation; it earned him 25 rupees per pound of sea prawns. Finally his parents convinced him to return to his village in Pulmoddai and bought him a small outrigger canoe with which he used to paddle to Nayaru. As Munir remembers: At that time Nayaru was a hundred percent Tamil, there was not a local Sinhalese in sight. In Mullativu at that time there were Sinhala people, in places like Sundikkulam. I used to go from Velelakenu to Vatakulam and Mullivaikal-that was how I learnt to fish. I even worked with MS mudalali for a while-we had a prawn-rearing business-with eight functioning ponds at that time. Yet, that aquaculture project was a failure. I lost my motorbike, and I even fell sick. During wartime I used this padu site-anyone could occupy land like that. No permission was needed. What actually happened was that once, when the IPKF came, they set up a post on this beach. They asked me if I had permission to use this land and I said no. They then locked me up in one of their bunkers. As soon as I was released I went to the Trincomalee main town-to see the District Fisheries Inspector…I told him my story and he was rather sympathetic. At that time, our army might have used flimsy sticks, but this Indian army, they wouldn’t think twice about beating people with barks of trees. The District Fisheries Officer issued a permit that I could show to the Indian Army. That was how I secured a temporary license to use this piece of land in 1989, during President Premadasa’s rule. In those days, the use of dynamite [for fishing] was more rampant, but after the war gained momentum in the mid-1990s, dynamiting was banned everywhere in the district but not in Pulmoddai. The funny thing is that [even on] the day Premadasa got assassinated, people still went out to sea and used dynamite. When the LTTE occupied this space, we all

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2  Sri Lanka’s Littoral Northeast got displaced. A few who remained were allowed to fish here, but not further than Pudawakattu. There were gunboats everywhere and we got full protection from the state military. That was because the boundary line was here. So you see why the number of fish in Pulmoddai also increased, and along with that the number of people who started fishing for the first time. Purchasing a boat and an engine was the only thing you could do. If you consider Pulmoddai, most of the folk here, particularly when you take into account Muslim communities… many of us were not really fishermen. Not traditionally. We were what you can call former farmers. Those who didn’t know how to fish took to using dynamite. Before the war, there were five canoes in this space. Now you can probably count more than 2000 boats… Today you will find people who put down more than one livelihood on an official application form—fishing as well as farming. In that way you secure both fuel and fertilizer subsidies.

What this narrative captures is a dynamic that was ostensibly particular to places like Pulmoddai, in which hamlets sandwiched between the conflict were compelled to flee, abandoning their agricultural fields that were further inland, as peripheral spaces fell under LTTE control. The coastal tracts of land that Munir and others occupied were under military control, as were the main roadways. Yet, what remains so revealing is not the changes in livelihood trajectories, but the very associations that were made between new livelihood forms, the incidence of rule breaking and the use of destructive gear against the backdrop of wartime. Munir’s new padu site was embroiled in the violent politics of peripheral edges that inevitably witnessed the arming of civilian communities inhabiting such boundary lines of “border villages”, often as formalised home guards. Thus dynamite, as a commodity, was not too difficult to obtain, and in a livelihood such as fishing that requires a great deal of skill through tacit knowledge, the use of destructive gear, either as a means of survival or as an opportunity, became inexorable. Importantly then, the militarisation of everyday civilian life was not simply a dimension that was singularly rooted in dynamics of armed and inter-communal violence. It permeated the very fabric of everyday livelihoods, assuming a habit-like quality of its own, an aspect of rule breaking (and small-scale piracy), that will be further explored in Chap. 4. As I will later argue, these wartime shifts in livelihoods also resulted in highly ethnicised processes of othering specific to communities and associated spaces like Pulmoddai and other parts of northern Kuchchaveli. Yet what Munir’s story does exclude or omit are the inter-communal and ethnicised linkages between those who exited the fishing industry, either as a result of displacement and those who entered. Capital accumulation of newcomers to fishing during the first two decades of wartime was often indirectly facilitated by Tamil households that either left the country as asylum seekers en masse, as refugees displaced elsewhere within the country, or settled in the LTTE-controlled spaces, particularly the Vanni. To date, there is little scholarly exploration of how these interactions of exodus unfolded, as Tamil fishers that were either displaced or chose to leave often liquidated their assets at marked down prices. Put differently, there is little detailed knowledge about the micro-processes of capital acquisition between communities that were affected.

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What remains evident, however, is the fact that while beach-seine operators were said to have benefitted from less fishing pressure given the site-specific nature of padu usage, boat fishers, particularly those of Tamil descent who were working on the eastern seaboard during wartime found it difficult if not inherently dangerous to continue fishing. There were numerous accounts detailing waves of Tamil refugees returning from Tamil Nadu in southern India after the ceasefire agreement was put in place in 2002. A number of households that invested in fishing capital, either near the town or in more rural state-controlled peripheral spaces, found it hard to sustain a livelihood as a result of ethnically targeted processes of surveillance and military harassment. Consequentially this led to a second wave of capital liquidation, prompting some to leave the small-scale fishing sector altogether. Retrospectively, those who did make their exit before 2004 wryly pointed towards a situational irony: the fact that it was harassment and draconian processes of military surveillance that compelled them to sell the remaining fishing capital they had well before the tsunami hit. As Paralingam, an elderly ex-fisher co-operative leader and a resident of one of the larger Tamil fisher communities, once shared with me: After the kolahala [troubles: Tamil] many from this village fled. When they returned some years later it was the Navy that incessantly harassed them. That is why many of us did not want to purchase boats and if we did, we got sick of using them. Having a boat meant more trouble, and many from my co-operative who had boats eventually sold them. They [the Navy] would do anything in the name of checking-it was a part of their security measures they said. And it would always be the Tamil boats that were checked. Well, you could say Sinhalese boats too did anything for money, and we knew those that did. I raised this issue, of preferential treatment, at meeting at the Government Agents’ Office. They hushed me up telling me that I should not be speaking such things. I was then promised some boats for the sangam [FCS]. It was their way of pacifying us…or silencing me.

In part, his narrative depicts the ethnicisation of everyday military control and practices of the surveillance state that were differentially applied. Civilian-military linkages, either in the context of state or LTTE networks, could always be purchased for money, as in the context of a number of Sinhalese fisher vessels that Paralingam indicated clandestinely assisted the LTTE.  However, as Chap. 5 reveals, military ties between (bilingual) migrants and naval personnel in particular were more complex than seem to have been expected. The slippages between exchanges implicating monetary transactions and varying forms of un/reciprocal dependencies will be further explored in the following chapter. Therefore, while the book further engages with discourses among, and about migrants in the context of resource depletion and rule breaking, it further explores the wider dynamics of ethnicised patterns of mobility, military-based and state-led patronage. Particular attention is paid to key shifts after wartime, and the implications they have on everyday inter-communal dependencies among migrants, settlers and local collectives, transcending not just ethno-­ religious categories but also diverse fishing practices and state-civil society entanglements across peri-urban spaces and the rural hinterland.

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References Alcoff C (1999) The problem of speaking for others. Cult Crit 20(1):5–32 Astuti R (1995) People of the Sea: Identity and descent among the Vezo of Madagascar. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne Biziouras N (2014) The political economy of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka: economic liberalization, mobilizational resources, and ethnic collective action. Routledge, Oxford Brohier RL (1965) Seeing Ceylon: in vistas of scenery, history, legend and folklore. Lake House Publishers, Colombo Brohier RL (1975) Food and the people. Lake House Publishers, Colombo D’Arcy P (2006) The people of the sea: environment, identity and history in Oceania. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu D’Arcy P (2013) Sea worlds: Pacific and South-East Asian history centered on the Philippines. In: Mukherkee R (ed) Oceans connect: reflections on water worlds across time and space. Primus Books, Delhi, pp 23–39 Gaasbeek T (2010) Bridging troubled waters? everyday inter-ethnic interaction in a context of violent conflict in Kottiyar Pattu, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Ph.D. dissertation. Wageningen, Wageningen University Gamburd MR (2010) The golden wave: discourses on the equitable distribution of tsunami aid on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast. In: McGilvray DB, Gamburd MR (eds) Tsunami recovery in Sri Lanka: ethnic and regional dimensions. Routledge, Oxford/New York, pp 64–83 Howie E (2013) Sri Lankan boat migration to Australia: motivations and dilemmas. Econ Polit Wkly XLVIII(35):97–104 Hyndman J (2009) Acts of aid: neoliberalism in a war zone. Antipode 41(5):867–889 Kuhn R (2010) Conflict, coastal vulnerability and resiliency in tsunami-affected communities of Sri Lanka. In: McGilvray DB, Gamburd MR (eds) Tsunami recovery in Sri Lanka: ethnic and regional dimensions. Routledge, Oxford/New York, pp 40–64 Lawrence P (2010) The sea goddess and the fishermen: religion and recovery in Navalady, Sri Lanka. In: McGilvray DB, Gamburd MR (eds) Tsunami recovery in Sri Lanka: ethnic and regional dimensions. Routledge, Oxford/New York, pp 84–105 Lehman J (2013) Relating to the sea: Enlivening the ocean as an actor in Eastern Sri Lanka. Environ Plan D Soc Space 31:485–501 Malekandathil P (2010) Maritime India: Trade, Religion and Polity in the Indian Ocean. Primus Books, New Delhi Malekandathil P (2013) The Mughals, the Portuguese and the Indian Ocean: changing imageries of maritime India. Primus Books, New Delhi McGilvray D (2008) Crucible of conflict: Tamil and Muslim Society on the East Coast of Sri Lanka. Duke University Press, Durham Mohan A (2012) Utopia and the village in South Asian literatures. Palgrave Macmillan, New York Rajasingham-Senanyake D (1999) Bi-polar ethnic identity in post/colonial Sri Lanka. In: Pfaff-­ Czarnecka J, Rajasingham-Senanayake D, Nandy A, Gomez ET (eds) Ethnic futures: the state and identity politics in Asia. Sage, New Delhi Roberts M (1982) Caste conflict and elite formation: the rise of the Karava Elite in Sri Lanka 1500–1931. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Said E (1989) Representing the Colonized: Anthropology´s Interlocutors. Crit Inq 15(2):205–225 Silva N (2002) Introduction: the Hybrid Island. In: Silva N (ed) The Hybrid Island: culture crossings and the invention of identity in Sri Lanka. Social Scientists Association, Colombo Sivasubramaniam K (2009) Fisheries in Sri Lanka: anthropological and biological aspects. Kumaran Book House, Colombo Skinner J (2005) The people in-between: inter-ethnic relations among internally displaced people in Trincomalee District. International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo Spivak G (1988) Can the Subaltern Speak? In: Nelson C, Gossberg L (eds) Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. University of Illinois Press, Chicago

Chapter 3

Fisher Lifeworlds, Relational Practices

Abstract  This chapter explores a suite of vernacular meanings around the localised notion of sambandam (in both Tamil and Sinhala). In everyday discourse, the term evokes a sense of voluntary association, while at the same time implicates the many biosocial entanglements that can be found in the daily social fabric of coastal life, particularly among spatially mobile small-scale fishing communities. The dimensions of sambandam are explored through three overlapping layers of sociality, as identified by diverse fisher collectives constituting the lateral, the hierarchical/vertical and the a-sociative (as opposed to the associative). While outlining the ambiguities and paradoxes inherent in the practices prefiguring sambandam, particularly among fisher co-operative societies, this chapter lays the empirical foundation through which migrant, settler and local dependencies will be explored. Keywords Everyday sociality · Coastal life · Fishing co-operative societies · A-sociative relations · Social hierarchies

If we cannot depend on the sea like we used to, we have no way out. It is the sea that we trust in. Kamlesh Vivek, 38 years, longlining fisherman, Trincomalee Town A trawler captain may be able to look after his own interests most satisfactorily if he unscrupulously goes to sea with a fine-meshed net and catches fish of all sizes. He makes a massive killing (in both senses), and having helped to ruin the future of fisheries, he quickly sells his trawler and invests the money…My retired trawler captain, a symbol for our age, is a cheat because he has benefited from the implicit trust of a community and then destroyed it. Sir Patrick Bateson, at a secular address at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge

The domain of fishing livelihoods may not at first glance appear to lend itself well to exploring manifold relations of inter-group co-operation, as opposed to other forms of rural activity such as pastoralism or herding. Indeed, in citing biologist Sir Patrick Bateson, among others, there is no better example of an iconic Hardinian “tragedy of the commons” than something invoked from an iconic fishery conflict, for it bears every hallmark of a competition-driven natural resource base thanks to its open-access nature, and its potential for (in)divisibility and substractability. © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1_3

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While old assumptions that associate artisanal and small-scale communities with poverty overwhelmingly undergird fisheries scholarship (see Béné 2003), the analytical conflation between fishing livelihoods and competition remains all too ­visible, particularly within conventional natural resource management and common pool resource governance literatures.1 On the other hand, maritime and fishing anthropology paid much attention to exploring the sociocultural worlds of diverse fisherfolk and their everyday riskscapes (see Acheson 1981; Poggie and Pollnac 1988). Arguably, much of this early work follows from a Malinowskian perspective that explores situations of physical danger and high uncertainty in landings, which in turn is seen to warrant the use of magic, ritual taboos and other “rational-­ superstitious” belief systems associated more with seafaring communities than pastoral groups (see Mullen 1969; van Ginkel 1990). For example, Sri Lanka’s northeastern seafaring collectives, and in particular religiously syncretic Hindus and Buddhists, often follow an elaborate set of rituals particularly during Thaipusam in mid-January each year when fisher kovils conduct a midnight puja during which fresh milk is poured into the sea, in the words of an elderly Karaiyar fisher, “to calm the seas and to ward off the wrath of Thusda Devan”, a negative deity. This ritual marks the beginning of the next fishing cycle, closer towards the end of the monsoonal winds. One of the earliest studies to interweave questions of everyday co-operation with religio-ritual practice in the context of risk and uncertainty has been C.T. Palmer’s (1989: 60) critique of his forebears who, he argues, may have overstressed the “anxiety-­ritual theory”. However, in adopting a more behaviourist approach, Palmer contends that taboos, instead of merely “relieving anxiety”, also play a significant role in “promoting co-operation by communicating a willingness to accept traditional patterns of authority” (ibid. p. 60). In other words, there is a greater likelihood that hierarchy and the solidarity of the collective are maintained through ritual, or vice versa. Yet, Palmer’s co-operative associations are invariably limited to the functioning of boat crewmembers, leaving broader questions of inter-group sociality open for speculation. How then do we connect the disparate conceptual worlds of rivalrous fishing collectives with the co-operative imperatives of everyday livelihood practices that warrant some degree of extra household interdependence and mutuality? Are co-operative dynamics within the context of fishing social worlds largely restricted to relations of affinity and amity, in contexts that by default should be seen as intensely competitive, even more so than other resource-based rural livelihoods? How then can fishing collectives be perceived beyond their narrow frame as resource-users, complete with internally varied, complex lifeworlds? This chapter therefore sets out to situate the qualities of coastal interdependences within the diverse sociocultural worlds of small-scale fisher collectives in the northeast that are often coloured by the particularities of their fishing practices. In particular, I wish to focus on several types of co-operative relations that transcend the calculative sphere of trade and other economic-centred domains of every For a discussion see Jentoft (2000), Boonstra and Nhung (2012) and Fabinyi et al. (2015).

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day life. In briefly sketching the vast internal diversity among fishing collectives in the northeast, the chapter focuses on vernacular perceptions of sambandam (broadly taken to implicate associative relations or relationality), while unpacking its ­multilayered meanings against everyday forms of sociality and livelihood practices. The final section of the chapter engages with the institutionalisation of inter- and intra-­group dependence, within the state governed structure of co-operative societies, the most pervasive form of village-level social organisation among Sri Lanka’s contemporary fishing constituencies.

3.1  Reclaiming the Sea: Beyond Violence and Dwelling Fishing is more than just a means of earning a livelihood; rather, it can be seen as a “way of life” (Weeratunge 2009). Not only does this framing allow us to consider fishing as a form of everyday ritual and as a socio-ethical practice, it also draws attention to questions of how people’s daily engagement with the sea dialectically shapes everyday forms of inter-group sociality that is particular to life along the shoreline. As John Mack (2011: 13) posits, people interact with the sea, and interact because of it. Therefore “what happens around or in the sea is coloured by what happens on the land” and vice versa. By the same token, close attention must be paid to the alluring tendency of essentialising coastal lifeworlds2 in Sri Lanka’s politically fraught northeast. Socio-­ political realities of war, like serial displacement, loss and dispossession, combined with eruptions of violence following sudden local events such as civilian-targeted bomb explosions, for example, affected particular minority groups and neighbourhood pockets in similar patterns, regardless of whether people farmed or fished for a living.3 Yet, in exploring the alterity of fisher lives, I start by considering how assorted fishing collectives when accounting for their great internal diversity themselves made sense of their commonalities and differences, not just against the more agrarian-­based and sedentary groups alongside whom they lived but also among themselves. In particular, three interrelated facets of social differentiation are broadly explored in this chapter, encompassing three aspects that form the thematic bedrock of this study. These constitute: 1. Internal diversities between fishing collectives and the manifold ways in which these differences come to be framed, contested and reconstituted 2  For a conceptual discussion on how the concept of lifeworlds has been reworked, refer to Chapter 2 (3). 3  For example, the ban on obtaining farming inputs such as urea for soil during wartime particularly affected Tamil smallholder farmers (Gaasbeek, 2010: 11), as did the process of obtaining mandatory fishing passes that fisherfolk in the north and east had to contend with, which again disproportionately affected Tamil communities, as many were reportedly compelled to sell their boats and gear (see Introduction).

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2. The ubiquity and diversity of everyday forms of interdependence (both customary and the more statist-institutional), which for the most part are influenced by how seafaring and shoreline fishers experience and imagine their own complex riskscapes and broader social worlds 3. Ethical sensibilities that are iteratively fashioned by routine livelihood practices and particular forms of sociality or engagement in communal life However, it is worth questioning how everyday meanings of the sea come to be articulated and more importantly lived in manifold ways. With the exception of the much-publicised Indo-Lankan Palk Bay fishing conflict, the sea and the coastline as a contested space have been less of a preoccupation among Sri Lankan scholars, particularly in the social sciences. Over the past 30 years or more, the sea has been consigned a passive role, implicated in the context of the armed conflict as a territorial mass that was fought for and fought over. This lacuna has certainly not gone unnoticed among local fisher activists (see Chap. 6), who have been quick to point out how realities of multiple livelihood contestations (and injustices) have come to be subsumed or erased under hegemonic wartime narratives, whether in spaces under LTTE governance or controlled by the state military. Thus the sea has remained a violent space. On the other hand, the advent of the tsunami and its concomitant contestations over tracts of coastline were expressly framed around notions of “dwelling”, in which the machinations of buffer zone rhetoric and politics were in part successful in further dispossessing fishing communities and perceptibly disintegrating village life. Yet, between the imaginaries of violence and dwelling, there exist a myriad of meanings and frames of sense making, most of which exist in the realm of the implicit everyday, the doxa. Arguably then, this is what Paul d’Arcy (2006: 179), in his study on the social worlds and cultural seascapes of Oceania islanders, illustrates as a conceptual means of “reclaiming the sea”. His is a powerful motif to revisit in terms of studying people’s multiple entanglements with the sea, particularly as a site that is both shared and contested.4 As a start, contemporary guidebooks and vacation brochures often pictorially depict Sri Lanka as a palm-fringed island state, trimmed with white chalky beaches. By contrast, the sea and its concomitant forms of shore life are hardly featured in daily cultural imagination. Note that historic legends and local mythology have not implicated the sea in their narratives. Hindu-Tamils may invoke the parable of the great fish Matsya, an avatar of the Hindu deity Vishnu, and his rescue of the first man, Manu. Local Buddhist legend considers the tale of a great tsunami-like wave that flooded the island after an irate king condemned innocent monks to death by boiling them in oil, while a princess subsequently offered herself as a sacrificial appeasement to the sea. Yet myths such as Matsya’s and Vihara Maha Devi’s still depict maritime and shore life against an obscure backdrop, if at all. In both  More recently, geographers like Jessica Lehman (2013, 2014) have been writing, rather refreshingly, on the possibilities of “enlivening the sea” as an actant in the context of Sri Lanka’s east coast, embedding their work within an actor-network (ANT) ontology.

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accounts, the sea carries cultural meanings of concealed danger and dark retribution, as an asocial void bereft of human history, a place that is best avoided. Presumably then, popular Ceylonese folklore bears remarkably little reference to sea, its creatures both mythical and real, or its agency in shaping human life, unlike in the context of coastal Japan or within parts of the Nusantara, steeped in everyday narrative and legend.5 However, as the quotations at the beginning of the chapter reveal, localised meanings of the sea, at least among those who depend on it for a living, are multiple and ambivalent, as much as they are gendered. Over the course of the narrative analysis, as many as six broad interrelated identities of the sea and its coastal scapes were invoked. Very much like the Vezo of western Madagascar (Astuti 1995) or the islanders of remote Oceania (D’Arcy 2006), the sea was perceived as a great provider. While being acutely aware of its quintessential volatility and its capriciousness, people often venerated the sea as a living entity of material benevolence. Often, these notions shared very little in common with the much-glorified Hemingwayian visions of battling the sea and its creatures. Hardship and danger were part and parcel of a reified existence in the context of natural forces. Yet, to many small-scale fishers who spoke of their intergenerational engagement with the sea, the coastline was more than simply an extractable resource frontier. On the other hand, the utilitarian value of the sea, as a means of sustaining life and of imbuing a sense of identity, was ever present. Unlike the islanders of Micronesia or Polynesia (D’Arcy 2006: 177), there was very little corporeal engagement with the sea, as a space of leisure and elation. Boys learnt to swim because it was imperative. Few, if any women and girls in the fishing households that I knew, could swim, let alone spent much time wading, unless they were compelled to. This is not to say that beach frontages were not used as communal meeting spaces. Vadi sites were often perceived as places of conviviality, particularly in the context of lively male-only arrack parties, or during shorter fishing trips to known coastal spots where rice, fish and meat were collectively cooked. More often than not, the sea was a site of work or relentless inventive labour, where one’s luck had to be plied. Interestingly, within this frame, the sea was also perceived (by men who primarily fished by craft) as a site of freedom from the burdensome coast where one’s home and hearth stood. The pre-war years were idealised by older fishermen as a time when one could leave behind a badgering wife and children and head out in a small craft into the dark expanse towards a welcoming horizon flickering with a myriad other “jenny”6 boat lights, with a small group of close kin or associates with whom to “share his food, fuel and luck”. Yet, apart from constituting a male-only space, temporarily unfettered by the chores of domesticity, it was also a space marked by competition. Differences were marked between the distances of vessels, where the confining boundary of a boat becomes one’s affinitive social world. Land (specifically the coast) was then seen as 5  Arguably, the closest association would entail the ancient Naga cult, which remains rather peripheral to popular Sinhala-Buddhist imagination. 6  Petromax lamps. Formal fishing regulations restrict fishers to two lamps at nighttime.

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a site in which a different form of sociality unfolded, punctuated with the complexities of everyday life, of religious ritual, familial and other communal obligations. In both these contexts, the sea and land were perceived as liminal spaces and also as places that were intensely territorial, bound up in their own sacred identity.7 At times the sea was professed as a site of purity, where debris and all that was unclean was taken and washed away, particularly during the onset of the monsoonal rains.8 On the other hand, the sea is also perceived as a vault of manifold testimonies, pregnant with layers of memory, a Charybdis in which “things are made to disappear” (Mack 2011: 79–92). Older women in particular described the sea as a vast emptiness associated with loss and longing, a dark space in which the remains of political antagonists were dumped and where the “eternal missing” lie wallowing in their watery graves. Here, the “ashes in the sea” (from the opening quotation of the Introduction) are understood to bear the scars of multiple physical and symbolic injustices and travesties that unfolded during wartime and of those that occurred in the wake of May 2009. Finally, the sea was ambivalently perceived as a place of sanctuary, away from reprieve and of menace, for the sea has often been used as a route of escape, not least among numerous waves of predominantly Tamil asylum seekers to southern India and Europe during wartime and, during the time of my fieldwork, to the outer islands of Australia. On the other hand, it is closely guarded and patrolled by the local military, legitimated by its propensity as a gateway for fugitive LTTE cadres yearning for return (Fig. 3.1). In sum, the range of often ambivalent and paradoxical meanings suggested here are by no means exhaustive. Neither are these varied meanings shared uniformly across diverse small-scale fishing collectives. However, the discussion draws attention to manifold sociocultural and intensely context-based connotations of the sea that go beyond its value as a simple means for survival, as a space that was singularly “worked”. Thus, sea-borne livelihoods and their practices are by extension all imbued with multiple dimensions of sociality and ethico-moral meaning.9 One of the most telling vignettes that was shared about the separation between the land and the sea was a story of a longliner who rowed towards shore on December 26, 2004, at approximately 11 am. The tides of the tsunami had by then receded in Uppuveli, and he had stood on the beach for a while, staring incredulously at the 7  For example, residents in Tamil villages like Thirukadaloor speak of Muslim gill-netters sprinkling water from the fount of the ancient shore temple on the promontory, Thiru Koneswaram, as they pass by. 8  A study of local protests and anxieties, albeit on a relatively smaller scale regarding alterations made to parts of the coastline with flood-proof embankments over the past years, bears testimony to some of these meanings. 9  D’Arcy (2006: 177) in using the example of seafaring posits how it is more than about technology, knowledge and enskillment. To look at seafaring would be to consider it in a wider social context, for “voyaging is a social process” that not only ascertains a great deal of “onshore infrastructure to provide for logistical and organisational needs, as well as training and motivational influences” but also embodies the communicative world of those who are left on the shore, “coping with absence” (ibid., p. 13).

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Fig. 3.1 A Karaiyar-fisher family seeking asylum in Tamil Nadu, with their refugee number— after first having arrived by boat via Mannar in 1985. (Source: author with permission from the family to reproduce the image in print)

debris. At first he was sure it was the carnage of war that he was witnessing. To him, the unbelievable had happened. The ocean had not only engulfed life on land, but his two very separate worlds had finally intersected, in ways that were both bitterly ridiculous and sublime.

3.2  Fishing Lifeworlds and the Salience of Co-operation In conventional scientific and policy-related discourse, Sri Lanka’s fishery sector is often categorised according to where it is practised—as either coastal (nearshore) or deep-sea (offshore) forms. Often small-scale and other forms of artisanal fishing fall squarely into the category of the former, as smaller crafts usually do not sojourn more than 50 or 60 kilometres from the coastline. Moreover, inland (freshwater) and lagoon (brackish water) are treated as distinct subcategories, entailing systems of production and structures of governance that are markedly different from the more open-access marine sector. Furthermore, local provincial councils are mandated to govern inland water resources, while coastal and deep-sea fisheries fall within the jurisdiction of the central government, directly under the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development (MFARD).

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Yet in mixed coastal ecosystems such as Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Puttalam and Mannar, fisherfolk often rely on both brackish water and marine resources as forms of seasonal livelihood diversification. During the northeast monsoons when the tides become rough, lagoon and estuarine water bodies hold more benthic and semi-­ demersal species such as shrimp, crab, and other varieties of rockfish that are usually sought between November and February each year in the northeast. Seldom do coastal fisherfolk use inland water bodies such as lakes, rivers and irrigation tanks. Not only does inland fishing require different types of gear, more importantly, freshwater fishing has remained singularly artisanal and is deemed to be less of a communal resource with closed if not more restricted forms of customary access rights. Furthermore, coastal and deep-sea fisheries remain largely exclusive sectors with fewer internal conflicts over territorial rights due to the fact that they travel different distances.10 Yet, in the context of the east coast, places that are host to larger commercial fishing harbours, for example, Cod Bay in Trincomalee or Valaichchenai in Batticaloa, attract significant numbers of deep-sea fishing vessels from the predominantly Sinhalese-Buddhist south, where bitter local conflicts do ensue as a result of the use of illegal harvesting methods combined with the practice of migrant boats dumping landings in local markets (see Haltiner 2013) that further depress prices. Differentiating Saltwater Lifeworlds: Modus, Gender and Seasonality  In the context of everyday lifeworlds, namely, with respect to the intersubjective meanings of living life as a fisher, more nuanced reinterpretations emerge that often contest or transcend these prefixed sectoral categories. In my interviews, fisher co-operative members across ethno-religious groups often alluded to the fact that fishing to them was more than about “working the sea”. Fishing was at times metaphorically compared to processes of religious adherence, replete with its own deities, its ritual practices and, more significantly, its propensity to unite as well as to divide fishing constituencies. It takes less than a day in the coastal northeast to appreciate how internally diverse fishing practices are. As Bavinck (1984: 8–9) posits, no “typical” form of fishing can really be found, given how internally diverse their production styles are in terms of knowledge and skill, capital input and social organisation. A single fishing hamlet may practise as many as ten or more methods of fishing, ranging from longlining, small and large gill netting, cast netting, hand-lining, single- and multi-­ hook trolling, stake netting, beach-seining and more controversial forms such as offshore purse seining. Similarly, artisanal fishing vessels and small crafts may differ markedly by region, such as the archetypical catamarans of the Jaffna Peninsula and the ample sailboats of Negombo, combined with a variety of low-hulled outrig Deep-sea fishing boats primarily land larger pelagic fish species such as bigeye and yellowfin tuna, swordfish and marlin, for example. However, certain forms of coastal fishing such as longlining may also target the same species. Hence it would be problematic to claim that perceptions of resource competition merely cohere with similar styles of fishing, as opposed to the distances at which fishing occurs.

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gers, the oru and paru along the deep south and the vallam and thoni of the east coast, as briefly touched upon in the Introduction. Moreover, while conceptual debates of what counts as a “fishery” remain pervasive in academic and policy discourse, coastal groups often classify a variety of other coastal-related (extractive) livelihoods as part of this realm. With the exception of seaweed harvesting, aquaculture and other forms of fish farming, these also encapsulate the diverse words of male ornamental fish divers who seasonally migrate from coast to coast and are often contracted by large exporting companies primarily based in the southwest. Furthermore, fisher collectives may also include diverse groups of clam, conch and other types of shell gleaners, constituting both men and women who, in Trincomalee, are largely concentrated in the predominantly Muslim areas of Kinniya and Muttur. Men traditionally skin-dived for sea cucumber, conch and other kinds of sea shells, while women, particularly in estuarine Kottiyar Pattu, could be seen wading waist deep into water to harvest live clams and shells during daylight hours (Siriwardane 2014: 14).11 In the early days of wartime, I was told of travelling groups of (largely ethnic Muslim) women from the District of Amparai who seasonally migrated north to Kottiyar Pattu, for they were seen to be among the earliest pioneers of this form of gleaning. Wartime insecurities and restrictions on mobility undoubtedly curtailed such movements, and a significant number of fisherwomen in areas such as Kurinchakerny and Kakkamunai concurred that shell gleaning increased in popularity during the armed conflict when livelihood diversification became imperative, particularly among farming settlements. Given the sheer internal diversity of practices, how do coastal communities, particularly within village groups, imagine their own lines of differentiation? Women and men often provided different perspectives in my interviews, yet in distinguishing between themselves as fishers, three overarching frames of reference were identified: (a) forms of social organisation that emerged from diverse fishing practices, (b) the salience and complementarity of both men and women’s work and (c) a host of differences inherent in “living life in rhythms” as dictated by particular fish species that groups specialised in harvesting. The first axis of differentiation comprised craft-based mobility (or active “hunting”), for example, longlining or hook-trolling, against more passive forms of shore-based fishing, primarily beach-seining. Beach-seine fishing is typically organised along the lines of family lineage in which as many as 30 or 40 (often non-­ kin) crewmembers are hired seasonally to haul in nets from the shore.12 Apart from  Harvested lagoon shells form two distinct supply chains—shell meat for consumption and the latter, which is powdered for chicken feed and wall-plaster dye. 12  Seine nets are usually pulled in from the shore and comprise horseshoe-shaped dragnets with weights attached to the bottom. An artisanal craft is used to lay the nets in a semicircle from the shoreline, and the duration of the production cycle may vary between 1.5 and 3 h. Beach-seine operators may choose to haul in nets twice or thrice a day, depending on time of year and the catch rates on that particular day. The style of beach-seining that is practised in the northeast today is known a karaivalai (in Tamil) that as Bavinck (1984: 18) argues, supplanted an older form known as pataivalai, perhaps not long after the turn of the twentieth century. 11

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Fig. 3.2  Communal cooking and eating space on a padu site, Pulmoddai. (Source: author)

the nets and crewmembers themselves, padu sites prove necessary to run a full-­ fledged beach-seining operation in which a tract of beach frontage, approximately 300 metres or more (known as a padu), is leased out under a family name. The padu licensee is granted exclusive access rights to the sea, stretching several kilometres. The land itself is considered to be “temporarily owned”, and on it are constructed temporary workers’ residential huts and facilities for communal cooking, net mending and fish drying (Bavinck 1984: 19). As Chap. 5 illustrates, what is particularly interesting about beach-seine padu sites is how household units themselves are reordered to assimilate diverse crewmembers across regional, age-based and ethno-­ religious backgrounds. During the course of a beach-seining season, it is not uncommon to find a padu family and crewmembers that live and share a common pot as a single household unit, often for reasons that are more pragmatic than otherwise (Fig. 3.2). On the other hand, boat-related capture fisheries have traditionally been organised along kin and village lines. While much of the risk is borne by the boat owner who also purchases the fuel, the total fish catch is often shared proportionately between the number of crewmembers and the boat owner. The value of the catch shared may also depend on how the ownership of the engine and the nets are distributed, for one boat may have as many as 20 different types of nets of varying form

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and mesh size depending on the species of fish being caught.13 Moreover, daily ­fishing routines differ according to the type of fishing that is done. Longliners may travel further out to sea, sometimes over a radius of a hundred or more kilometres if the tides and winds permit, with the hope of landing larger species such as shark or marlin. Boats may set off at 2 am and return by 6 am, at the break of dawn. During longer day trips, boats may set off close to 5 pm and return by 4 am the following day. Craft-based fishing is typically performed at night or during the very early hours of the morning when larger pelagic fish species are more active. Interestingly, the second line of differentiation among both women and men pertained to the relative salience of gendered relations in sustaining a successful fishing household and, indeed, a prosperous village co-operative society. Women’s contributions in the context of small-scale fisheries are often perceived as being their formal labour as gleaners, processors, traders and fishers themselves, meaning that conventional conceptions of fishing as a male-centred domain could be nothing more than a myth (Weeratunge et al. 2010). Yet, when observing everyday life along the coastline, the visibility of women’s work “outside the net” (Lokuge 2014) and, more generally, their non-involvement within capture fishery activity may seem deceptively apparent. Rather like the gendered taboos among Scottish trawler communities in which women were not permitted to touch the guardrails of vessels before they embark to the North Atlantic (Mack 2011: 30), Tamil and Sinhalese boatmen at times joked about how their wives and daughters barely knew the colour of their boats, let alone were able to single them out on the beach. In Tamil settlements in particular, women often stated that handling a net, particularly a relatively new one, may result in bad luck, and these perceptions were often embroiled in ambivalent notions of women’s pollutive aspects (kili: Tamil/ Sinhala) that in turn were juxtaposed with notions of feminine moral purity which ensured that women were not burdened with the task of animal slaughter, either as routine or ritual.14 However, in reality women’s participation in everyday fishing activity in the northeast has often been rather diverse. During the course of my fieldwork, I met just one woman who went out to sea in her fibreglass boat, a migrant from a small Catholic village in Chilaw. There were references made to “masculinised” women who fished and subverted gendered norms by consuming copious quantities of kasippu and donning sarongs. The most  Nets are usually manufactured locally according to fishery regulations concerning its length and mesh size. The lifespan of a net is typically 5 years, and once torn, nets are often repaired and reused. Net mending is almost exclusively gendered and used to be a lucrative vocation for a number of retired fishermen. This knowledge was usually passed down intergenerationally. Many often bemoaned the fact that youth today possessed little skill in repairing their nets and often paid someone else to get it done. 14  For example, among Tamil and Sinhalese households in rural Trincomalee, a male conventionally performs the butchering of a live market chicken for a household meal. Interestingly, a beachseine fisher I knew decided to diversify his income by opening a frozen chicken meat shop in Salli, a predominantly Tamil settlement with a relatively large number of female-headed households. The disproportionate number of war and tsunami widows, he concurred, was evidence enough to ensure that there was sufficient demand for processed meat. 13

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celebrated (or notorious) of them were said to have been a pair of sisters who met their bloody end at the hands of LTTE cadres when they refused to leave Nayaru after a spate of civilian killings in the mid-1980s. Yet, the narratives shared in this monograph depict less dramatic dimensions of women’s lives. In fact many women engage in or actively shape local fisher livelihoods in a diversity of ways. Eight categories of association were identified with the assistance of women’s focus groups. These included girls’ and women’s participation in direct fishing activity (i.e. gleaning, net hauling and other forms of non-craft-­ based harvesting), post-harvest processing (e.g. drying fish), owning and supplying fishing capital within the household (including the provision of funds by pawning jewellery),15 as petty fish sellers and wholesale traders, as owners of capital and as financers (mudalalis), as managers of household finances and as co-operative society office-bearers and members. As Francis, a migrant gill net man from Chilaw once stated when asked what it took to make a socio-economically stable fishing household that was relatively debt-free: “you need a cautious woman…it is the woman’s management of the family finances…her spending that will either make or break a fishing family”.16 While this unduly transfers the burden of responsibility to women alone, Francis’ utterance does capture several aspects about women’s work and involvement in fishing. First, girls and women in fishing families are often perceived to have on average a higher number of formal schooling years in comparison with their male siblings. Thus it is not too surprising that women in the household usually take on the task of maintaining accounts and book-keeping, a role that fisher co-operative societies in villages such as Manayaveli and Thirukadaloor have readily taken on with women as treasurers and managers of co-operative banks. Second, what was not captured in Francis’ assertion was the fact that women performed vital roles as co-operative members in their villages of origin, when male kin generally migrated during seasonal spells. Co-operative membership is usually not restricted to one householder per family. Women who migrate alongside their families from Batticaloa, Negombo, Chilaw and Puttalam, for example, return for significant co-operative meetings and often refer to themselves as the “voice for the absent”. Moreover, the attendance of co-op members during monthly village meetings is obligatory, and a long spell of absence may adversely affect a household’s chances of securing loans and resource entitlements in the near future. Yet, in some cases, women’s roles in fishing enterprises are not as complementary as they may seem. Since 2009, daughters of pre-wartime migrants returned to  This point was first raised by Weeratunge (2009) in illustrating the fact that more fishing-related investment than would otherwise have been imagined may stem from the earnings of women who return as migrant domestic workers or through funds raised in seasonally pawning jewelry and other valuables when times are rough. During my fieldwork, jewelry was often seen as a reliable investment and was often passed down through girls as a part of their “dowry set” which was either owned singularly by the wife or collectively as a couple. A significant number of fishermen shared tales of heading directly to the jewelers’ after reaping an extraordinarily lucky catch to convert their day’s windfall into gold. 16  Fieldnotes, Kuchchaveli, October 3, 2013. 15

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Trincomalee, presumably to other districts as well, to stake claim on their intergenerational entitlements to operate a padu site said to have been previously registered under their fathers’ names. Between 2012 and 2013, I encountered three ­Sinhalese-­Catholic women, two from Negombo and one from Puttalam, who were all in their early 60s. More interestingly, all three mentioned the fact that their male siblings were not in the least interested in “picking up their father’s nets”, so they continued the “tradition” (paranparika) with the assistance of their fisherhusbands,17 who often had no prior experience in the northeast. In this context, knowledge and collective memory as a migrant during the pre-war years were passed down through daughters, under whose names padu sites were sometimes registered. Therefore, work-related gender dynamics and the differences inherent within fishing collectivities were very much visible in the popular imagination, and by the same token, it can be argued that women’s direct and indirect work in fishing were far from obscured. However, the value that was placed upon diverse roles and their forms of contribution may differ significantly according to specific historic imaginaries, sociocultural norms and livelihood trajectories, as I have briefly sketched. The third axis of differentiation entailed perceptions of “living life in rhythms” as dictated by monthly weather changes, seasonal climatic variability and particular fish species that groups specialise in landing. Social life and significant life events, if planned, were often woven around these compartmentalised seasons, which not only bore important implications on temporal aspects such a debt cycles and capital investment but also patterned the more mundane cadences of daily life. Often village-­level co-operative society meetings were held on or before a full moon day, for usually the third night following a full moon was considered to be a time in which landings were often expected to peak. Similarly, months of the year were often associated with a particularly dominant fish species. In the northeast, June to August were deemed to be the best months for fishing, a time in which the waters were said to display a healthy azure blue radiance, inviting vastly diverse fish stocks. The months between February and April were deemed to be off-season, when fish market prices rose and fewer festivities such as weddings were held. April was known as the “sharking season”, which in part coincided with the Arakula season that stretched until June. The months between May and July were often characterised by higher catches of smaller varieties such as flying fish, anchovies and trenched sardinella, the best time for beach-seining. Larger multiday boats (tanki) of deep-sea fishers were expected to arrive at Cod Bay harbour between December and April when the season for high-value export-­ based blood fish species commenced.18 November and January were known as the  Drawn from fieldnotes primarily with Mary (October 2012, Kuchchaveli) and Antonia (February 2013, Eachchalampattu). Interestingly, all three women married into fishing families along the west coast, while their male siblings pursued other occupations, meaning they may have left the fishing sector entirely. 18  These usually entail larger predatory species such as swordfish (Xiphias gladius), varieties of marlin (e.g. Makaira indica and Tetrapturus audax), shark (e.g. Carcharhinus falciformis and 17

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“prawning months”, when some of the coastal fishing spills into the lagoons and brackish water bodies and women actively engage in both commercial and subsistence fishing using hand-held tools. The months of August and September were known as the “squid season”19 combined by larger catches of frigate tuna by smaller boats, annually overlapping with the fasting month of Ramadan. During the year in which I was present, the frigate tuna (alagodu) and squid season coincided with the eastern province elections. These months are a particularly precarious time, as the numbers of micro-conflicts between disparate fishing groups were at their peak.20 Due to the availability of differentiated marine and brackish water species throughout the year, it may seem that fishing is carried out over the course of the entire year, with some likelihood of remaining continually lucrative. However, among boat-based fishers, a considerable degree of specialisation does occur depending on their decision to invest in certain types of nets that are put to full use during the height of the mid-year fishing season. Yet, during the monsoonal month, production may come to a virtual standstill. During this time, landless households may supplement their incomes by leaving the district and travelling southwards in search of casual labour in the wet rice fields of Batticaloa or in search of other agricultural land elsewhere during the harvesting months. Others may opt to stay put, practicing mainly subsistence fishing in lagoon and estuarine bodies,21 pawning pieces of gold jewellery when possible and often borrowing heavily from mudalalis and moneylenders to tide their families over the remaining months. The northeast monsoons were therefore often associated with cycles of indebtedness as these bonded ties gained renewed sequences of durability. As a young female shrimper once remarked, “the rains start only to satiate the coffers of others”.22 “Hierarchical Egalitarianism” and Transversal Ties  Much of the early historic and anthropological scholarship on Sri Lanka has focused on the difference between fishing communities and more sedentary land-based agricultural groups. These writings have often focused predominantly on systems of production and subsistence (see Alexander 1977, 1982; Roberts 1982; Bavinck 1984; Stirrat 1988), drawing attention to a number of aspects including the fact that fishing itself prompts higher risks, fluctuations and variability than farming and entails vastly different Carcharhinus longimanus) and skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis, Thunnus albacares and Thunnus obesus, respectively), among others. 19  These include several varieties of squid as well as cuttlefish. 20  Such encounters, as illustrated in the Prologue, are often associated with the incidence of illegal fishing practices and rule breaking such as the use of lights and dynamite at night, as squid fishing, for example, remains characteristically a nocturnal activity. 21  Petty commodity production does continue with regard to lagoon fishing during the monsoonal months, but fishing families state that they do not depend on this activity for a living. Often the unit catch per day per family is too small to attract traders and mudalalis. However the communal exchange value of “subsistence” landings of prawn or smaller varieties of rockfish should not be discounted. For example, a female shrimper once remarked that she could have three sets of school uniforms for her children restitched for the barter value of a fortnights’ worth of shrimping. 22  Fieldnotes, Kuchchaveli, 6 February, 2013.

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features of capital investment, which can be divisible and built up incrementally over time. Second, fishing gear typically has shorter lifespans, while children of poorer families (particularly male) are seen to inherit little except for the occupational knowledge of their parents (Roberts 1982, pp. 246–247). In addition, unlike the more evenly shared family labour in farming households, the highly differentiated (gendered) division of labour within fisher families ensures that women and girls do not assist in craft-based fishing but may take on other related tasks (ibid, pp. 246–247). Third, unlike farming, additional labour may not yield higher returns, as landings themselves depend on highly volatile factors such as species migration. Fourth, the rapidity with which catches may perish determines the ubiquity of intricate networks of middlemen and buyers, imbuing fishers with much less bargaining power than their pastoral counterparts (Alexander 1977: 249). Finally, the need to concentrate the means of production among a small group, while enabling significantly lower barriers to entry (unlike farming), was nevertheless seen to push out individuals faster, resulting in higher levels of stratification23 (ibid. p.  249). However, Bavinck (1984), for example, in his study on petty commodity production among craft-based fishers, citing a variety of socio-economic and cultural reasons, illustrates how the Blue Revolution in part expanded the small-scale fishing enterprise in northern Sri Lanka, while it was being progressively eroded in neighbouring countries like India. Given differences in coastal fishing practices and its diverse social worlds that are affected by risk and higher degrees of spatial mobility and not in the least matched by their open-access communal nature, are fishing collectives more prone to co-operate than land-based groups? While this question goes beyond the scope of the study, bear in mind that we are in fact focusing only on moments and patterns of inter-group co-operation. Certainly, greater emphasis has been placed on practices of in-group co-­operation among small-scale fishers. In the Sri Lankan context, informal practices such as catch sharing through havul rassava (partnership work: Sinhala), child lending (Alexander 1977), padu site rotation and leasing (Lobe and Berkes 2004) and other forms of shared gear ownership make co-operation a ubiquitous theme, as Roberts (1982: 248) and Alexander (1977: 231) argue, partly given the gendered division of labour. To extend this to southern India, as Bavinck (2001: 1089) has shown amidst transformations in single-caste panchayats in the Coromandel Coast, sea tenure and rule systems governing resource use and access remain a singularly “village affair” if the state political structure allows it. Conversely, some like Stirrat (1975: 189– 206), in focusing on market relations in the Sri Lankan west coast, illustrate how “atomised, monetarised and contractual” dependencies may well exist in parallel, demonstrating that no long-term associations are embedded in the broader morality of the marketplace that is rife with social competition and is marked by “negative reciprocity” at times.  However, as Ireson (1996: 222) prompts, drawing on the work of Grant Evans on peasant economies, social stratification does not necessarily result in class polarisation.

23

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Interestingly, this co-operation-competition/conflict ethic embodies what could be called an implicit egalitarian-hierarchical binary, which still pervades ­contemporary scholarship on small-scale fishing (see Cush and Varley 2013).24 While this thesis has shown how co-operative and hierarchical social dynamics have frequently occupied overlapping spaces in both village-level empirical studies and within the wider scope of theorising on conflict-co-operation, the discursive and performative aspects of egalitarian logic expressed during co-operative encounters ought to be considered. Here, I turn to Andreas Hess’ (2010: 561) study on the historic Basque fishing and whaling brotherhoods—the cofradía de mareantes—where egalitarianism was presented as “an ideology that worked”, paradoxically despite its hierarchical ranks that were strengthened from the seventeenth century onwards, and progressively assumed an oligarchic structural form. Similar to the old Basque cofradías, hierarchically organised co-operative networks in the northeast are seen to strongly invoke an egalitarian logic, which, as I will demonstrate in the next three empirical chapters, proves immensely useful in both tactically and routinely articulating insider-­ outsider distinctions that often shift according to context. It would then be more practical to imagine interdependences as enacting forms of “hierarchical egalitarianism”, particularly when taken against horizontal forms of “peer” group co-­ operation, constituting one among the three broad classes of co-operative relations, discussed in the following section.

3.3  The Grammar of Sambandam How does one begin to think or speak about a social dynamic as abstract as “co-­ operation”? One avenue may explore a diversity of practices that entail cross-­ communal interaction, whether it be intervillage, inter-caste or cross-ethno-religious forms of interaction, for example. A second and closely associated way would be to focus on how people verbalise or express cross-group connections, not just engage in particular forms of co-operative practice. At this point, it is worth taking a step back and considering the likelihood of conflating meanings of co-operation, with the broader, hazier category of inter-group interaction. Often, when invoking inter-group sociality, particularly in moments that ethno-­ religious, village-level and sub-livelihood boundaries were crossed, two particularly dominant spheres are likely to emerge. The first predictably constitutes the socio-economic realm of market relations and monetarised exchanges, which often  Arguably, in the case of former, the long shadow of the moral economy approach (or closely associated strands of scholarship) has implicitly dominated thinking on what Acheson (1981: 278) and McGoodwin (2001: 33) see as constituting the “spirit of egalitarianism”. Much earlier, historians like Roberts (1982) have illustrated how particular facets of occupational fishing (particularly those that were more entrepreneurially co-operative), combined with frequent European contact along the coastal belt, led to the rise of wealthy and politically influential fisher caste lineages in colonial southern Ceylon.

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take the form of contractual land leasing or labour-hiring arrangements. The second, just as tellingly, entails the domain of the religio-sacred, in which Hindu shrines and ziyaram sites in particular are often seen as plural spaces of worship among Hindus and Buddhists and, to a lesser extent, among Christian and Muslim adherents of more syncretic practices.25 As Paralingam writes about interreligious associations between Thirukadaloor village residents and elsewhere: much of the intermixing among villages happens during religious festivals. While local Sinhalese may visit our Kali kovil, we may make a barey26 [offering] at a Muslim shrine. In the days before boats were mechanised and we struggled with strong currents, there used to be a tradition that Muslim fishermen used to speak of. They may call upon Naguravar, a local deity, to tame the seas. People would often enlist the services of another religion…it did not matter. Naguravar is a being that is close to God… Similarly we give food to mosques, which they in turn dole out to the poor. Like during the time of Kandoori…we donate to a mosque in Jamaliya and we get food parcels and meat back in return…The Ulama does not allow folk from Thirukadaloor into the mosque but we attend their celebrations. During nombu (the fasting month), you could go to the mosque and receive a cup of kande (barley water) in the evenings. We loved doing that as youth…hanging around and getting to meet people. These days the mosque sends it to your home, and they also make sure that it is distributed among community dignitaries and other notables like police inspectors and Justices of the Peace.27

In part, the narrative reveals that everyday inter-communal dynamics during festival days have become increasingly formalised. Mosque barley water from Jamaliya is now sent to homes, and moreover, is seen to be a more instrumental strategy in maintaining relationships with those holding key positions of local authoritative power. However, the durability of inter-village networks that are forged through historic relations and interreligious dynamics should not be discounted. While shared religious practices do not necessarily guarantee co-operative dynamics, they facilitate familiarity and a pattern of exchanges, even if infrequent. While shared religious spaces and mixing during festivals were described as moments of inter-­ group interaction, they were by no means associated with co-operative practices. It is at this point that we return to the lexical identification and verbalisation of co-­ operative relations. The closest vernacular term that fishing collectives have to describe “co-­ operative” relations was sambandam/sambanda (Tamil/Sinhala), literally meaning 25  What is interesting is not simply the force of religious hybridity and the existence of shared sacred sites, but the social consequences of what could be called multisited spirituality. The same barey may be performed or re-enacted by an individual at a Hindu kovil, a ziyaram or at a Buddhist temple. There were more crosscurrents between ziyarams and smaller Hindu shrines that were often patronised by both Tamil Hindus and Sinhalese-Buddhists. Catholic communities, however, were seen to be relatively more distant; however, socially heterogeneous villages, such as Valayoothu, had Muslim and Hindu members donating to church building funds during festivities and vice versa. Arguably, the involvement within church spaces that mix local and settler groups is evidently much less. Often migrant and settler communities return to their villages of origin during important religious dates, including principal church feasts. 26  A barey is an offering made to a particular deity or entity in lieu of prayer or requests. 27  Fieldnotes: September 2, 2012, Town and Gravets.

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a “relationship”. Yet, the term means more than that, namely, associativeness, a sense of being linked or tied to something or someone, often embodying a dynamic of interdependence. Interestingly, the Tamil term onraha seyatpadal (trans. working together, the equivalent of the Sinhala havul/ekhaw) was barely used in discussing inter-group relations and interdependencies, when compared to the frequency with which sambandam was invoked. Moreover, sambandam could also be seen as a noun, meaning “an act of association”, or in Sinhala: sambandatava. In both these contexts, sambanda/sambandam could embody formal and informal relations with individuals and groups entailing either relations of instrumentality or affect and regard and including romantic and conjugal ties as well.28 The word sambandam in itself is remarkably neutral, unlike the English term “co-operation” that has a more positive association. Does sambandam, like its occidental counterpart, come with its own internal logic with respect to the kind of contexts to which it can be applied? When does a particular interactional context not comprise a state of sambandam? Is it often associated as an exclusive group-­ bounded act? What of its exchange relations, and in particular, how are reciprocal arrangements conceived? Moreover, are encounters and linkages associated with sambandam taken to be more durable or sporadic? Broadly speaking, what facets of sociality (or asociality) are typically connected with sambandam? Over the course of group meetings and interviews with individuals from fishing collectives, over 15 different forms of associational links were identified.29 Going only by the illustration below, several conclusions can be drawn. First, local migrant ties seem particularly numerous and varied. However, as discussed in Chap. 5, the high degree of internal differentiation among migrant groups themselves means that not all categories of seasonal fisher migrants may be implicated in this shared sphere. Second, arrangements entailing monetary exchanges, such as contractual labour agreements or the leasing of padu sites, have not been included in this diagram. Sambandam was often associated with noncontractual associations. In this milieu, labour hiring was equated with the payment of legal services, for example, and sambandam could only be found if relations went beyond an elementary monetary exchange. For example, if a group of fishing households was hired to harvest rice year after year, despite the fact that farmers could choose others to employ that following year, the relationship could be deemed to be a form of sambandam. Implicitly then, ties and interdependencies have to have a certain quality of durability or stability and do not necessarily imply a sense of permanence or frequent interaction. Vertical linkages and hierarchical relations between fishers and their mudalalis too could be seen as a form of sambandam, as they were usually pervaded by relations of (extra-monetary) regard, for example, a cash handout during a wedding or funeral, a form of assistance that is typically not expected to be repaid. A fisher-­ mudalali sambandam or tie was seen to solidify after a length of time, rather like a pairing, but there was much ambivalence as to whether such relations entailed a “pure” form of sambandam, given the monetary basis of the relationship. However,  My thanks go to Yuvi Thangarajah and Asoka de Zoysa for clarifying these points.  This list is by no means exhaustive.

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it must be borne in mind that sambandam was not singularly associated with relations of regard and amity. Fishing collectives were very articulate in asserting that sambandam also embodied contexts that were highly instrumental, like military patronage in return for local intelligence information, a relationship that often bordered on the coercive. Moreover, these interdependencies were not always productive or generative of intra- and inter-group cohesion, and many were acutely aware of the double-edged nature of co-operative linkages. One example cited was the kind of migrant-local network that assisted in dumping catch caught in local waters that further depressed market prices in “host” sites such as Trincomalee town, Cod Bay, and Valaichchenai. Similarly, kappam or small-scale forms of piracy (see Chap. 4) were nevertheless seen to encompass their own logic of sambandatava—an inherently negative form of co-operation, seen to be perennially destructive of intervillage life. Textures of Sociality  While the illustration fleshed out a diversity of co-operative contexts, it reveals little about the multilayered meanings that undergird the notion of sambandam. What did these associative acts and processes, at times relatively ad hoc, mean in the context of everyday forms of inter-group sociality? In essence, do tightly networked arrangements entailing sambandam necessarily connote relations of amity or even facilitate inter-group interaction? In gleaning a plethora of anecdotal accounts and how they make sense of the term, three broad overarching and overlapping frames of sambandam were identified: (a) The horizontal embodying peer-group associations (b) The vertical, encompassing relations of hierarchy (c) The non-(as)sociative or a-sociative, in which insider-outsider boundary lines are firmly drawn Consider the three narratives that have been chosen, as they distil the essence of these three forms of sambandam: Co-operation [then] happens everyday…can you call that [sambanda]?30 When boats capsize or break down in the middle of the sea…or run out of fuel… we can then expect assistance from the closest quarters. Even among fishermen who dislike each other’s communities. But we don’t always look at it like that. It is what we do, out of manushyakama [human concern]. When we [migrants] leave this padu site during the monsoons, we know our boats are safe because these Tamil neighbours are always there. And when we are around, they come and talk to us at the vadi. They may be given, without requesting any payment, small fish of low quality that otherwise cannot be sold. Anthony, beach-seine crewmember from Venapuwa, in Kuchchaveli. You do not need not have an open confrontation for a conflict to exist. Anger that ripens into hate is enough, and communities may not speak to each other at all. Conflicts happen in the mind, when one group puts another at a disadvantage… You can appeal to people above you for help, and they expect something in return. They assist because they know you have less  At face value the vernacular—sambandam/sambanda (Tami/Sinhalese)—often signifies a more intentional, formal relationship. In other words, these associations are never accidental or happen by chance.

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3  Fisher Lifeworlds, Relational Practices power, and it is to their advantage that things are kept that way. Meera, dry fish maker and co-operative member, Verugal. We have lived next to these [migrant] people for a long time. They don’t bother us, and we don’t go hob-knobbing with them. They will come to market to buy their necessities, we exchange money, and there is no mutual dislike. There is also no mutual like-ness either. That is the way it is. We can function together even without looking or talking to one another…if all they do is let community life carry on, the way it should be. Ali, small-scale fish merchant, northern Pulmoddai

Anthony’s narrative entails the first category—the seemingly commonsensical description of co-operation between diverse peer groups, in a similar sense that Richard Sennett (2012) sees co-operation as social practice. It has a strong ethico-­ moral framing, for while insider-outsider distinctions are perceivably in place, co-­ operation assumes a routine veneer, rather akin to a code of conduct. Both positive and negative forms of co-operation fall within this domain and span practices such as kappam (see Chap. 4), to the exchange of territorial fishing spaces (discussed in Chap. 5), and more predominantly, during intervillage rescue missions, a dynamic that did not visibly unfold after Vidu’s death described in the Prologue, given Samudragama’s weak reputation. In particular, I wish to draw attention to the prevalence of customary intervillage rescue missions, one category of horizontal sambandam, a complex form in itself that is characteristic of both the routinal and the instrumental and that constitutes both relations of trust and amity, as well as those that are intensely reciprocal, given their high monetary and social costs. In predominantly older Tamil Karaiyar villages such as Thirukadaloor, when a boat is deemed missing, a man with a bell is assigned to walk through the village plaintively ringing it until most of the householders gather at the beachfront. Boats are then dispersed to go out on an initial search-and-rescue mission, and usually it is only after a day of active hunting that the cross-village network is alerted. Following verbal alerts, written communication is sent out to FSCs in the cluster but only as a formality. Within the next few days, village alliances kick in by pooling resources: lending more boats to patrol and sharing information on potential sightings. Meanwhile, the host village of the missing boat tirelessly works in preparing food for both the families of the victims who are missing, including members from other villages who come in to assist. A village co-operative once shared that over 12 days of relentless searching, a FCS may spend as much as 25 lakhs of rupees (approximately 15,000 EUR). Most of those expenses go towards fuel costs and the hiring of professional diving teams, usually sourced from other villages such as Manayaveli (Sandy Cove). Vijithapura a Sinhalese settler village that is located within a mile’s radius of Thirukadaloor is sometimes roped in, as it owns a multiday boat that forms a part of the local patrol fleet. The cost of fuel is always borne by the FCS of the host village; however the time spent by its crewmembers is customarily not always compensated.

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Central to this arrangement is the customary institutionalisation of marippu (prohibition: Tamil). The villages implicated in the loose fraternity impose a ban on fishing, at times throughout the entire village, depending on the severity of the case. This practice is often noted and reciprocated by other villages at a later point in time, if a boat from another village goes missing.31 However, it remains to be asked what binds such villages into a web of interdependence? While older historical networks, along with marital and kin relations may undoubtedly be implicated, more “official” narratives expressed by FCS leaders themselves suggested that such villages shared a similar set of constitutional rules governing their members’ conduct, which included principles of resource use and access. While I will go into further detail on the co-operative dynamics of FCSs in the next section, it must be borne in mind that customary practices of sambandam do in fact exist in more institutionalised forms. Indeed, collective memory may play a more important role in their predominance, yet at the same time horizontal forms of co-operation that are less formal and more ad hoc appear equally pervasive in the domain of routinal life, particularly if the costs borne by a single individual are not great.32 This subsection ends with a short caveat on the second and third layers of sambandam, on which this monograph will focus in greater depth, as they encompass more counterintuitive meanings that differ from the more normative notions of co-­ operation. Vertical interdependencies, often entailing relations of power, were most prominently categorised under patron-client formations (see Chap. 6). Co-operative relations in this context were imbued with asymmetric forms of power, in which exchange relations are far from being evenly reciprocal. The second framing of sambandam—its non-associative/a-sociative relations—is arguably the most elusive of the three but at times is prefigured in contexts in which insider-outsider boundaries are crystallised, for example, in the case of particular groups of migrants who are seen to share similar ways of fishing with their local neighbouring hamlets. Meanwhile, the final subsection of Part I acts as an introduction to the dynamics of fisher co-operative societies and formal village organisation and serves to foreground the three contextual chapters that follow in Part II.

3.4  C  o-operation Institutionalised: Fisher Co-operative Societies in Perspective Apart from the establishment of rural development organisations (RDOs) and women’s rural development organisations (WRDOs), co-operative societies remain the most dominant forms of formal institutional organisation in the life of fishing  While it is said to establish more solidaristic relations, it remains a deeply instrumental one at that. Boats that cease to fish temporarily not only find what they go in search for fairly swiftly but also act as a protective patrolling mechanism. 32  In some ways, this could be equated to contemporary readings (and reworkings) of Scott’s (1976) “subsistence ethic”. 31

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villages across the island. The co-operative movement in Sri Lanka gained momentum in the early twentieth century. In a similar fashion to a number of other colonial states including India and Indonesia, its development was spurred by singularly state-led initiatives. The first Sri Lankan co-operative was established in 1904 as an Agriculture Credit Society in Manikinna, but it was only in 1911 that the establishment of co-operative societies was institutionalised under the Co-operative Society Act No. 07. As G.D. van Wengen (1957: 14) writes, the instituting of co-operative societies in former colonies in particular played an important role in state-led national development plans to drive an “economy based on the co-operative form of organisation” and, quoting C.F. Strickland, to establish groups of individuals “united by something else than economic ties” (ibid, p. 12). Indeed, early co-operative literature abounds with metaphors of national(ist) progress, and its mandate was comprehensive enough to promise far-reaching change in most facets of everyday socio-economic life—from improving the standard of living, agricultural productivity, providing cheap credit access, sustaining market relations and cottage industries to the democratisation of village life through collective decision-making. While in rhetoric they captured the ambivalent Owenite utopian values of community resilience and a steadfast Protestant belief in hard work and honest labour, the grassroots co-operative template served as a convenient mode for reorganising political village life in ways that not only enabled the state to govern from afar but also facilitated the creation of structures that mirrored the dominant hegemonic order, particularly in terms of party politicisation. With regard to the establishment of new (colonial) co-operative societies during the early twentieth century, what is particularly noteworthy is the fact that the co-­ operative structure itself was at times seen to reimpose older forms of collective inter-group village life that were firmly in place long before its advent. Put differently, the organisation of co-operatives in some ways would not have been seen as a marked departure from co-operative forms of village life. Elements of Indian traditional workgroups, for example, were seen to have been integrated into the modern form of co-operative reorganisation (van Wengen 1957: 33),33 while a number of Tamil-speaking fishing communities in the north and east of Ceylon were already operating within the traditional frame of kuttams (Raghavan 1971). Similarly, before co-operative societies were instituted in the 1970s, at least in Trincomalee, Hindu kovils and mosque societies functioned as governance frames under which village-­ based fisher groups functioned, performing vital roles in credit and welfare provision. These institutional arrangements were regarded as relatively commonsensical, given that local notables often doubled as fisher leaders and kovil/mosque trustees.34 Since the 1972 establishment of co-operative societies under the aegis of the Ministry of Co-operative and Internal Trade, eight distinct types of co-operative  Van Wengan cites the example of particular sites in southwest India in which work groups were organised into teams tasked with operating and maintaining vessels that belonged to a wider collective. 34  From fieldnotes gleaned between January and April 2013. 33

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organisations were formed including credit and thrift societies and industrial, school, labour and auto co-operatives. District-based co-operative departments act as extension offices of the ministry in regulating the operation of village FCS, assigning inspectors who attend key meetings and overseeing the auditing of ­co-­operative accounts. During the time of my research, there were over 10,000 co-­ operative societies operating across the island with over six million members. In the District of Trincomalee, three types of fishing co-operatives existed—freshwater, lagoon and marine—of which there were 78 registered marine co-operatives, 22 of which were deemed inactive.35 The establishment of marine fisher co-ops (FCSs) in Trincomalee was a relatively recent affair. While historic records on the formation of older co-ops were unavailable in the District Co-operative Department, gathering together those of individual village histories resulted in a general picture of the situation. In northern Trincomalee, particularly in places like Pulmoddai, marine FCSs were said to have come into existence only after the 1970s. One of the earliest to be established was in fact a lagoon collective called Muhammadiyah that focused on prawn fishing prior to the 1960s. Village residents in northern Trincomalee ascertained that marine co-ops became prevalent much later because offshore fishing was not practised as widely with artisanal crafts. Therefore it could be argued that the advent of mechanised boats during the Blue Revolution in the 1970s prompted marine FCSs to follow suit and increase in both visibility and membership size. Predictably, the first marine FCSs in Trincomalee were clustered around the Town and Gravets area, the first being Manayaveli (Sandy Cove Co-operative).36 In the meantime, FCSs among Sinhalese settler communities were said to have been established only after 1981, Vijithapura (Town and Gravets) being one of its first. It is difficult to discern conclusively the process through which FCSs of Sinhalese settler spaces were founded, but they appeared much later. The earliest migrants from the south and west coasts first settled in 1950s. However, a complex situation of land rights and ownership, existing ties with former FCSs along the western coastline and the enforced legitimacy of Sinhala settlers by the state since the earliest expressions of inter-ethnic armed violence in the late 1970s may all have played a part in the process. Moreover, it is worth bearing in mind that a number of co-ops in Vergual that were founded in the early 1990s were re-registered after names were changed in 2006. This process was particularly salient in the context of former LTTE strongholds in Mullaitivu in which former names of FCSs sanctioned by the military were changed, often under duress. In contemporary scholarship, FCSs are often studied as institutions within the fisheries governance arena, operating at the village, sub-district and district levels. They are seen as formal institutions within a legalistically plural framework, in which customary community norms and the state legal system exists together, albeit  Taken from statistics shared at the District Co-operative Department in Trincomalee, in September 2012. 36  Several older fisher co-operative leaders ascertained that before the societies were named, they functioned through registration numbers. 35

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not without their oft-cited disparities and clashes. Inevitably, FCSs are seen as complex mechanisms that facilitate new forms of social capital (see Amarasinghe 2009), yet at the same time, their restricted power within the top-down state-led marine governance infrastructure is telling. Everyday fishing practices are regulated by FCS rules and norms, and while they engage in village-level dispute mediation, their participation in setting district-level and national policy remains weak. In part, despite their visibility in everyday village life, marine FCS membership is seen to be relatively low, some estimating it to be as low as 50% of the total registered numbers of coastal fishermen and women (Amarasinghe 2009: 18). Moreover the influence of political patronage and elite capture is often cited when assessing the failures of FCSs in maintaining their institutional legitimacy, trust and salience in everyday socio-economic life. Of the 824 FCSs across the country, only half were seen to be active in a NARA study in 2000 (ibid. pp. 21). While powerful boat owners associations have been prolific in their lobbying, there is little or no data regarding membership of boatless labour engaged in fishing. These include hundreds if not thousands of beach-seine (karaivalai/ma-dal) workers, some of whom may not be members of FCSs in their natal villages, including informal women’s fishing and gleaning groups that harvest prawns and shellfish, particularly in places like Kinniya and Muttur. The Salience of FCSs in Village Life  In places that are under the governance of FCSs, what then is the salience of a co-op cluster for the social worlds of local fisherfolk? On one hand, joining a FCS, particularly in a village or hamlet that primarily fishes, is often obligatory. In some respect, co-op membership is seen as a routine process expected of at least one member of every household. Interestingly, while FCSs have often been characterised as formal institutions through which state resources and other forms of aid and funding have been channelled, their socially derived salience remains very much in the collective imaginary of members, perhaps arguably more so than the economic role they play in fishing livelihoods. The survey results (N  =  265) revealed that the more relational benefits of co-­ operative life were invoked more often than their function as a conduit of material resources or even as a source of available credit. In part, a number of co-operative societies have been failing as credit institutions, a point that will be revisited later in this section. However, three of their most important functions, as stated in an open-­ ended question about FSC involvement, were (1) the provision of social insurance and protection, (2) welfare support and (3) the maintenance of intra-village unity. Interestingly, intervillage dispute settlement was rarely mentioned. The dynamics of intra-village unity is particularly interesting as co-op life is often inimically tied to the functioning of local religious institutions that share close associational relations. For example, in large predominantly Tamil villages such as Thirukadaloor, co-operative and Hindu kovil buildings are shared; a percentage of the proceeds earned by the co-operative are channelled back to the coffers of the village kovil. These funding flows remain intact as co-ops donate to the needy in the community a share of their members’ income. Among Muslim villages in Kinniya and Muttur, similar practices are instituted in the context of mosque committees and

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building funds. Moreover, between migrant collectives and FCSs in villages of origin, particularly along the Roman Catholic west coast, funds flow through church networks, and it may be common to find smaller churches in the vicinity of older vadi encampments that have been financed or patronised by FCS collectives on the west coast in which migrants are members (see Chap. 5). Arguably, Buddhist temples and Sinhala settler communities were less closely networked, at least in the context of regular funding flows, although among temples in the town’s core patronage ties invariably exist that were more politically driven. However, what these relations illustrate is how closely FCS organisational life is associated with everyday institutional religious domains, and often when understanding the workings of co-operatives, these associational facets cannot be as clearly compartmentalised or differentiated. Thus, reduced revenues from fishing catches would mean fewer funds for the important annual Kali or Mari Amman puja (temple service) and that in turn would have mythico-spiritual repercussions on the sea’s bounty in the near future. Apart from serving as institutions that provide modest sums for loans and other forms of credit, including the channelling of state resources, FCSs are seen to provide a host of other socio-economic benefits and advantages within village life, some roles seemingly more ubiquitous than others. While this listing is arguably not exhaustive, six dominant roles identified by FCSs themselves, particularly in Trincomalee, include: 1 . The provision of welfare 2. Facilitating trans-district interaction, particularly in terms of transactional matters 3. Facilitating short-term and seasonal mobility within and across the coastline 4. Offering institutional protection to fishers during wartime 5. Village representation for collective action 6. Rule and norm setting Social welfare provision was one of the most important roles of a village FCS. Co-operatives have often provided specialised loans for widows, and neighbourhoods such as those in Thirukadaloor may cover the cost of funeral expenses and provide start-up funds for families of fishermen who have died at sea. Often, welfare handouts given by FCSs remain fixed and are codified as rules. A large relatively wealthy co-op such as Thirukadaloor may grant as much as 100,000 rupees to a widow and her family following the demise of a primary breadwinner at sea, along with 25,000 rupees towards funeral expenses. Thirukadaloor, alongside a few of its other networked FCSs, was also in the process of deliberating on how best to assist families of those who were in long-term hospital and hospice care. Moreover, the possibility of welfare flows was also made possible through rolling credit schemes in which members could obtain small loans of approximately 10,000 rupees, with an interest-free repayment rate of 2000 rupees per month. Trans-district links between co-operatives were mediated when individual members were required to make significant purchases. Often FCSs would be involved; they solidified networks of trust by formalising transactions. If things did not go

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well, co-ops would be expected to step in to mediate the dispute.37 The importance of cross-district alliances can also be seen as regards mobility, particularly in moments in which smaller (“1 day”) boats may fish in the waters of a neighbouring district for a day or more, for example among Muttur Muslim fisherfolk and Tamil-­ Hindu collectives Vaharai/Vakarai (see Chap. 5). However, customary relations in exchanging territorial user rights to access are arguably more prevalent among neighbouring districts—Mullaitivu and Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticalao, for example—that require shorter trips. While co-op exchanges were said to have been more pervasive in the past in the context of seasonal coast-to-coast migration, particularly among small scalers from the west and southern coastlines to the eastern seaboard, the primacy of FCSs in mediating these flows has been significantly eroded by state interference. On the other hand, it can be argued that the salience of FCS membership and their role in mediating fishing livelihoods at the village level increased during wartime, particularly as a result of the securitisation regime that was intensified in the mid-2000s. Fishing passes and other forms of identity checks and obtaining clearances became mandatory by 2006. The convoluted process of obtaining and renewing a fishing pass also included the obligatory signature of FCS executive committee officials. In the case of a discrepancy or an arrest, the respective co-operative would be promptly contacted. Indirectly, securitised practices did confer greater importance to FCS membership (and its leadership), even if members felt that they did not stand to derive much benefit from their involvement in collective life, particularly when material resources were unevenly distributed, or if members perceived a particular co-op to be run by political stooges. Furthermore, one of the most important and undisputed roles of an FCS— because of its bearing on village cohesiveness—was its ability to set and sustain communal rules and norms. An FCS was an institution through which sanctions were enforced and the potential for free riding was curtailed. In particular, older FCSs like those in Salli and Thirukadaloor had very potent prohibitive laws, though these had eased over time; of these laws, marippu (social prohibition) through the cessation of fishing activity was but one. Village ostracisation or collective alienation in the face of individual rule breaking was another potent sanctioning mechanism. Such a case was reported in Thirukadaloor a decade back; a reprimanded fisherman was not only expelled from his co-op, but all related family funerals were avoided by other members, and invitations to village celebrations such as weddings or an adolescents menarche were not extended. In the past, the collective ostracisation of rule-breakers as “social pariahs” was said to have been felt more deeply, as taboos prevented even local washerwomen from extending their services to rule-breakers.

 During my fieldwork, for example, ownership of a smaller multiday boat for 1.1 million rupees changed hands between Valaichchenai, Batticaloa and Pt. Pedro, Jaffna. The buyer’s and seller’s respective FCSs were both involved in this transaction, and the Batticaloa District Co-operative was brought in to facilitate the deal.

37

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Practices of social ostracisation were expected to last long enough to engender behavioural change. Yet more often than not, villagers chose to relocate permanently or were banished due to the loss of family name and honour. Freshwater FCSs are often seen to have stricter rules than saltwater ones, given their more bounded access rights to lakes, reservoirs, tanks and rivers. Among FCSs along the Kantale Tank, for example, the collective burning of illegal nets and the locking-up and demobilisation of rule-breakers’ boats were practised in the past, and there were internal discussions among co-op office-bearers on how such sanctions could be reinvigorated. Ultimately, what remains particularly salient about rule setting and its maintenance is the fact that inter-co-operative relations are seen to unfold among organisations with similar constitutions. In short, similar practices of rule enforcement and sanctioning synchronised across places constitute a strong sense of sambandam. Put differently, FCS legitimacy, particularly in the way of rules and norms that maintained cohesiveness, was expected to disintegrate and result in further rule breaking if they lost legitimacy. The existence of strong sanctioning mechanisms in villages to which FCSs allude was often associated with a sense of communal belonging and solidarity, which in turn iteratively shaped an isomorphic inclination of creating more uniformly functioning co-operatives. Moreover, the involvement of law enforcement authorities was often seen to be a negative factor in inter- and intra-village rule enforcement. Not only did it take the power of collective sanctioning out of the hands of FCS members, the differential entitlements borne as a result of patronage networks and the seeming apathy of the police in particular were deemed to be detrimental in roping in law enforcement entities, including officials within the Fisheries Department, particularly when it came to petty everyday rule breaking. The relegation of duties to state institutions or, in Habermasian terms, the state-bureaucratic colonisation of lifeworlds was the first step in eroding the agency of communal actors and group cohesiveness. As a president in a mixed FCS of Tamil and Muslim members in Kantale asserted: This disaster [depleted fish stocks in the Kantale tank] has befallen us due to the fact that at one point people felt that community involvement was not necessary… “let the niladaris [officials] handle it,” they thought. This is a wrong way of thinking. It is the members, the community that needs to feel the pain together; this is where we need to start…38

In part, what this clarifies is that resource depletion was seen as way in which to bring people together. On the other hand, several other FCSs such as Jamaliya that did try and enforce stronger regulations through Irfan, a particularly active co-­ operative leader who sought to ban the use of lights and nighttime purse seining (see Chap. 6), resulted in a split among the co-operative, the result of which was the establishment of a new informal fraternity with a more lax attitude towards rule breaking. Thus the enforcement of communal norms, including those that extend legitimacy through their codification within a FCS constitution, may at the same time run the risk of creating deep-seated intra-village rifts. 38

 Fieldnotes: 3 March, 2013, Kantale town.

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Finally, one of the most enduring roles of FCSs themselves has been that of garnering collective representation in lobby-group politics and popular protest. The institutional emergence of representation through formal organisations, such as RDs and FCSs, exists as a potent force in formal politics. Lobbies contesting for and against particular fishing practices such as purse seining were mobilised through FCS representation, regardless of whether or not the lobby groups themselves were self-formed outside the co-operative institutional framework. Moreover, the public protests of February 2012 that erupted in Negombo in response to fuel hikes and culminated in a repressive state backlash and the shooting of a fisher leader were strongly led and backed by FCSs, including activists within the Catholic clergy and civil society entities such as the National Fisheries Solidarity Organisation (NAFSO). Group size and co-operative success were often framed as going hand in hand. Large FCSs were said to derive their strength from membership volume, for not only were they seen to wield more clout, they were also perceived as being able to establish visibility by attracting more material resources. Yet, larger FCSs with over 300 members were often split by the local co-­operative department when they were deemed to be difficult to govern, as was the case with the village of Salli. Tellingly, many of these splits also occurred within former LTTE strongholds and large predominantly Tamil villages. These forced divisions often became a source of contention among members who bemoaned the fact that the split eroded the legitimacy of the parent FCS and occasioned artificial schisms between co-operative group members. Thus the regulatory authority of the Co-operative Ministry and communal expectations and norms concerning group size and cohesion appear to be fundamentally at odds with one another. “Tsunami Co-operatives” and the Weakening of FCS Ties  State regulatory strictures due to large group sizes were not the only things that created divisions between FCSs. In the wake of the tsunami, the dynamic interplay between international and local aid, gift giving, and the humanitarian relational processes itself resulted in a profound reconstruction of class hierarchies and other forms of local social stratification through multiple and often paradoxical discourses on entitlements and rights, theft and cheating, the reception of resources and their redistribution (Gamburd 2010). Couched differently, the tsunami for some resulted in a double dispossession, not simply as a result of what was lost during the “natural” disaster itself but also with regard to how the poorest and politically most marginalised factions where unable to secure the very material and symbolic resources that were intended for them and were necessary to restore their livelihoods. Tsunami aid and other resource flows were not simply about livelihoods themselves. They also yielded symbolic value, not only within the context of who and what had the power of control and redistribution but also with regard to the very agency of the resources themselves. Resource-framed (as opposed to resource-led) politics within FCSs were often deemed contentious topics during group meetings. This arguably posed a paradox for officials who often perceive FCSs are conduits of state and donor-driven material resources. Moreover, the founding narratives of most FCSs I encountered have

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invariably been couched in the imperatives of socio-economic life. At the same time, the likelihood of durability and functionality of co-operatives over time, as first and foremost social institutions, is often explained by the degree to which they remained cohesive as a close-knit group, with little internal dissension over rule formation and enforcement, and moreover as groups in which its elected leadership could inspire solidarity and trust in the process of governing. More significantly, FCSs were expected by their members to remain organisationally hierarchical in the sense that while internal dilemmas are discussed openly during monthly co-op meetings, executive committee members are left with the responsibility of discerning the best outcome or compromise. Logically then, the “right” decisions are also those that are seen to be socio-ethically congruous and serve to reinforce a sense of intra-communal accord. In other words, the “ideology of egalitarianism” is expected to remain intact. As a former leader in the resettled village of Thenamaravadi stated concerning the election of a new generation into a newly designed FCS: “you know you are in the right if the choice that you make brings the majority of your people together, not sets them [further] apart”. The question of resource redistribution then, in the eyes of most members, was expected to be a relatively transparent and guileless process. Fisher members were stratified according to their needs and personal family histories while at the same time a rotational system of resource redistribution was enforced. Certainly, the twin logics of welfarism and the imperative to save and earn higher interest created socio-moral clashes. Those who could contribute to structures of saving, like through credit circles (e.g. the practice of seetu), were in theory less likely to receive resource donations that were channelled through their FSCs. Some co-operatives tried to circumvent potential conflicts by differentiating their credit schemes, for example, making only emergency loans open to those who contributed less frequently. As a women’s co-­ operative for dried fish makers in Negombo once stated: “there is a logic of receiving donations. You need to think about what those resources do to you”. Indeed, to have women’s organisations within the standard state-designed FSC structure proves to be impossible, for it is mandatory that all co-ops be mixed. Invariably, this results in serious shortcomings particularly with regard to women’s everyday negotiation between domestic and in/formal economic life, notwithstanding their opportunities in aspiring to leadership positions within mainstream, largely male-dominated FSC structures.39 Post-tsunami resource flows, at least in the context of my research in the northeast, had profound political effects not only on existing FCS configurations but also on the very organisation of inter-communal village life, particularly in coastal spaces. On one hand, more co-ops were effectively divided or split given their relatively large group sizes, by both the state and pressures exerted by specific donor-­ related agencies. While donor-driven aid entitlements were in turn ethnicised in  With the exception of Manayaveli and Vijithapura, very few co-ops had female leaders or officebearers. Both the president of the Vijithapura FCS and the treasurer and co-operative bank manager in Manayaveli were Sinhalese women of settler descent.

39

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Fig. 3.3  Spatial distribution of new post-tsunami FCSs in Trincomalee by number Data source: Compiled by author based on raw data from the Co-operative District Office in Trincomalee (February 2013)

terms of their access and distribution (see Korf 2003; Korf et al. 2010), the very conditionalities of aid flows were often ethnicised as well. The village FCS history of Valayoothu, one of the few remaining mixed village settlements in northern Trincomalee, bears testimony to such a dynamic. Comprised of Muslim and Tamil fishers, the Nilaveli hamlet had over 300 predominantly male co-operative members, with a mixed executive committee membership of Tamil and Muslim leaders. International donor and NGO aid flows that reached Valayoothu often imposed strict conditions on the ethnicity of its recipients, usually insisting that they be Tamil. Moreover, the material resources from the Arab world, often channelled through mosque trusts and other faith-based charities, were singularly intended for Muslim households. While these distributive asymmetries were said to create some discord within the parent FCS, it was much later in 2005 that Valayoothu decided to split into two groups, one of Tamils, the other Muslims. Older Tamil and Muslim leaders often asserted that the split was commenced cordially, and yet intra-­ village relations were said never to have been the same again. Meanwhile, the Trincomalee Co-operative District records show that prior to 2004, on average, three to five FCSs were likely or estimated to form each year. Most local marine FCSs were established by the mid-1990s. According to some of the fragmentary records of the extension office, a total of 112 registered FSCs were in operation in 2011, yet before the 2004 tsunami, there were only 46 district organisations.40 Of the functioning FCSs, over 60% were located in the Town and Gravets area. In 2005, the sharp increases in the formation of FCSs were astounding, and similarly, peri-urban and town spaces witnessed the biggest growth spurt (Fig. 3.3 and Table 3.1).  Note that these statistics only pertain to organisations that are officially registered as a co-operative society.

40

3.4 Co-operation Institutionalised: Fisher Co-operative Societies in Perspective Table 3.1  Variations in the number of FCSs formed by number (2005–2011)

Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

87 New FCSs 4 35 4 8 6 2 4 5

However, conclusive numbers are hard to ascertain, and it will take a district-­ wide survey to determine how many such “tsunami co-operatives” were born as a result of amoeba-like splits and how many were entirely new entities. Yet, it can be argued that due to the formalisation of the co-operative structure under state patronage (and jurisdiction), FCSs entailed the singularly most legitimate organisational architecture through which post-tsunami resources, particularly in the way of fishing capital, could be attracted and disbursed. Moreover, the histories and trajectories of aid flows between FCSs differ considerably. I often heard narratives of how some FCSs in Jaffna were quick to put in place an overarching frame that legitimated decisions about the selective redistribution of resources—for example, if a small number of boats or fishing gear could not be evenly distributed given the sheer size of its membership base. On the other hand, the leadership of better politically networked FCSs like that of Manayaveli often considered post-disaster resource flows as boons and appealed to the idea of “building back better”, for it seemed fair to them that those who did not formerly have boats were “blessed enough to see a reversal in their fortunes as the great wave rolled back”. Other FCS members in village spaces like Muttur retrospectively cautioned others against accepting donations and resources with open arms. In the Muslim hamlet of Thakvanahar, for instance, the donation of a building was often framed as a white elephant that created more intra-village discord and intra-FCS factionalism. An unspecified INGO had constructed a building to be used as a petrol stand. The FCS village leadership was said to have sold it to a local businessman for the construction of an ice mill, which they felt would be put to better use. The deal had fallen through, and neither a petrol stand nor an ice mill came to be, and the building itself fell into disrepair. While the FCS leadership was seen to have made a tidy sum, local members often referred to the apathetic politics of northern aid as a business industry. In other words, the contentious paradox of the aid gift was very much a felt reality that FCS members were left to contend with. Invariably, trajectories of aid flows have a profound impact on life after their arrival in local contexts, creating powerful legitimacies of their own. Moreover, the post-disaster promise was not only a near memory but was seen as a lived reality, for when there was a second tsunami warning in April 2012, there were a few reports of

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householders who had selectively damaged their own property before fleeing with the hope of securing more resources, in case the sea “failed to adequately do its work”. The Legitimacy of Rural Fisheries Organisations  The long-term repercussions of post-tsunami aid flows and its effects on village and co-operative life are often difficult to generalise. However, going by narratives concerning the expectation of FCSs and their altering roles in the lives of fisher communities, it can be argued that their salience as conduits of material resources were made more prominent in the aftermath of 2004.41 At the same time, however, most FCSs that bear crippling debts as a result of infrequent loan repayments by members found it difficult to assist their communities in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami. Thus, another indirect spin-off of the tsunami, one often articulated by both old FCS leaders and fisheries officials, was the controversial creation of Rural Fisheries Organisations (RFOs), a parallel organisational structure that was equally village-based and was seen as a project of the Ministry of Fisheries. RFOs aimed at mimicking the older FCS structure, in terms of its membership and its role in everyday village life. Constitutionally, local RFOs were expected to adopt similar rules. However they invariably differed in one crucial aspect: the involvement of the Co-operative Ministry in RFO affairs. Indeed, the creation of the RFOs was often framed as a brainchild of the Minister of Fisheries at that time, Dr. Rajitha Seneratne. Among its critics, RFOs were seen as playing a dual role in strengthening local governmental patronage ties, while at the same time eroding the legitimacy of the older FCS structure, which was arguably just as politicised, but witnessed a greater form of pluralism in terms of party allegiance and factionalism. Moreover, many believed that it was possible to circumvent institutional tensions between the co-operative and fisheries ministries by establishing a parallel structure, which at the same time undermined older institutional legitimacies of the FCSs. Arguably then, the third wave of intra-group ruptures occurred with the creeping formation of RFOs across the district. During my time on the field, they were still looked upon suspiciously not only by the old FCS leadership across diverse ethno-religious communities but by ordinary members themselves. Rule enforcement and intra-village solidarity, I was often told, were an absent feature that united RFO members. Still in their infancy at the time of fieldwork, they were said to have remained durable only because the fuel subsidies instated by the Fisheries Department after the Negombo street protests in 2012 were administered through RFOs, though not exclusively. All registered boat owners within FSCs were also entitled to a monthly fuel coupon. In Sinhala settler villages, particularly in Trincomalee town, the formation of RFOs was rather swift, resulting in people’s mass deregistrations from older co-­

 When engaging with fishing collectives, donor organisations and NGOs working in conflict settings would often involve FCSs.

41

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ops.42 Those with larger families had one sibling or householder join each ­organisational structure, with the hope of benefiting from both fuel coupons from RFOs and stronger welfarist measures from the FCS. Moreover, those who stood to benefit from fuel subsidies were owners of mechanised boats, and those who fished artisanally, shared vessels or were boat crewmembers found it beneficial to remain in their old FSCs. Institutionally, some villages tried to circumvent what seemed like an inevitable rift by electing and reshuffling the same band of executive committee members, so they could be of service to both entities, while holding different offices at each. However, given the allegiance of their leadership to the UPFA, it is more telling that Sinhalese village sites were among the first to form RFOs while older Tamil Karaiyar and Muslim villages continued with their timeworn FCS structures, some not involved in RFOs at all. How then do older fishing sites with long histories of FCS involvement look upon the formation of the RFO as a parallel structure? During my year of fieldwork, the Ministry of Fisheries established the RFO district leadership not by election but through selection. In February 2013, the RFO district chairman comprised one of the wealthiest mudalalis in Trincomalee, a Sinhalese settler supposedly from Matara. Several of his executive committee members were also fish merchants, who were either UPFA supporters or had strong patronage links with existing local politicians of the same party. What remains particularly interesting is how the dynamics of FCS and RFO politicisation compare in terms of their ethical purchase. The politicisation of most, if not all village and district-level formal institutions, was taken as a given. However, the relative political plurality for co-ops remained intact, a dynamic that is often not seen in RFO politics that remain one party based, embedded in the figurations of the UPFA. In many ways, the seeming “purism” of RFOs also serves to undermine their legitimacy and the durability of process, which they were struggling so hard to establish. As a high-ranking RFO district official once noted: “if the current regime falls, this system will crumble as well”. Therefore, while vested political interests within old FSCs were interwoven with the system dynamics of “dirty politics”, party pluralism in many ways ensured that risks came to be evenly distributed. Thus, it was beneficial to have several executive committee members in the ruling UPFA party and others in the opposition, together with strong swing-voter ethnic parties (e.g. the TNA, SLMC), in order to buttress what an FSC leader once referred to as “a canvas of possibilities”.

42

 Members often concurred that the payment of a double membership fee proved meaningless.

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3.5  Conclusion This opening section serves to anchor the following three chapters of Part II that foreground three different situational contexts in which figurations of diverse local, settler and migrant fishing collectives are implicated in patterns of interdependence. This chapter started by briefly sketching a pastiche of ambivalent meanings related to the sea and its coastline, before proceeding to draw attention to the sheer internal diversity of fishing lifeworlds themselves. Against this backdrop, the egalitarian-­ hierarchical binary that has often determined the ways in which class-related and other forms of sociality have been studied within fisher cultures was problematised, after suggesting one means of overcoming this polarisation in the context of co-­ operative relations. The chapter advanced an analysis of how, through the vernacularised term sambanda/sambandam, co-operative relations came to be framed locally as having three main layers of co-operative entanglements: the horizontal, the vertical and the more elusive non-associative realm, which patterned forms of co-operation. Finally, the chapter considered several tensions relating to the formal state institutionalisation of co-operative relations and the often politicised structure of co-operative society organisations. It touched briefly on how quotidian meanings of group cohesion and forms of political engagement are often at odds with state practices and technologies of governance. The next three chapters in Part II deepen the analysis of manifold practices and arrangements of sambandam, paying particular attention to how their prefigured insider-outsider relations come to be articulated and performed, predominantly in situations marked by immensely asymmetric relations of power.

References Acheson J (1981) Anthropology of fishing. Annu Rev Anthropol 10:275–316 Alexander P (1977) Sea tenure in southern Sri Lanka. Ethnology 16(3):231–251 Alexander P (1982) Sri Lankan fishermen: rural capitalism and peasant society. Sterling Publishers, New Delhi Amarasinghe O (2009) Social capital to alleviate poverty: fisheries co-operatives in Southern Sri Lanka. In: The study, 15. IIAS, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Astuti R (1995) People of the Sea: Identity and descent among the Vezo of Madagascar. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne Bavinck M (1984) Small fry: the economy of petty fishermen in Northern Sri Lanka, Anthropologische Studien V.U. No. 5. VU Uitgeverij/Free University Press, Amsterdam Bavinck M (2001) Caste Panchayats and the Regulation of Fisheries along Tamil Nadu’s. Coromandel Coast Economic and Political Weekly 36(13):1088–1094 Béné C (2003) When fishery rhymes with poverty: a first step beyond the old paradigm on poverty in small-scale fisheries. World Dev 31(6):949–975 Boonstra WJ, Nhung PTH (2012) The ghosts of fisheries management. J Nat Resour Policy Res 4(1):1–25 Cush P, Varley T (2013) Cooperation as a survival strategy among west of Ireland small-scale mussel farmers. Marit Stud 12(11). https://doi.org/10.1186/2212-9790-12-1.1

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D’Arcy P (2006) People of the sea: environment, Identity, and history of Oceania. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu Fabinyi M, Foale S, Macintyre M (2015) Managing inequality or managing stocks? An ethnographic perspective on the governance of small-scale fisheries. Fish Fish 16(3):471–485 Gaasbeek T (2010) Bridging troubled waters? Everyday inter-ethnic interaction in a context of violent conflict in Kottiyar Pattu, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Ph.D. dissertation, Wageningen University, Wageningen Gamburd MR (2010) The golden wave: discourses on the equitable distribution of tsunami aid on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast. In: McGilvray DB, Gamburd MR (eds) Tsunami recovery in Sri Lanka: ethnic and regional dimensions. Routledge, Oxford/New York, pp 64–83 Haltiner P (2013) Getting off the Hook? Deep sea Fishery Livelihoods and Changes in the War to Peace Transition in Valaichchenai, eastern Sri Lanka, Masters Dissertation, University of Zürich, Zürich. Hess A (2010) “Working the waves”: the plebeian culture and moral economy of traditional Basque fishing brotherhoods. J Interdiscip Hist 40(4):551–578 Ireson RW (1996) Invisible walls: village identity and the maintenance of co-operation in Laos. J Southeast Asian Stud 27(2):219–244 Jentoft S (2000) Legitimacy and disappointment in fisheries management. Mar Policy 24(2):141–148 Korf B (2003) Ethnicised Entitlements? Property Rights and Civil War in Sri Lanka. ZEF Discussion Paper on Development Policy No. 75. Center for Development Research, Bonn Korf B, Hasbullah S, Hollenbach P, Klem B (2010) The gift of disaster: on the commodification of good intentions in Sri Lanka after the tsunami. Disasters 34(1):60–77 Lehman J (2013) Relating to the sea: enlivening the ocean as an actor in Eastern Sri Lanka. Environ Plan D Soc Space 31:485–501 Lehman J (2014) Expecting the sea: the nature of uncertainty on Sri Lanka’s east coast. Geoforum 52:245–256 Lobe K, Berkes F (2004) The padu system of community-based fisheries management change and local institutional innovation in South India. Mar Policy 28:271–281 Lokuge G (2014) ‘Outside the net’: women’s participation in fishing activities in Trincomalee district of Sri Lanka, Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium. http://www.securelivelihoods. org/blogs_entry.aspx?id=56. Accessed 14 June 2014 Mack J (2011) The sea: a cultural history. Reaktion Books, London McGoodwin JR (2001) Understanding the cultures of fishing communities: a key to fisheries management and food security, FAO fisheries technical paper no. 401. FAO, Rome Mullen PB (1969) The function of magic folk beliefs among Texas coastal fishermen. J Am Folk 82(325):214–225 Palmer CT (1989) The ritual taboos of fishermen: an alternative explanation. Marit Anthropol Stud 2(1):59–68 Poggie JJ Jr, Pollnac RB (1988) Danger and rituals of avoidance among New England Fishermen. Marit Anthropol Stud 1(1):66–78 Raghavan MD (1971) Tamil Culture in Ceylon: A General Introduction. Kalai Nilayam, Colombo Roberts M (1982) Caste conflict and elite formation: the rise of the Karava Elite in Sri Lanka 1500–1931. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Scott JC (1976) The moral economy of the peasant: rebellion and subsistence in Southeast Asia. Yale University Press, New Haven Sennett R (2012) Together: the rituals, pleasures, and politics of cooperation. Yale University Press, New Haven Siriwardane R (2014) War, Migration and Modernity: the Micro-politics of the Hijab in Northeastern Sri Lanka, ZEF Working Paper 127, Center for Development Research, Bonn Stirrat A (1975) Innovation in a cultural vacuum: the mechanization of Sri Lankan fisheries. Hum Organ 34:333–334

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Stirrat RL (1988) On the beach: fishermen, fishwives and fish traders in post-colonial Sri Lanka. Hindustan Press, New Delhi van Ginkel R (1990) Fishermen, taboos, and ominous animals: a comparative perspective. Anthrozoös 4(2):73–81 van Wengen GD (1957) Social aspects of the co-operative movement in Ceylon and Southern India. Doctoral Thesis, Uitg. Dico, Amsterdam Weeratunge N (2009) Living in the wind: gendered perceptions of poverty and well-being in fishing communities in Sri Lanka. Paper presented at the MARE conference on ‘Living with uncertainty and adapting to change,’ Amsterdam, July 2009. Weeratunge N, Snyder KA, Sze CP (2010) Gleaner, fisher, trader, processor: understanding gendered employment in fisheries and aquaculture. Fish Fish 11(4):405–420

Part II

Sambandam: The Lateral, A-Sociative, and the Hierarchical

Chapter 4

Change and Continuity After Wartime

Abstract  This chapter explores how postwar transformations in northeastern Sri Lanka were being interpreted among diverse fisher collectives through locally grounded ideas of entropy or socioecological and moral decline and collapse. At its core, the chapter delves into how creeping depletion of fish catch size, politicised rule breaking and other forms of resource utilisation that were at times ambivalently construed in the light of postwar “liberalisation” are characterised by new material circulations of trade, labour and capital. Within this dynamic landscape of resource exploitation and perceived overfishing, implicating locals, migrants and settlers in diverse ways, the chapter focuses on two intertwined social practices that were intimately bound with the micropolitics of wartime. These entailed the interrelated dynamics of small-scale‘piracy’ and the incidence of kappam (a localised form of rent-seeking) that came to be associated with the northeast’s lucrative purse-seine fishery operations that grew markedly since the turn of the postwar decade. Keywords  Fishing livelihoods · Postwar nostalgia · Ordinary ethics · Rent-­ seeking · Purse-seine fisheries

You remember from front to back. You assess a cup of tea by what you already know of the quality of milk and sugar that you’ve bought. (Rizwana, an elderly shell gleaner in Muttur)

While dynamics of interdependence and meanings of inter-group co-operation cut across norms and practices of everyday sociality, they also constitute spaces for ethical reflection and reasoning. As previously argued, co-operation may not necessarily entail an ethical act in itself but is constitutive of ethico-moral sensibilities, regardless of whether its manifold forms lean more towards the routinal-affective or the rational-instrumental. If ethics come to be situated within the ordinariness of everyday action, how then does the “ethical” come to be configured in everyday livelihood practices, amid diverse forms of inter-group sociality? As the last chapter illustrates, fishing itself remains a cosmologically totalising practice, with few if any clearly marked distinctions between the economic, sociocultural, relational and ritual-symbolic. If ethics pervades everyday thought, speech and action (Lambek 2010: 48), then there is little logic in conceiving that © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1_4

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q­ uintessential “ethical moment”. As a point of departure, I adopt Francesca Merlan’s (2010: 209) entwining of everyday practice and the ethics of regard in which she posits that ordinary ethics have as much to do with the “the recognition of others and with forms of accommodation and displacement linked to that recognition”, which in turn “occurs in a space somewhere between established forms of normativity that actors can access and the pragmatics of action [italics inserted]”. Therefore, this opening chapter to Part II of the monograph focuses on forms of ethico-moral ordering within fishing lifeworlds, particularly against the context of sweeping postwar transitions that have come about since the “liberalisation” of the island’s coastal waters and the political economy of fishing at large. The chapter begins by attending to the fact that most small-scale fishers in Trincomalee, both local and migrant, would concur that average catches have been progressively declining since 2009, following the end of the armed conflict. I centre the discussion on two visibly dominant constructions of culpability that were in circulation during the time of my fieldwork: of migrant incursions to the northeast on one hand and the pervasiveness of destructive resource exploitation on the other. In many ways, both essentially constituted ethical narratives that accounted for socioecological change since wartime. Moreover, the chapter focuses on how social transgressions within the context of (postwar) resource exploitation come to be framed, while paying close attention to insider-outsider boundary plots. Against these narratives of change, the analysis is embedded within a somewhat peculiarly paradoxical trope that emerges at times—a sense of nostalgia (though not always uniformly construed) articulated by a diversity of groups when reflecting upon their wartime past, a time that is often recast in a deeply ambivalent hue.

4.1  Situating Ethics in Everyday Livelihoods In the littoral northeast, narratives of change within coastal fishing livelihoods adopt a familiar script, bearing few divergences. When small-scale fisherfolk talk about the rise and fall of fortunes since the state touted “war’s end” in 2009, idioms of stagnancy and reversal merge as a dominant trope. Narratives indubitably come to be flecked with meanings and nuances of the then-and-now, positive transformations that occurred during the armed conflict, while being served up alongside more negative vicissitudes experienced during the contemporary postwar transitional phase. These stories do not simply depend on who stood to gain or lose during armed violence or on how different groups of people experienced diverse phases of conflict. As Rizwana’s metaphor infers, perceptions of wartime were very much coloured rearwards, by the immediate effects that were felt during the turn of the decade, following the so-called liberalisation of the coastal fishing industry in the north and east, when everyday life was expected to return to an imagined state of “normalcy”.

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During the fishing months, good fortune (athistam: Tamil/vasanava: Sinhala) remains a promise. Good fortune is not always associated with luck. A longliner who once landed a hundred-kilogram marlin and a beach-seine operator who had in a single day hauled in a large shoal of Sardinella worth 100,000 LKR both noted that the notion of windfall gains was not common among fisherfolk. Instead, they perceived fortune as a rotational phenomenon, as in the case of fishing cycles, and those who lived graciously by the sea and played fairly by its rules were rewarded. Many believed that was why fishing communities displayed a remarkable degree of religious syncretism, particularly within variants of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, in which certain folk gods like Ayyanar were venerated. Yet, it is also widely accepted that homage paid to shared deities and ritual practice does not simply translate into a period of good fortune. Just as important was abiding by particular rules and norms that were not simply customary but were sanctified as laws of nature. Their multiple framing often came to embody hierarchies and legitimacies of their own, which at times differed vastly according to the particular form of fishing that was practised. Moreover, the sanctity of these laws did not simply arise from some sense of religious belief. Intergenerational fisher families often stated that these were virtues one was born into (passed “through blood”), and acquiring or internalising them at a later stage in life was immensely hard to achieve. Hence, the associational links between a quintessential rule-breaker and a newcomer to fishing were relatively strong, a trope that will be revisited later in the following chapters. Natural laws were not only perceived as being universally ageless; they were also seen to be the quintessential force that restored what was and could be extracted individually, forging an ancillary sense of “community”. In some ways, they were seen to be reflective of, and to iteratively shape everyday practices that adhered to a loose notion of redistributive justice, although the term never came to be explicitly mentioned. A stake-net fisherman in Trincomalee town concurred: you are certainly connected with the rest of your community by the catch that you bring home. A bumper catch today would also mean that a few more mouths were left hungrier in our vicinity. Similarly, when I hear my stomach rumble, I tell myself that someone else has been fortunate enough today to sit down for a good meal.1

In part, these meanings are congruent with Nireka Weeratunge’s (2010) study on localised cultural notions of the Sinhalese terms “sadharana” (being fair and just) and “manushyakama” (being human or imbued with humane qualities) articulated among small and mid-range business people and entrepreneurs. Practices of consciously moderating one’s fishing effort to not unduly tax the sea and its resources come close to the Aristotelean perspective of greed-driven “grasping”, which she argues bear strong congruities with local religious belief systems (ibid., p. 330). Yet at the same time, it is this strongly articulated sense of social connectedness that arguably sets fishing lifeworlds apart from those of other land-based groups. Land could often be worked collectively and its benefits reaped by a group. Nevertheless,  Fieldnotes: March 3, 2013, Kantale town.

1

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missed harvests, lack of rainfall and blights are detrimental, as in the case of surplus production that affects market prices. However, crops that are grown do not contain similar degrees of subtractability as fishing resources do. Thus, the local dictum that one woman/man’s lavish meal was another’s empty plate was one that was deeply rooted in everyday thinking and practice and in how rule breaking was dealt with collectively. Yet, apart from ostensible instances of rule breaking and transgressive forms of resource extraction, there are remarkably few crossovers or exchanges among different fishing practices in general. For example, seldom do beach-seine crew workers opt to join deep-sea multiday boats in order to diversify their skill sets. However, more are likely to enter the agricultural sector seasonally as day-wage labourers in order to supplement their income than transfer to a different fishing-related activity. Similarly, padu licensees do not invest in or practise craft fishing in the vessels they use for their beach-seining operations, and very seldom are capital resources or knowledge shared or bartered. Yet, as the last chapter illustrated, a single village-­ based fisher co-operative society may have a wide membership base, comprising a range of livelihood forms from ornamental fish diving to beach seining. Yet mutual exclusivity does not necessarily translate into reciprocal respect or approbation. Both beach seiners and craft-based fishers, for example, have vastly different perceptions concerning the moral acceptability of their particular fishing practice. These forms of production were often legitimated by the extent to which they perceived these to adversely affect the ecological system or harm fish stocks: Boatsmen have specific nets for certain species, and the same applies for my bili-katu [longline hooks: Sinhala]. The fish I catch are big predators, like kopara [marlin], which feed off entire shoals. These are the kind of shoals that ma-dal folk [beach-seiners: Sinhala] rely on. It is the natural order of things. But you need to remember that a practice like ma-dal… catch fish indiscriminately, although they are of much smaller variety. I can choose what I want to land. When I find a fish with a NARA tag (that is being studied), I immediately know when to release it. (Niran, a tuna long-liner from a Sinhala-settler village in Trincomalee town2) The fish that our nets catch are those that swim close to the shoreline, ours is a more passive form…the rest go hunting. They also use a lot of nylon [thangus: Tamil]. Once the fish bites the hook, it gets wounded and bleeds, so when it is fished out it needs to be iced immediately. The smaller fish that we catch are brought to the shore alive, unharmed. Karaivalai [beach-seining] also employs and feeds more people…we support 24 crewmembers as opposed to four people who live off the earnings of one boat. (Nathan, a migrant beach-­ seine padu operator from Udappu3)

Conflicting perspectives such as those pertaining to “traditional” or artisanal livelihood forms were hardly uncharacteristic. Often these configurations of ethical practice were rehearsed along a plethora of binaries that combined active and passive forms of fishing, and the desirability of sedentariness as opposed to mobility. Furthermore, these frames distinguished between selective and indiscriminate  Fieldnotes, July 14, 2012, Town and Gravets.  Fieldnotes: August 11, 2012, Irrakakandy.

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h­arvesting, the sentience4 of the fish species itself—determined by its relative importance to the ecosystem and its size—together with the extent of material damage that is perceived to happen when fish are landed and when particular forms of gear are deemed more destructive than others. As the next subsection illustrates, the postwar phase was seen not merely as a transgression or reversal of a particular ethico-moral order but as a time when ordinary practices of sanction and collective control bore little valence. Wartime then was seen as a moment that inadvertently contained moral transgressions of resource exploitation, particularly in places that were governed by the LTTE. Yet, as Munir’s narrative in the Introduction implicitly reveals, there was great disparity in terms of how everyday practices of militarisation intersected with ecologically destructive forms of resource extraction. At times these worlds interlocked in containment, and during other moments they did not, particularly against the instability and fluidity of border spaces. Yet, it cannot simply be argued away that wartime nostalgia necessarily appeared a misplaced notion. Postwar shifts marked significant transitions within the political ecology of fishing in ways that were highly situated and context-­ specific. Therefore, selectively remembered parcels of time during the armed conflict unsurprisingly gained renewed claim.

4.2  Mythologies of Postwar Liberalisation Before delving into contested meanings of change, it must be asked how the dividends of “peace” came to be differentially felt and interpreted. I use the term “mythologies” here not as a means of conferring a particular sense of deliberate fictitiousness or implying that there existed an intrinsically deceptive quality to these narratives. Analogous to Liisa Malkki’s (1995: 56) use of the term “mythico-­ histories”, I see these as everyday articulations that come to be reified as a form of lived knowledge, in the sense that they actively pattern conduct resulting in very real material outcomes, for example, like the case of the police sergeant’s utterance at the checkpoint, in Chap. 2. In this sense ordinary mythologies are not simply “falsities” but come across as clouded realities interspersed with imaginary fragments, which not only reproduce a particular form of historicity but are also very much “concerned with the constitution of a moral order of the world” (ibid., p. 55). Discussions among officials in central government authorities, for example, the Trincomalee Fisheries Department, the Government Agent’s office (Kachcheri) and the District Secretariats, reveal a tremendous variation in official narratives 4  The sentience of living things often emerges as a dominant theme when discussing the morals of extraction and killing, and these cut across fishers’ diverse religious belief systems. The extraction of live shellfish and anchovies, for example, is seen to have a lower ethical impact than larger fish that need to be grappled with, for example, sharks or stingray. Typically mammalian species (dolphins and dugongs) as well as sea turtles are perceived as higher-order beings for their ability to express pain and emotion.

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e­ xpressing postwar transformations in the fisheries sector, when measured against perspectives of elected representatives of various Provincial Council bodies. More often, narratives articulated by the former were imbued with a distinct economic Rostowian/take-off logic. Statistics indicating a fourfold increase in national production figures were often cited, combined with narratives of market expansion, improved infrastructural development and more efficiently networked relations of trade and distribution along the supply chain, among other aspects. These explanations included metaphors of livelihood renewal and of the (albeit gradually) closing regionalised gaps in both capital ownership and forms of skill that left the north and east radically lagging behind the more well-endowed or “developed” south and west. On the other hand, discourses among local Provincial Council representatives focused almost singularly upon the ethnicisation of market-led forms of “liberalisation” and other practices such as the postwar land grab legitimated under its guise. With regard to the creeping decline of fisheries resources,5 many of the narratives came to be articulated against insider-outsider boundary lines and often invoked three distinct groups of new entrants into the northern and eastern fisheries sector. The first and most visible category included the professedly unchecked or clandestinely authorised arrival of small-scale coastal and deep-sea fisher crews from the Sinhalese-Buddhist southern and the Catholic western coastal belts. The second and third groups that were singled out constituted newcomers from Trincomalee itself, many of whom either diversified or switched livelihoods during wartime, or received sufficient post-tsunami endowments, and had taken to fishing with little or no knowledge and practical experience.

4.2.1  “ Militarised Liberalisation”: The Political Economy of Postwar Fishing To understand postwar transitions, it must be first asked what this indistinct notion of “liberalisation”6 of the coastal fisheries sector means. To be more specific, what then was liberalised, through which structural processes and for whom? UPFA ruling party politicians and local civil servants such as deputy district secretaries often harped on about the state-led investment push in the national fisheries sector through infrastructural development projects such as the building of new harbour facilities, 5  Despite the marked polarisation in debates that sought to explain the declining fortunes of local small-scale fishers, official discourses concerning the way forward have largely fallen within three dominant tropes. First, changes in livelihood decline have been framed as a technological problem, with respect to ostensible capitalisation gaps, further augmented by legislative discourses on rule making and the establishment of universally applied norms across coastlines. As internally diverse as their narratives may be, they raise normative questions about the “rational” exploitation of resources, cloaked in the nomenclature of managerial logic. 6  In this context, liberalisation is not taken to mean deregulation in a neoliberal sense. It alludes more to a relaxation of wartime restrictions.

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anchorages and ice plants, the provision of fuel subsidies and other forms of financial assistance. The attention here has often unduly focused on changes in production cycles and along commodity supply chains. Liberalisation therefore was arguably synonymous with a sense of opening out, of release and lenience after three long decades of war. During discussions with policy-makers, the rhetoric of “freedom” (nidahas: Sinhala) was invoked, in order to compare the liberalised postwar political economy of the present with the restraints imposed during the conflict. Several changes that coloured this liberalisation process were often invoked. These included the lifting of restrictions on fishing time, distance and the deregulation of the engine power of mechanised boats, which many noted as having had the most significant impact on livelihoods. Concurrently, everyday mobility without the burden of having to carry official identification documents such as fishing passes, for the most part, was resumed. Yet residents of fishing hamlets close to High Security Zones (HSZs) like the Inner Harbour in Trincomalee town were still required to obtain passes during the time of my fieldwork. Simultaneously, these shifts in small-scale production inevitably led to processes of market liberalisation that favoured the development of more networked relations of trade in which fish from village-based landing sites and micro-markets such as Salli and Sinna-Kinniya could be swiftly transported to other parts of the country, particularly the more densely populated urban spaces in Kandy, Colombo and Negombo. Within Trincomalee District, new road networks over the last 7  years greatly facilitated the movement of middlemen and the expansion of local markets both internally within the district and across its borders.7 Typically, a road trip from Pulmoddai to the main town of Trincomalee would presently take 45 min by road, and during wartime approximately 3 h, given a detour through Horowupotana. Similarly, the series of extensive bridges connecting tracts of land along the lagoon-laced coastline (formerly connected through ferry services) have, in the imagination of some, “brought communities closer” and, in the view of others, resulted in the porosity of physical boundaries between relatively more remote ethnic enclaves or circuits. As Raju tells of his work as a hired boatman during the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, when relief supplies had to be swiftly ferried across to remote predominantly Muslim enclaves in Muttur, he asserts “they were like little islands unto themselves”. The third dimension of liberalisation is inimically related to the spatial flows of labour across districts, and cross-sectionally between fishing subtypes, for example, boat crewmen, seine net draggers (karaivalai/ma-dal kuli: Tamil/Sinhala)8 and other 7  During comparative visits to Batticaloa, areas like Kalapadu were witnessing an expansion of local markets that were dialectically associated with recent increases in local petty fish traders and mudalalis. In part, this meant that fish, particularly from small-scale migrant camps, were not always iced, packed and sent across the island to densely populated urban spaces but were sold within the district itself. 8  Locally, the term “coolie” or kuli is often used to refer to beach-seine workers. Given its emergence as a derogatory colonial term used to refer to indentured Asian migrant labour across the British Empire, I use the local term kuli to signify both its linkages and separation from the former

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types of fishworkers along the processing supply chain. As illustrated in Chap. 6, collaborative work whether it concerns production activity on board a boat or trading networks that are very much allied to notions of trust more often than not implicates some degree of kin-based relational ties either through blood or marriage. Yet it is employment agents and other mudalalis and sometimes entire villages that largely recruit beach-seine workers. These cross-district movements can be seen as one of the most visible forms of recent postwar transformations. Tamil-Hindu and Christian villages located in places like Vakarai (Batticaloa), during the time of my fieldwork, were important recruiting grounds for hundreds of fishworkers. Many villagers in fact stated that they had taken to fishing or some form of coastal-related work after wartime and would migrate to work as beach-seine crewmen not just in the neighbouring districts of Ampara and Trincomalee but also across coastlines, where they could continue to earn in the padu sites of Puttalam during the months of the northeast monsoon. How then do diverse fisher collectives make sense of these recent postwar changes, which are often associated with declining catch rates? In part, the way that temporal changes are conceptualised offers a glimpse into how these perceptions are locally framed. For example, two Tamil-Catholic fishing co-operatives that I visited in Point Pedro, Jaffna, in January 2012 divided their livelihood trajectories into three distinct political timeframes: during the years of ceasefire (2002–2005), during the height of the (last) war in the wake of Rajapakse’s ascent to power in 20069 and the years following the military defeat of the LTTE in 2009. In this respect, the postwar years and those during the ceasefire (that witnessed a lesser intensity in armed violence) were juxtaposed against one another. Many who continued to fish remembered the years during the ceasefire as a time of sufficiency and 2009 as punctuated by the rapid increase of Indian trawler incursions into northern Sri Lankan territorial waters that fished near the island’s continental shelf, using gear and technology that was locally prohibited (see Scholtens et al. 2012; Scholtens and Bavinck 2014). These incursions were coupled with migrant boats from the south, at times culminating in as few as 60 days of fishing in the annual cycle of a small-scale boatman in Point Pedro.10 These narratives were essentially appositions of both selective forms of postwar liberalisation (e.g. in the context of increased mobility for migrant vessels), combined with purported state inaction or an ineffective and patronage-led governance regime against continuing practices of localised securitisation that persisted. For example, a co-operative society of gill net boatmen concurred that restrictions in category. Kuli (Tamil and Sinhala) meaning paid work often used to refer to casual waged labourers. Though arguably the term does not have the same derogatory overtones of its colonial variation, it is still used to refer to an unskilled workforce, usually males who engage in heavy work, from harbour workers to field hands. 9  This period was marked by displacement to areas of the Vanni, while some of the respondents settled in spaces such as Selvapuram, Matalan and Mullivaikal in the Mullaitivu District. 10  Thanks go to Maarten Bavinck and Joeri Scholtens for sharing the preliminary findings of a survey in Jaffna.

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boat engines still pervaded, and while 15 horsepower (hp) boats were stipulated, local migrants from the south were tacitly allowed to use 40 hp. boat engines. A significant number of village sites in Mullaitivu would often idealise a time before 2006, when it was for the most part a de facto LTTE regime, and they inevitably couched changes in terms of livelihood earnings. Gill net fishers who work on a share basis on boats claimed that they would earn on average less than 300 LKR on some days with a catch range of between 12 and 30 kg of fish a day. During wartime, good average landings would exceed 100 kg. What liberalisation entailed was military-led securitisation. Left to be governed were everyday livelihood contestations that permeated almost every aspect of quotidian life, from bureaucratic administration to the control of fish commodity supply chains in spaces such as Mullaitivu. While the extent to which military rule was immersed in everyday civilian life remains a distinct line of inquiry in itself, it must be borne in mind that normative visions of “freedom” (nidahas: Sinhala) often sprinkled official narratives while paradoxically being pervasive in (former) local spaces of armed struggle that were set apart and were perpetually under close surveillance. At first glance, what could be observed is a process of “liberalisation” that did not harmonise governance practices or regularise policies across postwar spaces. Moreover, it could be argued that between 2011 and 2012, a number of these military enforced rules in highly localised spaces were rather arbitrary. Moreover, enforced normalcy in part entailed the blotting out or erasure of practices that recalled an insurgent past. These attempts at dehistoricisation encompassed a range of dynamics from changing the names of older fisher co-operative societies (that were purportedly linked to LTTE histories) to the replacement of old village leadership with local military-backed nominees, particularly in hamlets across the Northern Province. Meanwhile, everyday livelihood contestations across the District of Trincomalee proved markedly different. While grievances concerning the increase in multiday boats from the Sinhala-Buddhist deep south and smaller-scale craft-based fishers from the Catholic western coastline were evident, contestations over destructive fishing practices, rule breaking and the implications of patronage-backed political impunity among fishing collectives within the district remained just as stark. As the previous chapters illustrated, plurality and notions of hybridity were often taken as givens among diverse fishing collectives for whom district and cross-national boundaries at times proved inconsequential, particularly against the context of family histories and personal biographies. However, the ways in which wartime dynamics were felt across specific areas of the district, whether they were instrumentalised as borderscapes between spaces of LTTE secessionist and GoSL control, together with the ethnicised nature of asset ownership and post-tsunami resource distribution as sketched in the Introduction, left a lasting legacy on the seemingly “new” dynamics of postwar resource exploitation.

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4.2.2  Declines in Postwar Fortunes When taken together, did the average fortunes of small-scale coastal fisherfolk across Trincomalee improve after wartime? What were some of the most pronounced changes that were invoked in the domain of coastal fishing in the years following 2009? The survey data after taking into account local and migrant participants reveal that both landings and average household incomes dropped after 2009 (see Graphs 23 & 24 in the Statistical Results). Of all the respondents, 76.1% stated that their landings had decreased, while slightly over 5% noted that their catch size remained the same. Almost 80% stated that their family economic situation had either deteriorated or remained the same.11 The data reveals a strong correlation (0.336) between catch size and household earnings. Furthermore, the results in catch sizes between town and more ruralised peripheral areas show landings among townsfolk to be slightly lower than among villages in the periphery (with a 2.6 percentage difference). These statistics are comparable with changes in family incomes between town and periphery in which 24% of respondents in the rural hinterland claimed their fortunes had improved since wartime, as opposed to 13.3% in the Town and Gravets area. Yet note that these figures are based on perceptual statements about declining landings combined with attitudes about family economic changes since 2009, and note that these also include other intra-household dynamics such as labour migration and foreign remittance flows. In this light, three questions warrant further exploration. First, what effect does age have on these perceptions? Second, do we see any connection between age and ethnicity? Third, do significant differences exist between local and migrant responses? When correcting this data for the effect of age,12 predictably older people were most likely to affirm that fish catch had declined over time (see Graph 25). Among participants who were above 50 years of age, the tendency to express the fact that catches declined remained an overwhelming 80–90%. However, 60% of those who were below 50 years of age also maintained that catches were lower; hence the consensus that landings declined after wartime was not seen to be age dependent. However, this similarity in perceptions could also have been a result of circulating narratives on environmental change, which younger fishers may have internalised through older family members and peer groups. When compared with ethnicity (Graph 26), age was not deemed to be a confounding factor. In other words, no interaction was ascertained between age and ethnicity, and respondents across all age ranges irrespective of ethnicity expressed similar perceptions towards changes in catch size. While a clear influence of age can be seen in terms of determining catch declines, significant differences in terms of ethnicity were also apparent.  Among these, 40.2% stated that their household economic situation remained the same. As all the respondents indicated fishing as their primary livelihood, this subgroup was seen to have diversified their incomes through other activity such as three-wheeler driving, livestock rearing and remittances from family members working abroad. 12  Fisher’s exact test was used in establishing associations. 11

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As the results show, the probability of self-defined Tamil respondents (in local villages) who stated that their catches had declined since 2009 was 80%, and Sinhalese respondents came close to this figure.13 On the other hand, a higher proportion of self-defined Muslim respondents were likely to express that their catch size remained the same or improved since the end of the war.14 Similarly, when comparing migrants against local groups the former predictably expressed more optimism than their more sedentary peers. However, there was an overwhelming consensus that relative landings since 2009 did decline. Interestingly, however, there is more of a deviation in perspectives (or less of a consensus) among younger generations of migrants when considering the recent past, as opposed to older generations (above 50 years of age), when reflecting on more distant, pre-war spans of time. Put differently, the wartime sandwich generation (born after 1981) was more likely to express a more positive outlook after 2009 than their seniors who were born in the 1970s and earlier. What was it about the years of postwar transition that caused such a steep deterioration in the fortunes of small-scale coastal fisherfolk? Are perceptions often associated with a straightforward narrative of postwar liberalisation, particularly in the context of extended mobility and market access that ushered flows of often politically well-connected outsiders? Moreover, in attending to the materiality of natural resource flows—in this case fish and other marine life forms—how are these narratives framed against declining catch sizes? Are perceptions situated within a simplistic frame of resource scarcity (and abundance), or do they implicate practices and ethics of resource exploitation that are socio-politically embedded? As the next section argues, at first glance, local perceptions themselves appear to be internally diverse and often contradictory. However, in order to delineate how their perceived knock-on effects are framed, it is necessary to understand how socioecological changes after wartime come to be ambivalently framed.

4.3  Contested Narratives of Entropy and Catch Depletion Salapiyaru is an enthralling and motley space, located along the Irrakakandy coastline of northern Trincomalee. Padu sites run by Tamil-Hindu and Sinhalese-Catholic karaivalai operators from Puttalam dot the half-kilometre coastline. Several metres away from where the last padu site ends, a vadi begins, inhabited by bilingual Catholic-Sinhalese gill net and longliner fisher families from Chilaw. A naval guard post sits on the newly rebuilt Pulmoddai Road opposite the migrant campsite. That August of 2012 was supposedly one of the worst years for a karaivalai operator. On several occasions on which the catch was finally hauled in, women, particularly the elderly, waited for the nets to be dragged in. While the crewmen took the lead in dropping fish from the nets, women would crouch on the sand 13 14

 These calculations have been adjusted for age effect.  In other words, the probability of Muslims who expressed declines in landings was 70%.

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Fig. 4.1 Untangling passi from beach-seining nets, Salapiyaru

s­ eparating out small silvery fish from immense mounds of phthalo-green macroalgae that was hauled in with the nets. One of them, an aunt who also doubled as cook for the crewmen, remarked that there was too much passi (seaweed: Tamil) this year. The catch they had made, amounting to a little less than 250 kg of Sardinella, was collected into straw baskets and barely covered a third of the wages of the 40-­member karaivalai team. As Aiyar, their Udappu-based padu licensee, later bemoaned, the unfortunate catch amounted to yet another day’s loss. Since 2010, he was said to have accrued a rolling debt of almost 300,000 LKR (1800 EUR). (Fig. 4.1) Like Aiyar and his predominantly Tamil karaivalai-kuli crew from Vakarai, a significant number of beach-seine operators directly associate decreasing landings with a reduced fish stock. Arguably, people would agree that pre-war catch rates were substantial and more lucrative for those who leased padu sites before the 1980s. Moreover, the wartime catch was deemed more than sufficient for eking out a living if one continued to migrate seasonally and fish during certain phases of the armed conflict. Indubitably, postwar nostalgia—if it could be termed such—was more apparent among beach seiners, both local and migrant, for whom mobility was not a necessity, for the practice of karaivalai required a fishing distance of no more than 500 m from the shoreline. More generally, however, among both beach seiners and craft-based fisherfolk, postwar catch declines were couched in vernacularised meanings of entropy15  Entropy in scientific discourse in the field of thermodynamics used to measure states of disorder. The term seeped into narratives on environmental change to illustrate notions of socioecological collapse, degeneration and tipping points, very much within the lexicon of complex ecological systems (CES) thinking. Social philosophers like Levi Bryant have further reworked the concept to reflect upon fluid notions of work that take into account their more relational dynamics.

15

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(nasam: Tamil/vinasaya: Sinhala), which in this context is taken to convey a sense of both ecological decay and the deterioration of socio-moral life leading to systemic collapse in livelihoods. The notion of decay and a spiralling sense of cataclysm are often interpreted as more than just an ecological force. They are also deeply entwined in relational dynamics of everyday conviviality, a sense of community, ethical livelihood practices and moral responsibility—facets that are very much embedded and reified as part of everyday social life: Previously, after the war ended there were people who feared the regime. Now we live in the shadow of the natural world (sulal: Tamil). Folk find it hard to live from just the gravy they make from the little that is left out at sea. And when they get into debt, there is no way out. (Ruben, a Tamil-Catholic longliner in Linganagar16) It all started changing after the tsunami. Two years later things were never the same again. We left our houses on the shore and were moved more interior. That was when the 100-­ meter buffer zone policy came into being; some grabbed their new houses, others felt they were pressured into moving. In the end, a village that is broken up inevitably lives to witness the decline in their livelihoods (rakiyava: Sinhala) as individuals alone…it only gets worse. You will see the gear that remains on the shore, but that sense of togetherness is gone. We have all left this beach space. (Nandasiri, gill net fisher in Samudragama17)

While political insecurities expanded to include livelihood-based vulnerabilities, as the first narrative depicts, the second narrative more concretely alludes to the circularity between intra-communal disintegration, cohesiveness and the internal capacity for self-regulation to circumvent not simply stock depletion but excess exploitation. At face value, the narratives differ in the ways in which two starkly dissimilar events are invoked, the armed conflict in the context of Linganagar and the tsunami by the former Samudragama fisher. However, upon a closer look, they serve as interpretative devices to convey and unwittingly downplay or foreshadow particular socio-political dynamics that are often not openly articulated. In the case of the first narrative, livelihood grievances are cloaked in notions of ecological change, yet what is implied in the subtext is potentially anthropogenic. “What is left of the sea” portends a countervailing event or process that is left unspoken, while the narrative begins by situating the incidence of depleting stock against war ending and a new climate of political fear. The second narrative squarely positions change after the tsunami, which is barely framed in ecological terms. In this context, it is not the tsunami in particular that was linked to decreased landings but the fact that as a result of post-disaster state-­ led community relocation initiatives, a “broken village” could no longer govern its resources as cohesively as it once could. One could say this paradigmatic reference in itself is ironic, coming from a former resident of Samudragama given its formidable reputation as a local underworld. Nonetheless what remains interesting are the silences and omissions that are inherent in these retellings and constructions of 16 17

 Fieldnotes: 7 August, 2012, Town and Gravets.  Fieldnotes, 12 March, 2013, Town and Gravets.

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causality between declining landings, perceptions of resource depletion and practices of exploitation that were dialectically shaped by events and processes such as the tsunami, phases of war ending and economic liberalisation.

4.3.1  Chains of Culpability What is most intriguing about perceptions of entropy and their causal chains as articulated by diverse groups of fishers is the extent to which their interpretations remain bifurcated. On one hand, many would argue that weather patterns, climate variability and other ecological changes such as ocean currents and tides are associated with declines in landings but not necessarily a decrease in fish stock. Put differently, some fishers believed that migratory pelagic species continue to exist the way they used to; they have simply stopped dwelling or “visiting” the same places that they did in the past. Metaphors of stopovers and doorways have long been invoked in explaining why fish moved away, as a result of destructive and exploitative practices along the coast. Inevitably, now and then, these changes were attributed to greed and patterns of socio-moral degeneration. Thus there remained a great deal of ambiguity between pinning the culpability on higher densities of fishing activity or on a purported increase in destructive practices of exploitation and rule breaking. On the other hand, those that do not refer to ecological changes remain steadfast “anthropogenists”. In a moral universe, they link declines in landings to declines in overall ecological health, changes that they associate with destructive forms of resource exploitation. Yet their narratives seem to share more dissonances than commonalities when identifying a particular causal chain. Entropy—or a sense of impending disaster as vocalised by Saahir in the Prologue—is apparent because it is singularly couched as a political problem. What is less certain is its concatenation of responsibility, and the many ways in which diverse actors are implicated and linked. In the case of co-operative members in Linganagar, there was a strong sense of systemic out-thereness, owing to dynamics that were outside the control of district administrators (and more vocal political leaders), arguably associated with processes of postwar liberalisation. In the opinion of the Samudragama fisher, the issue was more internally embedded in the very community norms and practices that diffused or transformed after post-tsunami events, such as forcible relocation and possibly the asymmetries inherent in and that result from resource distribution. Indubitably, people may subscribe to a number of different chains of causality, and indeed they are not mutually exclusive. However, the shape of one’s narrative may turn out to be more influenced by the particular lifeworld she inhabits as a distinct kind of fisher—as a karaivalai crewmember, a shell gleaner and a longliner or gill net seafarer rather than only by her socio-political identity and positioning vis-à-vis the conflict. Householders from larger Tamil villages, together with a smaller share of migrant beach-seine establishments, often alluded to ecological forces behind these changes, particularly after

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the 2004 tsunami. These reference points may seem strange,18 given that many respondents focus on pelagic species. While the tsunami may have affected specific coastal micro-ecosystems and niches like mangrove swamplands and reefs, its felt effects were more land-based. What these narratives do not reveal or what they selectively omit are the (largely institutional) intercepting processes that directly affect declines in landings particularly by increasing resource pressure. Since the last national fisheries stock assessment was completed in the early 1980s19 before the outbreak of the armed conflict, marine biologists and fisheries scientists concur that estimates on overfishing and existing fish stocks remain vague. However, if there were a consensus, it would be that fishing pressure, particularly along the coastal belt, increased after the tsunami because of an oversupply in smaller mechanised (“1-day”) boats, boat engines and gear. Some thought that international tsunami aid assistance spurred a second “Blue Revolution”, driven by western-centric developmentalist narratives of ecological resilience and mantras of “building back better” while perpetuating an inherently apolitical and environmentally deterministic interpretation of social vulnerability. While I explored the implications of the great post-disaster scramble and the establishment of “tsunami co-operatives” in the previous chapter, I argue that the versioning of entropy is particularly interesting in the sense that at times it works by depoliticising the causal chain. The extent to which this remains a conscious effort when engaging with outsiders (like myself) is debatable. However, among those who singularly focus on anthropogenic factors to explain declines in landings, interpretative causal chains remain fragmented and messy. These “chains of culpability”, though linear, were also significantly determined by the perspective or vantage point from which they were narrated. Local beach seiners tend to accuse resident boat fishers who resort to using illegal or destructive fishing methods such as light fishing and dynamiting depleting fish stocks. Longliners and gill netters may focus squarely on the increase in the number of migrants who exert further resource pressures. Intergenerational local fisherfolk may turn their attention to local workers as well as migrants and to new players in the fishing industry who diversified their livelihoods after the tsunami and during wartime. On the other hand, intergenerational migrants may often accuse newcomers to fishing (within their host district), who with little knowledge of fishing depend singularly upon socially sanctioned exploitative practices to eke out a living. Therefore,  See Hasrup’s (2011) study in a post-tsunami southern Indian fishing village that registers similar responses to catch decline. What this work does is render more “sophistication of local conceptualisations of calamity” in which disaster recovery is seen as an open-ended process (p. 14) and the tsunami itself as having ushered in a “new order” in which the climate, the depth of the sea, the fickleness of rains, the movement of fish, oceanic currents and winds all become conflated into narratives of unpredictability (p. 4). 19  I was told the Norwegian vessel Fridtjof Nansen later began its work in 1987, but only in the south and southwest, using aerial surveys and satellite imagery. This was followed by the National Foundation’s checklist of species. However, marine scientists concur that there was little focus on breeding grounds, among other aspects. Taken together, both these studies are seen to be relatively threadbare and outdated. 18

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insider-outsider boundary lines alone do not determine the increased density of postwar migrants but are also interlaced with perceptions of local newcomers and their concomitant dynamics of norm and rule breaking, which may occur as a result and is further exacerbated by centralised top-down forms of clientelistic resource governance. However, patterns determined by the positions of particular fisher collectivities are difficult to discern. Yet since the beginning of my fieldwork, I noticed among respondents a strong consensus about and emphasis on rule breaking as having a direct influence on declining catch rates. More specifically, these “othered” wrongdoers were not always larger multiday deep-sea vessels but users of small-scale mechanised boats who often fished at night in close proximity to the coastline. Given varied interpretations on catch decline, the task at hand is not to discern whether one explanation holds more validity or explanatory force than another but the extent to which these truth claims are perceived as being legitimate, which in turn has implications for how diverse fishing coalitions form in articulating and acting upon grievances.

4.3.2  Spatial Mobility in the Wake of Liberalisation Since 2009, the influx of internal migrants—both small-scale boaters and deep-sea multiday vessels—has barely captured the imagination of scholars who have written on these mobilities, as opposed to the more widely researched cross-boundary Indian-Lankan trawler movements. To date, there are arguably no figures, at least in the public domain, on fisher migrant numbers by district of origin, host site and sub-­ livelihood base. Furthermore, there is scant data on how many of the present migrants continued to arrive over the course of wartime and before the outbreak of civil war. The survey data reveal that among all the migrants interviewed (N = 60) across two beach-seine padus and two gill net migrant vadi camps in Irrakakandy and Pulmoddai, 55% of all migrants said that seasonally they did continue to go to Trincomalee during the height of wartime, between 2005 and 2009. In comparison, 65% of migrants stated that prior to 1983 they had been seasonally migrating either to vadis within the Trincomalee District or to boundary spaces like Nayaru in Mullaitivu. The most significant cohort of this latter group comprised Catholic gill net fishers and longliners from villages in Puttalam who were often bilingual. More tellingly, those that arrived after 2009 were Tamil-speaking karaivalai labour, often from Batticaloa, which substantially skewed the data. While I would argue that these statistics are not representative of the sheer diversity of migrant fishing collectivities in Trincomalee as a whole,20 what it does reveal are relatively distinct livelihood niches that unravelled as a result of a complex mix of collective identity dynamics, patronage politics and intergenerational fishing 20

 Deep-sea/multiday boat crewmembers and ornamental fish divers have been excluded.

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h­ istories of particular communities. Moreover, recent waves of migrant arrivals from the west and the south in particular have often been subsumed under the (implicit) narrative of postwar Sinhalisation (see Chaaminda 2012, p. 11). While this analysis holds purchase in a number of contexts, the perspective presents just a partial reality and a somewhat oversimplified portrait that potentially erases all forms of heterogeneity within migrant collectivities themselves. In a wider context, the notion of Sinhalisation generally alludes to overtly visible or stealthy state-sponsored efforts at altering the ethno-demographic composition of minority spaces such as Trincomalee, Jaffna and Mullaitivu over time. While this reference might hold more explanatory force in the context of land colonisation and resettlement programmes in the north and the east, I doubt the extent to which all forms of historic migrant mobility can be seen as a conscious and concerted effort in the Sinhalisation of the east. First, a significant number of migrants—for example, padu licensees—I encountered were of Tamil and Muslim descent from villages in Puttalam (e.g. Udappu) along the west coast. Moreover, older Catholic-Sinhalese migrants from spaces such as Negombo who have settled in places such as Kokkilai and Irrakakandy often refer to local politicians and Minister of Fisheries in the past, like the UNP’s Festuce Perera in the 1970s, as being instrumental in facilitating the movement of migrants (and settlement patterns), largely from the densely populated west coast to the resource-rich shoreline of the east. These patchworks of migrant and settler communities more often reflect site-­ specific client-patron networks, involving a hodgepodge of local Catholic-Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim politicians across Negombo, Chilaw, Puttalam and Mannar. These patchworked relations were also seemingly consistent among small-scale migrants from the deep south and often collectivities from areas such Gandara, Matara and Tangalle, who seldom intermarried locally on the east coast. Third, it could be argued that a vast number of migratory networks operate laterally between cross-border village alliances either through co-operative societies or through more informal networked relations between fishing households and networks of trade and affect that formed over time. It would therefore not be uncommon to encounter a single fisher or a small group that temporarily encamps in spaces like Valayoothu (Nilaveli) over the tuna season for a month or two before returning to their villages in Mannar. These networks too can be immensely inter-ethnic for fishing households in hamlets such as Thakvanahar and Vattam (Muttur) and may frequently make shorter trips to coastal waters in Batticaloa while contributing to a particular local kovil or Hindu shrine. Whether by informal invitation or through more customary or formalised inter-FCS arrangements, for example, between Thakvanahar and villages in Vakarai, Batticaloa, what can be seen to have emerged during and after the war is a more complex and differentiated mosaic of mobility patterns, for example, within the ornamental fish diving industry.21 These  For example, with the expansion of the ornamental fish and sea cucumber trade, ethnically mixed villages like Manayaveli diversified their livelihoods with younger men training as deep-sea divers. Manayaveli has a long history of diving, particularly when taking into account skin diving. However, the professionalisation of its diving teams was more of a recent wartime shift, and its

21

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i­ nterlinkages will be further explored in the next chapter, including the controversial and deeply ambiguous question of reverse migration. Ultimately then, the mechanisms of fisher mobility can be classified into two forms: more formalised contractual agreements, for example, in the context of the ornamental export industry as we have just seen or those that are initiated by local traders and mudalalis in Trincomalee among small-scale craft-based fishers from the west coast, a dynamic which will be explored further in the next chapter. The second type constitutes more lateral networked relations between villages and co-­ operative societies based on customary arrangements and relatively more informal relations at times driven by kin-based associations. Customary and other informal exchanges are arguably sustained through frames of reciprocity, and they invariably constitute social contracts that are at times intergenerational and come to be reified over time. In part, the stronger identification that migrants make in their “host” communities through their family names and local villages of origin (more strongly than local communities themselves) may partially reveal how these differentiated identity framings work, as illustrated in the Introduction. At its core, fisher motilities and the grievances that stem from the migration flows therefore occur not only along the boundary lines of cross-coastal insider-­ outsider categories. Littoral spaces, as in the case of many countries with sizeable small-scale fishing collectivities, are often governed according to a set of customs, and village-based territorial rights to access are very much woven into local cultural fabric, regardless of ethno-religious identity. Munir shared a vignette from his youth: he and a small band of friends decided to set off on a fishing day-trip from their hamlet in Pulmoddai to a predominantly Muslim area in Muttur. This sojourn was seen as an adventure, and they earmarked a coastal stretch with a scenic bay as the place to anchor their small mechanised craft. As Munir narrates: not even ten minutes after we had cleaned our fish and put the rice to boil, we saw a gang of men coming towards us brandishing their oars. I distinctly remember that scene. It was on a Thursday, the day before Jummat. We didn’t even have time to collect the fish we had laid and cleaned out for our midday meal. We hiked up our sarongs and swiftly pushed our boat back into the water. I wonder how they could have regrouped so fast, and with such zeal especially the day before they were to come together and pray for goodwill and collective prosperity?22

Finally, given networked relationships between migrants and locals, combined with more contractual trade-based interlinkages, how do migrant collectivities themselves figure in narratives of entropy, and unmerited practices of resource extraction and rule breaking? More specifically, are migrants themselves perceived as constituting the most likely rule-breakers in the mental maps of local collectives? trajectory is interesting to trace particularly as those who took up diving were sons of older craftbased fishermen who saw their livelihood earnings decline during the armed conflict. Subsequently, local export companies took root in these villages that sent ethnically diverse diving crews to places in Batticaloa, Jaffna and Mannar. These were rather perceived as wartime developments, in order to break cycles of dependence from large commercial ornamental fish companies located in Negombo and Colombo. 22  Fieldnotes: July 16, 2012, Pulmoddai.

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Moreover, how do particular migrant communities themselves situate their position as seemingly competing resource users in a socioecological niche that may in the distant future no longer support their livelihood base? It is worth bearing in mind that narratives are very much determined by the subjective realities of certain livelihood subgroups. It was widely acknowledged that multiday vessels particularly from southern port towns like Galle, Matara and Hambantota, arriving in east coast harbours such as Cod Bay and Valaichchenai, increased dramatically after 2009. Furthermore, as the last chapter revealed, former padu site operators and children of licensees before wartime started arriving in Trincomalee to stake claim to these spaces. In the case of the latter, there were so many grievances that singled out beach-seine padu operators, even if they were migrants themselves from the west coast.23 The official position of the Trincomalee Fisheries Department was that residents, or district-born applicants in particular, were given priority of status when applying to secure a padu space. However, given the fact that karaivalai requires a distinct skill set and is often deemed to be one of the few remaining forms of artisanal fishing,24 migrants were allowed to set up operations if they had had some prior claim before the 1980s and could thus help fill the quota of vacant padu sites. Similarly, craft-based fishers from the Catholic west often legitimised their stay in northern Trincomalee; they argued that places such as Kuchchaveli were never home to significant numbers of local fisherfolk in the 1960s and 1970s. Indubitably, the presence of migrant craft-based fishers was deemed to be more problematic than their beach-seining counterparts, at least according to local fishers, as many resorted to similar fishing techniques. However, the operations of larger deep-sea multiday vessels often presented a higher degree of ambiguity in terms of rule breaking. A number of leaders of local fishery co-operatives cynically commented that multiday crewmen—many of whom originated from the Sinhala Buddhist south—were hardly featured in everyday mental maps as perpetrators (in the context of rule breaking as opposed to overfishing, though not mutually exclusive), as they worked further out at sea. Yet, these templates of othering often prove to be spatially differentiated, depending on their micropolitical dynamics. A number of hamlets in Mullaitivu struggle daily with both south Indian trawler incursions and local deep-sea vessels that fish close to the shoreline. A Tamil-Hindu co-operative member who had recently resettled in Mullaitivu after several years spent in an IDP camp once described an incident that had occurred in July 2012. A multiday boat that had broken down close to his village coastline had required assistance. Accompanied by a nephew, he rode his small 10 hp. boat out to the stranded vessel. He assisted in packing in ice 500 kg of fish to be sent to Colombo. Two days later, he had been approached by two Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers who accused him of aiding and abetting in the transport

 Conflicts often arose when padu spaces were locally contested for, not otherwise.  In this context, artisanal fishing practices were determined by the use of non-mechanised gear and crafts.

23 24

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of illegally harvested fish—with the use of dynamite. As the fisherman wearily put it: If they [the CID] knew this much, they would certainly have known when the dynamiting was taking place right under their very noses. I was implicated because I am a local man and a Tamil at that. I was inadvertently drawn into a shady operation that only they [Sinhalese crewmen] could engage in.25 In part, this anecdote captures the dynamics of southern-Sinhalese export-oriented vessels and the moneyed politics of military patronage. But what of small-scale craft-based fishers, for example the more bilingual groups from the Catholic west who set up base in vadi camps during the months of the fishing season?

Discussions with local co-operatives re-engaged with questions of whether antagonisms towards small-scale migrants have been based more upon grievances over resource pressures (or overfishing) rather than the actual incidences of rule breaking. Trincomalee-based co-operative societies often metaphorically compared intergenerational seasonal migrants to “flocks of crows” alternating between coastlines, patterned along the seasons of the southwest and northeast monsoons, harvesting stock. The dominant narrative was that due to lifestyles of high mobility, resource depletion in one space would not affect the livelihoods of small-scale craft-­ based migrants. On the other hand, these very migrants contested local perceptions of their apparent nomadism, for the sites they visited were often said to be locations with which they had long histories of engagement. Moreover, their ostensible outsiderliness was often expressed in terms of the fact that consent to set up a vadi site had to be officially obtained from the Fisheries Department and that their lack of local entitlements (in comparison to local communities) legitimated the fact that they had fewer prospects of engaging in highly lucrative and destructive fishing practices in the east, even if they wished to. Moreover, narratives of sustainable resource use were often invoked to justify the fact that small-scale migrants needed to return to the same spaces year after year. Fishing sustainably was therefore framed as being imperative to their subsistence. A micro-conflict in Nayaru between recently resettled waves of Tamil collectivities and a group of Catholic bilingual migrants best illustrates the competing dynamics of resource pressure or what could be framed as competition. In 2010, 30 fishing households from Karakupanne—a Catholic village in Chilaw—applied for permits to fish with OBM boats. Many were longliners and gill netters. These families were identified as having had a history of intergenerational migration to Nayaru, since the early 1970s at least. Local members of the district fisheries co-operative were marginally involved in this process of consent-seeking, for as a Mullaitivu resident claimed, he personally made several calls to older uncles and family members who were now residing in Tamil Nadu to ascertain the validity of these families’ presence in the past, long before the outbreak of civil war. Such was the efficacy of social memory and the significance of migrant family names in host sites. 25

 Fieldnotes: 12 September, 2012, Mullaitivu (village undisclosed).

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Consent was finally granted to 30 families from Eral to resume their fishing in Nayaru. Yet when they arrived, so local narratives say, they had brought with them an additional hundred members from the same village. Over time their numbers grew, and the local villages in the vicinity felt marginalised by the sheer scale of these encampments and by the fact that the newcomers often had better fishing gear and stealthier engines. When I last visited Mullaitivu in November 2012, I was told that local fisheries co-operatives had several times visited these campsites with the hope of re-engaging migrants in dialogue. Yet the local naval camp thwarted these attempts by threatening Mullaitivu FCS members that if they were ever seen mingling in migrant vadis, they would be beaten or taken into custody. Simultaneously, attempts at initiating negotiations with the local Fisheries Department office as mediator proved to be ineffectual and to no avail. Four months later, when I was visiting Eral in Chilaw shortly before Easter, I heard that the Mullaitivu maha-sangam (district co-operative) president had visited the village just the day before. Therefore lateral dialogues of this nature now are seen to occur outside the shared spaces and away from host sites in which virulent forms of boundary policing occur in the name of national security or against a legitimising military narrative of “keeping the peace”. While Chaps. 5 and 6 more closely attend to the contested politics of civilian-military interaction and the shape in which so-called protective spaces for migrant vadis ostensibly assume (particularly near naval installations), the highly context-specific roles that the political-military nexus creates in the context of rule breaking should not be miscalculated. As the next and final section of this chapter reveals, complexities surrounding the very practices of rule breaking led to ambivalent perspectives on militarised forms of resource governance that served both to curtail rule breaking during wartime and to support these very dynamics in other instances, particularly during the advent of postwar liberalisation.

4.4  “Kappam” and the Ethnicisation of Rule Breaking If narratives of unsustainable resource extraction and entropy are strongly associated with a root cause—the incidence of rule breaking and/or overfishing—one must ask whether illegal and destructive fishing practices increased after wartime. First, it must be stressed that rule breaking and the attendant intra-village micro-­ conflicts remain ubiquitous. Most villages I visited had experienced their fair share of quibbles over perceivably destructive and unethical fishing practices, for example, with respect to the use of nylon (monofilament) nets in lagoons and freshwater bodies, fish-spearing by diving and the use of mechanised boats in beach-seine operations. The question of whether norm and rule breaking seems to have increased in intensity as well as in diversity after wartime elicits a host of ambivalent responses. Indubitably, the dynamics of the past and present would be coloured by the types of political orders that were in place during wartime and whether these spaces were

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boundaried as designated “grey zones” or steadfastly governed by either the Sri Lankan state or the LTTE. Both former residents in places such as Sampoor and Salli, including a few Sinhalese-settler groups, often told me that top-down rules about fishing practices were implemented fairly in de facto LTTE spaces. On the other hand, the dominant narrative was that in predominantly state-controlled areas, for example, in Trincomalee town, specific forms of rule breaking and illegal fishing were rampant and necessitated complex and sustained monitoring mechanisms. Likewise, there were a number of selective anecdotes of de facto LTTE spaces that encouraged increased productivity by any means possible, as local cadre units stood to gain from higher rent extraction. In sum, no clear consensus existed on whether the intensity of rule breaking was amplified in the years following 2009 or whether these shifts were seen as a veritable spin-off to the contested, fragmentary processes of postwar liberalisation. However, three interrelated narratives were circulating between 2012 and 2014. First, there was a widespread perception among fisher subgroups (including migrants) that the enforcement of banned and destructive fishing gear was not implemented as stringently during wartime as it is now. Fewer checks and balances were actively enforced. The second narrative that followed from this was related to the fact that inter- and intra-group resource governance and dispute mediation capacities within FCSs had declined considerably during wartime, as a result of the militarisation of civilian spaces and the mass displacement of entire villages. Perversely, resource governance, particularly when it implicated everyday livelihoods, was perceived as being military work. Saahir, featured in the beginning of the Prologue, would often contend that without military assistance during wartime, and police involvement after 2009, there was little hope of curbing outsider incursions into Pulmoddai lagoon and other brackish water bodies. Similarly, Tamil and Sinhalese padu licensees from Puttalam often stated that during the last decade of wartime, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA)26 assumed a life of its own in regulating the possession and use of dynamite in coastal waters. This largely came about as a result of naval control; however, the extent to which Sinhalese boats themselves were under surveillance must be asked, recalling Paralingam’s narrative in Chap. 2. Wartime surveillance was not effectively a facet of resource governance, but to many it played an important role in restricting the intensity of exploitative practices by virtue of its blanket regulations. In part, some of the postwar nostalgia stemmed from this and was particularly evident in contexts in which the use of dynamite carried heavy sanctions. As an ex-­ Provincial Councillor from Kuchchaveli concurred: when you compare then [wartime] and now, I believe illegal dynamiting has in fact increased. In those days it prevailed but the intensity with which it was used was low. People were generally afraid. It would have happened further north like in Pulmoddai where you would hear of a few cases, but there were areas where controls were limited. However, illegal fishing using prohibited nets and other forms of gear was more ­rampant…  Note that the PTA was first instated in 1979. However, residents in Trincomalee felt it was applied with renewed vigour after the Rajapaksa regime gained power in 2006.

26

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these are things that need to be constantly monitored…it is harder to always check and regulate.27

Third, a greater deal of ambivalence exists regarding whether peripheral areas were less regulated than Trincomalee’s core—the Town and Gravets administrative unit. While a great deal of subjectivity can be found within intra-district spaces, the many who reside in the hinterlands of southern Trincomalee like Muttur and Verugal claim that the incidence of rule breaking was arguably far less than what was witnessed within the boundary of the main town. This would seem somewhat of a paradox, given the fact that police concentration after wartime in the Town and Gravets area was strengthened, and it was often the police together with the Fisheries Department that was called in to preside over fishing disputes. However, in the hinterlands formal state governance was perceived as the jurisdiction of the military. Monthly meetings between fisher village members and the local military—usually from the nearest naval camp—were regular fixtures, and in places like Kinniya and Muttur, the dynamics of rule breaking and the need for stricter regulations or protective forces often dominated discussions. Often local perceptions towards naval units regarding their effectiveness to respond to incidents of rule breaking and to impose controls against outsiders were markedly different between residents in the town areas and the hinterlands. Indeed, particular rural spaces in Muttur, for example, were compelled to rely on naval clout. Indubitably, the village-level negotiators who were chosen to make representation were always bilingual and were held in positive regard by naval camp officers. In such instances, grievances were swiftly addressed, especially when they concerned outsider incursions and rule breaking. On the other hand, Trincomalee town was often depicted by those in the rural hinterland as a den of vice, despite (and precisely because of) its concentration of military and law enforcement structures. In order to piece together the contested dynamics of rule breaking and perceptions of resource depletion, it is necessary first to delineate these intertwined transgressive practices. In particular, we need to differentiate particular forms of resource exploitation, for these in turn allude to the multiple realities of littoral spaces and their complex social assemblages, questions of legitimacy and the interplay of client-patron networks.

4.4.1  The Social Biography of a Fishing Net As previously discussed, the use of dynamite in illegal fishing has been fairly pervasive, particularly over the last few decades of armed conflict. However, during the 1960s and 1970s, many older fisherfolk claimed that migrants from the west coast in particular would often use artisanal or traditional gear to fish and that the use of dynamite, if at all, was perceived as “a newcomers’ poison”. Yet, two other forms of 27

 Fieldnotes: 7 August, 2012, Town and Gravets.

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destructive gear have been closely associated with rule breaking. One was “light-­ course” fishing, meaning the use of lights to attract large shoals, often at night. The second transformation entails the highly politicised (small-scale) purse-­ seine fishing subsector, featuring two local versions or forms of nets, hambili-dal and suruku-vel/suruku-val, the latter being a term that is more commonly encountered along the northern and eastern seaboard. Hambili-dal (Sinhala) refers to a regular purse-seine net and may be used interchangeably with its Tamil version, suruku-vel. However, the latter is used to distinguish the practice of combining several purse-seine nets, a form that is illegal as the use of seine nets is tightly regulated with respect to where they are to be used, how far out at sea, along with corresponding restrictions on length and mesh size. Suruku and hambili nets are additionally referred to as disco-dal/disco-vel when they are used illicitly at night with attached lights. More notably, variations in practices and the use of destructive gear have been combined over the entire course of wartime, across the district, and particularly in places such as Pulmoddai, Kinniya and the Town and Gravets area. Yet, it was only after 2010 that the small-scale purse-seine fishery (at least in the Trincomalee District) became openly contested and politicised, although anti-purse-­ seine lobbies canvassing for its complete ban have existed for over a decade. Purse seining presently constitutes one of the most common forms of fishing in the global commercial high-sea tuna industry. It uses a net that is vertically set in the water and weighted down as it sinks, encircling entire shoals of fish. A smaller vessel may be used as a form of support. Historically, purse-seine nets have been controversial due to their by-catch, particularly with regard to larger marine mammals such as dolphins and porpoises in the Atlantic and the Pacific. In Sri Lanka at least, statutory boards like the National Aquatic Resources Association (NARA) first introduced purse-seine nets during the 1950s as part of the state-led drive to increase the national fisheries’ productivity in an effort to boost food security. However, towards the late 1970s, the technological appeal of purse seining was said to have waned, particularly in the densely populated southern coastline in which it was first introduced. Today, purse seining, at least with respect to its introduction among coastal small-scale fishers, is often described as a Pandora’s box that state regulative structures can barely contain. As purse-seine fishing works on a licensing system, only those who owned nets could renew licences, in theory effectively curtailing the introduction of new nets. Rather than phasing out the use of purse-seine nets in small-scale fisheries, it was said that many fishers started mending older nets, thus extending the average lifespan of a net. Interestingly enough, these restrictions primarily focused on demand side measures, and so the infant purse-seine manufacturing industry that burgeoned in the 1970s and 1980s was not properly regulated either. Moreover, the legal ambiguity that emerged at specific points in time, often driven by public pressure to limit its use and accessibility, further fueled the contestation of this type of fishing. In the early 1980s, Festuce Perera was said to have introduced the first round of legislation to regulate the issuing of licences for new nets. I was told that during the Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga regime, purse seining was temporarily stopped; a former environmental minister in the same cabinet, Mahinda Wijesekera, was said to have cracked down on purse-seine users in the

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south, which was reinterpreted as his way of thwarting his former allies, the Marxist-­ JVP party and its monetary support base. What remains particularly interesting about the development of Sri Lanka’s purse-seining industry was that it attracted or combined diverse permutations of rule breaking. Hambili-dal was often synonymous with its reference to “disco” nets because of the method of using lights to attract large schools of fish. Moreover, in spaces such as Trincomalee and Mannar, this method of fishing was often used illicitly in combination with dynamite. This lethal combination was invoked as a typical aspect of small-scale fisheries, as it was said to be easier for a small crew of approximately four to six men to haul in stunned or dead fish than to battle a thrashing school of frigate tuna all weighing over a thousand kilograms. Furthermore, those who were lobbying to ban the net in Trincomalee often remarked that apart from the high incidence of by-catch, small boats simply lacked the capacity to carry back thousands of kilograms of pelagic fish to shore. Inevitably then a significant portion of the catch was often dumped back into the sea. Moreover, the legitimacy of purse seining was often clothed in a vocabulary of ethical practice and distributive justice, as illustrated in the previous chapter. Certainly, large catch sizes significantly impact local beach prices. In September 2012, six or seven boats were reported to have hauled in 4000 kg of squid in a single night near Kokkilai. A conflict was avoided when the negotiating mudalalis of each village informed the respective groups of fishers to “lie low” for several days. This incident brings to light two characteristics of the small-scale purse-seining enterprise in Trincomalee. First, it remains a co-operative effort that requires the collective pooling of several disparate groups (what are often referred to locally as “teams”) of fishers, some of whom cut across village and ethno-religious boundaries. Second, it illustrates the often sub rosa role that larger fish traders and mudalalis play in the dynamics of rule breaking. Among small-scale local fishers (as opposed to migrants), how then are the shackles of culpability imagined with regard to resource exploitation? In my survey, an astounding 94% concurred that the “wealthy” as opposed to the “poor” were responsible for rule breaking particularly in the context of purse seining. This supports the claim that is widely articulated: that large and mid-size traders promote high catch rates as oversupplies invariably depress beach prices, to the particular detriment of the poor local fishers. Often such fish are purchased in bulk, packed in ice and sent to Kandy, Colombo and other densely populated urban areas across the island. On the other hand, my respondents concurred that fishermen who worked for such tradesmen or women did not derive as much advantage from this form of sambandam or association. They believed the mudalalis to be responsible for providing small-scale fishers with political impunity when accused or caught. When impunity was sought, these processes were very much enmeshed in the patronage machine that called upon large traders who posed as patrons and campaign financers of local politicians during election time. Moreover, the very nature of what was to be effectively regulated further complicated inter-agency dynamics. Many a fisheries inspector told me that regulations if imposed had to be carried out at sea. If licences were issued for nets that were measured in homes, the possibility of procuring the same licence for a different net

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when out at sea would remain a well-rehearsed loophole. Furthermore, fishing gear, both legitimate and destructive, would often be split among several boats making it hard to locate or impute responsibility to a single party. Traceability proved even more difficult. These perceptions and dynamics pointed towards a certain performativity of rules and rule creation, which Chap. 6 will focus on in greater detail. How then do socially transgressive fishing crews come to be imagined? Inter-­ communal perceptions may appear remarkably polarised. There was a widespread consensus that rule-breakers constituting such “teams” entailed the poorest and were indebted to the mudalalis who financed their fishing operations through hefty loans. Moreover, narratives constitute a strong ethnicised “othering” process that strongly associates this practice with coastal Muslim communities for the most part, and some Sinhalese-settler factions largely concentrated in the Town and Gravets area. In reality, most of the purse-seine licences that were issued during the first half of 2012 were issued in Kinniya, with Trincomalee town and Kuchchaveli coming in as close seconds. While there is no question that moneyed politics plays a significant role in this dialectic, the ethnicisation of the rule-breaking phenomena proves particularly intriguing. Superficially, the common explanation of first-generation fishers taking to schemes such as dynamiting when compelled to switch or diversify their livelihoods from farming or livestock rearing during wartime offers only a partial answer. However, this negates scores of primarily Sinhala-settler fishers I met who had an intergenerational family history of fishing but took to purse seining and rule breaking if the opportunity presented itself. Therefore, it could also be argued that purse seining combined with illicit practices such as dynamiting increased precisely because of the postwar backdrop of liberalisation in which both Sinhala and Muslim crewmembers were less likely to face draconian measures if caught in the act, unlike their Tamil counterparts. Raju, himself (featured in Chap. 2), describes the early days of wartime, when he too occasionally solicited dynamite for fishing trips: I did some dyna myself, before the 1990s. If I was caught with even just a gram at that time I would be securely locked up for 50 years perhaps …under the Emergency Act. We won’t even have recourse to a lawyer in Court. During that time and even now I might have gotten caught… and be thought of as an LTTE loyalist. In those days I was young, although I was well aware how much damage it did to fish stocks. I knew that by using dyna, I deprived others. But I would do it anyway. In those days people got their dynamite from quarries, from people who work for the government. You could even get it from the local police if you paid them well. In those days, I used to take fish and manioc to sell in Kanniya. On the trip back, I used to put a bit of dyna in between the wooden slats under my box and peddle home.28

Intriguingly, Raju’s wartime narrative can be juxtaposed with Qasim’s ethical positioning, which he uses to reason his case for the use of lights in his purse-­ seining enterprise in Pulmoddai: There are three co-operatives here; each month we contribute a hundred rupees for a seetuwa [revolving credit fund]. If this isn’t paid, we can prohibit people from going fishing 28

 Fieldnotes: 5 March, 2013, Nilaveli.

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for two days. In fact we can’t lie…this village does a lot of light course fishing. That’s how we make a living mostly…we have been doing this for generations. The catch from one boat can feed as many as 25 families. The fish quantity does not decrease. We spend about 6,000 rupees on kerosene for a single trip and we need to ensure that we break even. The use of disco dal has not been banned here [sic], and even if there are restrictions we would worship at their feet and go. Now dynamiting is another story. People get it at quarries. The government provides all the dynamite. In fact we do some dynamiting here ourselves. It usually happens in the morning, when we fish for parau. You may ask how we justify this. Look at it this way. Our income decreased during wartime and we lived like beggars for 30 years. We used to go out to sea, for about a mile, and if we went further we would risk getting shot at. Now we can once again pursue our livelihoods, without fear or boundaries. The navy protects this village. Of course their protection is conditional as long as we remain under their law. If we comply, we know we can benefit in other ways. After many incidents occurred with the Australian boat people, they have become much stricter with their surveillance.29

What is particularly striking about Raju and Qasim’s narratives is the strong sense of habituation in practices such as dynamiting and light fishing. Raju’s furtive attempts at smuggling small quantities of dynamite were curtailed by the securitised surveillance regime during wartime that targeted Tamil civilians in state-controlled places. On the other hand, the fact that Pulmoddai seemed to be less regulated, a grey border zone in which survival became an art practised “by any means possible” as Qasim would later add, in part, may have semi-normalised certain exploitative practices. Munir’s reference to the fact that dynamiting continued well into the hours following nationwide curfew after the LTTE’s assassination of President Premadasa was announced indicates a strong sense that such practices became routinised outside the securitised context. Such forms of rule breaking were not simply interim measures that particular communities had to resort to during armed conflict; they continued well into the post-2009 years. In 2012, after Eid-ul-Fitr, a number of villages within Pulmoddai, both Muslim and clusters of Tamil hamlets, concurred that while state regulation of dynamiting and light-course fishing was being tightened, the Fisheries Department had tacitly agreed to “turn a blind eye” to them; in other words, they allowed exploitative practices to take place until the fasting month was over given pressure exerted by local politicians. Clemency thus was restricted to a specified time frame, and as Chap. 6 will illustrate, local regularisation of purse seining happened with immediate effect, in response to vocal anti-purse-seine lobby groups. On the other hand, there was a marked consensus among Tamil communities residing in the hinterland that illegal practices within the purse-seining industry were primarily a “Muslim vocation”, as a co-operative leader once put it. Yet the wartime use of dynamite among particular Sinhala-settler villages that had enjoyed close patronage ties with the police and military should not be discounted. The arming of urban Sinhala civilians was a widely acknowledged fact, and therefore the pervasive use of dynamite among townsfolk was interpreted as a dynamic that spe-

 Fieldnotes: 28 August, 2012, Pulmoddai.

29

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cifically arose out of client-patron-based networks that guaranteed state protection and political impunity. However today the purse-seining industry is often imagined as a distinct practice among Muslim collectives in places such as Kinniya and Pulmoddai, who at that time had strong political patrons such as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province and local Provincial Councillors who were associated with the Rajapakse regime. Finally, some of the voices I found to be most sympathetic were among the Catholic-Sinhalese settlers in areas like Kokkilai who often articulated the fact that recent farmer-turned-fisher Muslim communities “grew up learning to fish by rule breaking”, and therefore what was evidently needed was a comprehensive state-­ driven initiative in retraining such groups in appropriate fishing skills or practices. Pockets of older Tamil hamlets in Kuchchaveli, however, were less sympathetic and often alluded to the fact that destructive livelihood practices, whether or not they involved purse seining, were too entrenched in promises of lucre to change and that the criminalisation of offenders was the only recourse. These narratives further polarised the debate among those who envisioned rule breaking as a fortuitous dynamic that may have been circumstantial, due to wartime insecurities, for example—against many who believed that economic and politician opportunism sustained such practices, regardless of the context in which they first emerged. Munir himself, a Pulmoddai resident and a strong advocate of tighter state regulations, argues: …this sort of thing breeds bad politics, and bad politics ensures that wrong-doing like this continues…and when things boil to the surface, ultimately it gets washed away as a matter of inaperachchenai [an inter-ethnic problem: Tamil]…as you create disgruntlement among Tamil neighbours who suffer vastly as a result.30

4.4.2  The Interplay of “Kappam” As an Institution When ethnicised narratives and dynamics of exploitative practices are studied, networked relations of rule breaking are but one side of the coin. The events leading up to Vidu’s death (in the Prologue) were very much a consequence of co-operative action. Moreover, it was not simply linked to the incidence of illegal fishing activity but to another closely related dynamic which has often featured in the spaces of rural Trincomalee kappam. The etymology of the word is largely unknown, and the term itself is often invoked in colloquial usage. Kappam means “protection money” and is often associated with practices of corruption and rent-seeking. Kappam, as it is practised within informal contexts of local governance, is indubitably embedded in asymmetric power relations. It embodies a particular form of patronage that requires a more central actor or countervailing force that allows either an individual or collective to continue a presumably illicit activity under specific conditions of impunity. 30

 Fieldnotes: July 16, 2012, Pulmoddai.

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Moreover it could guarantee the fact that a socio-economic status quo is maintained once the necessitated informal exchange is made, often in the form of monetary payment or compensation. The usage of the term itself is rather ambiguous. Kappam can mean expenses for necessary services that do not require monetary “greasing”, for example, exchanges between fishermen and naval coast guards in which a portion of landings are extorted in exchange for safe passage. Meanwhile, the practice of kappam is seen to be a pervasive fixture in everyday life. The Boat Owners Associations in Valaichchenai, for example, described how they regularly paid the LTTE kappam to continue with their fishing. Similarly, the survey statistics indicate (see Graph 22, Statistical Results) that kappam is widely practised by a diversity of actors implicated in the fishing sector. At times, it is constitutive of normed relations within a co-operative exchange and, in the words of a migrant fisherwoman from Puttalam, is a necessary practice in “ensuring that something gets done”. What typically elicits a particular kappam exchange remains an interesting question. Unsurprisingly a little less than 20% of the survey respondents admitted having been asked for or having given kappam31 in the years following 2009. The survey data reveal a marked division of experience between local and migrant respondents. Among these, the highest amount of kappam requests came from Trincomalee Fisheries Department officials (over 50%), followed by the local police and officials at landing sites. Surprisingly there were hardly any reports incriminating naval authorities. Interestingly however, among locals the police were perceived as the worst perpetrators (50%). Migrant respondents perceived Fisheries Department officials as being responsible for over 66% of the extortion requestions, while the role of the police was significantly less. Furthermore, this graph reveals that while landing sites were known as places for kappam-seeking in comparison to other places such as markets and harbours,32 the incidence of kappam among other fisherfolk while out at sea was hardly mentioned. Since 2009, the phenomenon of kappam-seeking as a lateral process between small-scale fishers was said to have increased. Vidu’s death was openly implicated as an unfortunate result of such kappam-seeking. Apart from being perceived as “protection money”, kappam was often loosely described as a form of piracy. At this point, several questions warrant further exploration. First, does inter-communal kappam-seeking clearly distinguish a specific group of assailants and victims? Second, can this form of kappam be seen as a postwar development? Finally, what are the manifold ways in which kappam is interpreted by diverse fisherfolk both in the context of rule breaking and beyond?

 In this context, the question did not directly ask if they ever paid kappam but was worded as whether they were compelled to make a payment or give something in kind for a service that otherwise would not have required such an exchange or were coerced into paying something in order to receive some form of protection or guarantee. 32  However, a small proportion of migrant boaters indicated that they were at times accosted for kappam at local marketplaces. 31

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During my fieldwork, I did not encounter anyone who explicitly stated that she or he had helped to extort kappam. Indeed, everyone typically expressed being a victim of kappam-seekers. The most significant number of reports came from among fisherfolk in Kinniya and Muttur in southern Trincomalee. Several commonalities could be found in these disparate narratives. First, kappam or lateral extortion between fisher collectives appeared as a singularly nocturnal activity, one that often emerged between June and August during the height of the fishing season along the eastern seaboard. Thus, its patterning had a degree of cyclicality. Second, kappam was practised most by certain Sinhalese-settler villages chiefly in the Trincomalee town, not its more peripheral areas. More specifically, it was a practice that came to be associated with residents of Samudragama, a village known for its notoriety as a “Koreava”, a term connoting a thuggish underworld. Kappam itself was regarded as a co-operative practice, which entailed strong trustful elements of sambandam. It could only be undertaken as a collective effort with the assistance of a “team” of extorters divided among several empty (meaning gearless) boats that were tasked with anchoring out at sea and waiting for information on substantial landings by other vessels in the vicinity. As a group of gill net fishers in Kinniya described the process to their local mosque trustees: Samudragama was the first village it started from—it’s a Koreava…and we see it as a primarily Sinhalese livelihood. What happens is that about 25 boats surround ours. They come armed with knives, some of them carry small firearms. They threaten us and demand a share of our catch. They have a number of empty boats on stand-by, and they communicate through mobile phones. At least one empty boat is kept on stand-by for this dirty work. As the boat is empty, it can travel quite fast and catch up with us in no time. They spot us because we have a light on our boat, while they lurk about in the darkness, in silence. There is no point in making a police report. The people in this koreava are mostly Sinhalese, with houses behind the marketplace. The police are in their pockets. We don’t mix with them. They have different teams and they cooperate in diverse ways. They operate like Somali pirates. This sort of thing has been going on for over eight years now, even during the war. They got used to it. The guys in the koreava have a ready supply of illegal arms, bought through the military maybe. You know how these things work. It’s not official. They get support from the military—the army, navy—you name it. It started during wartime, which was when they got used to possessing firearms. But during wartime, they did this dirty work in other areas, not here…because these spaces were controlled by the LTTE at times and they were afraid to go past Sampoor. Now that spaces have opened up they can freely roam here. In those days we were afraid to go to the main fish market in the Trincomalee town … they would lie in wait. What can we say when they demand half our catch? Three months ago a crew caught up with us and took our fish. We complained to the naval captain in our area, and with the police we went down to their village to identify them and brought back some of our fish…not all of it, but some. The police know who they are, and unsurprisingly nothing happened to them. They were given a stern warning. It is Trincomalee’s most open secret … who these kappam folk are.33

First, this narrative reveals more about local hierarchies and the salience of patronage-led power bases that were shaped over the course of wartime. Kappam was often ethnicised as a distinctly “Sinhalese vocation” due to the arming of settlers in the town area and was particularly associated with just one or a few Sinhalese hamlets that were clustered around the central town market. It was by no means 33

 Fieldnotes, 7 August, 2012, Kinniya.

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conceived as a recent postwar development. However, it became a more extensive practice, particularly between 2008 and 2011, with the demobilisation of former LTTE strongholds further south, and with the increase of spatial mobility. Second, the practice is often referred to as a “habit” that formed during wartime but continued well into the years after 2009. FCS leaders would wryly describe kappam as a “livelihood”, and the phrase “fishing for kappam” was not uncommon. The question that remains to be asked is whether kappam-seeking was essentially an ethnicised practice. In other words, would politically well-networked factions in villages like Samudragama waylay only non-Sinhalese boats? Superficially, the practice of targeting largely Muslim-owned vessels seems apparent when looking through diverse narratives of routine kappam victims. However, multiday boats, owned primarily by southern Sinhalese that docked close to the market place, were also reportedly struck during wartime by small-scale kappam boats. Furthermore, when adopting a more spatially nuanced view, it can be seen that Muslim, Sinhalese and Tamil hamlets situated in the core Town and Gravets area (including those that were ethnically mixed) reported lesser incidents of kappam. In other words, if these so-called kappam pirates lived closer to the town’s core, the likelihood of them attacking boats from nearby hamlets would seem counterproductive. Yet intriguingly many residents in the hinterlands of Muttur and Verugal related that they were surprised that crewmembers from Samudragama and Jamaliya had finally clashed during that fatal night in July 2012. Jamaliya, being a predominantly large Muslim fishing village located close to Samudragama, was also reported to have a few individuals who occasionally attacked boats for kappam, often in northern Trincomalee, close to Kuchchaveli. Although there was little intervillage collaboration among kappam networks, it was believed that given the political clout wealthier boat-folk wielded in these villages, there existed a tacit understanding between kappam crews in Samudragama and Jamaliya regarding keeping out of each other’s peripatetic territories. While the most active kappam seekers—often explicitly identified—were of Sinhalese-settler descent, the spatial patterning of kappam attacks was not determined by ethnicity alone, but by how rurally remote and politically un-networked these spaces were. It may seem that after 2009 villages in areas like Upparu and Kandaladichu were most affected. Following Vidu’s death, however, reported incidences of kappam decreased significantly, and fisherfolk often stated that the very authorities that were either complicit or may have been silently abetting in the past had finally decided to take collective action after the death of a Sinhalese fisherman. What then is the relationship between kappam and rule breaking? Among small-­ scale fishers, there remained a consensus that kappam-seekers targeted boats with higher landings and those boats that expected bumper harvests particularly when they combined purse seining with the use of illicit lights or dynamite. Narratives often framed kappam as a distinctly Sinhalese vocation and illegal forms of rule breaking as a phenomenon that was more common among first-generation Muslim fishermen. A fisher co-operative leader from a Tamil hamlet once stated that he believed kappam and rule breaking were practices that went hand in hand, for rule breaking kept the institution of kappam piracy alive, interpreted as a co-operative relationship that was symbiotically convenient for both parties. Interestingly, a

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small number of anti-purse-seine lobbyists alluded to kappam as an expedient way of keeping rule-breakers in check, though they never framed it as an ethical practice that should be socially condoned. Moreover, the moral ambivalence of kappam remains apparent given the fact that a small number of Sinhalese-settler villagers would often come close to framing it as mechanism that may allegedly redistribute illicitly harvested bumper catches among the janathava (community: Sinhala). Yet, in the same breath, some may swiftly assert that perceptions that associated kappam with a vague notion of redistributive justice were either misguided or threadbare, as kappam seekers themselves were politically well networked and the most economically impoverished fisherfolk who stood to lose the most were never party to networks of piracy and extortion.

4.5  Conclusion Stark declines in landings among a diversity of small-scale fishing collectives in the northeast were often couched in the paradigmatic frame of entropy, combining notions of ecological cataclysm with the disintegration of socio-moral life. In part, the opening of waterways and the lifting of securitised livelihood restrictions (often obscurely referred to as “liberalisation”), led to dynamics frequently witnessed in common resource regimes, replete with a gamut of exploitative practices around resource use and access. Yet, their grievances were not simply articulated in terms of stock abundance or scarcity. Their narratives often implicated livelihood diversification, increased geospatial mobility and forms of (habituated) rule breaking that were said to have heightened after wartime. Moreover, social transgressions concerning destructive forms of resource extraction were perceived as being embroiled in a patronage-driven political economy that rendered impunity to some. Thus, entropy was framed as a dialectic, not only a veritable outcome of political opportunism and negative interdependence. Taken in all its complexity, meanings of entropy indicated more than mere ecological decline. When understanding how grievances come to be framed, chains of ethico-moral culpability that squarely assign responsibility to certain groups and not others invariably become entangled. On the one hand, respondents often invoked intensification in fishing pressure in the context of migrant flows, especially those associated with increased postwar mobility. On the other hand, first-generation fishers, who either switched or diversified livelihoods after having received substantial tsunami payments, were charged as newcomers, just as much as their migrant fisher counterparts were seen as outsiders. While postwar liberalisation was perceived as a distinct watershed that contributed to a decline in catches, this time period was also associated with a political milieu that exacerbated negative dynamics that were already well entrenched during wartime. Practices such as extortive kappam, together with certain forms of rule breaking (such as dynamiting), serve as good examples of how locally perceived “habits” came to be normalised and legitimated during wartime while continuing well into the present. Yet, postwar nostalgia arising from moments during the armed

References

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conflict, when fishing was seen to be lucrative (or sufficient), was often reinterpreted through an extant state of livelihood decline. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that craft-based fishers in state-controlled areas stood to lose most during wartime violence, when they were routinely under surveillance and intimidation by the military. Yet ironically for many, it was ostensibly the tightly controlled securitised measures, combined with the specter of armed violence that contained fishing pressures as well. By contrast I argue that tropes that idealise wartime should not be taken simply at face value. To those who found wartime fishing lucrative, for example, a great many beach-seine operators, a reversal to securitised governance practices of the past would certainly not be appealing. In effect, the curtailment of rule breaking in specific places that were either under LTTE or state control was considered to be an inevitable byproduct of militarisation, while the same processes of militarisation also contributed to the fact that everyday dispute settlement or inter-communal resource governance arrangements were progressively eroded or de-civilianised. Arguably, this status quo produced a catch-22 situation in which people were often tempted to articulate the fact that military force, when applied in the context of resource governance, was more effective than what could be achieved through inter-communal civilian action during wartime. As older fisherfolk ascertained, those of the sandwich generation that grew up during wartime, military control— whether they resided in LTTE or state-controlled areas—was the “only reality they knew”. Yet, as the following chapters argue, inter-communal alliances to articulate grievances and to lobby for tighter regulations were more widespread than is otherwise imagined. These arrangements at times coalesced disparate groups who were otherwise framed as “outsiders”, surpassing that one-dimensional local-migrant binary, which is all too easily taken as a given in Sri Lankan scholarship.

References Chaaminda S (2012) Fishing in turbulent waters, ICES working paper no. 2, Colombo, International Center for Ethnic Studies Hasrup F (2011) Weathering the World: Recovery in the Wake of the Tsunami in a Tamil Fishing Village. Berghahn Books, Oxford Lambek M (2010) Towards an ethics of the act. In: Lambek M (ed) Ordinary ethics: anthropology, language and action. Fordham University Press, New York, pp 39–63 Malkki L (1995) Purity and exile: violence, memory, and national cosmology among Hutu refugees in Tanzania. Chicago University Press, Chicago Merlan F (2010) Ordinary ethics and changing cosmologies: exemplification from North Australia. In: Lambek M (ed) Ordinary ethics: anthropology, language and action. Fordham University Press, New York, pp 207–225 Scholtens J, Bavinck M (2014) Lessons for legal pluralism: investigating the challenges of transboundary fisheries governance. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 11:10–18 Scholtens J, Bavinck M, Soosai S (2012) Fishing in dire straits: trans-boundary incursions in the Palk Bay. Econ Polit Wkly XLVII(25):87–96 Weeratunge N (2010) Being Sadharana: talking about the just business person in Sri Lanka. In: Lambek M (ed) Ordinary ethics: anthropology, language and action. Fordham University Press, New York, pp 328–248

Chapter 5

Transversal Ties Across the Local-­ Migrant-­Settler Complex

Abstract  This chapter engages exclusively with narratives of mobility and insider-­ outsider configurations among migrants, longer-term sedentary and settler collectives. It is particularly concerned with lateral and a-sociative modes of sambandam. In particular, the analysis reveals how insider-outsider configurations do not always cohere with meanings and practices of inclusion and exclusion. By drawing on several case studies of migrant, local and settler spaces, the chapter illustrates how convivial and relatively more “cold” dependencies unfold among diverse fisher groups characterised by different modes of production, household rhythms and forms of dwelling. Furthermore, it demonstrates how social divisions and frames of “othering” do not always cohere with religious and ethnolinguistic identities and more intuitive modes of emplacement and belonging. Keywords  Mobility · Seasonal migration · Settlerhood · Othering · Social inclusion and exclusion I have been rescued by a boat and we have done the same for them [the locals]. But they say we are different. There are no outsiders amongst us, because we too consider ourselves local. (Nishan, a bilingual Roman Catholic long-linesman from Chilaw) When you prune a tree for its branches, you know in which direction it will grow back. This is how I imagine migrants. Our grandfathers used to visit seasonally from the south, and some of them decided to settle here. They were among the earliest, who arrived in the 1950s…it was they who brought an artisanal fishing culture into Trincomalee. (Laksiri, a local co-operative leader and a descendant of settlers from Matara)

The previous chapter sketched a landscape of localised conflictual relations that were nevertheless sustained through relational webs of interdependence. Moreover, it outlined two distinct narratives that assigned culpability within vernacular perspectives of entropy, against the backdrop of declining fish catch. On one hand, depressed livelihoods were perceived as an outcome of resource pressure that arose as a result of the postwar liberalisation in spatial mobility, coupled with clientelism and weak state control that permitted flows of outsider-migrants. Wartime restrictions in this context were envisaged as a mixed blessing for those who continued to fish. Yet, much depended on particular sub-livelihoods and occupational mixes that © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1_5

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people adopted during the armed conflict and were latterly influenced by post-­ tsunami aid and other resource flows into Trincomalee. On the other, fish depletion was also interpreted as a result of unabated local exploitation due to rampant rule breaking, seen as a manifestation of communal disintegration. In sum, coastal incursions and transgressions with regard to unethical practices were perceived to stem from within as much as from the outside. In situating this chapter within the first strand of causal interpretations, I ask whether migrant and local collectives do in fact share ties of sambandam and come to be implicated in webs of local interdependence. In this light, the chapter focuses exclusively on the first two categories of sambandam, entailing lateral and a-­sociative relations. In particular, several questions undergird this analysis: How fluid are local-migrant interactions, and what forms do they take? Furthermore, do we problematically assume that all migrants come to be differentiated and “othered” in the same ways? Simply put, are relations between locals and migrants necessarily always antagonistic or conflict-ridden? As a point of departure, the chapter starts by exploring the internal diversity among fisher migrants, who are often treated as a homogenous collectivity. These diverse subjectivities are not seen merely against their so-called places of origin but also within the context of their complex trajectories of migration, sub-occupational practices and mythico-histories, together with particular practices of place-­ making—together aspects that pattern multiple interdependencies fashioned between migrants and locals over time. Moreover, the chapter also considers the interactional forces between and among diverse Sinhalese and more culturally hybrid settler communities among fishing constituencies, many of whom have shared intergenerational histories of seasonal migration. The chapter compares two dominant small-scale fisher “categories”, gill netters and longliners (both seafaring and craft-based), against the more sedentary beach-seiners, given that they constitute the most visible and numerous groups among all fisher migrants. In contrast, multiday deep-sea fishers have been discounted, due to the fact that they seldom set up residential camps in the spaces they visit. Three dominant assumptions are unpacked to render more complexity in contexts in which fishing migrants have been homogenised and essentialised in recent scholarship. First, the dynamic of seasonal migration is often conflated singularly with the narrative of Sinhalisation. By looking at disparate sites of fishing vadis— from gill-netting and longlining camps to beach-seiners’ padu sites—this chapter exposes the great heterogeneity of migrant realities in the northeast and those that are not in the least patterned by complex practices of self-representation and the active renegotiation of hegemonic socio-political identity framings that crisscross fluid ethno-religious, linguistic and regional boundary lines. Second, the sole emphasis on “migrants” as a distinguishable category negates other webs of interconnections that weigh upon their everyday sociality in local host sites. Power-laden relations are not only influenced by local military configurations but are also patterned by the very mudalalis, padu site licensees and the local Fisheries Department officials that enable and intercede on behalf of their stay. Third, migratory tropes have often focused on the incidence of south and west-­ to-­east coast cycles of migration, which in turn have flattened out the sheer diversity

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of intra-coast movements and other circular forms of mobility that originate from the east coast alongside a host of social networks that sustain them. Moreover, the dynamics of “reverse” migratory flows—seasonal migrants constituting fishworkers from the east to the northwest coast in particular—have largely gone unexplored. In turn, these contrastive practices reveal more about the nature of how “traditional(ised)” forms of southwest-to-southeast migratory dynamics are changing and in turn influence everyday inter-communal dynamics. This chapter therefore focuses on the dynamics of cross-coastal migration among diverse ethno-religious collectives, revealing how embattled identities and collective histories of migration and settlerhood come to shape everyday practices of sambandam dialetically. While the chapter does not expressly delve into the lives of locally displaced groups that either while away their time in the semi-permanent refugee camps of Muttur or are currently coping with tumultuous conditions of resettlement, the thematic narratives of home, exile and belonging will be compared across these diversely situated states of mobility and social change.

5.1  B  ilingual Seafarer Vadis and the Boundaries of Otherness The dynamics of cyclical migration, specifically when it concerns seasonal mobility, remains intriguing in several ways. First, it raises a host of questions concerning the practice and legitimation of social presence and belonging. Presence does not simply entail material and symbolic constructions of social space, in terms of spatialised identities. Place-making and collective imaginaries that constitute “community” life are themselves constructed by discourses and everyday vernacular practices of sociality. The question of social presence invokes a more multidimensional reading of migrant lives that historically evolve over time. The very practice of seasonal migration implicates patterned cycles of mobility and at times is sustained primarily by virtue of the repetitive social interactions found in host sites. In adopting a Certeauian perspective of social space, the chapter starts with the premise that the poetics and identities of spaces themselves change and are in perennial flux. The practice of establishing presence, and consequently social legitimacy and belonging, remains a tenuous project at the very least. As Best and Strüver (2000) contend, communities and practices of place-making are inevitably “tied to positions of power and are embedded in systems of inclusion and exclusion”. This is not to negate the importance of spatial identities but to forewarn against the tendency of essentialising or totalising identities in purely spatial terms. In this context, it would then seem problematic to claim that all seasonal migrants are invariably perceived as outsiders for having crossed intervillage or district boundaries. In the same vein, it would be misleading to assert that villagers who left their hamlets long years ago during cycles of local violence readily identified with the old spaces in which they

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subsequently resettled. The legitimation of social presence therefore not only encompasses the dynamics of place-making over time but is also embedded in how current social practices come to be imbued with a sense of historicity and authenticity, not in the least within spaces that have undergone processes of profound socio-­ political change. The second and closely related dialectic embodies what Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka (2013) terms “multiple belonging(s)”1 or how diverse figurations of social boundedness replete with everyday enactments and collective representations of belonging (i.e. “belonging with”) intersect with individual life-world trajectories (i.e. “belonging to”). Against this interpretation, belonging differs from identity in the sense that the latter entails a categorical construct, while the former embodies a host of emotions, intersubjective experience and symbolic meanings with regard to “social relating” (ibid.: 5). While establishing and maintaining presence infer practices of everyday local-migrant interactions, belonging is not intrinsically identity bound. Notions of belonging arguably entail a greater space for agency in self-­representation and may gain more traction during moments at which insider-outsider boundary lines are contested and dismantled. Belonging requires a sense of reification. Establishing presence can often foreground perceptions of belonging, yet visibility and presence do not necessarily imply that collectives articulate a sense of belonging to the places to which they travel and in which at times they settle. Locally, the term sankramika (migrant: Sinhala) evokes a multiplicity of local meanings and suppositions. On one hand, the term is imbued with a sense of traditional cultural practice and of timelessness. It signifies a life of yearly and highly regularised sojourn, baring little or no traces of the kind of embattled nomadism associated with groups like the Moken or Sama-Bajau of maritime Southeast Asia. Seasonal migrants always if not often return to the places they have previously encamped. Migratory routes and the terrains that are charted remain fixed and circular. My research assistant Dharshini, who herself had grown up close to Uppuveli, reflected on the ambivalent framing of seasonal migrants, in terms of their own self-­ perceptions and in terms of what she had learnt during conversations in  local villages: They [migrants] seem to display a deep love for the sea. Most local communities on the other hand, seem to talk about how best to exploit it. Migrants convey a sense that they are struggling; yet they often tell me they come here voluntarily…it is their livelihood that brings them here. Locals feel they are physically tied down, bounded. They speak as if migrants have the best of both worlds. Many a time I have heard people say, “they go the way the wind blows”.2

1  Pfaff-Czarnecka (2013) illustrates three dimensions that constitute the “bonding properties” of belonging which entail: commonality (of sharing meanings, experience, etc.), reciprocity (shared understanding through norm reification, mutuality, etc.) and attachments (the ties that bind people to the material and immaterial world). While I find the last layer of her heuristic more useful in the context of this analysis, her conceptualisation of belonging nevertheless remains restrictive in the sense that it singularly pervades social relations that are essentially affinitive and cohesive. 2  Fieldnotes: September 2, 2012, Town and Gravets (fieldsite base in Alles Gardens).

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Seasonal cycles and the ways that these pattern the everyday life of migrant communities are inscribed into the identities with which localised villages often perceive them. On the one hand, the quotation conveys a sense of migrants as being “a people of the sea”; Dharshini was particularly referring to gill netters and longliners, who are by practice seafarers or craft-based fishers. On the other hand, the apparent ambiguity about their mobility that some local collectives may invoke to frame their distinction from migrant seafaring groups remains striking. While they are ambivalently perceived as fishers who struggle to make ends meet, their here-­ and-­thereness is at the same time starkly juxtaposed against the fact that they seem to have the “best of both worlds”. In effect, going “the way the wind blows” not only refers literally to their seasonal mobility but also conveys the implicit sense of a fair-weather existence. The metaphor of roving crows mentioned in the last chapter springs to mind. Moreover, the narrative dispels the tendency to sharply dichotomise voluntary from forced trajectories of migration, such as politically induced displacement. However, the quotation remains problematic with regard to how migrants are differentiated and classified in manifold ways, not simply by their ethno-religious, regional and political identities but also with respect to the ways in which their livelihood subgroups and historic trajectories of mobility are conflated. In one respect, local perceptions towards migrants remain steadfast in the way that they are seen to share one thing in common—the fact that mobility is always seasonally patterned, whether it comprises monsoonal shifts or other ecological factors, such as fish breeding cycles and pelagic movements. When considering occupational categories, four distinct groups of migrants remain visible in contemporary Sri Lanka in the context of marine capture fisheries. They include not only multiday boats classified within the island’s deep-sea sector but also thousands of seafaring gill net and longlining collectives, together with (predominantly) male beach-seine crews, and divers that are employed in the ornamental fish trade or to harvest sea cucumber, conch shells and other benthic and semi-demersal species.3 The next two subsections focus squarely on small-scale migrants within the craft-based and beach-seining (karaivalai) subgroups and particularly those that set up temporary or semi-permanent camps or vadi in their host sites. In tracing these people’s vastly different migratory routes, maps 3 and 4 illustrate a series of divergent migrant flows, one west to east, the other from east to west and one along the same coastline. The routes charted on these maps are not meant to be exhaustive; instead they depict mobilities that were primarily explored during fieldwork. Moreover, these routes are centred singularly on Trincomalee; hence areas like Patanangala (Ampara), another popular migrant destination, are not included. At present, seasonal migrants from the Catholic west predominantly originate from the Districts of Negombo, Chilaw and Puttalam, together with smaller n­ umbers 3  This list does not attempt to be exhaustive but outlines the more visible subcategories of seasonal migrants related to the fishing industry. Travelling female shell gleaners were briefly mentioned (see Chap. 3); however, I did not come across any during my fieldwork.

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from Mannar. The designated vadi sites in which they camp lie dotted along the northern stretch of the Trincomalee Kuchchaveli shoreline, encompassing areas such as Irrakakandy, Pudawakattu, Pulmoddai and Kokkilai, along with Nayaru and Alambil on the fringes of Mullaitivu. The clustering of vadi encampments is generally differentiated by their villages of origin, and it was uncommon to find a vadi containing migrant groups across two or more districts that practise the same form of fishing. Seafaring migrants usually arrive as small family units, and often tend to be gill netters and longliners with mechanised outboard motor boats, with engines ranging on average between 15 and 20 hp.4 Before migrants’ arrival, they secure official consent from the local Fisheries Department office and the closest naval camp to the vadi site. In the past, older migrants insinuated that local village co-operatives may have been notified as well. However, the necessity to seek local village approval—a process that took place between co-operative societies inter-communally—became severely eroded or delegitimised over the course of wartime, when entire hamlets were displaced and long-­ standing ties, if any, were ruptured. Moreover, virulent forms of boundary policing, as briefly illustrated in the Introduction, had as much of a role to play in how thwarted relations between older migrant factions and local communities were refashioned over the last three decades (Figs. 5.1 and 5.2).

5.1.1  Hybrid Identities and Spaces of In-Betweenness The first stream of annual migration among small-scale craft-based fishers may resume as early as the end of February every year. By the end of October and towards November, most camps are disbanded and stretches of beach that once bore the characteristic cadjan and palm-frond huts often lined in long rows would cease to exist, leaving behind bare tracts of sandy land. Yet in places such as Nayaru, some migrants may choose to remain for longer durations of the year, often making the best use of the prawning and crabbing season while returning to villages on the west coast during important church festivals and other local events. Children often remain in their natal villages along the west coast, but during school holidays their presence in the vadi sites would be seen.5 A local FCS leader once concurred that a distinguishing feature of a Catholic craft-based vadi was that it often displayed the visible presence of entire families at times, which remains markedly different from the predominantly male karaivalai padu beach-seining encampments. 4  The fish species that is caught may vary considerably. While vadis such as Salapiyaru specialise in more longlining for predatory species such as milk shark and marlin and netting for stingray, others may focus on gill-netting smaller species such as flying fish and trenched sardinella. 5  Older migrants concurred that in the 1960s, before the enforcement of mandatory primary and secondary schooling, children would often camp with their parents, assisting in fishing and fish drying operations.

5.1 Bilingual Seafarer Vadis and the Boundaries of Otherness

Fig. 5.1  Migratory patterns from the west to the east coast. (Source: author)

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Fig. 5.2  Migratory patterns along the eastern coastline and from east to west. (Source: author)

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Anthropologists Sharon Bell and Geoff Burton’s ethnographic film The Fishermen of Duwa, filmed as a part of a trilogy during their doctoral research in Ceylon in the mid-1970s, provides one of the earliest (visually recorded) portraits of migrant fisherfolk from the Catholic west coast. The film begins with a rehearsal of the upcoming village Passion play annually performed during Easter, while resonant of Duwa’s identity as “Little Rome” is characterised by its distinct Portuguese colonial cultural heritage. Bell and Burton follow the migrants as they set off on their annual visit to a vadi site in Mullaitivu. Among other intriguing fragments of the film, we are shown that the migrants do not set sail but take their boats across land, loaded onto large Leyland lorries. Interestingly, intergenerational narratives and the mythico-history of seafaring migrants (gill nets and longliners) have often ascribed a vivid sense of constancy and timelessness to their seasonal mobility. As Francis, a 60 year-old longliner concurs: We started coming during the first warakang [monsoons: Sinhala]. Our people occupy this coastline stretching north up to Nayaru (in Mullaitivu). All of us are connected with the Madhu Church, and we speak both Sinhala and Tamil…we make it a point that our children learn Tamil.6

Despite the paucity of archival evidence on fishing migratory flows, it might not be too wrong to claim the cross-coastal migration was in effect a more modern practice. Small wooden artisanal crafts in the 1960s and 1970s could not be sailed from the west to the east coast and were transported overland after the development of road networks and infrastructure during post-Independence Ceylon. Similarly, contestations concerning the first or pioneering sankramanaya groups remain an open debate among existing migrant and settler Sinhalese communities. The latter claimed that their ancestors from the primarily Sinhalese-Buddhist (from the deep south) were among the first seasonal migrants in the 1950s—as also revealed in the second opening quotation. While ascertaining the truth of various claims remains a futile exercise, Francis’ narrative also draws attention to particular lived aspects of their collective identity. The first constitutes a distinct faith-based identification as Roman Catholics, implying the fact that social interactional networks in host sites remain firmly bounded within the everyday spaces of religious life and religiosity, particularly during Sunday Mass and at church feasts and other festivals. Moreover, the survey data revealed that among all the local networks to which Catholic west coast migrants turned, either during political turmoil or a natural disaster such as a cyclone, the resident priest in the Kuchchaveli Church would serve as their first port of call. Indeed, during violence, churches inevitably served as spaces of sanctuary, yet the centrifugal role of the local Catholic priest in a host site should not be downplayed. He was often called upon to intervene during moments of local dispute settlement concerning everyday livelihoods, and in this his role far outweighed that of local FCSs and the Fisheries Department.  Fieldnotes: September 24, 2012, Kuchchaveli.

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The second difference of their collective identity entails their bilingualism, which has remained a striking feature of their identity, a characteristic that an average Sinhalese settler from the south rarely shares. This bilingualism, along with various forms of code switching between Tamil and Sinhala, is not merely restricted to the everyday use of language, but expresses a much deeper hybrid-cultural presence. The question of whether Catholic migrant identities remain steadfastly translocal is doubtful. Although many may spend over 6 months of the year fishing along the eastern seaboard, home often exists as a discernable space, in which villages of birth are often assigned more importance than spaces that are more often lived in. These meanings bear a close resemblance to southern settlers’ constructions of mul-gama (root-village: Sinhala). However, their defining bilingualism remains particularly crucial in the context with which they engage with their host sites.7 This form of bilingualism, and cultural hybridity itself, has been a site of historical and anthropological conjecture. One theory contends that they may have entailed more recent flows of migrants (e.g. Paravar caste members) from Tamil Nadu during Portuguese Ceylon or that they were originally Tamil-speaking converts of Catholicism. Another slightly different variation posits that such collectives, which may have converted to Catholicism since the sixteenth century, invariably spoke more Tamil after the advent of colonisation along the western coastal belt, as the majority of Jesuit priests missionising at that time hailed not from Portugal but from parts of Portuguese-occupied southern India.8 While this reveals that lingua-cultural identities of being “Tamil” or “Sinhalese” remain modern constructs of the colonial and postcolonial nation-state, the present realities of their hybridity should not be discounted. Migrants from Chilaw and Puttalam, for instance, while stating that they officially registered in the National Census as “Sinhalese”, attended mass in Tamil and possessed Tamil Bibles, for they themselves had studied in Tamil-­ language missionary schools during the 1970s and 1980s. Unsurprisingly, however, these so-called hybridities were further “tamed” with parents opting to enrol their children in Sinhala-language classes, while ensuring that they maintained an adequate knowledge of Tamil in their everyday speech. While an increasing number of migrants’ children grow up monolingual, this upbringing may vary from village to village. In particular enclaves in Chilaw that were subsequently visited (e.g. Karakupanne), masses were customarily still held in Tamil. Arguably, this may have had little to do with the (few remaining) close-knit networks among the Catholic clergy between Chilaw, Puttalam, Mannar and Jaffna and the circulatory movements between village priests who are assigned to diverse stations by the Church. As Stirrat (1992) argues, during wartime regional schisms between the southern and northern bases of the Catholic Church predictably widened (Fig. 5.3). 7  It is sometimes erroneously thought that their bilingualism came about as a result of their seasonal migration over several generations. 8  For a historically grounded analysis, see Roberts (1982), Stirrat (1992) and Malekandathil (2010, 2013).

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Fig. 5.3  A self-built chapel by Chilaw migrants in Salapiyaru

It is noticeable that a higher number of migrants from villages in Puttalam and Chilaw bear Sinhalacised names. However, in all accounts their in-betweenness wedged within the purist categorical imaginaries of being either “Tamil” or “Sinhalese” proved to be advantageous for political presence could be manipulated during wartime, but disadvantageous in terms of being collectively othered in the sense that they were not socio-taxonomically classifiable, either by military actors nor resident communities with whom they may have interacted more closely during the pre-war past.

5.1.2  Migrant Camps As Perceived Sites of Exemption Going by oral historic accounts, migratory patterns and their shifts during the course of wartime are difficult to generalise. However, it may not be wrong to assert that seasonal mobility continued in ebbs and flows over the entire span of the armed conflict, although they were spatially contingent. The massacre of migrant and settler fisherfolk in Kokkilai and Nayaru in the mid-1980s invariably affected migratory flows, and those who presently occupy Nayaru and villages in Catholic Chilaw concurred that many never resumed their visits even after 2009. Between the 1980s and 1990s, migratory routes and sites of encampment were constantly reshuffled between Nilaveli, Salapiyaru, Pudawakatu, southern Pulmoddai and Kalmunnai. In the late 1980s, a few Chilaw migrants contended that they sometimes camped in Verugal, which was at that point under LTTE control. There seemed to be more fear and distrust towards the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) than towards the LTTE or the state military. However, over the 1990s particular sites like Nayaru in Mullaitivu and closer to the Batticaloa border came to be avoided, and new sites of

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encampment, south of Pulmoddai, replaced older ones. These enclaves may have formed all too familiar patterning that mimicked Sinhala settler communities in the northeast that served as buffer zones and border villages. These were often actively sought, in order to encourage fishing collectives to remain or return, regardless of their professed ethnic identity. For example, it was once mentioned that a former UNP Fisheries Minister, Michael Perera, initiated a housing scheme in the early 1990s by the name of Sagarapura. However, there was much debate regarding the extent to which this was propelled by the need to secure and expand his voter base in the Catholic west or by the need to deepen the Sinhalisation project by consciously altering the demographic composition of a space fraught in violent conflict. One consequence of wartime migration remained an enduring fixity in the lives of seasonal migrants. Invariably, new sites sprang up around military installations, particularly naval camps and outposts. The vadis among Chilaw collectives in Salapiyaru and Negombo fishers in Arasimalee can be taken as such examples, and the characteristic barbed wire demarcating their boundaries is not difficult to miss. Narratives around the emergence of these wartime campsites have often remained ambivalent at best, as articulated by both locals and migrants. A number of gill netters from Negombo professed that they had actively sought out such spaces for safety and security at the beginning and that the proliferation of migrant camps near military installations constituted an inherently organic process. Others contended that (much later perhaps) these spaces may have been officially marked out, designated as exclusively migrant spaces, and that they were thus compelled to stay there. At times, there were whispers about how military outposts consciously sought out civilian migrant encampments that, in part, may have served as human shields. What is particularly important here is that migrant vadis were not sites that were traditionally set apart from the fabric of local village life or conceived as sites of alterity in the past. During wartime, vadis came to be reconstituted as antagonistic socio-political spaces after sites were systematically remilitarised or were imbued with military presence. More significantly, older migrant vadis lost their characteristic fluidity, as a number of operational padu sites today reveal. Migrant groups perceived naval outposts that professed to “protect” them as a disciplinary panopticon by monitoring movements and keeping people in, while simultaneously keeping non-residents within its impermeable barbed-wire boundaries out. Throughout the course of the armed conflict, there was much speculation and rumour among neighbouring local hamlets about how boundaried distinctions between the two spaces were constructed and how rules of conduct came to be differentially enforced within everyday practices of policing and military surveillance. Allegations circulated among local NGO workers that migrants were given a free hand to fish all they wanted and that local restrictions on mobility and the stringent curfew hours between 5  am and 5  pm were not applied to migrant campers. Furthermore, they also became framed as sites of deviance and rule breaking, for what could be legally flouted was also by default permissible when it came to “softer” transgressions. Once again, the value of these perceptions is not so much in determining their truth claims but in understanding how diverse craft-based fishers came to be cate-

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gorically differentiated and set apart from other migrant clusters, like their more sedentary beach-seine counterparts. On the other hand, migrant-military interactions at times may not have seemed as congenial when witnessed from within. A longliner whom I met him in his village in Chilaw shared his spiritual dilemma on adhering to rigid wartime restrictions during his stay in Pudawakattu in the 1990s: Curfews were imposed and everyone had to abide by them. We could fish only three to four days of the week. Sunday was designated a fishing day, but this posed a moral question for us. We asked our Fathers. Some priests forbade it…others said “God will not be angry for He understands the depth of your misery”. I then made sense of it like this: if you are hungry, fishing for your own subsistence…your survival… is permissible in the eyes of God. Finally we stopped fishing after a month of Sundays. But I tell you; those were the days we were truly blessed. We would catch a week’s earnings in a day.

A number of accounts among gill netters from Chilaw and Puttalam during wartime revealed that migrants were often perceived with suspicion, though perhaps with relatively less enmity given their embeddedness in the west coast. Political affiliations from Negombo, Chilaw and Puttalam invariably facilitated networks of mobility and protection, and the ease with which west coast migrants secured fishing passes with relatively less intimidation further deepened divisions between migrants and resident villages. However, migrants often expressed the difficulty in having to balance between moments of coercive co-operation and expressing their own resistance towards military control. For example, bilingual migrants were used to elicit intelligence information, particularly by naval forces, which indubitably put them in a politically precarious situation. In most contexts, neutrality as a state of political disengagement did not result in the promise of passive coexistence but sometimes worked to its detriment. Expressions of disengagement were not only deemed to be an opportunistic form of survival but also a socio-political aberration in the sense that oscillating loyalties could be swiftly secured—albeit temporarily—under little duress. Thus, the very mixedness (and perceived categorical impurity) of Catholic seafarers was taken as inherently dangerous. A naval officer based in Trincomalee once concurred that bilingual migrants were among the most “troublesome” to monitor and govern, for they were often under suspicion of being double agents. Yet occasional military co-­ operation, even if it concerned providing wageless manual labour during activities such as forest clearing, became part of this tenuous existence.9 Among manifold narratives of migrant-military interactions during wartime, one aspect remained clear: a carefully managed presence of exteriority with respect to the local political milieu in which migrants found themselves. Local political events existed as disparate historic containers or as disjunctured figments, such as the blowing up of a gunboat, the killing of a truckload of army personnel or the detonation of a claymore mine in the vicinity. Certainly, there were instances when this 9  A man I met from Chilaw who would migrate annually with some of his village members had the misfortune of being taken on such an expedition under the command of a small naval unit. During the clearing, his leg was blown up by a landmine and subsequently had to be amputated. He subsequently took to net mending and stated that he was never compensated for the loss of his leg.

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carefully managed sense of communal exteriority came under scrutiny. For ­example, there was a narrative of a teenage son of a fisherman from Chilaw who had joined the LTTE ranks in 1993 when his family was based in Pulmoddai, because of “his love for guns”. It was later revealed that he had also married a young Tamil woman from Kuchchaveli a few months prior to his enrolment. The amount of work that was put in by the migrant vadi to blot out what was framed as an aberration among “our folk” was immense, following a temporary cessation of migrant activity and countless visits paid by naval personnel to their village in Chilaw. Similarly, much work went into heightening a sense of non-Sinhaleseness among the few migrant collectives that temporarily fished in spaces such as Verugal, from altering clothing styles to rooting out colloquial Sinhala from their everyday conversations. The degree of cultural hybridity lived in the west coast was determinedly muted or erased, and there was much consciousness about differentiating themselves from the Sinhalese south and other settler communities in border villages such as Padaviya and from the more moneyed and well-networked residents in the main town. Manel, who had spent all her life in Chilaw and married into a fishing family, relates: Sometime in 1999 a man called Kiri-Mahataya [trans: “Milk-Boss”: Sinhala], a powerful mudalali was shot dead by the LTTE. He was a man from Gandara, and he and his family ran the show in Trincomalee. Ice Manju was the man who was hired to do the job, for he was a well-known contract killer. When we heard about it we were just about to leave Verugal. When we first told the LTTE that we were from our village… in Chilaw, they treated us relatively well…because we did our jobs in peace and were of no harm to anyone. Sometimes I would share our rice rations with the young LTTE girls when they came around. They used to tell me, “you don’t look like them…in your pottu and your dress”. Southern Sinhalese women generally wear cloth and jacket [reddai-hattai], which they find intolerable.10

Clearly some migrant families were better at impression management than others, but it was not just outward comportment that singularly secured the seemingly tacit tolerance of bilingual migrants, at least during the early phases of wartime. At times, narratives that recalled instances of LTTE interaction were visibly positive. Another of Manel’s friends shared her story of how a group of young LTTE cadres they knew in Kuchchaveli had, at the cost of their own lives, driven through the main town during the Vesak celebrations and dropped her off at the base hospital when she was suffering from a severe flu a few days after giving birth. Similarly, Manel herself would bemoan how their present relations with the nearby naval outpost in Kuchchaveli became increasingly colder and more formalised after 2009, as more durable relationships were difficult to forge with naval post guards often working on rosters. What is particularly interesting about these positive narratives of military interactions—whether among the LTTE or state factions—is that they mutually construct trajectories of socio-spatial acceptance, not merely tolerance. They inevitably serve as legitimating devices in order to reveal not only their historic connection 10

 Fieldnotes: August 19, 2012, Kuchchaveli.

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with particular sites of encampment but also to establish a socio-moral presence in efforts to continue uninterrupted trajectories of mobility. The question of whether or not local LTTE cadres sanctioned their presence in the early 1990s in spaces such as Verugal is beside the point. What is important is how these narratives come to be deployed after wartime, in creating micro-histories of belonging, which have come under considerable scrutiny by local villages actively canvassing to contain recent arrivals of migrants since 2009.

5.1.3  P  ioneer Narratives, Local Antagonisms and Cold Dependencies Hostilities towards west coast seafaring migrants exist not so much among townsfolk but among the local villages among whom they live, particularly in more peripheral areas such as Pudawakattu and Verugal. Younger Tamil fisherfolk related how their parents cynically referred to these migrants as saying “naan Tamil, api Sinhala” (“no [we are] Tamil, we are Sinhala”), during state military and LTTE roundups. Their social association with opportunism during wartime, in part, was easily incorporated into postwar grievances concerning their increased population density on one hand and their unrelenting use of unethical fishing gear such as thangus (nylon nets: Tamil/Sinhala) amidst other forms of occasional forms of rule breaking.11 Inhabitants of resettled Tamil hamlets along coastal Eachchalampatu, for example, lamented the fact that migrant seafarers brought in boats with stronger engine power and, by virtue of their longer travelling distances, disrupted the movement of coastal fish species. According to local Tamil hamlets, there was no question of sambandam between migrant collectives, for the latter was said to have disrupted the dominant status quo of village life, the way it was perceived as being before wartime. Thus, the third category of vernacular interdependence—tacit forms of asocial co-operation—did not apply in the context of bilingual west coast migrants in places studied in Verugal. Meanwhile, it is often difficult to ascertain the age of a vadi site. Interestingly, however, bilingual Catholic seafarers were often referred to as the “Tamil-Sinhala” and were distinctly categorised from the more recent settlers who came in since newly renamed religious sites such as “Lankapatuna” were “discovered” and a military-­Buddhist temple complex was built over the existing foundations of a Hindu shrine and possibly a ziyaram at the foot of the hillock (see Gaasbeek 2010: 115– 116). Neighbouring co-operative societies that strove to start dialogues with migrant camp members were thwarted by the military through practices of segregation and threatened violence, very much like in the case of Nayaru in Mullaitivu. Therefore, with the enclaving of migrant camps, local village sites and vadi spaces, at least in sites visited in Verugal, may often remain a world apart and be openly hostile.  However, these did not often entail the charges made against particular enclaves in Trincomalee that resorted to using dynamite and lights.

11

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However, not all migrant vadis and local hamlets remain asocial or contain impermeable boundaries. This particular context takes us back to Salapiyaru, described in the previous chapter as a hybrid site that encompasses both seafaring and beach-seining/karaivalai migrants from Chilaw and Puttalam, respectively. The seafarers who inhabit the Catholic migrant quarter comprise roughly 30 families from a single village—Karakupanne/Karakupannai in Chilaw and the vadi that lies nestled beside the Trincomalee-Pulmoddai Road. Across the road sits a tsunami housing estate with an amalgam of former residents resettled from the Town and Gravets area, including a composite group from hamlets around Nilaveli and Irrakakandy. In 2012, it housed approximately 300 families, many of whom were Tamil-Hindu with a smaller cohort of Muslim households. Apart from a small military outpost on the side of the vadi, a rocky mound of earth rises approximately 12 feet at the base of the village. It houses a modest shrine, complete with a diverse pantheon: a framed carving of Pilyar (Ganesh), a ceramic Buddha statue, effigies of St. Francis and the Virgin Mary and a faded photograph of a mosque. This symbolic display of pluralism is in striking contrast to the barbed-­ wire fencing of the naval outpost below. Essentially, the Chilaw migrant families looked at this collective shrine as one that belonged to the tsunami housing scheme, which they intriguingly referred to as a muham (a camp for the displaced, Tamil.) The space that the village “Salavari”12 now occupies was indeed an interim post-tsunami camp over a decade ago, yet its former spatial identity endured in the collective memory of the vadi families across the road. In many ways, Salavari would always remain a muham, and its present housing estate was perceived as a more recent fixity among the migrants, lacking historic legitimacy of presence. In their eyes, the tsunami village comprised incomers—regardless of whether they were from the district—and had little claim to grumble about the company of migrants who were there long before, and who saw themselves as being in direct competition with them, as they also practised gill netting and longlining. No doubt the neighbouring “tsunami village” framed these migrants not only as outsiders but as responsible for manifold antagonisms. Not only were they displeased at the fact that migrant numbers kept increasing after each consecutive season, but they expressed the fact that their networked links with more powerful local politicians in Chilaw and Puttalam, combined with their contractual ties with the mudalali who brought them in, guaranteed their protection and impunity from both the military and the Fisheries Department. In early 2010, several FCS members from Salavari, together with a small cluster of mixed Tamil and Muslim villagers from Kumburupiddy, petitioned the Ministry of Fisheries requesting that they curtail the number of Chilaw migrants returning to Salapiyaru that year and suggesting that the authorities have the vadi relocated entirely. On the day on which the first flow of migrant families was to arrive by lorry loaded with boats and gear, local villagers stood guard near the vadi site across the road. When the Chilaw migrants arrived, they were not allowed to unload their ­lorries and were threatened with arson if they remained. A few days later, based on 12

 A pseudonym.

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accounts from the very migrants who were intimidated, the issue was said to have been “resolved” by contacting their respective FCS officials in Chilaw, who in turn pressured the local Fisheries Department in Trincomalee and notified the police.13 However, what facilitated their return was not so much the pressure put by their co-operative but the political clout wielded by the respective mudalali under whose contract they operated. The local village lobbyists would often contend that the migrants were “protected” by their mudalali, a wealthy Sinhala-Buddhist settler from Matara who lived in Trincomalee town, and had acted swiftly in safeguarding his own investments. Arguably, these bonded contracts have as much bearing on everyday interlocal relations in host sites as on the economic marginality of small-­ scale craft-based migrants from the west. Migrants often spoke of being in a state of pecuniary dependence on mudalalis who would act as creditors, financing their fishing operations and emergency costs, whether that entailed boat repair, the purchase of additional gear or the costs of setting up a vadi. Financial assistance often took the form of loans, and when such a contract was entered into, mudalalis typically set beach prices at which migrants often exclusively sold them their catch.14 What these socio-economic contracts with mudalalis led to, in part, was a further social enclaving of Catholic migrant groups who often had little to exchange with neighbouring village collectives. Antagonistic perceptions concerning their presence did not merely increase a sense of local territoriality, and neither did their bilingualism enable their integration into local village life. Moreover, negative perceptions towards migrants were framed in the context of cultural otherness. As a FCS leader in Salavari posited: We have relationships with these people (migrants) but more and more keep arriving. During wartime as well, they were given passes and had all the military protection. We know migrant Sinhalese from Venapuwa, and Hindu Tamils from Udappu…but these people—we do not know what they are. They speak neither Sinhalese nor Tamil properly.15

The regional dialect of west coast migrants—if it could be called that—was metaphorically interpreted as a dangerous crossing of boundaries, particularly against the backdrop of older accounts of migrant men marrying local women. Yet these instances were few and far between. West coast Catholic migrants were predominantly endogamous and, given their conscious, close-knit identification as Roman Catholics (see Jayanntha 1992: 184), married almost exclusively those from their own village or, at the very least, partners affiliated with their regional church.  Seasonal migrants, particularly those who encamp, are expected to register with the local Fisheries Department office. 14  Jayanntha (1992: 19) argues that these ties were not wholly exploitative and “exhibited a strong flavour of paternalistic condescension” in which mudalalis at times were able to exercise “moral as well as economic leadership” over his/her clients. Moreover as Bavinck (1984) asserts, while these interdependencies rest on asymmetric power relations, fishers are not as indentured to their financiers as it may seem, for often contractual relations had a high turnover rate or were terminated before loans were paid in full. Therefore, such interdependencies, while being irrevocably hierarchical, were mediated just as much by trust as by exploitation. 15  Fieldnotes: September 7, 2012, Kuchchaveli. 13

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Yet the notion of cultural purity permeated the rules of everyday interaction. By contrast, migrants like those in Salapiyaru and Nayaru did depend on local communities for basic necessities. Most vadi settlements lacked adequate water and sanitation facilities. Thus, the village of Salavari became the main source of water supply to the migrant vadi huts in Salapiyaru. During my visits in 2012, freshwater was purchased at 50 rupees for a 25 liter can; a resident of Salavari was appointed to supply canisters regularly by bicycle to the camp, minimising interaction as much as possible.16 Many of the local village leaders in Salavari were of Karaiyar caste and the extent to which this matter became one of regional intercaste friction remains uncertain. Caste as a defining category, however, was not expressly raised during micro-disputes. In the meantime, the “othering” of post-tsunami re-settlers of Salavari among migrant families remained an equally active process. First, narratives that legitimated presence not only invoked practices of place-making, such as the building of particular churches and chapel spaces by migrant communities in host sites. Pioneer narratives often described Kuchchaveli of the 1970s as a tabula rasa that was sparsely populated and dotted predominantly with farming collectives as opposed to fisherfolk. These recollected geographies of livelihood settlement patterns firmly strengthened frames of belonging among migrants. As Nishan asserts: During wartime, we were the folk who ventured out…particularly at the time people stayed home like mice. The locals say we have no right to be here, but these people moved after the Great Wave, and only a handful of them had been fishing for generations. They come from the forest and know nothing. We were the ones who first taught them how to hold a fold in a net…hook a line. They would watch us silently…and when we sold our gear they purchased much…and cottoned on to this livelihood..17

Constructions of migrant historicity ultimately were relational as much as they were materially place based. In part, the last narrative reveals more about the importance of social memory and the sustaining of intergenerational ties between migrants and locals—if such knowledge exchanges and interactions existed in the past. Presently, historic presence is often legitimated through the possession of older historic documents that families may possess—a birth certificate of a sibling in the Mullaitivu hospital in the 1970s, or a father’s faded fishing licence. Yet, not everyone with a history of sojourning to the east possesses valid documentation. I recall a group of Chilaw migrants animatedly mentioning the fact that during a short cyclonic episode an old Alambil Church caretaker had recognised a handful of them, from memories of his youth. Indeed, episodes such as these often prefigure in processes of claims staking.18  Similarly, the use of the village well in Salavari was paid for, and the visits of camp migrant men into the village were perceived with as much suspicion as disdain, for often younger men from Chilaw were known to make snide sexual remarks at local women. 17  Fieldnotes: January 14, 2013, Chilaw. 18  Moreover, local family names and the primacy of one’s family reputation remained useful tradable devices. Being a kinsman or woman of a particular migrant notable in part justifies why most intergenerational migrants in the survey placed family name as their first layer of identification. 16

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However, what remains particularly fascinating is the fact that local villages often regard bilingual migrants from the Roman Catholic west with more antagonism than Sinhalese padu workers, for example, who often speak little Tamil and with whom they usually have little individual interaction. It may then seem that language and regional identities play less of a role in socio-economic foundations of everyday sociality. Cursorily, it could also be argued that padu migrants were othered much less given the fact that they practised a different form of fishing and were not seen to be in direct competition with other local craft-based fishers. However, it may seem that their bilingualism and their relative cultural hybridity enabled Chilaw fishers to migrate even during the more violent phases of wartime. Disassociating themselves from local village life at the same time became paramount, given their very hybridity and their felt “in-betweenness”. While boundary policing and practices of military segregation further compounded their relative alienation and otherness, when comparing their everyday interactions in local village life in host sites, fishers who were engaged more in beach-seining activities were perceptibly more accepted. As the next subsection argues, networks of association were more easily forged as the everyday practices that were unique to beach-­ seining enabled greater forms of post-harvest catch share from which locals felt they benefited. Furthermore, diverse forms of sambandam not only transcended practices of resource sharing, they also patterned the ways in which padu licensees and their kuli workers could participate in quotidian village life, whether it came to forging inter-co-operative lobby groups or participating in local events.

5.2  Beach-Seine Padu Sites As Borderscapes Migrant and local collectives both perceive karaivalai, a particular form of beach-­ seining, to be among one of the most lucrative forms of fishing in Trincomalee. Historically it has been regulated as an artisanal practice; the use of mechanised boats and other kinds of machinery such as tractors (used to haul in nets) is officially prohibited. On the other hand, beach-seining, unlike other forms of craft-based fishing, requires greater capital investment and long-term planning. Acquiring and registering a padu site constitutes a bureaucratic process that spans a number of state agencies comprising the Land Commissioner, the Fisheries Department and the Coastal Conservation Department.19 The acquisition of a padu licence is strongly associated with claims of intergenerationality, yet officials at the Divisional Secretariats would contend that locals would be prioritised in obtaining a licence. However, those from outside the Trincomalee District might apply for a  The use of padu sites was regulated under the State Ordinance and Land Development Ordinance Acts, and in order to secure a licence in Trincomalee at least, the permission of the Land Commissioner had to be sought. A tract of land assigned to a padu could be as long as 300 meters along the beachfront. Any number of vadis, usually as palm-thatched structures, could be made. However, these could not be permanent constructions.

19

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licence if they had documentary evidence showing that one of their parents or grandparents used the same padu site before 1976.20 Moreover, I was told that “concessions were made on a discretionary basis” for non-resident applicants who were displaced or who gave up their karaivalai operations during the violence of 1985. How many returnees from the west coast compared to locally displaced groups are claiming “back“ padu sites has yet to be studied. Moreover, locals with padu sites could transfer their user rights to others or sublet to individuals from outside the district. What remains striking in Trincomalee, however, is that the majority of padu operators come from outside the district, usually from Kalpitiya, Puttalam and Chilaw, and a smaller number from Negombo.21 Many comprised Tamil and Sinhalese Roman Catholics, with a smaller number of Muslims who had formerly run beach-seine operations before wartime or presently operated padus in the west coast as well. Yet, a smaller number of locals like Munir (in Pulmoddai) had informally taken over abandoned padu sites during the conflict, formalised their claims and continued using these spaces or sublet them to migrants from the west coast.22 The Trincomalee Fisheries Department legitimated the high numbers of migrant beach-seine operators in several ways. First, it was deemed that the knowledge and skill sets needed for karaivalai fishing were fast disappearing. Fewer descendants of older fishers were taking over the licences of their parents, and the vast majority of Tamil fisherfolk who had padu sites in more peripheral areas had abandoned them temporarily when they moved closer to the town, which in turn compounded the intergenerational loss in the transfer of skills. A similar trend was seen in Batticaloa where sites like Eravur, Thalavi, Kalkudah and Valaichchenai with higher densities of padu sites witnessed fewer returnees or their children claiming back sites. Nevertheless, some of the oldest known fishing families in Trincomalee, hailing from Karaiyar caste villages like Thirukadaloor, were veteran beach-seiners. Indeed, a significant number of beach-seiners would predict that karaivalai as a traditional form of fishing would vanish within the next half century, partly because of the loss of local knowledge and partly because of labour shortages. Indeed, in September 2012, of the 72 padu sites registered in the Kuchchaveli DS, only 23 were still in operation.23 Moreover, unlike certain forms of craft-based fishing, karaivalai requires not only a substantial amount of initial capital expenditure (for nets and other gear) but could only function if revolving capital were readily available. Beach-seiners often  Interview with an officer at the Fisheries Department in Trincomalee (September 24, 2012). The extent to which this rule was applied remains a source of contention. 21  I was hard pressed to find any migrants from the deep south that occupied padu spaces in northern Trincomalee. 22  The extent to which beach-seining continued in Trincomalee over wartime is difficult to determine and would have been spatially differentiated. Sites closer to Nilaveli, for example, were in operation, and operators in places like Salapiyaru stated that they had been practising beach-seining for the past 15 years. However, west coast migrants—largely from Puttalam—started acquiring sites only after 2009. It might not be wrong to state that cross-coastal migration spanning 6 months or more resumed after wartime. 23  Data obtained at the Kuchchaveli Divisional Secretariat in early September 2012. 20

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borrowed heavily from mudalalis like their seafaring counterparts.24 Moreover, beach-seine operators would bear much of the risk during a bad fishing season. It would sometimes cost as much as 600,000 rupees (over 3600 Euros) to operate padu over one season, with a 30-member crew on average.25 Moreover, the subsistence costs of resident labour had to be factored in, including group expenditure on food, arrack, tobacco and transportation costs for workers who made occasional trips to their villages of origin. Typically, a seasonal cycle spans over 6  months, between April and October. During a particularly good season or if the monsoons start late, the duration of an operation might stretch on for longer. Moreover, given how labour-intensive beach-seining is, those who ran operations had to have the capacity to mobilise and organise labour, which could only be achieved through strong and durable local networks from the villages that often supplied additional labour. The very nature of beach-seining rendered it a collective activity. The majority of karaivalai enterprises were family run, and the use of non-­ kin formally contracted labour has now become more commonplace.

5.2.1  Dwelling in Diversity At first glance, the organisation of vadi spaces in a typical beach-seine padu looks no different from that occupied by craft-based fishers. Neatly lined cadjan huts are constructed nearly in the same way, only that they appear to be more densely clustered. Kuchchaveli has among the most number of beach-seine sites in Trincomalee that stretch between Nilaveli to Pulmoddai. Others remain clustered around specific hamlets in the town area, for example, near Koneswaram, and further south in Kinniya and towards Muttur and Verugal. However, what remains remarkable about a typical padu site is the fact that it is arguably one of the most socially diverse and polyglot micro-societies that can be found in contemporary Sri Lanka. Siddi vadiya26 in Pudawakattu and two others along the Salapiyaru stretch serve as good examples of how internal diversity within padu sites is managed and how a sense of conviviality with neighbouring local villages is maintained. The padu licensee is an elderly Muslim man who sublet his stretch to a Sinhalese Catholic from Venapuwa for the last 5 years.27 In contrast, one of the two padus in Salapiyaru was run by Aiyar (in Chap. 4), a Tamil-Hindu operator from Udappu who had been migrating seasonally for the past 15  years but had no prior history of visiting Trincomalee before war erupted. The padu site beside Aiyar’s has been licensed for the past 20 years to an elderly Sinhalese Catholic woman named Sobani and her  Some karaivalai operators stated that they were in debt by as much as 11 lakhs (approximately 6500 EUR) as a result of steadily declining catches. 25  The average monthly wage of a kuli worker would range from 13,000 to 15,000 rupees. 26  The name has been altered. 27  The padu itself had been functioning for over 15 years, and its user rights were transferred after 2009. 24

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husband, who identify themselves as settlers from Kalpitiya. Sobani averred that the padu registered under her name had formerly been operated by her father and that she had met her husband when he was a young karaivalai kuli worker in the 1960s who travelled back and forth between Kuchchaveli and Kalpitiya seasonally. All three padu sites display a great diversity of labour from across other regions in the country where beach-seining is practised. Typically, most vadi sites like these are mixed with kuli workers who are drawn in from across Puttalam, Kalpitiya, Negombo, Marawila, Venapuwa and Batticaloa and a much smaller number from Mullaitivu.28 Many of the kuli workers in Siddi were from the Catholic west—places like Venapuwa and Negombo—although the more experienced crewmen were said to have come from Thoduwa and Periyapadu in Puttalam where beach-seining continued uninterrupted over wartime. Beach-seine crewmembers are often exclusively male and are not necessarily young. This is not to discount the fact that women have been working as crewmembers on padu sites. In particular spaces in China Bay and close to Irrakakandy, it is not uncommon to witness local women hauling in beach-­ seine nets.29 However, the incidence of cross-district mobility among women in the context of beach-seining kuli work remains rare. Nets would be hauled twice a day on average, and occasionally thrice, depending on the weather and the day’s catch. One day a week would be set aside as a day of rest, and the negotiation of an appropriate day that suited a religiously mixed group often varied from site to site. Siddi’s was on Sundays, given its high density of Catholic crewmembers from Negombo and Venapuwa. But their Hindu Thoduwa counterparts may choose not to fish on Fridays. Similarly, Sobani and her husband gave their predominantly Hindu-Tamil Vaharai-based crew a day off on Friday; although Sobani said that she and her sons did not fish on Sundays, she noted that she did not stop their workers from doing so. More important, most of the beach-­ seine operators whom I met would often notice a well-functioning padu site by the way in which its social diversity was amicably negotiated and managed. First, beach-seine operations themselves require a complex division of labour. Kuli workers themselves are assigned different tasks, of net laying and of operating artisanal crafts, particularly vallams. Each padu usually has one designated cook, sometimes an assistant who may include an elderly female relative brought in from the village of a current crewmember. Aiyar and Sobani have at least three employees with net-mending skills. In most padu sites, a typical workday begins slightly before dawn with the preparation of tea. The first haul may end by 10 or 11 am, as a fishing cycle usually takes about 2.5–3 h. Crewmembers sit together for every meal that is cooked daily in ample urn-like pots, usually white rice and kariku meen (fish and gravy, Tamil). Aiyar and Sobani often stated how important it was to have everyone (themselves included) eat the same food, regardless of how simple it was.  The only crewmember I met from Mullaitivu was from Vishnamaduwa, close to Nayaru.  Some of these women constitute parts of household units. However, those who are landless and work alongside their children, siblings and husbands I have noticed may not get paid in cash but would be given a share of the catch. I knew of a single mother and her two teenage daughters who lived in Irrakakandy who would together on average bring in 60 kilograms of fish in a single day.

28 29

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Crews were often referred to as a “padu family” that shared a common pot. This sense of cohesiveness was put to the test when a local boat race organised by the resident Naval forces in 2012 had Aiyar and Sobani entering separate teams. Sobani and her husband’s boat won first place in the vallam category. However, Sobani was peeved that Aiyar had hired crewmembers from a different padu—and not his own—to race his boat, which she interpreted as a breach of confidence among his own kuli men. Among crewmembers, diversity was often taken as a given. Interestingly, unlike the Catholic bilingual seafaring collectives, a significant number of Sinhalese-­ Catholics from areas like Marawila, Negombo and Puttalam could barely communicate in Tamil. However, they stated that common fisher argot was enough to maintain cordial relations with other exclusively Tamil-speaking crewmembers, for example, from Batticaloa. Often, their reason not to speak or learn Tamil was framed in terms of their being wary of unwittingly “offending [someone] by saying the wrong thing”. The performance of plurality, then, was about downplaying difference and securing shared ground. As a Batticaloa worker in Siddi stated: we share the happiness and suffering. We tug at the same ropes and eat the same fish that we catch. There is nothing like theirs and ours. But we know this arrangement lasts only for a short time. We are like a loose bag of pebbles. Kuli-workers ebb and flow, like the sea… we come and go, and if you work in one place long enough, you will come to realise that there will be people you may never meet again.

Interestingly, among karaivalai crewmembers, the defining characteristic of their communality was the padu life. It was far from an identity that was spatially defined and even less so than among the bilingual seafarers. A number of beach-­ seine crewmembers stated that during cycles of violence, local householders would offer them shelter. Moreover, the reported number of deaths and the rate at which padu workers were arrested or harassed by the military or the LTTE was said to have been significantly lower than other migrant groups.30 Within the loose associational networks that were formed, their primary identification was again to their natal village, where their families often resided, although they themselves may spend less than a month or two in their villages of origin each year. When the fishing season in Trincomalee ended in October, a significant number of karaivalai workers in Trincomalee would move on to sites in Kalpitiya and Puttalam such as Thoduwa and Periyapadu (on the west coast) and take up temporary residence with other beach-seine operators. NGOs including fisher lobby organisations would contend that kuli workers were among the most impoverished and that they were akin to bonded labourers. Indeed, the turnover of kuli workers for padu sites was very high. However, at the same time the growing labour shortages that were often expressed by operators like Aiyar and Sobani indicated that trust was an important factor in maintaining one’s reputation in villages from where surplus labour was recruited. Similarly, workers maintained that “remaining with a single mudalali for a long time would make one compla While this may have been the case in parts of Kuchchaveli, I do not claim that it could be unreflectively applied across all littoral spaces in Trincomalee or the east coast for that matter.

30

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cent”, meaning that better conditions could always be negotiated elsewhere. Much of the recruitment was facilitated through local agents. Puttalam-based operators had among the worst track records for how they treated their workers, particularly in terms of not paying them their wages or dues in full after the season ended. Moreover, while padu operators were typically members of fisher co-operative societies, formal unions or organisations for karaivalai workers alone hardly existed, particularly not in the host sites in which they spent much of their time. Besides, the social plurality witnessed in padu spaces also made them regular sites of military surveillance, given the fact that movement of workers and families from natal villages to host sites was frequent. Licensees and operators were required to maintain meticulous registers of their workers and the villages in which they were officially registered. During the time of my fieldwork, there were fewer military roundups. Yet everyday interactions between karaivalai sites and local naval bases were telling in terms of how trust was tenuously maintained. These relations of power often translated into small “allowances” that padu operators like Aiyar would provide naval guards who visited their camps. Fish and choice cuts would often be offered free of charge. A markedly different dynamic within the Catholic seafarer camps could be witnessed, in which naval personnel would purchase fish at discounted prices.

5.2.2  Local Interactions and Practices of Conviviality A striking feature among migrant padu operators is the fact that they appear to be more socially accepted among resident neighbouring villages near their encampments. Many concur that karaivalai is a vastly different form of fishing, and often rivalries that exist are among seafarers who view themselves as close competitors. Moreover, padus were themselves self-contained and territorially bound sites. However, this barely attends to the fact that a significant number of beach-seine operators I met were involved in  local FCS activity, were often invited to events such as weddings and funerals in neighbouring villages and were generally more engaged in quotidian village life in their host sites. More often than not, beach-­ seiners like Aiyar frame their presence and belonging to Trincomalee in distinctly translocal terms: We have come here for so long, we don’t even consider this a different place. We think of it as our own. When we go to the market we know where to get our provisions from and we sometimes make bulk purchases on credit.

Certainly, the economic advantages of serving a padu operator with a large crew cannot be discounted. Provisions of course are always sourced locally and are delivered by truck to the camp on a weekly basis. However, the trust and sense of ­community presence among karaivalai migrants arguably permeate deeper. Unlike seafaring migrants who leave their vadi sites bereft of any trace of habitation, taking their belongings with them, padu sites convey a more permanent sense of presence.

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More often, temporarily disbanded cadjan huts remain until the next season, and vallam boats are often left behind. Usually one or two crewmembers stay behind to mind the site. Given the density of vadi huts required to house crewmembers totaling over 40 people at times, disbanding installations each year would prove an expensive endeavour. Moreover, padu sites remain loosely watched by local village residents as well, and often during times of particularly bad weather, they were said to come to the assistance of a near-deserted padu. Inter-communal co-operative practices such as these do entail reciprocal exchanges that are arguably made possible by the very nature of beach-seining. Bear in mind that it is a practice in which a diversity of fish species are caught, often indiscriminately. Whether the rate of by-catch is higher in beach-seining as opposed to other forms such as longlining is debatable. However, what each haul does promise is a significant amount of post-harvest catch that is often discarded or rendered unsellable. In spaces like Siddi, during moments in which nets are finally hauled in, a small number of residents linger, waiting to purchase fish at significantly reduced rates. Often discards are freely given away. Households consume some of these takings, but post-harvest catch is typically diverted to a second supply chain in dried fish production. It is often women who benefit particularly from this arrangement, and although kuli workers themselves may not call it “catch-sharing”, or necessarily a form of sambandam, they often assert that the “ability to give what we get by the grace of the sea, is what the world will eventually give back”. These loose exchanges contribute to the fact that borders between villages and padus are often fluid. That porosity is expressed in the way that brings local villages into certain padu sites; unlike some of the seafaring camps, they do not remain as sites of otherness that are often avoided and where boundary lines are rigidly demarcated. Moreover, these interactional spaces create more profound networks of interdependence that have engaged migrant beach-seine operators. Migrants like Aiyar were often involved in wider projects of collective action, such as lobbying groups, and continued to lend their assistance in wording petitions regarding stricter rule enforcement concerning the use of purse-seine nets. In some instances migrants like Aiyar may act as strategic forces that either lend more diversity to an existing lobby group or design plans of action. As Aiyar once shared: Local co-operatives do not have very many people who could help them, or be brought along to speak. They do not have much clout and they lack the talent. Now in Negombo or Upparu when a letter is handed over, they (the Fisheries Department) immediately move into action. All we need to do is provide them with just a bit of information.

At times Aiyar may accompany co-operative leaders to the Fisheries Department for meetings, but he seldom serves as a spokesman. In every respect, migrant fishers like Aiyar are deeply conscious of their outsiderliness, regardless of a sense of translocality that is repeatedly articulated. However, the lives of those who stay behind to mind deserted padu sites are just as revealing. A significant number of them comprise workers from Batticaloa, and the ease of travel between the padu site and one’s village was often cited as a reason why many operators preferred men from the same province rather than their “flight-

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ier” counterparts from Kalpitiya and Chilaw, for example. Moreover, surplus fishworkers from Batticaloa were sometimes said to work for less than 5 or 10 percent of the wages paid to locals or those from across the island. However, the question remains why particular crewmembers would choose to remain in the migrant vadi season after season, and how a sense of weak permanence may come to be forged and took root in places that were formerly perceived as being more liminal. Nagaraj’s story provides a glimpse into how personal life history and political trajectories come to woven into complex webs of migrant-local dependencies. Indeed, his story is no means representative of all kuli workers who have made their home in Trincomalee. After joining a Sea Tiger unit in his late teens, Nagaraj defected 3 years later, in 1995. As he recalls: I left because I missed home, and we were always hungry. I was a part of the Sea Tiger unit that transported goods and ferried people across, but after a while I got tired of that work. Then I joined the Tharaiyakam (the combatants) and after 6 months of hard training … in the Vanni, I was taken back to my place of birth—in Vaharai. In those days we would cut across through the forest, from Vanni to Batticaloa, and this journey might take as long as one and a half months. We ourselves did not know where we were going, although we had guides. After I ran away I was afraid to return home because I knew that the LTTE would seek me out in my village. So I and three friends who also defected formed a karaivalai team. Most defectors like us did that, although many of us did not have prior experience of working in a padu. We went to Puttalam to look for work. It seemed like the only option then. I lived in fear for my life and finally surrendered to the local CID. If I was caught I would be shot…they would have surely found out about us because someone in our village would have snitched. When I went to the CID they granted me pardon and asked me to work for them…to give them all the information that I had. So there I was working for the CID for one and a half years. During that time I was paid a total of 25,000 rupees. When the war ended the CID asked me if I would like to go abroad and that they would help me. I said that I would rather remain here and return to my village for work. When I returned there was nothing left for me to do, so I went back to Puttalam where I worked for both Tamil and Sinhalese mudalalis. For a long time the Sinhalese cheated us…they would say, “we know you are Tigers”. When I first moved to Puttalam I was getting paid as little as 4,500 rupees… the mudalalis benefited tremendously from us. But I wanted to remain as a karaivalai kuli. It is a livelihood that gives you a full package—meaning food and shelter. In those days in Puttalam, I was even afraid to walk to a teashop alone. So I moved around for several years…I was in Thoduwa, Periyapadu, Kalrawe, and Irrakakandy. My parents are fishers, and my siblings in Vaharai fish too. I am the youngest in my family and I have seen more of this country than any of them put together. I want to remain here because it gives me peace of mind. During the monsoons I go prawning near the Raigam Salt Factory, and although it is used exclusively by the locals, they have given me a place.

Nagaraj’s narrative is evocative of the struggles that the postwar landless face in rural Batticaloa, those who may have few opportunities to find stable employment. Since wartime, creeping rural indebtedness has often been cited as a compelling reason to leave home and travel across the coastline in search of employment in padu sites in northwest. These circulatory forms of migration—from Batticaloa to Trincomalee between the months of April and October and then to Puttalam and Kalpitiya from November—constitute a more recent form of reverse migration. However, during visits to villages in Batticaloa from which karaivalai workers are often drawn, for example, Kaluankerny, Panichankerny and Kanyakerny, a signifi-

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cant number of crewmembers stated that they were increasingly disenchanted with travelling to the west coast. Violence and intimidation meted out by karaivalai operators and mudalalis were rife. Beach-seine operators would often withhold wages and threaten to falsely report workers who formally complained. Moreover, Nagaraj’s preference to stay back and progressively make Kuchchaveli a base rather than “home” also reflects the double stigma that he carried with him—of defecting from the LTTE and subsequently working for the CID. For kuli workers like Nagaraj, an empty padu life, as he asserts, grants him the “freedom” that he has always wanted, a sense of in-betweenness and fluidity that is often the norm for those who are at one and the same time outsiders and familiar faces.

5.3  Reverse Migration and Its Discontents This chapter so far has focused almost exclusively on the situational dynamics of cross-coastal migrations. However, shorter sojourns along the northern and eastern seaboard remain a common practice among seafarers. Coasting—the act of sojourning along the shoreline—reveals how illusory administrative boundary lines are. Moreover, everyday livelihood dynamics often transcend ethno-religious associations, and these were sometimes actively reflected in customary sea tenurial norms. It was not uncommon to hear of longliners from Thirukadaloor who speak about encountering Vaharai fisherfolk with whom they may share their water. Yet, coming ashore is tacitly proscribed. Similarly, I encountered an FCS in Pt. Pedro, Jaffna with kin-based networks in Kalapadu, Mullaitivu, that often ventured out during the prawning months between November and February. These practices were usually framed as consequences of marriage networks established over decades, and interestingly, the norm of not shoring one’s boat except for in an emergency was often practised. Such dynamics invariably constituted forms of lateral or horizontal sambandam; although they were not necessarily formally instituted, they were nevertheless reified norms. Similarly, cross ethno-religious networks of mobility functioned in similar ways. Thus, for example, Muslim gill netters I met in Thakvanahar in southern Trincomalee would set up camp for a few days in Vaharai and fish. Many of these associative links were forged between FCSs. Fisherfolk who were active members of mosques stated that they would make contributions to a Hindu kovil in a host site before departing. In many such cases, these loose inter-co-operative associations were forged through capital transfers and exchanges, for example, the selling of boats and fishing gear. In effect, mobility occurred through more formalised practices of consent-­seeking through co-operative societies. Yet collective memory of how these links first came to be forged in the first place was relatively hazy. In this context, their sambandam was very much an outcome of a routine process, and often the origin or emergence of these networked relations was difficult to trace back. However, these movements did not always entail forms reciprocity that was necessarily even. Often these

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exchanges were vaguely referred to as having been entrenched as a part of local FCS tradition and would therefore continue on in that manner. The question of cross-coastal reverse migration has, however, remained a more recent and tenuous issue, since restrictions on mobility were eased after 2009. Perhaps one of the most durable and visible forms of migration from the east coast entails the circular movements of contracted diving teams. A significant number of divers in the export-oriented ornamental fish trade originate from Trincomalee, and the development of commercial diving in the district is a fairly recent phenomenon that evolved over the past 15 years. Villages like Manayaveli and Samudragama, including particular places in Kinniya, constituted spots in which commercial diving expertise developed. Moreover, Manayaveli contains two homegrown diver-­ contract companies that send teams out through local agents across the country during the season, travelling to Batticaloa, Jaffna, Puttalam and Mannar. Additionally, there are diving networks that work in both Kinniya and Hambantota. While the movement of divers across the country is often mediated by companies and networked relations of agents both in divers’ villages and host sites, commercial diving as a subsector should be treated differently from other forms of reverse migration. Reverse migration encompasses reciprocal movement, and what we have seen thus far constituted either one-way seasonal migration (over a fixed period in time to a specific place) or circulatory forms of mobility, for example, as witnessed among labour teams travelling from Batticaloa to northern Trincomalee and then over to the western coastline and back. Many of my oral history narratives did not capture anecdotes of grandparents or ancestors having travelled from the east to the western and southern coastlines. The northeast was often perceived as a migrant host site due to its diverse marine banks. However, older fishers maintained that in the 1950s and 1960s, they had heard stories that migratory dynamics were indeed reciprocated, although these typically occurred through informal ties of friendship and marriage. Yet such movements were restricted to the north and northeast, spanning the Jaffna Peninsula, Mannar and Puttalam. These loose associational networks seemed to change as the power of fisher co-operative societies grew, and there were attempts to “formalise” these movements through catch-share agreements and other forms of rent-seeking. Therefore, while within-coast movements were sustained through co-operative relations, in the view of some Tamil and Muslim FCS leaders particularly in the hinterlands, more formalised agreements were seen to have played a part in eroding long-standing cross-coastal networks and social ties. While east-to-west migration has perhaps not been as entrenched a practice or strategy as it has been for hundreds if not thousands of western and southern coastal fishers, I encountered a small number of Trincomalee-based craft fishers who stated that at least once in their lifetimes, they did attempt to fish across the coastline, particularly south of Puttalam. Two of them included Raju and Munir. Raju tells of how he visited Galle in 1979, after having first become acquainted with a small group of southern skin divers in Nilaveli: Galle and Gandara are strange places…it was that time of the year when the prawning season was best. We set up camps close to Unawatuna, and some local cads there sniggered and said we could fish. It was only after we had caught some prawn that they surrounded our

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boat, threatened to beat us to pulp, and took away everything. The next day they were all very apologetic. They told us we could fish again. We flatly refused and said they could keep their fish, and we have never returned since.

Regional place-based identities appear to be particularly strong here, and interestingly it may be that Raju consciously omitted any reference to inter-ethnic power asymmetries. Munir’s visit was to a predominantly Muslim site in Puttalam where he was likewise threatened and was compelled to leave. While these narratives go to show that prior networks are vital, movements between the east coast to the south and west have been relatively un-normed and remain sanctioned. When I questioned seasonal craft-based fishers whether local Trincomalee folk may come to the west coast to fish, I would often be told that that they lacked local community approval to do so. In the same vein, local inter-communal responses towards the asymmetry of increased circular migration were often an embattled topic at co-operative meetings. During the time of my fieldwork, a number of FSCs were discussing how to tighten their regulations concerning the entry of outsiders. Thus the discontents of reverse migration, or the lack thereof, were seen as a growing bone of contention between local co-operative society networks.

5.4  Sinhalese Settlers and the Ambivalence of Belonging Scholarly narratives on settlerhood in post-Independence Sri Lanka have singularly focused on state-led agricultural land colonisation and resettlement schemes since the 1950s (see Wickramasinghe 2014: 269). These have been framed against a political backdrop of colonial administrative boundary making and ethnonationalist projects primarily in the context of agricultural farming and irrigation schemes (see Peebles 1990; Korf 2009: 108). On the one hand, macro perspectives offer little space to re-engage with the more fluid nature of inter-communal patterns of mobility that are interwoven with everyday livelihoods and individual and communal aspirations of well-being. On the other, they flatten out more nuanced perspectives on relatively more organic forms of mobility. Yet particular attention must be paid to not creating an artificial wedge between the micro-processes of mobility and the more macro-political structures that enable or delimit these very movements. Irrefutably, spatial and social mobility does not unfold in a sociocultural and political vacuum, while their very dynamics remain power-laden. Moreover, little Sri Lankan scholarship has explored narratives of settler communities themselves. In other words, the fluid interactional spheres in which settlers go about their everyday lives, living in ethnically mixed spaces or in sustaining networked relations of interdependence with other communities, have been explored in less depth. This section therefore dispels the pervasive construction that all settler groups are relatively atomised collectives. In particular, it focuses on Sinhalese Catholic and Buddhist collectives from western and southern coastal times, who have been settling in Trincomalee particularly between in 1950s and the 1980s, and explores how differences in inter-communal interactions can be seen across a diverse sociocultural landscape.

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5.4.1  “People of Malee”: Local Histories of Settlement The imaginaries of settlerhood in Trincomalee itself are particularly diverse and often embattled. Tamil-Catholic hamlets clustered in the Inner Harbour area have shared family histories of settling from the Jaffna Peninsula since the turn of the twentieth century. They may concur that particular families in larger Hindu-Tamil Karaiyar villages such as Thirukadaloor bear relatively more recent settler histories, some such families having been seasonally mobile between coastlines of southern India and the northeast before having settled. A number of Muslim households in Jamaliya expressed their disapproval towards other families from Kinniya moving into their hamlet over the course of the 1990s and having remained long enough to be entitled to post-tsunami aid that should by rights have been obtained from their natal villages. Therefore, the socio-political construction of settlerhood, whether it concerns moving 15 kilometers from one village to another or visibly postdates other less remembered practices of mobility in collective memory, constitutes an intertwined reworking of belonging to place, communal identity and historicity. Moreover, settler groups themselves are immensely diverse. Conflictual relations and axes of difference exist not only among local and migrant collectives but also among particular settler groups, between migrants and settlers, who may have constituted migrant groups at one point. For example, the settler Sinhalese from the Weli Oya agricultural scheme were known to fish at times in the Kokkilai Lagoon that is also shared among Catholic west coast settlers who primarily fish for a livelihood. Moreover, it may not be uncommon to find older Sinhalese-settler groups in the town area joining forces with mixed villages or those that are predominantly Tamil in contesting applications made by southern padu licence claimants who have more recently moved in. Settler communities that have “naturalised” themselves more and identify themselves as people of “Malee”, and those that continue to maintain secluded enclaves, remain tremendously diverse across the district. What remains particularly striking among fishing collectives, unlike in the context of state-orchestrated land colonisation schemes, is the fact that no distinct periods of time or spatial movements can be conclusively mapped or traced. Moreover, settlers have almost always exclusively constituted former seasonal migrants who settled over a span of 50 years. One of the first groups of “pioneer” settlers, who were in turn invoked as pioneer seasonal migrants, was from the predominantly Sinhalese-Buddhist south. Many of them traced their origins back to Gandara, Galle, Matara, Dondra (Deundara) and Hambantota. Among local Tamil and Muslim groups, southern migrants were considered to be some of the poorest fishing collectives in the 1950s, as illustrated in Raju’s narrative in the Introduction. Many of them consequently settled in hamlets clustered in the Town and Gravets area, which often bear distinctly Sinhala-Buddhist names, for example, Samudragama (Sanghamitta), Abeypura, Vijithapura, Sumedagama and Sirimapura. It was difficult to obtain records from the DS on the creation of new settler village spaces to compare with administrative re-drawing and re-naming.

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Yet oral history narratives concurred that movements since the 1950s were more gradual. Sinhalese families who settled in the town did so in smaller clusters and dwelled in predominantly Tamil villages at the beginning. As Paralingam, who lived almost all his life in Thirukadaloor, recalls: As far as I remember 15 families came first to our village from Kulavadi. Kulavadi is now known as Veeranagar, and it used to be an old vadi site for Sinhalese fishermen. That was when the first Sinhalese came here…when they started settling in they moved into bigger units and renamed their own villages. Some of these spaces were interspersed with Tamil households. In 1956, during the ethnic riots, a large number of these Tamil families were driven out. That is how places like Vijithapura came to be. The remaining Tamils in Vijithapura started selling their land.

Paralingam’s narrative reveals how patterns of settlement ultimately carved out ethno-religious enclaves from apparent spaces of plurality in the past. Interestingly, the Sinhalese migrants who came from Kulavadi were not referred to by their presumed villages of origin but by the name of a place in Trincomalee itself. The translocality of earlier migrant collectives and the degree to which local communities accepted them can only be surmised. However, the clustering and expansion of Sinhala-Buddhist settler spaces particularly in the Town and Gravets area remains distinctly different from migrant padu and other vadi spaces, including settler villages further north of Trincomalee. Very few Sinhalese settlers from the deep south in fact spoke Tamil or were remotely bilingual. However, a significant number of southern Sinhalese hamlets in the town grew after the outbreak of war. FCS leaders in Samudragama, for example, identified the village as having been formed in the 1984 with the initial settling of four families. Villages like Samudragama shared settler narratives of “deep struggle” to gain legitimacy to remain there. In part, the difference of course was that villages like Samudragama could be seen as part of a deliberate project of Sinhalisation, as a political effort to reorder the ethnic composition of the district, particularly as regards its highly centralised main town. Eventually Samudragama itself gained an identity as an underworld. During the LTTE bombing of the Trincomalee central market in February 2006, a number of local residents who joined raiding mobs that assisted in state-orchestrated violence against Tamil settlements were said to have originated from Samudragama.

5.4.2  Enclaved Settler Spaces at the Periphery In northern Trincomalee, however, many of the settlers were formerly migrants from the Catholic west coast, particularly from Chilaw and Negombo, and to a lesser extent from Kalpitiya and other parts of Puttalam. Some settled into mixed villages, while others, like in Kokkilai and Kalrawe, formed enclaves. While Festuce Perera, the former UNP Minister of Fisheries, was instrumental in resettling a number of communities from the Catholic west in Kuchchaveli in the 1970s, during

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wartime many of the new settlers sold land and moved away from Sinhalacised enclaves that were often renamed. After 2009, some of these former settlers returned to reclaim their plots—some of which they had hurriedly sold—and remained in small temporary camps in ethnically mixed spaces such as Irrakakandy (see Klem 2014). Yet today, the borders in peripheral settler enclaves are not as impermeable as they might have been imagined. The circularity between multi-ethnic mudalalis between neighbouring village spaces, for example, that between Catholic Kokkilai, Pulmoddai and Thenamaravadi, a predominantly Tamil Karaiyar site, was particularly apparent. However, the practices that settlers use in demarcating distinct identities while claiming belonging in  local spaces warrant particular attention. They reveal how inter-communal interdependencies are selectively sustained in particular contexts, and at other times remain steadfastly asocial. Kokkilai Lagoon is a vast brackish water body, which sits on the boundary of Mullaitivu District. Administratively, it only became a part of the district in 2004. A number of Kokkilai’s settlements are located on the narrow sand bar that separates the lagoon from the Indian Ocean. The lagoon is surrounded by forested shrub land, sea grass beds and mangrove swamps, and because of its rich birdlife, it was officially declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1951. Kokkilai as a subregion contains much socioreligious diversity, specifically older Tamil-Hindu and Catholic settlements alongside Muslim hamlets and a settler colony of Sinhalese-Catholics formerly from Negombo. They had few kin ties or interaction with groups of Chilaw-based migrants who encamp in Nayaru. The Kokkilai settler colony—“Gomuva”31—predominantly comprised Sinhala-speaking fisher families. The majority were Roman Catholics, and about 10 percent were said to be Buddhist. The colony claims a history that dates back a hundred years, with the laying of the first chapel foundation stone as late as the 1960s. The settlement specialises in a variety of gill nets including those for hurulu and stingray. During wartime, a number of FCS members in Gomuva concurred that there was rampant rule breaking in the area, an activity in which they themselves actively engaged, including fishing using lights and dynamite. In December 1984, the colony became a site of a highly publicised massacre in which 11 Sinhalese fisherfolk were killed by the LTTE. Over the course of the 1980s, many of its settlers moved away to Negombo and Chilaw after brief stays in transit refugee camps, only to return intermittently during the 1990s. Presently, black lagoon crabbing remains one of the chief income earners in the Kokkilai colony.32 Over the past 15 years, Gomuva also attracted settlers from parts of Puttalam and Chilaw while remaining almost exclusively Sinhalese-­ Catholic. The resident priest in the settlement was sent in from Jaffna, and I was definitively told that he was in “the process of learning Sinhalese”. Like the Kuchchaveli Catholic priest who was closely associated with the migrant craft fishers from Chilaw, the clergyman also performed an additional role as a mediator among the neighbouring Tamil-speaking communities that lived in the vicinity. Yet,  A pseudonym.  An exporter based on the west coast runs a small business in which crabs are iced and sent across to Colombo to be flown to Singapore.

31 32

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unlike Chilaw migrants, the Gomuva settlers often told me that they socially had “little to do” with villages around there as they themselves spoke little Tamil. In part, the trajectory of wartime mobility and the impermanence of place may have played a significant role among the sandwich generation that spent more time along the west coast than the east. However, the Kokkilai settlement, as in the case of many of the Sinhalese Buddhist villages in the town, maintained not only close associational networks with their mul-gama but also intermarried with them. Regius, the FCS president whose wife and infant daughter lived in Negombo, stated that his family would usually travel to the east once a month to visit him. Religious festivals and important church feasts beckoned him to his mul-gama, yet he shared that his place of residence would always remain the east coast where he was born and raised by settler parents. Translocal arrangements of living apart were often normalised through discourses of children’s schooling. Many contended that wives lived apart and travelled back and forth after the development of road infrastructure, while in the 1970s entire family units would live in the colony itself. Regius’ ongoing battle with the Land Registrars’ Office in order to secure a title deed for the land he now occupies in part spikes his bitterness with the fact that he gets little “state support”. Yet his strong ties and rootedness to the west coast are perceived as a paradigm separate from his everyday livelihood as a crabber. In 2012, there was talk about building an ice-making facility in the neighbouring Tamil village of Thenamaravadi (original name). Gomuva has an ice-storage facility, built by the crab exporting company, but has no means of manufacturing its own ice. For years ice was purchased and transported back to Kokkilai from Negombo, in the empty lorries that returned after transporting fish. Regius and his co-operative members stated categorically that they would never purchase any ice from the new facility that was to be built just a few miles away. The decision to continue transporting ice back across nearly 300 kilometers of road was justified by insisting that ice from the west was far superior to what would be produced locally. Moreover, the existing arrangement was considered to be convenient, as no extra fuel was expended given that transportation lorries had to return anyway. Tightly networked relations of kin and trade across the west coast remain part and parcel of everyday settler relations, and in settlements like Catholic Gomuva, livelihood practices also translate into processes of enclavement in which fishing happens in a situated site with seemingly few local networks and interdependencies. Interestingly, officials in the local Fisheries Department interpreted Gomuva’s steadfast stance that it would continue sourcing Puttalam ice as yet another example of inter-ethnic mistrust. However, it may seem that economic textures of sambandam hardly intersected with the everyday social. In early 2013, when the Northern Fisheries Alliance was mobilising support of a mass demonstration at sea with regard to Indian trawler incursions in the Palk Straits, Gomuva sent several of its members to the protest, although it was never directly affected by the conflict. Thus, enclaved spaces like Gomuva, although seemingly atomised, involve themselves in what they would see as “acts of support” (solidarity), in safeguarding a known social order. This default mode of asociality was still considered a form of sambandam, and active involvement was solicited only when necessary. Certainly, these

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interdependencies lean more towards the rational instrumental; however, members of neighbouring Tamil hamlets would concur that Gomuva would cease to cooperate in the face of ethical transgressions, such as destructive fishing.

5.4.3  Settlers As Bridging Agents? “Themmur”33 is one of the few remaining ethno-religiously mixed fishing villages in northern Trincomalee located close a mixed-sex bilingual school. As a village site it remains closely networked with other FCSs around Irrakakandy, stretching down to Nilaveli. The geography of its village remains ethnically demarcated, with a distinct Hindu-Tamil and Muslim quarter. Since the 1960s, the stretch of beach across Themmur comprised padu sites and vadis that were temporary dwellings to small clusters of migrant craft-based fishers. Small shrines bearing effigies of St. Anthony and the Virgin Mary mark off particular sites, and the village itself is located near the St. Anthony’s Church and a Pilyar kovil, which residents often allude to as having sustained their power to remain intact as a religiously plural community. While inter-ethnic interaction remains part of everyday village life (e.g. in the schoolroom, during religious feasts or at the celebration of an adolescent’s menarche), its ethno-religious diversity remains carefully managed. For one, during wartime Themmur, given its social diversity, drew the attention of both the state military as well as the LTTE. Military roundups were a common occurrence particularly in the 1990s, as the village itself was sandwiched between the main Trincomalee-Pulmoddai Road that was occupied by the army. The lagoon marshland at the back was used as a vital transit route among LTTE cadres especially after sundown. A number of Sinhalese settlers sold their land and moved back to the west coast, a few stayed and continued with their beach-seining. Despite the particularly precarious situation of political in-betweenness in which Themmur residents found themselves, there remained a sense of solidarity, at least in ways that it came to be formally articulated among diverse members of the FCS.  Among other inter-­ communal tactics of avoiding securitised violence, stories of Muslim households lending their abayas and niqabs to Tamil and Sinhalese youth when bypassing checkpoints or when fleeing the village were not uncommon. Moreover, the village entailed a dense networked space of mosaic-like gates that led one down an intricate path through the backyards of plots and homesteads, which finally lead down to the beach. Such mosaic-like micro-geographies were commonplace among particularly large and socially diverse villages like Manayaveli in the town area. Not only did they promise relatively fast and efficient means of escaping through backyards, but in a more everyday sense they enabled village life to continue, at least in part, after daily curfews were imposed after 5 or 6 pm. By no means can it be stated that Themmur was a space utterly devoid of inter-communal 33

 A pseudonym.

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suspicion or mistrust. Many who were displaced or fled to India never returned, yet sites like Themmur were able to maintain their social heterogeneity throughout wartime. Approximately 40 Sinhala settler families were living in Themmur at the time of my first visit, in July/August 2011. Many of them were bilingual and were Roman Catholics from Negombo, like Mary, who settled in Kuchchaveli in the 1970s, during the “Festuce Perera wave”. Mary and her husband were reputed to have started one of the first ma-dal padu sites in Themmur and subsequently trained up a number of local youth. The site operated intermittently over the course of wartime. Mary’s husband died prematurely in the late 1980s, and she had the padu transferred to her name. Apart from holding onto office as secretary of the village FSC, she also performed the role as a boundary maintainer between relatively newer migrants and older collectives. Her own padu operation is run with the assistance of crewmembers from Batticaloa, a small number of net menders from Puttalam, and a cook from Negombo. Moreover, occasional remittances from family members who emigrated to Italy increased her capital. Maintaining boundary rules on who could encamp and when in Themmur was imperative, given that it was formerly a migrant spot for both beach-seiners as well as craft-based fishers. This was a task that Mary and some of her settler friends in the FCS took upon themselves for they also knew too well that politically better networked migrants posed a potential threat in disrupting the existing social order. Thus, the few migrant camps in Themmur served as regulated spaces of liminality and were under less naval surveillance primarily because of the involvement of Sinhalese settlers. Yet at the same time, these spaces remained closed off to other groups of fishers, particularly locals who travelled for shorter distances along the coastline. The few padu spaces that are on offer were often allocated to craft-based Sinhalese and Tamil-Catholic fishers from Negombo and largely from the FCSs with which Mary herself had connections. Meanwhile, revenues extracted from migrants after a season’s fishing were converted into revolving credit for Themmur’s FSC. Therefore, as in the case of patchworked settler spaces, the task of managing migrant flows and incursions from outsiders were at times paradoxically taken over by settler groups themselves, who closely guarded social boundaries between “new” migrants and localised spaces. However, much of this agency derived from the fact that settlers continued to maintain close associative networks with their mul-gama, for without these interdependencies, their social importance in communal life as regards their role as boundary workers could not have been actualised.

5.5  Conclusion When exploring local relations between seasonally mobile and more sedentary collectives, situational contexts and narratives such as those presented in this chapter offer compelling reasons to veer away from essentialist constructions of fishing

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migrants. First, they show that migrants are not merely nor have they always been perceived as true outsiders. Second, in spaces and contexts of coast-to-coast mobility, diverse migrant collectives were not always perceived as a singular and homogeneous category. More often than not, cross-coastal migrants are seen to form and arrive as loosely knit collectives. Moreover, ethnonationalist narratives of Sinhalisation together with politically charged projects of altering regional ethnic compositions may not always cohere in context of local realities, in which migrant groups display immensely hybrid collective identities. Such identities reveal paradoxical predicaments of having to live lives of cultural in-betweenness while consciously manipulating these very identities and representations of selfhood in order to cope during wartime and over the course of postwar securitisation. Furthermore, the chapter draws attention to a number of distinct characteristics inherent in trajectories of seasonal migration between two predominantly mobile cross-coastal collectives—craft-based seafarers from the Catholic west and more diverse beach-seine groups that are assembled among surplus labour and recruited across the eastern and western coastlines. In engaging with their specific historicities and practices of place-making, the chapter reveals how differentiated are local-­ migrant relations and interactional spheres. While some may remain truly antagonistic, more durable forms of reciprocal exchange and symbiotic relations do exist. However, they may sometimes remain flecked within conflictual relations as cold dependences. These differentiated relations are not only mediated by perceived forms of livelihood competition and similar practices of resource extraction but are as deeply intertwined in the very practices of place-making that migrants deploy through manifold forms of establishing presence and articulating a sense of belonging in order to stake claims of legitimacy. What remains particularly important here is the fact that local-migrant contestations are not singularly determined by ethnonationalist imaginaries of territorialisation and heimat, as diverse subgroups of migrants from the same place may be perceived differently by their local neighbours. Present-day forms of short-term migration particularly within the coastline and historic accounts of cross-coastal mobility reveal that FCSs and more informal networks of kinship and resource exchange in the past often mediated patterns of movement. Arguably, the fragmentation of older horizontal inter-communal ties evokes two socio-political changes that remain interlinked. First, the increased tendency of FSCs in host sites to seek rents and higher payments significantly eroded ties of reverse migration, if in fact they existed more pervasively and diversely in the past. Second, the state control and mediation of group mobility, through bureaucratic practices of regulative control, in part supplanted the role and legitimacy of FSCs in facilitating the advent of migrants into host sites, which may have been a more organic process in the past. Dynamics of motility or the ability to move therefore became politicised in the way that they remained inseparably intertwined in the everyday machinery of patronage. Put differently, those who were granted the opportunity of seasonal mobility invariably originated from electoral bases of powerful ruling party politicians who were able to instrumentalise livelihood practices in ways that legitimated ethnonationalist state projects all the while pursuing their personal strategies to entrench and widen electoral bases.

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Moreover, differential military practices of surveillance and the so-called “protection” of migrants during wartime further compounded schisms between local collectives and migrant groups in ways that justified the segregation of communities and led to durable forms of social boundary policing that continued well into the postwar years. Yet, these political dynamics similarly worked to the detriment of particular migrant groups for whom physical presence could only be legitimated through state consent. Seasonal mobility therefore could be seen as a disciplinary device, very much like the context of refugee and “IDP” statuses that come to be politically produced through technologies of control such as registration papers and leave passes. While the modalities of power and autonomy between migrant groups and diverse states of refugeeness may remain dissimilar, the extent to which migrants can and do get involved in local life remains firmly constrained, as witnessed in instances of political bargaining and lobbying. Thus, the institutionalisation of seasonal migration and its politicisation were processes that went hand in hand. Finally, the transformation of identities from migrants into settlers can be glimpsed through how early settlement patterns took shape in host sites and were transformed during moments of political violence. As in the case of migrants, the spaces and relational dynamics of settlerhood remain immensely diverse, shaped by contexts of enclaving and relatively more fluid relational interdependencies. Interestingly, it may seem that particular groups of settlers display more tendencies towards translocality, a sense of being here-and-there at the same time. In some contexts, “home” exists as fragmented spaces of dwelling, divided along places in which everyday livelihoods are embedded, combined with spaces that are firmly associated with communal origins or through conceptions of mul-gama as opposed to natal villages. Ultimately, the continuity of associational networks across coastal spaces, particularly among ethno-religiously mixed villages, invests power in former migrant settlers to act as political mediators and gatekeepers in contexts of newer migrant flows, although this may at times bear uncertain consequences for local communities. Thus, place-making in spaces of settling remains deeply intertwined with processes of strengthening links with generational places of origin. The rhizomatic nature of these associational links questions the nature of social diversity and how it is mediated in the context of contentious politics, particularly with reference to grievance framing, mobilisation, coalition building and collective lobbying, a theme that will be explored in the next and last empirical chapter.

References Bavinck M (1984) Small fry: the economy of petty fishermen in Northern Sri Lanka, Antropologische Studies V.U. No. 5. VU Uitgeverij/Free University Press, Amsterdam Best U, Strüver A (2000) The politics of place: critical of spatial identities and critical spatial identities. In: Choi B-D (ed) For alternative 21st century geographies. Proceedings of the 2nd international critical geography conference, Taegu. http://econgeog.misc.hit-u.ac.jp/icgg/intl_mtgs/ UBest.pdf. Accessed 15 Apr 2013

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Gaasbeek T (2010) Bridging troubled waters? Everyday inter-ethnic interaction in a context of violent conflict in Kottiyar Pattu, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. PhD dissertation, Wageningen University, Wageningen Jayanntha D (1992) Electoral allegiance in Sri Lanka. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Klem B (2014) The Political Geography of War’s End: Territorialisation, circulation and moral anxiety in Trincomalee. Sri Lanka. Polit Geogr 38:33–45 Korf B (2009) Cartographic violence: engaging a Sinhala kind of geography. In: Brun C, Jazeel T (eds) Spatialising politics: culture and geography in postcolonial Sri Lanka. Sage, New Delhi, pp 100–121 Malekandathil P (2010) Maritime India: trade, religion and polity in the Indian Ocean. Primus Books, New Delhi Malekandathil P (2013) The Mughals, the Portuguese and the Indian Ocean: changing imageries of maritime India. Primus Books, New Delhi Peebles P (1990) Colonization and the ethnic conflict in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. J Asian Stud 49(1):30–55 Pfaff-Czarnecka J  (2013) Multiple belonging and challenges to biographic navigation. ISA Symposium for Sociology, Transnationalisierung und Entwicklung. http://pub.uni-bielefeld. de/publication/2604198. Accessed 13 Sept 2014 Roberts M (1982) Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of the Karava Elite in Sri Lanka 1500-1931. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Stirrat RL (1992) Demons, Shrines and Holy Men: Catholicism in Contemporary Sri Lanka. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Wickramasinghe N (2014) Sri Lanka in the modern age: a history. C. Hurst & Co, London

Chapter 6

Vertical Alliances During Popular Protest

Abstract  In revisiting the narrative briefly sketched in the Prologue, this chapter examines the aftermath of a fatality at sea. In focusing on hierarchical relations of sambandam, it explores the dynamics of popular protest and collective lobbying. The focus here is on how (uneven) relations of patronage are interpreted as co-­operative practices, particularly between local politicians and grassroots leaders. It argues that hierarchical forms of sambandam do times serve to reinforce dominant power structures, despite how subversive the rhetoric of practising sambandam may seem at first. Yet at the same time, the chapter cautions against oversimplifying hierarchical forms of sambandam—or patronage in particular—as simply a form of “coercive co-operation”. The chapter further asks to what extent co-operation can be perceived as an ameliorative or transformative strategy in countervailing hegemonic discourses of boundary making and policing, particularly within Sri Lanka’s postwar context. Keywords  Coalition-building · Political lobbying · Patronage · Electoral politics

Politics above us isn’t the same as below… among us ordinary fisherfolk. (Ilham, a former gill netter and co-operative president) We depend on no one… we don’t even need this government. If only we have strength in our bodies to keep us from drowning, and the strength in our hearts to continue this struggle. All we ask is the right to fish in our own sea, for it is our birthright. (Mona, shrimper and leader of an informal widows’ network)

The previous chapter explored diverse constellations implicating migrant-local-­ settler interdependencies in the littoral northeast. In particular, it sought to understand how insider-outsider boundaries come to be reified and at times tactically reworked to enact a sense of presence and to stake claims in wider contexts of social belonging. Moreover, Chap. 5 revealed how migrants themselves remained vastly differentiated, illustrating the fact that insider-outsider boundaries often do not run in neat parallels against frames of inclusion and exclusion. This final empirical chapter is therefore dedicated to exploring more formalised co-operative dynamics associated with the second narrative of entropy—that of rule breaking and the moral decline of intra-local communal life. © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1_6

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While the previous chapter engaged with the routine dynamics of everyday co-­ operation within informal spheres of exchange, particularly within arrangements implicating more lateral forms of sambandam (solely between fishing collectives), this chapter focuses more on the instrumentalities of co-operation. With an explicit emphasis on the politics of popular protest, at its core this final chapter engages with the formation of heterogeneous inter-ethnic coalition bases in articulating grievances and in enrolling broader patronage dynamics (as vertical ties) during moments of political dissent. The chapter therefore sets out to ask how these seemingly diverse collectives come to be mobilised and sustained and whether these contestations may in part serve to subvert hegemonic political orders entailing social boundary maintenance and policing. While a vast corpus of academic literature engages singularly with the political dynamics of social movements, I am not so much concerned about the content and trajectories of social movements themselves as with the relational dynamics of co-­ operative arrangements and networks in which seemingly disparate and divergent actors come together (Tarrow 2011: 4–5) and the “substance” that sustains these very interdependencies. In particular, this chapter engages with the so-called performativities of dissent and public protest and how broader coalitional identities—around ethico-moral discourses and collective identities—are configured and gain traction. The first part of the chapter engages with how inter-group heterogeneity is recast, however ambiguously that signification of plurality may seem, and the ways in which heterogeneity itself is instrumentalised and performed. Second, it questions the extent to which hegemonic practices in boundary policing are subverted during moments of popular protest. While recent scholarship has focused more prominently upon the hardening of ethno-religious fault lines in contemporary Sri Lanka, less attention has been given to how rural grassroots networks come to articulate everyday livelihood and socio-political grievances. Ultimately then, the final empirical chapter comes full circle in revisiting a series of political events that ensued in July 2012 following a violent clash and its discursive aftermath that I sketched at the beginning of the monograph.

6.1  Fictions and Factions: Moral Discourses in Purse Seining The final section explores the second and third dimensions of sambandam—the existence of associative spaces across conflict intersections that lie vertically, conjoining small-scale fishing constituencies, political and cultural entrepreneurs and state officials and politicians as “moral communities” which both subvert and maintain facets of a dominant hegemonic order. During my fieldwork, cross-factional, regional and ethno-religious alliances within dissent politics were seen to be fully active.1 Thus the case study presented does not imply that such formations 1  Two such examples occurred during the first quarter of 2013: first, the mobilisation among universities across the country in protesting the arrest of Jaffna University students concerning the

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t­hemselves should be taken as an atypical occurrence. We now return to the event that was explored in the Prologue—a fisherman’s death out at sea, and its subsequent politicisation. Towards the end of June 2012, the central fish market in Trincomalee town was abuzz with rumour. It was believed that between the 28th and 29th of June, a young fisherman had ventured out to sea with three men from the same village. The crew of three had returned the next morning, and it was almost 6 h later before the remaining crewmen informed their FCS leaders that their fourth man had accidentally drowned. The story became embedded in the context of kappam, framed as a corollary to the manifold forms of rule breaking and resource exploitation related to small-scale purse seining. The Samudragama men were quick to place the blame squarely on the boat crew from Jamaliya, stating that they in turn were victims of kappam, having landed a particularly good catch. What the FCS leaders in both Samudragama and Jamaliya were well aware of was the fact that kappam does not exist without some form of “reciprocal” rule breaking. The boat crew from Jamaliya were known to resort periodically to unethical forms of fish extraction, including the use of dynamite. Two men from the Samudragama boat were known to be local thugs. The party of men from Jamaliya was held in police custody for several days and was subsequently released on bail with a court charge. Both the FCSs of Samudragama and Jamaliya commenced a formal dialogue a few days later. Samudragama requested monetary compensation from Jamaliya with which they expected to provide for the young family of the dead man. The Jamaliya FSC refused to entertain the thought of a settlement, stating that to pay would mean “to own up to the offence”. Besides, the convicted men were said to have been ostracised from their own village FCS, given their local reputation as habituated rule-breakers. Thus, collective responsibility was not something the FCS leaders of Jamaliya were prepared to take on. Meanwhile, the hearings continued until the end of December at the Magistrates’ Court in Trincomalee. The fear of impending inter-village violence prompted the Fisheries Department to take quick action. A public meeting was held with the Deputy Minister for Fisheries at that time, Susantha Punchinilame, in October 2012, 4 months after the fatality. As a Fisheries Department meeting, the session primarily seemed to be organised by the anti-purse-seine lobby, implicating several FCS leaders across the peri-urban villages of Vijithapura, Thirukadaloor and Jamaliya that took the lead in mobilising local patrons. That Friday morning, the bare school hall of Namagal is filled with fishermen and women. The social geography of the public meeting was such that the anti-­ purse-­seiner lobbyists sat inside the hall, while the pro-lobby group members stood silently outside, on the fringes. Key civil servants at the local Fisheries Department extension office, including several senior police officials and representatives from lighting of lamps to commemorate the dead during a local martyrs’ day event, and second, urban networks that mobilised in protest against the impeachment of the former Chief Justice and the subsequent politicisation of the judiciary.

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the navy, were in attendance. The collective mood during the public dialogue was incredibly tense, and the Sinhala-speaking members of the anti-purse-seine lobby dominated much of the dialogue.2 The Deputy Minister sided with the anti-purse-­ seine collective, offering what seemed like his dogged support in tightening sanctions against rule-breakers and in controlling the use of near-shore purse seining. As the crowd became louder, he also dourly promised that he would organise transport for hundreds if not thousands to picket (“ukgosheney”: Sinhala) outside the ministerial office in Colombo.3 Six days after the public meeting with the Deputy Minister of Fisheries, a second meeting was convened by the Director General of the Fisheries Department (Nimal Hettiarchchi) at the time, who resolutely positioned himself on the side of a “new” piece of legislature instated by the Minister of Fisheries at that time, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, that put in place a licencing system for the use of purse-seine nets. The meeting was held at the local NGO Sarvodaya premises and catered to a much smaller audience than the public meeting. This time, the representation of anti- and pro-purse-seine lobbyists was more evenly balanced. The Director General chaired the meeting and reiterated that licences for that year had to be obtained by users of purse-seine nets. The regulations concerning the nets themselves and their proper use were once again listed. During the public dialogue, the heated argument between the two factions concerning the question of rule breaking and self-governance became increasingly heated. Finally, the argument turned into a verbal spat between Sisira, the head of the pro-purse-seine lobby, and another man from the Sinhalese-settler village of Vijithapura. The argument culminated in a walkout staged by the anti-purse-seine lobbyists. Representation from Jamaliya and Thirukadaloor, among other Tamil and Muslim anti-purse village leaders, was less visible that day. It was later revealed that Ilham, the FCS president of Jamaliya, had been hospitalised the day before, as he himself had been attacked by one of his village kinsmen, an ardent purse seiner. The pro-lobbyists remained in the room to continue the dialogue, which took place primarily in Sinhalese. Once more, when the second round of discussions heated up, the Tamil interpreter found it difficult to pitch in with an explanation of the proceedings. This resulted in a second though less dramatic walkout among a number of Tamil-speaking FCS members who professed that they didn’t understand 2  The meeting itself was conducted primarily in Sinhala, with a simultaneous Tamil translation. However, as these governmental public meetings go, Sinhala speakers usually dominate dialogues, and during a heated argument, the translation process is invariably interrupted. The few Tamil FCS leaders who stood up to speak steadfastly addressed the leadership and crowd in Tamil, even if they were bilingual. Paralingam, for example, who was once interrupted and asked to speak in Sinhala, simply continued his speech in Tamil. 3  Interestingly, the nationalist Sinhala vernacular state newspaper Rajarata, in articulating the grievances of the anti-purse-seine lobbyists through its framing of the commons as asarana (helpless), went on to making a categorical differentiation between artisanal/small-scale fishers (“sulu pana deevara”) and those using purse-seine nets, a theme that will be further explored. Moreover, the Deputy Minister’s articulated support towards the anti-purse-seine lobby was seemingly downplayed in the article.

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a word of what was being said and consequently they felt that their presence was futile in the decision-making process. The walkout by leaders of the anti-purse-seine lobby suggested several undercurrents. At first glance, it revealed how the Fisheries Department was unable to balance their polarised interest groups. Upon further dialogue with two of the leading figures in the anti-lobby group—Amal a longliner from Vijithapura and Laksiri an ex-diver from Samudragama, both Sinhalese settlers—they professed to having been hoodwinked into attending a meeting they felt was intended to accommodate the demands of pro-lobbyists. Moreover, they felt that the Ministry of Fisheries had conspired against them by covertly bringing in Sisira and his strongmen. In part, this seemed to be because in order to ensure the success of a public consultation, both the anti and pro-lobbyists had to be engaged at separate points in time. What, then, does this encounter reveal about the nature of consultative group dialogues and other forms of conflict mediation? On one hand, the strategy of open negotiation could be regarded as being culturally impervious, not because the expression of open conflict was deemed negative or was expected to be masked. The conjoining of two opposing factions meant it was those who were locked in the open struggle who would stand to lose the most in the end. As Paralingam, a vocal anti-­ purse-­seine lobbyist himself explained, in the context of the staged walkout: how could we sit by and watch the Fisheries Department chiefs pit us against one another? We all have lives to lead, locally…and relationships among ourselves must continue.

Indeed, the walkout was more telling of the fact that it was paramount that intercommunal civility had to be maintained in the face of a collectively articulated, drawn out conflict, in which lobby groups often transcended kin-based alliances. Sirira and Laksiri were after all relatives and frequently articulated that their “quarrel was with the net”. The events following the two public meetings escalated with much force as the Director General promised. A team of officials from Colombo was brought down to conduct spot checks on all fishing boats out at sea, with the assistance of the naval coastal guard. Between the 15th and 21st of October 2012, 23 fishermen were arrested, and an overwhelming majority were fishers from Muslim constituencies in Kinniya and a smaller number from Kuchchaveli. Two of the nine boats that were seized belonged to Sinhalese settlers residing in Vijithapura, including the anti-­ lobby leader of Amal’s hamlet. The gear and boats were confiscated on the grounds that those arrested did not possess valid purse-seine licences.4 Several of the fishers who were arrested later told me that the police had refused to take them into custody and that the Fisheries Department had forcibly held them at their premises in Cod Bay until they were produced at the Magistrate’s Court the following morning.5 The 4  Ex ante interviews with fishermen who were in custody revealed that they had been operating under older licences, and having had their nets recently measured, they believed it was a normal practice that they could continue fishing although the new licences had not been officially issued. 5  A series of court hearings followed suit (I attended the sessions on the 24th and 25th of October), but little could be heard as the hearing was public and the room was crowded with relatives of the convicted men.

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act of arrest itself was deemed unfair, primarily among purse-seine collectives residing across spaces in the towns of Kuchchaveli, Pulmodda and Kinniya. A fortnight later, a street protest on the Kinniya Bridge was staged, soon after the Friday Jumma’t prayers. It was co-organised with the assistance of Sisira’s pro-purse-seine lobby group, which held a tremendous amount of cross-district leverage, particularly among Muslim constituencies that cut across the UPFA, UNP and SLMC party support bases. Solidarity here was expressed in ethno-geographic terms, which afforded legitimacy to their cause. With the arrival of a new assistant director at the local Fisheries Department office in November 2012, a district-wide meeting was convened which all FSCs and RFOs were compelled to attend. It was announced that preparations were to be made to remeasure existing purse-seine nets across the district whenever a formal application was made in person to the Fisheries Department to renew existing licences. Fisheries inspectors were also reshuffled across regions, and concrete dates were shared as to when inspectors would commence measuring nets before licences were renewed, divided according to the coastal divisional clusters, namely, the Town and Gravets area, Kinniya, Muttur, Verugal, Kuchchaveli and Pulmoddai. When I met the new assistant director again in January 2013, he concurred that licences had been issued for a total of 490 purse-seine nets in Trincomalee, making it the district with the highest density of off-shore purse seining. A follow-up meeting with the anti-purse-seine lobby group confirmed a deep sense of cynicism towards the entire licencing process, for they believed the Fisheries Department to have “sold out” to relatively more moneyed factions. However, the four FCS leaders steadfastly stated that they had the strength of sheer numbers as opposed to geographic expansiveness that the pro-purse-seine lobby held. Mode and Morality: The Framing of Grievances  The formation of loose collectives that lobbied for and against the practice of purse seining constituted much older histories. In part, these movements were seen to entail cross-regional figurations that had formed along the southern coastlines in the 1970s and 1980s when the discontent of small-scale purse seining was first felt among poorer fishing constituencies. These networks therefore spanned the country and included Sinhalese settler communities, primarily in the main town of Trincomalee, who were active members of the two main oppositional factions. The pro-purse-seine group had informally come together as early as the 1990s and expressed having strong links with grassroots groups in the southern town of Matara that practised purse seining, albeit among larger multiday boaters. During an interview with its president (Sisira), two motivations for practicing purse seining were expressed.6 The first appealed to a discourse of national food security and the assurance of low market prices for fish that the poor could afford. Purse seining was thus framed as a strategy of “progress” (diunukama: Sinhala) that would ensure substantial catches. The second interrelated rationale articulated the necessity of har6  During interviews with the purse-seine collective, formerly issued licences had not yet been extended.

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vesting large pelagic fish stock that would otherwise migrate to international waters and be lost. Moreover, a number of their group members maintained that purse seining was itself an art, one that required a painstaking transfer of knowledge that could not be easily shared or learned. Yet what has to be borne in mind is that while purse seining is more commonly used by larger multiday vessels on a national scale, it is the type of fishing employed often by smaller OBM fibreglass boats in Trincomalee. The second legitimating moral narrative was the fact that purse seining provided greater opportunities for livelihood regeneration in the district, purely because it was seen to be a co-operative endeavour (sambandatava: Sinhala). Practices in southern Sri Lanka were often invoked, in which as many as 8–10 crewmembers would constitute teams divided among two or more OBM purse-seining boats. Those who were against the practice were therefore vilified as atomistic, asocial collectives that often fished alone or exclusively with close family (insiders) and were averse to catch sharing and working co-operatively with sharemen (kotas-­ karayo: Sinhala). In their view, why then were anti-lobbyists so virulent in curtailing or banning their use of purse-seine nets? Leaders like Sisira often framed the grievances of “others” as a matter of intra-village “envy” (irisiyava: Sinhalese). Intercommunal rivalry was therefore expressed as a characteristic tendency of fellow villagers including one’s own kin groups (sahodarayo) in their efforts to thwart progress. Not only were they seen to lack the knowledge and capacity to use purse-seine nets, they were perceived as standing on firmer moral ground by positioning themselves under the label of “sulu pana deevara” (artisanal/small-scale fisherfolk: Sinhala). The very artisanality of their claims was ardently exposed by the pro-purse-seine lobby which stated that many of their rivals used mechanised boats and resorted to other forms of destructive fishing practices such as spear diving and the use of monofilament nets. What the pro-purse-seine group came very close to articulating was the fact that the purse-seining industry itself was used as a potent scapegoat to mobilise masses of disenfranchised fishing collectives and the fact that rabble rousing and grievance mongering benefited their leaders more in a diversity of ways than it did the collectives, very much akin to the entrepreneurial dynamics of ethnicised politics. Moreover, the very authenticity (and thus legitimacy) of the anti-purse-seine support base, drawn from predominantly Tamil villages in the town area, was questioned by framing those who swelled the ranks not as fishers but as previously being intergenerational sailors and smugglers who had only recently taken up fishing. However, this authenticity remained firmly bounded among its Sinhala leadership, who laid as much claim to their status as intergenerational fishers as their counterparts among the anti-lobby group. In contrast, the anti-purse-seine lobby group went by their singularly Sinhala name, the Sagara Matu Sampatha Karmanthika, broadly translated as the Joint Assembly of Fisheries and Marine Life Conservation. They were founded much later than the pro-purse-seine group, towards the late 1990s, under the professed guidance of the Deputy Minister of Fisheries, S. Punchinilame, their alleged patron at that time. What is particularly interesting about the Joint Assembly is that they are primarily a town-based constituency comprising leaders among a number of ethni-

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cally diverse FCSs. On the other hand, they lacked the geographically broader membership base that the pro-lobbyists had, which transcended divisional administrative boundaries and included Kinniya, Kuchchaveli and the Town and Gravets areas. The Joint Assembly concurred that their business was fundamentally about strengthening a “moral fishing constituency”, one that on the one hand was instituted on the foundations of small-scale fisher cultural life and on the other upheld the principles of intergenerational resource sustainability. Moreover, in doing so, they proffered a set of arguments in favour of banning the use of purse-seine nets altogether. First, the Joint Assembly leaders asserted that Trincomalee lacked a shallow seabed and given its coastal topography was unfavourable to the use of purse seining near the coastline. Thus, a maximum depth of 28 yards of a regulated net was insufficient to capture large schools of fish, and boats were therefore compelled to resort to the use of lights and, at worst, dynamite. Similarly, the leaders expressed that the 7 km minimum fishing distance from the shore could not be actualised, as fish often came closer to the shoreline due to the prevalence of coral reefs. Third, the controlled licencing of purse seining would require strong enforcement capacity and a great deal of self and internal regulation. Put differently, the regularisation of purse seining would thus open up a veritable Pandora’s Box, given Trincomalee’s clientelist networks and weak governance capacity. Moreover, when self-­governance was deemed to be ineffective, it was often argued that existing formal structures such as the naval coast guard and the police lacked the knowledge and logistics to monitor activities effectively, particularly at night. There were narratives shared of how boats with smaller (illicit) mesh sizes would sometimes bury mounds of tuna fingerlings in the sand after having come ashore in an effort to conceal their offence. More often than not, the illegitimacy of the licencing scheme proposed by the current Minister of Fisheries was invoked and was described as being at loggerheads with his then Deputy and their patron, S. Punchinilame. The Joint Assembly derived much of their moral currency by invoking several interchangeable existential labels that reflected their legitimacy to speak as authentic fishers. These truth claims were strengthened by the deployment of categorically pure collective identities that sought to construct an overarching identity frame. These included labels such terms as traditional, artisanal and intergenerational,7 which all arguably went as filling signifiers that determined their rallying call, for example, in terms of their unity as sulu panna [deevera/meenava]. Tamil equivalents were hardly vocalised during inter-ethnic group meetings, and the labels remained singularly Sinhalese.8 Furthermore, these markers were deployed with a sense of categorical purity and were often not scrutinised for their internal ambiguities and paradoxes. For example, meanings around traditional practices were often 7  Where occupational identities were intricately interwoven into lifeworlds, fisher groups often self-differentiated insider-outsider boundaries through similar tropes of spatial belonging, the length of livelihood practice and claims of intergenerationality. For a similar discussion on performative identity framings, see Adrian Peace’s (1996) study on Irish salmon fishers in Clontarf Bay. 8  Collectivising narratives in Tamil invoked the label meenava samuham. Its Sinhala equivalent would be deevara samajika.

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taken to be synonymous with assertions of sustainable resource harvest.9 Similarly, an intergenerational fisher (“sara-devara” or “parampariva”: Sinhala) may not always be a small-scaler (“sulu panna”) or a traditional/artisanal one. Altogether, these labels had weighty consequences for the discussions that ensued in terms of framing who were insiders and who outsiders. The legitimacy with which a person could effectively speak out as or on behalf of the small-scale fishing commons often rested precariously between being a practicing fisherman/ woman at present and having been a child of intergenerational fishers. This distinction was particularly apparent during the Fisheries Department meeting at Sarvodaya,10 when a heated debate ensued over who had the legitimacy to speak as a small-scale fisher. Prabath, a prominent Sinhalese leader among the anti-purse-­ seine lobbyists, was openly referred to as a “bar worker”, given his employment in a local tavern, and Laksiri was similarly labelled an ex-diver. Both were virulently dismissed for (presently) having little or no interaction with the sea. Yet, at the same time, political activists like Prabath and Laksiri derived meanings of authenticity through carefully managed self-perceptions as repositories of vast stores of “old knowledge” passed down from their once migrant fisher ancestors and were often quick to dismiss the claims of more recent “farmers turned fisherfolk”, particularly among the ethnic Muslim constituencies of Muttur, Kinniya and Kuchchaveli. These groups were othered in similar ways that the pro-purse-seine leadership did in the context of Tamil collectives, who at times were referred to as “ex-smugglers”.11 Interestingly, however, the litmus test of the Joint Assembly’s stature and legitimacy as a moral community was not invested solely in the issues they contested or in the discourses that were espoused in terms of resource sustainability and custodianship. It is invariably derived from the means in which they mobilised and organised their support base. In other words, it was not so much a matter of what was said or done as of who was involved. The Sinhalese leadership of the Joint Assembly often reminded outsiders of their heterogeneous support base and of being able to draw in an ethnically diverse collective of fisherfolk who predominantly comprised Hindu-karaiyar and parava-caste Tamils along with a smaller number of Muslim groups. In one respect, this entailed the very performativity of heterogeneity, implying that the more diverse one’s support base was, the more legitimacy or ­“righteousness” their cause inferred. As Amal, one of the three Sinhalese leaders in the Joint Assembly, once stated, “when people do bad things, they would inevitably collect a congregation around them. If you don’t fall at night, you would not stumble in the morning either”. 9  In this context, local communities habitually frame “sustainability” as the process through which fish stock may be able to regenerate and provide for future generations (parampara: Sinhala) to come. 10  Fieldnotes, October 13, 2012, Trincomalee Town and Gravets 11  Leaders like Sisira together with his band of pro-lobbyists were often seen to have pointedly questioned claims of traditionality, particularly of antagonists such as Amal and Ilham. They often state that the use of motorised engines as in the case of any fishing devices introduced during the Blue Revolution would spontaneously discredit their seemingly collective identity as artisanal fishers.

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In part, the existence of large numbers along with diversity not only counterbalanced the perceived tendency of more people to gather around or be party to something that was intrinsically negative. It foregrounded the very legitimacy (in terms of moral capacity and strength) that a particular movement was seen to possess. What remains striking is the fact that while narratives of sustainability, marginality and inter-group inclusion were often invoked during their meetings and rallies, there was little mention of the very economics of purse seining itself. Higher catch rates inevitably led to depressed market prices. While small scalers stood to lose the most, market instrumentalities were far less often vocalised than the more airy principles of custodianship, solidarity and distributive justice.

6.2  Speaking for the Other: Local-Settler Mobilisation Invocations of traditional livelihoods in terms of shared realities often contain a depoliticising element that is far removed from the everyday struggles that people contend with as a result of securitised boundary policing. In contemporary rural Sri Lanka, livelihood and land ownership contestations form some of the key arenas of micropolitical tussles. Moreover, in militarised spaces, invocations of collective ethnic identity have often been artificially muted under the guise of maintaining a tenuous “peace”. However, at the same time, social difference is frequently enacted and politicised by state apparatuses through the very same silencing mechanisms, which act as a potent idiom of thinking about the other and in structuring everyday relations (see Sandercock 2012), if, for example, our encounter with the police sergeant in Chap. 3 was of any empirical value. This trope took on a more collective expression in the context of Manayaveli (Sandy Cove)—a relatively wealthier fishing hamlet—that often trumped its plurality as the reason of its prosperity. FCS leaders often spoke of their co-operative as a model institution, with a fully functioning co-operative bank, an ethnically plural membership base and a higher involvement of women in fishing-related activities and FCS life. Indeed, their displayed accolades in the co-operative building bear testimony to their formidable reputation as a cohesive maha-sangam. However, the blanket of plurality that was often articulated had a more sinister underbelly to it, in the sense that intra-communal difference was closely concealed in official narratives that were told to outsiders like myself. Located near a naval camp, mixed villages like Manayaveli were arguably compelled into a politics of compliance, and there were rumblings among neighbourhood residents that certain individuals were suspected of having provided information to the military during wartime. I was once told of an LTTE flag that had been clandestinely hung on a prominent tree in the village, and there was much speculation about who had done it. This so-called act of defiance did not go unmarked. A week later, several Tamil households mysteriously caught fire at night. There were no injuries or deaths implicated in the incident; however, the narrative of the enigmatic Tiger flag and the burning houses unsurprisingly never came to be narrated by village FCS officials. It remained a

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subtext, a historical underbelly to Manayaveli public face and its “success at co-­ existence” and the management of inter-ethnic difference. This narrative brings to the fore de Munck’s (1987: 105) assertion of the need to differentiate between “private” and “public” spheres of inter-group co-operation. The dynamics of the latter could often be co-opted as reputational expressions of collective cohesion, a symbolic resource that is both reified as much as it is manipulated in soliciting state patronage and funding. Boundaries then remain a double-edged sword. They compel silences while amplifying other grievances in their stead. Yet at the same time, they fundamentally alter the ways in which civic cultures take shape and at times in oppositional directions that the very authoritative process of boundary policing takes. These civic cultures can be witnessed during moments of political rupture and more mundanely during events such as public consultations (often taken as rituals of political appeasement rather than decision-making), in which collective bargaining and debate are often socially deemed to be ineffective. Thus, collective action as seen among the two lobby groups does not merely constitute a form in the sense of a social movement but also provides a functionary role in the creation of legitimacy in order to sustain a particular moral order. These legitimacies can in part be traced through the means in which other actors and discourses come to be included or excluded. While the leadership of the Joint Assembly functioned more like an “increase pack” (Canetti 1960: 95), it derived much of its legitimacy from its celebration of a diverse ethno-religious support base. FCS leaders like Amal and Laksiri, who were of Sinhalese settler ancestry, referred to the fact that their grievances would not be visible if not for the participation of other FCS leaders like Paralingam and Ilham, who were said to have the capacity to mobilise poorer ethnic minority collectives often labelled as asarana (the helpless: Sinhala). In part, the involvement of cross-­ ethnic village coalitions, particularly among Tamil collectives, regularly helped to swell the ranks during public events such as a road picket. The value of boasting a heterogeneous ethnically plural support base meant that the grievances articulated were not only legitimate but were also seen to be universal and enduring. On the other hand, leaders from Tamil villages often concurred that it was in their best interests to join hands with their Sinhalese counterparts. Yet they would firmly remain in the background while adding numbers and visibility to a cause, as a predominantly Sinhalese leadership marched at the front-line. This was particularly apparent during a roadblock that was organised by the Joint Assembly in August 2012, which was successful as a show of unity and strength through numbers and diversity. Paralingam, who had worked tirelessly to mobilise across Hindu-­ Tamil hamlets within the town community, blatantly stated that if “we had done it alone”, the authorities would have framed it as a “pro-Tamil nationalist conspiracy”. Thus, in a postwar climate, some forms of dissent inevitably run the risk of being suppressed as potential insurgent-driven activity, a convenient trope. However, intercommunal fisher co-operative networks such as these often exemplify the paradoxes inherent in the very act of grievance articulation and self-censorship. Inter-ethnic alliance building and the mobilisation of a heterogeneous support base have often been invoked as being necessary for successful collective action,

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particularly in instances in which law enforcement entities and other state agencies were to be engaged. Arguably, such networks as these were seen to derive much of their legitimacy from narratives of political neutrality and inter-ethnic “non-­ difference”, before an ethnonationalist regime that was often perceived as being unresponsive towards everyday livelihood struggles. It was then that the slippages and silences prevailed between state indifference and articulations of inter-group non-difference, which illustrate the unevenly balanced nature of reciprocity in contexts of collective lobbying. The use of broad umbrella categories—such as “sulu panna” (small-scale)—may negate a host of other intercommunal experiences arising from contemporary states of militarisation. For example, Tamil communities in villages such as Thirukadaloor habitually used proximate brackish water bodies to fish during the northeast monsoons, between November and January. The onset of particularly heavy rains usually affected the use of lagoons, and thus state action on constraining purse seining was taken as a pressing necessity for communities that fished near the shore. The capitalisation gap was hardly ever raised at any communal state meetings and neither was the question of mandatory fishing passes for Tamil hamlets that were situated near the vicinity of the HSZ-cordoned Back Bay. Thus, both lobby groups demonstrated that broad socially heterogeneous groups in fact facilitated collective action by virtue of their very diversity, which in itself was seen as a symbolic resource.12 However, the performativities of social inclusiveness also present their own limitations, in ways that grievance scripts come to be flattened out, while the flexibility of articulating existential diversity becomes problematic in itself. Nonetheless, to this point, this chapter has concentrated singularly upon diverse actors within lobby groups. Arguably, the roles played by political structures (and local political figures in particular) offer a missing link when exploring the dynamics of heterogeneous coalition building. These undercurrents warrant a closer look at how formal political systems influence the dynamics of mobilisation and the durability of coalitions. Conclusively, clientelistic networks perform a key role, not simply for the sake of galvanising of support bases but also in terms of framing issues and the very realities around which they are negotiated and embattled.

6.3  P  olitical Patronage and the Dynamics of Grievance Trading Among diverse fishing collectives, it remains a widely accepted fact that political patronage is an essential ingredient in ensuring the visibility and often the success of collective action initiatives when lobbying for change. The highly centralised state structure that Ceylon inherited as a British crown colony was further  Such dynamics exemplify a marked departure from older ways of thinking about collective action, for example, those espoused by Olson (1965) and Hardin (1982), in ways that both large groups and diversity often pose challenges to collective action formations.

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strengthened during its post-independence phase, culminating in the 1978 constitution that shaped the all-powerful and directly elected office of Executive Presidency in 1978. Alongside state centralisation efforts, the workings of patronage and clientelism were very much embedded in the feudal-patrimonial structures that endured, in the sense that power was seen to flow from the political core to the periphery. Party allegiance building was often synonymous with personality cult politics, and the politicisation of social institutions, such as fisher co-operative societies, was a result of patrimonial politics. As previously stated, one would be hard-pressed to find a village-level FCS leader who was not active in election campaigning. A number of fisher constituencies and those among the poorest often articulated a truism: “where fisherfolk are, you are bound to win”. A vast corpus of literature on socio-political patronage in Sri Lanka has often been associated with the dynamics of collective violence, electoral politics and resource redistribution (e.g. see Jayanntha 1992; Tambiah 1996; Goodhand and Walton 2009). Moreover, recent postwar scholarship has focused on elections beyond their “electoral moment” by enlivening the interplay of contradictory loyalties, identities and antagonisms through the conceptualisation of its very process through the lens of ritual and spectacle, thus explicitly turning the gaze on the very “powerful performative and carnivalesque dimensions of politics” (Klem 2015, p. 1092). However, there is less of a focus on how the bonds of patronage also facilitate the conjoining of diverse networks and coalitions in the context of contentious politics, in which people may organise dissent and take to the streets, regardless of how limited their strategies of resistance may be. Folk wisdom, at least in the east coast, often maintains that the current frame of centralised politics at its core reproduces these very structures at the grassroots, forming “long chains of sambandam”, that stretch from the halls of power in Colombo down to the smallest hamlet.13 However, as the opening quotation of this chapter reveals, “politics from below” does constitute a ­seemingly disparate and at times subversive strand of strategies that do not always mirror the workings of patronage politics above. If we were to make a case for the reproducibility and mirroring of patronage networks in high politics and the grassroots—whether in the context of collective ethno-religious identities or party politics—then it would seem that Sinhalese settler groups and Tamil and Muslim constituencies often align themselves with a prefixed set of actors and stay within the bounds of particular ethno-political and religious  For a historic analysis on village-level patronage politics, see Perera (1985). In arguing that power and authority in Sri Lanka since independence have not been monopolised exclusively by traditional land-owning elites, he illustrates how different figurational hierarchies come about through the politicisation of rural collectives. The dynamics of the Development State played a primary role in that it permeated down to the village level, transforming structures and extending public sector opportunities for local leaders and patrons. Indeed, as in the case of Pakistan and other roles that grassroots factions serve, the voluntarist participation of factional members (see Lyon 2002: 194) must not be underscored. However, as Perera argues, local power in Ceylon, as opposed to elite-centred dynamics that Lyon documented in rural Pakistan, equally derived from individuals’ capacities to mobilise electoral bases. Thus a poor villager who could sufficiently organise others along primordial ties in particular could emerge as a leader.

13

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networks. However, patronage politics have also revealed that individuals and groups often expand their social capital, at the same time diversifying risks and strengthening their varied sources of solidarity in the future (Monsutti 2012). In the Sri Lankan context, it begs the question of whether patronage bonds are often formed within the precincts of collective ethnic identity. In particular, it asks how local power structures may come to be tactically treated as entry points in the theatre of dissent politics. When exploring grassroots lobby movements in Sri Lanka, fishing constituencies are arguably seen to be among some of the most vocal and visible. They derive much of their legitimacy from a distinctly ethico-moral framing of their political clout, the fact that they are seemingly more self-sufficient and resilient than agrarian-­ based communities, for example. A lobby meeting once opened with a characteristic statement, which was followed by vigorous applause: the fishing community doesn’t ask for anything…no fertilizer or agricultural subsidies. All we ask for is that we go to sea with freedom and have the ability to protect it…we only depend on the sea, so we don’t have to cave in to state demands… we only ask the state to do what is right.14

It would be erroneous to maintain that fisherfolk, particularly motorised boat owners, do not receive state endowments such as fuel subsidies. However, the ubiquitous referencing of fishing as being a livelihood that exists only by the grace of natural and other-worldly dynamics in part conceals the realities of fisher dependencies on the state through discourses of independence and self-reliance, giving more legitimacy to their cause as one that is ethico-morally embedded. Certainty, these narratives bear striking similarities to those witnessed elsewhere, for example, in the context of littoral Kerala (see Busby 2000: 33). In most places that reflect a deep sense of distrust in formal politics, practices of patronage often bear immensely ambivalent meanings. In one sense, patron-client relations here were framed as the imperceptible grease through which opaque and often-unethical alliances and deals (vanchaa: Sinhala) would be secured. Therefore in order to be implicated in such a relationship, one had to possess certain capacities or resources in order to reciprocate such an alliance, regardless of how asymmetrical power relations may be between patrons and clients. This entailed the third category of sambandam that was distinguished as associative networks that were inimically hierarchical. However, as a number of theorists on institutional patronage concur, it is these very hierarchies that sustain their durability as social capital (Flap 1990). Moreover, as Lyon (2004: 204) prompts, patronage remains always and inevitably partial; it not only exists as an extension of a political relationship but also one that is fundamentally cultural, permeating all levels of social life, from family and kin ties to the highest echelons of authoritative power. Patronage then is normalised, seen as an ordinary facet of everyday life, made necessary by the very fact that essential state services, including the workings of bureaucracy, are often expected to fail. Undoubtedly then the vocal interest of a local politician was a key ingredient 14

 Fieldnotes, March 12, 2013, Town and Gravets

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when intoning dissent. Not only do political figures play their well-rehearsed roles as intermediaries and brokers in bolstering the legitimacy of certain grievances, but these grievances themselves come to be manipulated in ways that ensure the relevance of these patrons, at times within vastly oppositional camps. Both lobby groups—the purse seiners’ network as well as the Joint Assembly— enjoyed formidable political backing, both at the district and national levels. Narratives regarding their trajectories of contestation invoked a clearly identified out-group of local political patrons, who were at times reshuffled between collectives. To invoke the old British idiom, this would amount to something very close to “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds”. Two popular motifs when narrating the ambiguities of political alliances were most striking. First, Sinhalese co-operative leaders often compared their involvement in livelihood contestations and the galvanising support from local politicians with a southern (low-country) style of masked folk satirical theatre, the kolam. West coast migrants, particularly Tamil Hindus from Puttalam like Aiyar, at times invoked a local sorcery deity named Suniyam, part god and part demon (see Bastin 2002: 4), that alternated personalities in rather a Jekyll and Hyde fashion, divided between days of the waxing and the waning moon. Against a more macro-level stage, political figures, such as R. Sambandan, the ageing leader of the Tamil National Alliance; Rauff Hakeem, Cabinet Minister and head of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC); Najeeb A.  Majeed, the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province (UPFA) and S. Punchinilame (UPFA), the former Deputy Minister of Fisheries, were often prominently featured as entry points into “high” politics. The local scene furnished its own pantheon of provincial and urban councillors including P.  Anwar (SLMC); M.S.  Thowfeek (UPFA); Ariyawathi Galappaththi (UPFA),15 the chairwoman of the Provincial Council Secretariat; and Jayantha Wijesekara, urban councillor and former member of the Marxist JVP.16 A reshuffling of grievances often occurs when opposition groups lobby the same patron. In August 2010, purse-seine groups among predominantly Muslim constituencies in Kuchchaveli and Pulmoddai pressured local politicians like Anwar who in turn appealed to the Ministry of Fisheries and other law enforcement authorities. This petitioning was successful in part, for fishers who had not yet secured appropriate licences could take their unlicensed nets out with some degree of clemency over the course of Ramazan. In a letter [dated August 6, 2010] from the local  Among this assortment, Galappaththi (locally known as Ari-akka) remains particularly interesting. Originating from humble beginnings, she was a descendent of Sinhalese settlers from Gandara and was related to a number of FCS leaders across two or more Sinhala settler villages in the main town. The popular narrative I heard was that after having run a streetside hopper stall, she started off as a petty tradeswoman selling fish in the market. The means by which she and her husband amassed much wealth remains uncertain. However, she was said to have secured political office having drawn considerable profits from two-multiday boats. Today, she is often referred to as an ardent spokeswoman in favour of the purse-seining industry and is said to derive much of her support among the settler and migrant deep-sea fishing constituency. 16  A number of other Pradeshiya Sabha members are often implicated. However, they also remain marginal. 15

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Fisheries Department to the Trincomalee Naval Commander, the decision was framed “as a relief to the fishermen who had suffered losses and gone through a time of difficulty” (translated from Sinhala). Formal rules were temporarily eased for a month, and purse seining was restricted to the harvest of frigate tuna (alagoduwan: Sinhala), across Trincomalee and Mullaitivu. I came to hear of these collective lobbying efforts during my fieldwork 2 years later. The two predominantly Muslim FCSs who indicated they were a part of the effort told me that they had beseeched a local UPFA political patron who negotiated for the term on their behalf. In the same vein, however, karavailai operators like Munir would interestingly enlist the assistance of the same local politician when he found it in himself to take to task purse seiners he knew to be rule-breakers. What remained intriguing, therefore, was that given the limited number of players in this seeming kolam, some patrons were seen to have played dual roles in canvassing both sides of the same constituency. More importantly, however, this type of “Janus-faced” politics was taken as a given. Yet this did not mean that local collectives did not express concern about the principled politics of their patrons or the lack thereof. The involvement of patrons canvassing for oppositional factions implied a sense of obligation to their constituents, even if those very constituencies were deemed to be morally at fault. Patrons were therefore inevitably taken for what they were—voices behind masks—as Perera (1985: 76) writes in the context of an elected member of parliament, as “a universal dispenser of favours”. While Pulmoddai has often been a pro-UPFA base, the case of Kinniya proves to be more complex. During my stay, it was seen as having a divided voter base, chiefly between the SLMC and the UPFA. In early 2014, I heard reports that there was a great deal of tension in Kinniya when the extension of licences for existing purse-­ seine nets became stalled. There was general fear among the purse-seine lobbyists that the Ministry of Fisheries would no longer renew old licences and might subsequently phase out purse seining entirely. This put in financial difficulty those who had invested heavily in capital/gear over the past few years, for a considerable number of nets were mended or purchased primarily as a result of the “new” licencing scheme. This time around, it was the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, Majeed, who was involved in pressurising the Ministry of Fisheries. It was said that Punchinilame took a step back and remained relatively silent. Local interpretations of their oppositional stance remain telling. Both were ruling party politicians, and two leaders of Kinniya-based FCSs agreed that Punchinilame’s silence was tactical so that the spoils of their staged opposition would be evenly distributed as votes, Punchinilame seeking a support base among small scalers and Najeeb securing the loyalty of the purseseine constituency. The two instances depict how grievances come to be traded between patrons and clients and in the context of particularistic issues, while a single patron may be enlisted to play two opposing cards at the same time.17  In some ways, this dynamic comes close to Benda-Beckmann’s (1981) use of the term “forum shopping” in the context of legal pluralism, in which actors are shown to employ a diversity of forms whether it concerns customary rules, market regulations or state laws to canvas their interests.

17

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Moreover, the choice of individuals and groups in selecting the right patrons to represent their cause often cut across ethno-religious collectives. Two weeks after the arrest of nine purse-seining boats off the coastline of Trincomalee (in October 2012), I spoke to three of the crewmembers, two Muslims from Kinniya and a Sinhalese-Buddhist from the main town. As members of the same crew, working on a boat owned by a Sinhala settler family in Vijithapura, the politicians who were lobbied first were Hakeem and another Pradeshiya Sabha member who promptly helped solicit the assistance of a Muslim lawyer, by request of the Vijithapura boat owner, Indranie, an elderly widow. During a discussion, Indranie herself said that she believed that enlisting the assistance of a Sinhalese political patron would prove futile given the fact that hers was among the two Sinhalese boats that were reprimanded. The driving rationale of picking one’s patron was calculated, for she declared herself to be a kinswoman of Galappaththi. Therefore, apart from the professed unity of Muslim political patrons and clients, moments like these illustrate how ethnic boundaries are crossed or matter less in the context of livelihood contestations. While the last few cases engaged with the strategies of choosing patrons and their concomitant dynamics of grievance trading, what remains to be asked is what agency local village and co-operative leaders have in canvassing collective interests, if their first port of call would be to rally influential patrons around their cause? The next question therefore would be what local co-operative leaders have to offer politicians, apart from their political loyalty and campaign mobilisation efforts? Indeed, the tactical uses of civilian intelligence cannot be discounted for it not only permeates state military structures but also the everyday workings of civil service. The salience and the purchasing power of local rumour and gossip should not be discounted, and in particular there was great attention paid to information regarding multiday boats that illicitly transported asylum seekers over the Pacific. Many a time, plain-clothed CID and other intelligence entities have had local informants identified in village spaces, and information flows are often mediated through personal relationships. Kin-based networks are relatively rare, as most intelligence personnel, including civil servants of the central government (e.g. from the Fisheries Department), are usually transferred in from outside Trincomalee and are almost exclusively Sinhala-Buddhists. The other tangible resource that local village leaders who enlist patrons may reciprocate is their ability to mobilise masses. In these contexts, FSC leaders, for example, Paralingam, Amal and Laksiri, perform key roles as catalysts that make visible particular grievances and attract crowds. They are not strictly brokers in the sense that they build coalitions and frame grievances that suit the interests of their patrons. Rather, they themselves have more agency in framing the very issues for which they so passionately plead and, while mobilising crowds around them, tactically picking their patrons. By contrast, at least one principal leader in the Joint Assembly possessed a purse-seine net, and while he made this no secret, they often used it to legitimate the morality of their cause, vis-à-vis their own capacity for ethical judgement on issues of grave social justice. This is not to discount the fact that most leaders in the Joint Assembly did not believe in the very discourses that they

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espoused. However, the economic gains earned against the power and potential to rally large crowds become a strategic gain and a tradeable resource in itself. Moreover, the personal biographies of some of the leaders among the anti-purse-­ seine lobby in turn prove this commitment. Laksiri, an ex-diver at the time I met him, was also a party organiser for the SLMC. In a similar light to Iranganie’s narrative, he insisted that the SLMC was not only united but was also inclusive and dynamic despite its seemingly mono-ethnic leanings. His work for the local chapter of the party, including his campaigning, earned him a justice of the peace position a year after I met him. Laksiri’s comportment is that of a boundary crosser, albeit with very little knowledge of Tamil, and he would often state that if there was any collective aggression he felt in the context of his political work, it came exclusively from factions among Sinhalese settler communities in the town. Interestingly, Laksiri often kept his campaigning work distinct from his participation in the Joint Assembly. In his interpretation of the “entropic” frame, the starkest culprits were the mudalalis who often pressed their boatmen to increase landings by any means possible. Furthermore, Laksiri was also campaigning for the setting up of a direct purchasing structure like that of Negombo’s Lellama market in which fisherfolk could sell their catch directly to consumers without the intervention of mudalalis and middle men. Moreover, a salient characteristic of local leadership is bilingualism—the ability to converse in both Tamil and Sinhala. FCS members, particularly among Muslim and Tamil constituencies, often stated that they elected office bearers who could adeptly negotiate in Sinhala. Knowledge of Tamil was hardly a requirement for Sinhala-speaking leaders, particularly those that resided in ethnically mixed villages.18 Like in the case of police staffing in the north and the east, civil servants from outside the district were primarily of Sinhala descent. None of the fisheries inspectors in the Trincomalee District could converse in Tamil, and all petitions and letters had to be translated into Sinhala or else they would not be accepted. Moreover, bilingual FCS members were often at an advantage because they could serve as translators during official meetings. At the few naval-village meetings I attended in southern Trincomalee, translators often tactically withheld important information in ways that they felt would not jeopardise the negotiation process. Moreover, responses from powerful agents, for example, fisheries officials and naval officers, were sometimes muted or reframed in order to prevent discussions from becoming heated arguments.19 Another kind of heterogeneity or ability to cross boundaries was subtly articulated in the context of intermarriage. There is starkly little reference to inter-ethnic and religious marriages in the context of contemporary rural Sri Lanka with the exception of a few (see Gaasbeek 2010: 325; Bass 2013: 180). While I do not engage in a comprehensive exploration of inter-ethnic and interfaith marriages among rural  Rather than to front bilingualism, many drew upon Tamil spouses or close Tamil-speaking kin to legitimate their political position in speaking for the “other”. 19  As mentioned earlier, during large official meetings between state authorities and the public, I have often noticed that dialogues in Sinhala gain more momentum, and when debates ensue, Tamil simultaneous translation processes often get hijacked during the debate. 18

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fishing communities in Trincomalee, it could be argued that these remain largely caste endogenous, particularly in the context of Tamil-Sinhalese marriages. FCS leaders like Paralingam had Sinhala wives, including two other co-operative presidents I knew among the villages in the town, one of whom was of Sinhalese-settler descent from Manayaveli and served as the Trincomalee District representative at the National Fisheries Federation. In all three instances, the male co-operative leaders were bilingual, which was perhaps more salient than their mixed marriages, though that did grant them some degree of legitimacy in speaking for the other. Finally, while village-level co-operative leaders themselves derive personal benefits from aligning themselves with important causes and from strengthening their ability to mobilise crowds, what could be said of their bargaining power in maintaining patronage links? While patrons like Punchinilame and Wijesekera lend support to artisanal and other small-scale fishers, particularly anti-purse-seine lobbyists, the interdependencies that pull both sides together remain firmly bounded. Jayantha Wijesekara, for instance, would often be called for lobby meetings and particularly during instances of public dissent, as the presence of political figures and other dignitaries invariably adds to their visibility and media attention. However, key figures in such movements also display an immense sense of agency in what they claim to give back. A number of leaders among the anti- and the pro-purse-seine lobby group often stated that while they would go campaigning in favour of the patron who would support their cause, ultimately they might cast their vote in favour of another politician from an entirely different political party or affiliation. This dispels seemingly straightforward links between political lobbying, deference to authority, the enlisting of political patrons and its veritable kickbacks in terms of spoils—and particularly in terms of strengthening voter bases. In other words, the act of group mobilisation and the poetics of one’s personal voting choice may remain quite separate. What it also does is exploit the gaps inherent in the tendency of political patrons and clients to go grievance trading by tactically playing off one patron or group against the other.

6.4  Conclusion Political visibility and power among coastal small-scale fishing constituencies, at least over the past four decades, have been gaining significance, not just in terms of voting and the self-mobilisation of a critical mass but also with respect to financing elections. Collective dissent and political lobbying— dynamics that are particularly advanced by village FCSs—were contextualised in this single case study, invoking the controversial and highly politicised practice of purse-seine fishing in rural Trincomalee. Indeed, intercommunal fisher co-operative networks exemplified the paradoxes inherent in grievance articulation and self-censorship in a militarised climate, particularly when certain forms of dissent ran the risk of being recast and suppressed as potential insurgent activity.

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An exploration of both forms of purse-seine lobby groups revealed that collective organising invariably cut across ethnic and religious boundary lines and was often patterned by the very livelihood commonalities and contestations that each interest group was “bound” to articulate. The pro-purse-seine lobby was seen to be far more geographically extensive than the Joint Assembly but lacked a large Tamil membership base given the ethnicisation of purse seining as a practice, coloured with some degree of legal ambiguity that governed its practice. However, what remains particularly important is that in the act of mobilising a heterogeneous support base, inter-group differences were often flattened. By contrast, plurality becomes a powerful force in rendering strength through numbers and legitimacy, but the articulation of internal diversity remains carefully managed, if not muted. While some of these paradoxes reflect the recalcitrant nature of self-representation and attempts at speaking or bargaining for the other, the very structures of boundary policing too remain intact. The struggles of Tamil constituents, while being acknowledged, may not be openly raised during collective gatherings or appear as visibly during an institutionally structured struggle. Therefore while expressions of plurality seem to be generative, they also set the limits of negotiating group power. Moreover, the very practice of enlisting patrons for particular causes at certain points in time could arguably be seen as a tactical decision in which local leaders themselves wield some degree of agency over how they mediate a reciprocal exchange. While discourses on state centralisation rest on the monopoly of political power in rural spaces by local institutional structures that mirror the state centralist core, village-level leaders are often conscious enough to manipulate the tendency of patrons to trade grievances. Moreover, the ability to mobilise significant crowds becomes a tradeable resource in the patron-client exchange relationship in which a particular cause, its local actors and politicians gain different degrees of visibility during the process. The question then is whether patronage itself can be seen as a double-edged sword in the context of curtailing the so-called race to fish. The choice of particular leaders within the Joint Assembly to cast aside their purse-seine nets and join its anti-lobby milieu arguably reveals more about the advantages of being able to mobilise a collective and to have a form of that power at one’s disposal, rather than opting to derive tangible economic benefits through resource exploitation.

References Bastin R (2002) The domain of constant excess: plural worship at the Munnesvaram Temples in Sri Lanka. Berghahn Books, New York Bass D (2013) Everyday ethnicity in Sri Lanka: up-country Tamil identity politics. Routledge, Oxford Busby C (2000) The performance of gender: an anthropology of everyday life in a South Indian Fishing Village. Athlone Press, London/New Brunswick Canetti E (1960) Crowds and power. Phoenix Press, London

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de Munck V (1987) Cooperation, conflict and development in a Sri Lankan community. J Dev Soc III:100–106 Flap HD (1990) Patronage: an institution in its own right. In: Hechter M, Opp K-D, Wippler R (eds) Social institutions: their emergence, maintenance and effects. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin Gaasbeek T (2010) Bridging troubled waters? Everyday inter-ethnic interaction in a context of violent conflict in Kottiyar Pattu, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Ph.D. dissertation, Wageningen University, Wageningen Goodhand J, Walton O (2009) The limits of liberal peacebuilding? international engagement in the Sri Lankan peace process. J Intervention and State building 3(3):303–323 Hardin R (1982) Collective action. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore Jayanntha D (1992) Electoral allegiance in Sri Lanka. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Klem B (2015) Showing one’s colours: the political work of elections in post-war Sri Lanka. Mod Asian Stud 49(4):1091–1121 Lyon SM (2004) An anthropological analysis of local politics and patronage in a Pakistani village. Edwin Mellen Press, Lampeter Monsutti A (2012) Trust, friendship and transversal ties of co-operation among Afghans. In: Schetter C (ed) Local politics in Afghanistan: a century of intervention in social order. Hurst, London, pp 147–163 Olson M (1965) The logic of collective action. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA Perera J (1985) New dimensions of social stratification in rural Sri Lanka. Lake House Publishers, Colombo Sandercock L (2012) Difference, fear and habitus: a political economy of urban fears’. In: Hillier J, Rooksby E (eds) Habitus: a sense of place. Ashgate, Surrey Tambiah SJ (1996) Leveling crowds: ethno-nationalist conflicts and collective violence in South Asia. University of California Press, Berkeley Tarrow SG (2011) Power in movement: social movements and contentious politics, 3rd edn. Cambridge University Press, New York von Benda-Beckmann K (1981) Forum shopping and shopping forums: dispute processing in a Minangkabau village in West Sumatra. J Legal Pluralism 19:117–159

Chapter 7

Postscript: Thinking Through the Sea

Abstract  This book began in a small fishing hamlet in Sri Lanka’s politically fraught northeast in July 2012 and, over the course of 4 years, went on to exploring the ubiquity of everyday sociality in the lives of socially diverse small-scale fisherfolk across migrant and settler spaces, interweaving diverse practices such as resource sharing, cross-village rescue missions, networked piracy and coalitional lobbying. Moreover, the study explicates how dynamics of inter-communal co-­operation are being sustained, contested and reshaped in postwar spaces characterised by an enduring military presence. By taking into account broader practices of militarised boundary making, the findings illustrate how co-operative relations, events and dynamics of identity-based “othering” or exclusion paradoxically may at times intersect. Furthermore, the final section of the chapter re-situates questions of identity and belonging within a broader historic canvas of sea-borne mobilities and oceanic connections, particularly in the context of Sri Lanka´s multistanded island imaginary.  Keywords  Oceanic connectivities · Everyday co-operation · Presence and belonging · Island insularity This book began in a small fishing hamlet in Sri Lanka’s politically fraught northeast in July 2012 and, over the course of 4 years, went on to exploring the ubiquity of everyday sociality in the lives of socially diverse small-scale fisherfolk across migrant and settler spaces, interweaving diverse practices such as resource sharing, cross-village rescue missions, networked piracy and coalitional lobbying. Moreover, the study explicates how dynamics of inter-communal co-operation are being sustained, contested and reshaped in postwar spaces characterised by an enduring military presence. By taking into account broader practices of militarised boundary making, the findings illustrate how co-operative relations, events and dynamics of identity-based “othering” or exclusion paradoxically may at times intersect. As a start, I drew upon contemporary vernacular theorisations situated around the notion of “sambandam”, a term denoting relationality that does not necessarily anticipate the existence of mutuality, trust or reciprocity. Moreover, while co-­ operative relations conceptually have been associated loosely with notions of social cohesion or solidarity, co-operative norms and practices may also serve to discur© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1_7

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sively legitimate social inequalities and hegemonic relations of power at the same time, regardless of how subversive their social formations and alliances may seem at first. Therefore by extension, sambandam can also be seen as a practice of disciplinary power, as evidenced in the case of patronage networks, and through the exertion of social pressure in political bargaining processes and through individual acts of care and conviviality.

7.1  Towards an Anthropology of Everyday Co-operation In its entirety, this study primarily focuses on the interplay of multiple socialities that characterise everyday life. In particular, I was concerned with tracing some of the more counterintuitive facets of inter-group co-operation and communal interdependence. The lives of coastal fisher collectives in Sri Lanka’s militarised northeast were the milieu in which these dynamics were explored, begging the question of how pervasive everyday interdependences between seemingly conflictual or competitive constellations are. Small-scale fishing, in embodying a distinct sociocultural setting in itself and in constituting a diversity of lifeworlds, has often been studied against its peculiar propensity to engender competitive as well as co-­operative action that “customarily sit side by side”, in what Adrian Peace (1996: 85–87) terms a “vigorous rivalry”. Yet at the same time, this study was intensely conscious of succumbing to the vagaries of a groupist orientation and, to the extent possible, placed similar emphasis on how socio-political structures and figurations came to be entwined within singular life trajectories that grant space for individual agency. While meandering through a suite of normative framings in the study of co-­ operation (primarily within the social sciences), the study explored the possibility of adopting more vernacularised interpretations of co-operative relations that logically may not cohere with the precise definition of the Occidental term “co-operation”. The task at hand, therefore, was to explore how open-ended emic meanings rendered space for co-operative and conflictual relations as a conceptual pair while marrying a host of other dualisms that have implicitly at least riddled empirical work on cross-communal co-operation. Ultimately, we are still far away from deriving a wide-ranging definition of “co-operation”, if a classificatory project as such still holds much meaning or value. Meanwhile, it remains a term that is often used carelessly, replete with its own internal ambiguity and contradictions, assigning at times an illusory sense of hope, yearning and fantasy. As a point of departure, co-operation itself was conceived as a communal resource, in the sense that there is nothing intrinsically sacred about co-operation. However, as much as the co-operative act was disengaged from its conflation as a moral act, its manifold relationalities did nevertheless embody spaces for ethical reflection. In sum, the empirical findings illustrate that as much as inter-group forms of co-operation where manifold, they also prefigured vastly diverse forms of ­sociality in which these relations and figurations came to be embedded. Sociocognitively, three broad although interrelated classes of co-operative sociality (sam-

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bandam) were explored: the horizontal (between peers who subscribed to diverse social identities), the a-sociative (as opposed to the associative, which did not necessarily entail material, corporeal or emotive links, but was nevertheless emically categorised as such during instances in which a collective social order came to be keenly maintained) and finally the vertical (in which hierarchy is accepted as a necessary part of the figuration and becomes requisite to the very possibility of that tie). Moreover, the notion of sambandam in itself does not anticipate the existence of mutuality or reciprocal relations, but some form of exchange does facilitate the durability of more stable associations. Moreover, sambandam, as an a-sociative relationship, carries meanings similar to co-operation in the sense that it too remains conceptually undergirded by (inter)dependence. However, while strong associations of both amity and instrumental rationality are unhinged from the notion of sambandam, it may similarly resolve the ambiguous anthropological concept of negative reciprocity. For example, practices embedded in “cold dependencies” inevitably add more nuance to analyses on coercive reciprocity. Social co-operation then can be cast within figurations of ranked dependencies that create hierarchies of power, for example, between seafaring west-coast migrants and the military and between those migrants and residents of neighbouring villages that become doubly bound. Thus, a particular form of sambandam or a co-operative relationship not only impacts a restricted frame of activity but also colours other relational constellations and discursive practices around it. For example, bilingual migrants who were compelled to assist the military were inevitably subject to other forms of exclusion and alienation among local resident groups, which at times took the form of open hostility. In this case, what is important was not just the social positionality of the respective migrant groups but the relational effects that one form of co-operative linkage or binding had on the other. As a start, it might be worth acknowledging the fact that social co-operation in itself is a multistranded process that avoids being segmented into binaries. Moreover, we are still left with the inimical distance between co-operative norms and practices that are sometimes not only counterintuitive but often do not follow linear trajectories of articulation. Thus, what de Munck (1987) first witnessed during his survey becomes a very real quandary: groups that profess to be the least “co-operative” were often locked into highly complex networks of (inter)dependence, at times implicating less visible modalities of exchange (e.g. between settler groups and longer-term residents), all of which do not necessarily exist in the sphere of the informal. Thus, against Gaasbeek’s (2010) study of rural agrarian communities in Kottiyar Pattu, co-operative alliances between fishing constituencies, irrespective of how internal differences were collectively expressed, did play an important role within formalised institutional arrangements and structures. It was in moments such as these that the performative nature of inter-group co-operation could be seen, in the sense that co-operation itself was turned into a communal resource, embodying an exchange value. Now it is worth returning to an older question that was raised earlier in the monograph: what conceptual value does the term co-operation bear, particularly when considering empirical research on the politics of so-called “deeply divided societies?” Before casting out the baby with the bathwater, it is necessary to pose two

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further questions. In the light of its conceptual ambiguity (and ambivalence), what do the dynamics of co-operation reveal about inter-group interaction and boundary maintenance? Second, do (positive) co-operative acts necessarily imply moments of transgression, resistance or contestation, particularly against a hegemonic political order? In attending to the first question, the study in fact demonstrates the need to unhinge the study of co-operation from its affinitive clasp. More specifically, the conflation of co-operation with complementarity and sameness becomes increasingly problematic when considering the fluidity of insider-outsider frames. The discussion centres on several foundational legitimacies on which co-operative relations were embedded against shifting frames: livelihood legitimacies differentiating first-­ generational fishers from newcomers, “homeland” legitimacies delineating locals from migrants and settlers, “pioneer” legitimacies built on narratives of legacy (i.e. “Who fished here first?” “Who cleared this land?”) and the perennially displaced (the “new” resettlers), from the non-displaced and the new arrivals, for example. Insider-outsider dynamics illustrate the dangers of looking at social identities only as analytical frames and identity constructs as crystallised structures. Therefore, instead of merely exploring identity articulations, it may be as meaningful to focus on the inherent properties and qualities of interdependencies—as dynamics that are processual and grounded in a host of socio-cognitive meanings—some of which may be contradictory in themselves. For example, particular contexts illustrated in the study revealed how immaterial physical proximity sometimes was in sustaining inter-group entanglements. Moreover, as illustrated, much work on inter-group co-operation has placed the “presence” of identity before act and process. In other words, collective identities are seen to exist as prior to co-operation. However, this dynamic is at the very least iterative, for co-operation also forges identities and frames of belonging. Thus, relations of co-operation also constitute a means through which historicity is produced, whether it is in the context of migrants who allegedly were said to have introduced new knowledge and skill sets against an imagined tabula rasa or with respect to how rule-breakers and petty networks of piracy came to co-constitute an ethnicised narrative of intervillage rivalry and competition that bore very real material implications on how particular spaces were governed and the means by which these governing practices came to be legitimated. The conceptual valence of “co-operation” therefore, if broken down into a process that could be more operational to its study (e.g. co-operation as interdependence), would still remain a powerful lens through which to study everyday forms of civility in conflict-ridden spaces. To attend to the second question, while co-operation is often generative of affinitive relations and alliances, it also limits individual and group expression by virtue of those very associations. If co-operation could be identified as a situational process, then it is also by extension a practice of power through which hierarchical relations are maintained through the very nature of its form of sociality (sambandam) in everyday life. Co-operation could thus be seen as a technique of control and as a disciplining device, as evidenced in the case of patronage networks and cross-­ village alliance building. Indeed, when considering the context of dissent politics

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and forms of popular protest, inter-group co-operation does retain a subversive flavour, but it requires a reflexive questioning with regard to the extent it remains a transformative endeavour. Transformative in this sense is taken to mean a deep change in discourse and social practice, a change that impacts the structural. Therefore, if practices of speaking of/for the other are instituted through compelled dependencies (e.g. as they were seen to be among the purse-seine anti-lobbyists), then the project of co-operation-as/for-resistance remains elusive, irrespective of how inclusive its discourse may seem at first. In the light of these arguments, how then can a more open-ended and nuanced theorising of everyday social co-operation be advanced? At first glance, three interrelated subfields hold promise in expanding this project, namely, classic peace and conflict analyses, collective action research (following from the Ostromian tradition) and moral economy approaches in studying social movements and the politics of dissent. Consider classic peace and conflict research or principles of Ostromian collective action. Alongside preoccupations with solidaristic and cohesive relations (however ambiguously and normatively conceived), it may be time to critically rethink of how diverging modes of sociality between individuals and groups come to be differently organised and enacted. The differentiation between boundary and border work proves particularly useful here, as cohesive relations and close (associational) contact do not always prefigure instances of amity. Similarly, loose temporary networks, like those among beach-seine padu crewmembers, that are fundamentally unstable and lacking in cohesion also seemingly turn out to be the most amicable at times, with respect to how they come to be accepted by wider social constellations.1 Second, there has been a paucity of work that focuses on the ordinary ethics of boundary work, policing and its everyday practices of social inclusion. Indeed, the hegemony of primordial identities (ethnic, religious, caste, etc.) has come to foreshadow the analytical lens through which moments of violence or inter-group amity are studied. By no means does this argument mean that the salience of collective identities must be done away with; however, the ways in which they come to intersect with everyday folk ethico-moral sentiments and reflections would benefit from more purposive efforts at creative integration. Finally, I address a perfectly commonsensical critique to this reassembling of co-operative relations, in the sense that the study could be taken as a relatively disenchanted attempt to imagine the everyday poetics of sociality after crises and disruption. After all, is not social connectedness (inevitably practised through affective intimacies), and encompassing other life forms, often taken as a potent antidote to the disengaged, market-driven competitive sphere of modern social life? Indeed, metaphoric images of co-operation and symbiosis take deeper root in no other than the imagination of evolutionary science, indicating how ardently we wish to dispel the primordial myth of the warring, carnivorous brute. As a rejoinder, I reiterate that 1  It is at this point that this study diverges most from Elias and Scotson’s analysis on insider-outsider relations, which places undue attention on intra-group bondedness and the cohesion of the collective.

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co-operation is by essence neither a positive nor negative dynamic, which arguably grants more emancipatory space for studying locally embedded meanings, relations and practices of not only intimacy but also of induced dependence. What this study then calls for is an open, de-centred anthropology of everyday co-operation. In this respect, situated studies on sociocultural and human-natural socialities cannot be unhinged from individual agency and historically contingent and normative notions of freewill, altruism and goodness. Arguably then, any study on co-operative dynamics remains a normative one—including this ethnography. Their differences may well lie in the extent to which it is possible to lay bare these normative foundations and leanings that profoundly colour the everyday textures of sociality in its manifold forms.

7.2  Narratives of Return By May 2013, Trincomalee had become—in the words of a former extension officer in the local Fisheries Department—Sri Lanka’s most popular district for the practice of coastal purse-seine fishing. By the second quarter of 2013, over 500 old and new purse-seine licences had been dispensed, thus exceeding numbers recorded in Puttalam. The majority of these licences were given to local and settler residents, with considerable numbers registered in the Town and Gravets area, Kuchchaveli and Kinniya. Two years since the “liberalisation” of the northeastern coastal waters, bitter inter- and intra-village rivalries over rule breaking and allegations of micro-­corruption continued. Yet much of this angst was also directed towards the state Fisheries Department whose officials were blamed for being too stringent in the enforcement of purse-seine licencing practices and their ownership regulations, particularly with regard to the confiscation of nets of those deemed to be operating with outdated or lapsed papers. Yet, apart from the very particular dynamics witnessed in the coming of age in a rather localised fishing industry, the manifold strands that make up the story of Trincomalee’s nascent purse-seine fishery offer a host of questions. In many ways, the years between 2010 and 2014 marked a series of silent transformations in the coastal fisheries of northeast, not only in the local regulatory life of its political authorities. During the course of my fieldwork, the resident Director of the fisheries extension office was removed twice over a span of 12 months or less. Apart from the establishment of the Rural Fisheries Organisations (RFOs), an institution that ran in parallel with the visibly more legitimate and established fisher co-operative societies (FCSs), the entrenchment of local naval authorities as a mainstay in district fisheries governance symbolised a fundamental transformation in postwar coastal resource politics. While naval boats were often mobilised for ­surveillance out at sea, at times accompanied by the few resident fisheries extension officers that were there, land-based interactions with local coastal communities in the form of regular FCS-naval meetings continued uninterrupted. What remains to be explored are the prevailing dynamics in spaces such as Mullaitivu and former regions of the Vanni, dotted with state extension offices that were barely authorita-

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tive against the force of the military, in comparison to Trincomalee’s relatively more plural institutional structures. To this end, administrative interruptions and long drawn-out political processes implying negotiation and collective bargaining (however disruptive they may have been) were at times perceived by FCS leaders as a show of due process, where multiple vested interests would performatively be put to the contest. As Paralingam remarked during one of my return trips, “if things swiftly happen…often before the crow of a rooster, one begins to worry…you know there are bones under the dirt”. Thus, the long-drawn conflict over the opening of the Trincomalee town’s new fish market—which took a toll of over a year since its completion—was at times positively perceived in this light. Seen through a transformative political lens, at the very least, it could be argued that within the scope of localised co-operative movements and trajectories of due process—that inevitably signified some degree of impartiality and even-handedness—such interruptions were at times regarded less negatively than just their anticipated outcomes. This claim at times stands in juxtaposition to those made by particular foreign donor agencies that often bemoaned—in the words of a capacity development consultant in Trincomalee—that “at both ends, considering oppressive LTTE rule and that of the state military, the hope of participatory politics had to be cultivated, ground up”.

7.3  Everyday Life After the “Rainbow Coalition” At the time of concluding my research, Sri Lanka was witnessing one of its most iconic moments in electoral history—one that was marked by a desperate performative stand in instrumentalised co-operation against the backdrop of coalitional politics. Just weeks away from a snap presidential election in January 2015, it entailed the assembling of old political foes and the unlikeliest of bedfellows: the old UNP-­ SLFP vanguard to the Marxist JVP and the Liberal Party, alongside the ultra-­Sinhala nationalist JHU backed by the clerical Buddhist movement of Sobitha Thero, among others. Their singular aim was to oppose another term of Rajapaksean dynastic rule and to set in motion the repeal of the Executive Presidency itself. To the critical masses, on the one hand, this sambandam/tava [Tamil/Sinhala], fundamentally rickety in its tenuous project of recent trust building, seemed at worst a short-lived contrivance to pressing issues such as the 13th Amendment, international pressures pertaining to human rights, demilitarisation, land rights and progressive tax reforms, amidst a suite of other concerns that could barely be addressed within the duration of a 100-day Executive Presidency.2 My first return visit took place December 2014, on the eve of that landmark election. Within a year, it was hard to discern that little had changed. The informal anti-­ 2  At the time of writing, the election was focusing on a single issue—the abolition of the Executive Presidency. Little or nothing has been articulated about the roadmap after the dissolution of the Executive Presidency and the address of pressing issues.

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purse-­ seine fisheries movement had for the most part disbanded. Paralingam continued to put more of his time into his role as a trustee at a local Hindu temple. The two key Sinhalese leaders had gone their own ways and barely met to lobby anymore. One directed his energies at restoring an old multiday boat he had recently acquired from a kinsman in Matara. The other embarked on a filming career for a national television station while marginally maintaining links with the local chapter of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. Retrospectively it was hard to imagine that a political issue such as this which had once profoundly patterned past allegiances and rivalries was now relegated to the mundane rhythmicity of saltwater life—tempered by the seasonality of transboundary fish movements—as passions flared and ebbed with these multispecies comings and goings. During the monsoonal months when few small-scale vessels ventured far out, it was said that enmities and memories of vendetta were barely recalled. However, the gradual decline of anti-purse-­ seine lobbying—at least by this older vanguard—prefigured darker incidents that were barely expressed in the open. Several of these Sinhala-speaking settler leaders were said to have been threatened with arson, largely by their own kinsmen and women in the same villages or in neighbouring hamlets. What had also changed over the course of those 3 years were a number of migrant camps (vadi) in Kuchchaveli. While beach-seine operators changed hands, so did the fortunes of a great many Catholic bilingual gill-net fishing families, particularly those who I was keeping in contact with from “Salapiyaru”. I visited the migrant camp twice since leaving Trincomalee, once that same December in 2014 and then again 2 years later in July 2016. A number of new faces from the same Chilaw village could be seen, as they plaintively related the stories of their predecessor families, many of whom they said could not keep up their debt payments to mudalalis and had resorted to selling gear and other forms of fishing capital. Chilaw was where they were said to be based now, characterised by their discernable immobility and having to work as day-waged crewmembers on the boats of others. The newcomers in Salapiyaru were barely surreptitious about their “freshness”—to these householders there were no pioneer narratives of clearing the land or of transforming local livelihood practices through enskillment and the transfer of technology. Trincomalee’s coastline was very much perceived as a volatile resource frontier but one in which they felt this small patch of beach called Salapiyaru was a social extension of their village in Chilaw. Geographically, Salapiyaru too had changed. The new bridge had been completed, and what had held a small naval post before was now a well-defined barb-­ wired enclosure with several blue-uniformed sentinels and a larger concrete building surrounded by a neatly manicured lawn. This time as I slid out of a parked car and crossed the Pulmoddai Road towards the slopping ingress of the migrant camp, barely was I noticed. “Too many tourists and Colombo folk come here with the hope of buying fish”, remarked a one of the migrant householders, “…we seem to be visible enough now”. Meanwhile, across Nilaveli, Kinniya, Muttur and other locales of the Trincomalee District, contrary to the prediction of one of its key regional office-bearers, Rural Fisheries Organisations (RFOs) did continue in similar form and function. In some

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ways the perseverance of this system reflected the inner reshuffling of old political figures and their ideas. The RFO initiative was seen to be the brainchild of the former Fisheries Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne who was one among many of the defecting cabinet ministers of Rajapakse that left the ruling regime to back Sirisena. Senaratne was subsequently rewarded with the ministerial portfolio of Health and Indigenous Medicine. Eventually, one of the most conspicuous changes in the district since the regime change in January 2015 was the change of political direction witnessed in Sampoor. The proposed coal-fired power station, to be built by an Indian corporation, was disbanded, as the official narrative goes in mid-2016 after a Supreme Court ruling following a fundamental rights application filed by an environmental lobby organisation. During a visit to Muttur in the summer of 2016, many of the blue canvas and tin-roofed interim refugee shelters had been abandoned for relocation to the fringes of Sampoor that had begun in gradual stages from 2014. However, the “narratives of return” and of settler trajectories in Sampoor until today remain politically contentious, given the relatively tight-lipped reticence witnessed among many of Colombo’s critical think tanks and research institutes. At the same time, such endeavours suggest a conscious reworking of what it means to explore continuity and change, particularly against the context of social silences and of missing geographies—all of which mark realities of in-betweenness and of absentness: questions of omission and of missing people (not merely bodied statistics) that the state has yet to answer for in spaces replete with their own counter-­ materialities, such as the carcasses of abandoned sea vessels, discarded burial grounds, desecrated shrines and old and new war memorials.

7.4  Mundo Mar: Of Islanded Presence and Belonging Not all who landed in Lanka left no traces They were black, white, yellow and brown Some troopers, merchants and missionaries Surely fell in love and made love How could they not, With our black and brown sweethearts. (Visakesa Chandrasekaram, from The King and the Assassin)

While gazing through the lens of everyday sociality as a means with which to complicate the conflict-co-operation dualism, this book also offers thematic insights into questions around (im)mobility and emplacement and of multisited settlerhood. One of the most pressing struggles I encountered during the course of my fieldwork, and in subsequently writing about Sri Lanka’s religio-spiritually and linguistically hybrid northeast, was in my inability to locate a nuanced social vocabulary that would more aptly express individual and collective biographies of spatio-­ generational mobility and sojourn.

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The problematic identity categories that are referred to in this monograph, as in the case of much critical social science scholarship that has emerged from Lanka over the past three decades or more, sit constrained by those stolidly overarching ethnonationalist imaginaries tapered into such terms as “Tamils”, “Sinhalese” and “Muslims”. While there is no denying the fact that these overwhelmingly ethnolinguistic identity markers have performatively and very materially patterned trajectories of fear, political violence and of otherness over half a century or more, their totalising discursive frames bear little witness to vast microhistories and epistemologies of everyday encounters relating to wayfaring, meander and settlerhood— foregrounding both the marine and the terrestrial. Yet such traces of movement, some of which are very consciously lived, intermittently appear in these manifold narratives that pattern collective experience as well as the oral histories that are recounted individually, as much as they are adapted intergenerationally. Indeed, the tri-polar ethnicised categories of the littoral northeast may literally and figuratively hold little water, as a vivid kaleidoscopic canvas of personalities and events is routinely recalled. These echoes—and in this context braided through marine and maritime imaginaries—invoke narratives of inherited past-presents, featuring Straits-born Chinese and Javanese (Ja), of “folk” saints from across the Red Sea and elsewhere whose relics are enshrined in barely remembered ziyarams dispersed across the littoral landscape, of more recent Malayalam and Tamil-speaking Jesuit priests and of foremothers, fathers and other ancestors who brought with them ties from across the Coromandel Coast, the South China Sea and the Straits settlements to the barely remembered littoral Arab-Swahili spaces of northern and eastern Africa. Romanticisations of co-mingling hybridity should of course be treated with as much caution. However, my argument hinges on understanding why such knowledges and modes of being should be paid as much attention, given the fact that stories such as these have often been treated tangentially within both officialised narratives of statehood and nation building, as well as within recent Lankanist scholarship. Moreover these traces—for that is what they are arguably often perceived as—not only pluralise purist identity framings. They also potentially complicate distinctions between movement, diverse flows and of islanded sedentariness in ways that enliven (even as a fleeting generational memory), hybrid “local cosmopolitanisms and assertions of the indigenous which sought to naturalize the seemingly foreign…” (Sivasundaram 2013, p. 12). While recounted pasts such as these may appear as a wholly different place (and temporal order), their contemporary evocations at times peek out, often in intriguing ways. One such moment can be seen in the founding narrative, or one of its renditions at least, featuring Sampoor’s Kali Temple. The narrative below was stitched together by several Sampoorian fisher families in September 2012, when access to the temple premises, even on key festival days, was denied by the military: Three women came from India, they say in a kattamuran. One sat in the sun, and that spot became the Kali Kovil. The second sat in the shadow of a tree, and her place in turn became the village we know today as Sampoor. The third sat by the beach and that became the Madhu Church, for she was the Madhu Matha [the Virgin Mary]. So despite the fact that

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two were Hindu and the other was Catholic, God is one. And so they say the people saw this visitation and built the kovil. I knew this story from the very beginning, as child. Because the first one sat in the sun, this goddess – for she was in fact Kali – was known to be fierce. Her worship brought stringent rules…when the kovil was founded, priests were brought in from India to pacify the goddess. Once a woman who’d had a bath went into the temple with loose wet hair. When people chided her about her disheveled state, she shook her head at them. Suddenly her neck twisted all the way, to the side. The pusari [presiding priest] was told that the only way of placating the goddess and to undo the curse was to have that very woman shave off her locks and present it to the temple, as an offering. They claim that it is still her hair that is being used in pujas.

While the founding story of the temple unsurprisingly serves as a religio-­ spiritually unifying narrative, particularly during times of inter-communal rupture and long-term displacement, the wayfaring of both the Hindu-Shaivite deity Kali and the Judeo-Christian Saint Mary from no other than India illustrates long-­ standing imaginative connections between (is)land and the sea, the littoral and the interior. The narrative gap in relation to the third (un)intentionally nameless female traveller and companion remains enigmatic, given her conspicuous role as a folk founder of Sampoor. Anthropologists of religion may concur that this microhistory seems relatively intuitive, given that religio-spiritual arrival narratives in Lanka, however syncretic or not, often begin or allude to some form of maritime mobility. Yet in some ways, what remains intriguing is the co-mingling between the supranatural and the folk materialist and through a symbolic metaphor (the sharing of an artisanal canoe), which in turn places different modes of power—the worldly mundane and the metaphysical—on a seemingly equal footing. Moreover, there is no mention of a male boatman or navigator in their retellings, which makes the curious figure of three women on a boat crossing an unspecified waterway all the more riveting, as a sociocultural anomaly. Indeed, one may argue that the sea in this context still lingers as a backdrop—or as a passive medium of passage. Yet, for the overwhelming focus on terrestrially grounded modes of belonging and presence that is characteristically invoked by ethnonationalist politicians from all corners, a harking back to the sea through distinct forms of maritime mobility further complicates the overwhelming land-based/ hinterland bias, particularly within contemporary Sri Lankan ethnographic scholarship. In the same vein, an equal amount of caution is needed in not wedging an artificial distinction between imaginaries of the so-called marine and its terrestrial, for the narrative itself offers to counter this possibility for essentialising. However, what the folktale does draw attention to is the uncompromising vernacular ­knowledge of the coastal and the marine as a shared sociocultural cosmos. As Phil Steinberg (2001: 6) writes, the ocean and seas are “not merely a space used by society; it is one component of the space of society”. This conceptual statement has resonated more vividly in recent years, thanks to the so-called “oceanic turn” coupled by a growing raft of post- and decolonial scholarship within the disciplinary precincts of comparative history, maritime anthropology and historic and political geography, among others. Taking the Indian Ocean as a vantage point, recent writing particularly spurred by scholarly currents such as post-Braudelian New

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Thalassology and Island Studies continues to engage with manifold sociocultural, religious, political and discursive connectivities that have spanned oceanic realms and of island hubs and archipelagos, far beyond the rudimentary triadic frame of colonial exploration, trade and conquest (see Gilroy 1993; Horden and Purcell 2006; Blackburn 2010; Sivasundaram 2013; Shell 2014; Shilliam 2015). These discourses have also increasingly taken to social media, evidenced, for example, in an article penned by S. Varatharajah (2015), an academic and of self-­ professed northeastern Eelam Tamil descent, in response to a Twitter storm that ensued after Yasmin Yonis, a Somali-American writer began a conversation around “accusations of cultural appropriation made by South Asian Twitter against Black Twitter” in relation to contemporary costuming practices that were increasingly being adopted by East African women and elsewhere that South Asians “claimed as theirs”. While the piece began by focusing on the paradoxical and problematic realities of racist hierarchies and meanings around brownness and blackness, of border demarcations and of boundary policing, it went far beyond these antipodal framings by questioning the need to historicise long-standing South Asian connectivities between diverse African groups and spaces that have been marginalised by an overwhelming focus on acknowledging interactions between subsequent Arab, Persian, Ottoman and European settlers and colonisers. Thinking through the Indian Ocean (and westwards at that) was therefore a means of “connecting the disconnected” for as Varatharajah concurs, “we’ve in fact silenced our shared histories to the extent that scholarship needs to be produced outside of South Asia to force us to look into our pasts and face the histories that were never granted its rightful places in our own history books”. Once more, the illusive image of the insular container-like island reappears, in which muted lines of ancestral descent and of sociocultural flows and exchanges are enlivened by thinking through oceans and seascapes rather than thinking in spite of them. As Thomas Hylland Eriksen (1993) writes as he ponders upon islanded metaphors, cultural islands have barely existed in time. If one were to think of a watery world dotted and afloat with landmasses, then continents themselves can be regarded as islands, for the sea invariably hems in the terrestrial. But to return to the question of sociocultural islands, whether it be the Mauritius, Sri Lanka or Cape Verde, “the persistence of ethnic boundaries is perhaps the most striking insular feature” of these societies; this feature has nothing to do with the fact they are geographic islands, meaning that their “objective processes of isolation” have been historically and socio-politically produced (Eriksen 1993: 143). The demystification of cultural islands, particularly in the case of Ceylon/Lanka, is not too difficult nor it is too far-fetched a project. Yet the enduring question is why, despite trenchant claims of Sinhala and Tamil ethno-national purity since the island’s late colonial period, counter-narratives of assemblage and mixedness, whether celebratory or cautionary, have hardly been used more purposefully as a discursive tool, particularly among the postcolonial progressive Old Left. While numerous historic and political reasons could be enlisted to redress the question, what we are still left with is an inventive muting of all that is seemingly patchworked or heterogeneous. For an example, a local social media campaign Sinha-le

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(of Lion’s Blood), also in conjunction with a Sinhala-language rap song by the same name, stands in all its pathos and its obtuseness as a misplaced kedge in an otherwise long and differentiated trajectory of postcolonial ethnonationalist anxiety. What therefore remains imperative is a rallying call to locate moments during which these mythico-vagaries (of purism) are ruptured and creatively transgressed. In many ways, these hybridised modalities of knowing and being embody the character of 15-year-old Faizal, in Visakesa Chandrasekaram’s (2014) novel The King and the Assassin. Having been relentlessly taunted as a fatherless bastard in school, the child prodigy—who is raised by a grandfather who was “Muslim and went to mosque everyday” and a grandmother “who prayed to Allah and Jesus interchangeably…”—starts pondering on meanings around inferiority, otherness and ethno-­ racial purity. And so the mongrelised sensibilities of this neglected prodigy took him “on a mission looking for the ancestors of humans” in order to find ways through which “he could dispel the myth of purity and settle the question of his bastardry once and for all”. In the years to come, Faizal’s notorious revelation would be known as “the Dirty Blood Project” making public a form of knowledge that was transgressive as much as it was emancipatory, for: Nobody in Lanka would see themselves in the mirror in the same way again. Their invisible ancestors from the past would haunt them. Soon they would receive their DNA identity card and soon they would find out that they were not descended from one line of blood and that their roots stretched back as far as the land of the yellow people in the far east who had small eyes; as far as the mountains of the short people in the far north who lived in the freezing cold; as far as the deserts of the golden-skinned people who rode on camels; as far as the brown-eyed white people who had ruled the island for nearly five centuries; and as far as the land of the black tribes where humans were first found.

Indeed, the growing interest in DNA analysis can be witnessed in no other than massive transcontinental projects such as Momondo’s “DNA Journey” and the National Geographic’s citizen science initiative the Genographic Project. By no means do I wholeheartedly advocate for what is increasingly being referred to as the “cult of DNA ancestor worship”. Indubitably, the biopolitics undergirding individualised quests to trace hidden ancestries and to unveil prehistoric pasts of mobility and conviviality offer their own contradictions, as percentage counts come to be utilised for instrumental ends in validating parochial tribalisms and for invigorating minority statuses in securing access to opportunities that are otherwise restricted to historically marginalised groups such as First Nations and other indigenous collectives. Yet, in the context of an insular (ised) island state, the enlivening of hybrid entanglements through the sea offers possibilities of dismantling perilous myths— through varied means from fine art and street theatre to increased public anthropological engagement in daily life. What is argued for is not some bland, privileged form of contemporary cosmopolitanism, for as political borders and boundaries continue to intensify around the world, the very notion of mobility as being innate to the human condition finds itself being increasingly denaturalised. In its stead, what is advocated for are transgressive instants of self-reflexivity that disengage from the restrictive labels that are confined to the classificatory imaginaries

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of modernist state building and nationhood. It is this very mundo imaginalis that patterns the referents used when a great many contemporary Lankans encounter one another abroad, for alongside the subtle search for cues denoting socio-economic class, cosmopolitanism and possibly regionalism comes the auricular question of whether one is born “Sinhala or Tamil”. While the sheer weight of the island’s political historic events over the past 50 years or more should not be dismissed, the easy reification of these categories as if they were as natural and unexceptional as freshwater were to saltwater remains all the more disquieting. Against this context, it is worth revisiting Gloria Anzaldúa’s (2015) decolonial notion of Mundo Zurdo, a border gnosis and a pluriverse, where loyalty and belonging lie not in a singularly cohesive imaginary of belonging but along several axes of differentiation, often in ways that may seem contradictory at first, rather like a “Shiva, a many armed and legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white…”. This project, which in turn is an inherently reflexive and personal one, does not merely stop at the door of identity politics. It also embodies a deeply epistemological project that calls to attention not the embracing or rejecting of a single mode of knowing (and being) but the entanglement of several historiographies and cosmologies (Mignolo 2000). Perhaps what could be imagined and lived is a Mundo Mar— and one that is not just of the Indian Ocean world but that which seeks to “connect the disconnected” while steering away from the tendency of romanticising a numinous precolonial past. As post-area studies scholars among others would concur, the expansive “Indian Ocean” itself, as the case of other geographically bounded water bodies and seascapes has always been historically and politically contingent. Similarly, it calls to attention the many ways of learning to transgress Lanka’s representative imaginary of its own island-ness as a sacred space of Theravada Buddhist purism, as well as the reification of “island-space-as-container” (Jazeel 2009, 409), that was in turn forged through a sequence of colonial encounters. Finally, one may still call to question the imaginary of a differentiated Mundo Mar in which waves of economic, ideological and sociocultural influence through a longue durée perspective could be acknowledged, alongside not only imperialist endeavours. These questions would also include contested structures and processes such as Sankritisation and the normalisation of particular forms of (kingly and colonial) religiosity, combined with the hardening of colonial and postcolonial geopolitical boundary lines that profoundly subvert and pattern knowledges of an otherwise polyglot, heterodox oceanic realm. However, at times such as these, when the reassembling and strengthening of social boundaries and political borders ­continue to be advocated and practised with as much virulence as it is today, particularly in Euro-American spaces of western liberal democracy, the collective project of casting hybridised belonging—and of islanded presence—out to sea remains all the more challenging and exigent.

References

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References Anzaldúa G (2015) La Prieta. In: Moraga C, Anzaldúa G (eds) This bridge called my back, Albany. State University of New York Press, New York, pp 198–210 Blackburn A (2010) Locations of Buddhism: colonialism and modernity in Sri Lanka. University of Chicago Press, Chicago/London Chandrasekaram V (2014) The king and the assassin. Ravaya Publications, Colombo, pp 145–148 de Munck V (1987) Cooperation, conflict and development in a Sri Lankan community. J Dev Soc III:100–106 Eriksen TH (1993) In which sense do cultural islands exist. Soc Anthropol 1(1b):133–147 Gaasbeek T (2010) Bridging troubled waters? Everyday inter-ethnic interaction in a context of violentconflict in Kottiyar Pattu, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Ph.D. dissertation, Wageningen: Wageningen University Gilroy P (1993) The Black Atlantic: modernity and double consciousness. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA Horden P, Purcell N (2006) The Mediterranean and the new thalassology. Am Hist Rev 111(3):722–740 Jazeel T (2009) Reading the geography of Sri Lankan island-ness: colonial repetitions, postcolonial possibilities. Contemp South Asia 17(4):399–414 Mignolo W (2000) Local histories/global designs: coloniality, subaltern knowledges, and border thinking. Princeton University Press, Princeton/Oxford Peace A (1996) When the Salmon comes: the politics of summer fishing in an Irish community. J Anthropol Res 52(1):85–106 Shell M (2014) Islandology: geography, rhetoric, politics. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA Shilliam R (2015) The Black Pacific: anti-colonial struggles and oceanic connections. Bloomsbury Academic Press, London Sivasundaram S (2013) Islanded: Britain, Sri Lanka and the Bounds of an Indian Ocean colony. University of Chicago Press, Chicago/London Steinberg PE (2001) The social construction of the ocean. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Varatharajah S (2015) Connecting the disconnected: when South Asians accuse East Africans of cultural appropriation, Medium. https://medium.com/@varathas/connecting-the-disconnectedwhen-south-asians-accuse-east-africans-of-cultural-appropriation-76527a872484#.k8vonqltn

Afterword: Pacem per Maribus—The Ocean As Boundary Object

The realisation that our world is finite—as communicated by the much debated notion of “the Anthropocene”—shifts our/ humanities relational position within that finite space. And this change of our own position in the ongoing processes of environmental change and socio-political and economic transformation allows us to see, study and understand this planet, our planet, differently—maybe better—than ever before. It is a shift in perspective that moves the connections and interdependencies of social, ecological, economic and political systems into the focus of our attention; it allows for, and demands at the same time, an epistemological shift. Instead of focusing on the distinguishing characteristics of, for instance, terrestrial and marine systems or “Tamil”, “Sinhalese” or “Muslim” identity narratives, the flows, run-­ offs, connections and socio-spatial entanglements between the “opposing types” move into the focus. Binaries are dissolved by studying the in-betweens. Within academia and disciplines such as human geography, anthropology, knowledge sociology, global history and of course area studies, we have—in the past years—witnessed the explicit turn towards the study of “flows”; the multidimensionality of space; different types of social, geographic, cognitive mobilities and immobilities; and interdependencies and global to translocal figurations. The once so popular binaries in explaining the world have been (at least temporarily) put aside or denounced as being of heuristic but of less empirical value. Parallel to these developments in academia, towards the crossing of boundaries and the study of hybrids, we witness in the sphere of international cooperation, development and climate action the increased merging of development and environmental topics and discourses. Poverty alleviation, environmental standard settings for production processes or the creation of nature conservation areas are no longer separately discussed—one in the sphere of development cooperation and ­international aid from North to South and the other in the sphere of environmental protection and climate action. But instead, the spheres of policy discourses and policy-making with regard to development and social inequality have merged with those regarding environmental protection. They are jointly considered nowadays as topics of global concern and relevant in all societies and countries, no matter where © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1

205

206

Afterword: Pacem per Maribus—The Ocean As Boundary Object

they are located on this planet. It is a development in policy discourse and action that is exemplified by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the UNFCCC climate action discussions and the Paris agreement. The narratives in this book depict the ocean as boundary object, demanding and in consequence enabling cooperation in heavily contested processes of group identity formation as well as conflict-cooperation distinctions found in fishing communities in the militarised zones of Sri Lanka. The ocean and its (common pool) resources allow for the finding of ways to overcome some of the hardened, partly militarised boundaries drawn. In the interest of livelihood provision and eventually also peacebuilding, some socio-ethnic boundaries are weakened, while others—in the interest of maintaining group identity-based forms of social organisation—strengthened. In a time in which humanity has only just begun to figure out avenues for fulfilling its responsibilities in the Anthropocene, the book therefore offers, first, an intricate contribution to a marine humanities’ perspective on conflict-resolution and peace-building. Second, the book houses a political call that, in the current times of the renewed uprise of authoritarian regimes and exclusive “securitization”—rather than inclusive peace—discourses all over the globe cannot be stated often enough: It is the call for not only “Pacem in Maribus”, peace in the ocean, as advocated by Elisabeth Mann-Borgese and the Club of Rome as early as the 1970s but, in addition, for “Pacem per Maribus”, and thus “peace through the ocean”, and via socially, economically and ecologically meaning just governance of its resources, spaces and functions to the earth system. With these words, I would like to congratulate Rapti Siriwardane-de Zoysa as well as all readers, to this excellent book! Department for Social Sciences, Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) and the Institute of Sociology University of Bremen Bremen, Germany

Anna-Katharina Hornidge

Statistical Survey Results

The social demographics provide a breakdown of the stratified sample (N = 265) of respondents across 11 village sites in the District of Trincomalee. The figures are provided in percentages.The cross-sectional survey (random purposive sampling) entailed: (a) 11 local fishing villages (N = 205) which were further differentiated into: (i) Ethnically mixed (Muslim/Tamil/Sinhala, Sinhala/Tamil or Tamil/Muslim) and monoethnic (primarily Tamil, Muslim or Sinhala) (ii) Villages located close to the Trincomalee town (peri-urban) and in the more rural hinterland (peripheral) (b) Two large migrant fishing camps, N = 60 (both ethnically mixed), one comprising karaivalai and craft-based fisher from Chilaw/Puttalam and the other comprising karavailai crewmembers from Batticaloa and Negombo. Categories of stratification: Village type and number Local (monoethnic) – Muslim, Tamil and Sinhala Multi-ethnic and religious Migrant camp sites

No. of villages 8 (N = 160) 3 (N = 45) 2 (N = 60)

District spread/DS Town and Gravets, Muthur, Kinniya, Kuchchaveli Town and Gravets, Nilaveli, Kinniya Irrakakandy and Pulmoddai

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1

207

Statistical Survey Results

208 Graph 1 (Professed) Ethnic breakdown of all respondents

0.3% 1.2% 20% 44.8%

33.6%

Tamil Sinhalese Tamil / Sinhalese mix

Graph 2 Religious breakdown of all respondents

3.9%

Muslim Burgher

3.9% 1.5%

15.4% 41.7%

33.7%

Hindu Buddhist Other Christians

Islam Catholic Mixed religions

209

Statistical Survey Results Graph 3  Ethnic division of local villages

1.5% 19.9% 37.3%

41.3%

Tamil Sinhalese

Graph 4  Ethnic division of migrant camps

Muslim Tamil / Sinhalese mix

1.7% 20.7%

6.9%

70.7%

Tamil Sinhalese

Muslim Burgher

Statistical Survey Results

210 Graph 5 Religious diversity in local villages

1% 2%1% 19% 35.5%

41.5% Hindu Buddhist Other Christians

Graph 6 Religious diversity among migrant camps

Islam Catholic Mixed religions

3.4% 10.2%

13.7%

3.4%

62.7%

6.8%

Hindu Buddhist Other Christians

Islam Catholic Mixed religions

Statistical Survey Results

211

Graph 7 Linguistic diversity of all respondents

0.4%

6%

0.4%

14.34%

62.6%

16.2%

English Sinhala No response

Graph 8 Gender breakdown of all respondents

6.5%

Tamil Tamil and Sinhala Not applicable

1.1%

92.4%

Male Not applicable

Female

Statistical Survey Results

212

.7547%3.396%1.132% .7547%

93.96%

Coastal and lagoon fishing Ornamental fish diving Not applicable

Dry-fish making/retail Wage labourer on land

Graph 9  Primary source of income (60% of the time)

Graph 10  Boat ownership of all respondents

.3774%1.887%

27.55%

70.19%

No No response

Yes Not applicable

Statistical Survey Results

213

Graph 11  Birth districts of all respondents in local villages

6.8% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5% 1.5% 1.9% 1.5%

86.3%

Trincomalee Jaffna Negombo Vavuniya Ratnapura

Graph 12  Birth districts of all respondents in migrant camps

3.4%

Batticaloa Puttalam Matara Anuradhapura

3.4% 18.97%

34.5%

39.7%

Trincomalee Puttalam Hambantota

Batticaloa Negombo

Statistical Survey Results

214

Mixed

Monoethnic

4.444% 16.88%

30%

24.44% .625%

71.11%

No Not applicable

Yes

52.5%

No Don’t Know

Yes Not applicable

Graph 13  War displacement by mixed and monoethnic villages Graph 14 Migrants fishing between 2005 and 2009

3.3%

41.6%

55%

No Not applicable

Yes

Statistical Survey Results

215

Graph 15  Proportion of migrants who arrived before 1983 35%

65%

Yes

No

Graph 16  Proportion of migrants who arrived after 1983

23.3%

76.7%

Yes

No

Statistical Survey Results

216 Graph 17 Ethnic breakdown of locals without land titles

1.3% 20.5%

35.9%

42.3% Tamil Sinhalese

Town

Muslim Tamil / Sinhalese mix

Periphery 6.25%

7.692%

12.5%

46.15%

46.15%

81.25%

No Pending application

Yes

Graph 18  Ownership of land titles by village type

No Pending application

Yes

217

Villages in Trincomalee

Ethnicity of all participants

Statistical Survey Results

Tamil

Muslim

Sinhalease

0

5

10

15

peripehry

town

0

20

5

Local villages and migrant camps

First-generational fishers

10

15

20

First-generational fishers

MIGRANTS

LOCAL

0

10

20

30

First-generational fishers

Graph 19  Proportion of first-generational fishers

Local

Migrant

7.1%

14.3%

50%

42.9%

85.7% Tamil Sinhalese

Muslim

Graph 20  Ethnic breakdown of first-generational fishers

Tamil

Muslim

25

Statistical Survey Results

218 Migrants 7.4%

Locals 5.6%

16.7%

22.2%

7.4% 1.9%

22.2%

50% 66.7% While fishing Market Fisheries Dept. Other place

Landing site Navy Police

While fishing Market Fisheries Dept. Other place

Landing site Navy Police

Graph 21  Kappam reports by locals and migrants (post 2009)

Graph 22  Overall change in family economic situation (post 2009)

0.6% 19.7%

40.2%

39.3%

Improved Stayed the same

Worsened Not applicable

219

Statistical Survey Results Graph 23  Overall change in fish catch (post 2009)

5.3% 1.5%

17%

76.1%

Worsened Not applicable

.5

.6

Probabiliy .7 .8

.9

1

Improved Stayed the same

20

30

40 50 Age of respondent

60

70

95% confidence band

Graph 24  Estimated probability to determine that catch size worsened since 2009, by age

Statistical Survey Results

.8 .7 .5

.6

Probabiliy

.9

1

220

20

30

40

50

60

70

Age of respondent Tamil Sinhalese

Muslim

.2

.4

Probabiliy .6 .8

1

Graph 25  Estimated probability to judge that catch size worsened since 2009, by age and ethnicity

17 20

25

30

35

40

45

50

55

60

65

70

Age of respondent MIGRANTS

LOCAL

95% confidence intervals

Graph 26  Estimated probability to determine that catch size worsened since 2009, by age and migrant-local status

Index

A Abayas, 162 See also Clothing styles Accelerated Mahaweli Development Program, 49 Afghanistan, 14 Agrarian communities, 49, 52, 180, 191 life, 49 Allai extension scheme, 45 Amparai, 30, 53, 65, 102, 133 Anthropocentrism, 14, 205, 206 Anthropology co-operation, 3–5, 13, 15, 58, 190–194 maritime, 4, 58, 199 public anthropology, 16, 201 Anzaldúa, G., 202 Arabian Gulf, 6, 40 Aristotle, 25 Armed conflict Sri Lanka, 5, 7, 8, 10 Arrack, 61, 149 Arson, 144, 196 Artisanal fishing, 49, 58, 63, 64, 113 Astuti, R., 20, 41, 61 Asylum seekers, 48, 54, 62, 63, 183 B Basque fraternities, 4 Batticaloa, 3, 4, 11, 18, 24, 25, 31, 40, 50, 53, 64, 68, 70, 82, 101, 102, 110–112, 139, 148, 150, 151, 153, 154, 156, 163, 207 Bay of Bengal, 40 Beach seining operations, 66, 98, 113, 148, 149 ownership, 66

Bell, S., 137 Belonging, 7, 12, 18, 23, 24, 40, 43, 47, 83, 131, 132, 146, 152, 157–164, 167, 174, 192, 197–202 Bilingualism, 11, 31, 41, 45, 50, 53, 55, 105, 110, 114, 117, 131–147, 151, 159, 162, 163, 170, 184, 185, 191, 196 Biopolitics, 201 Biosociality, 13–15 Black July, 50 Blue Revolution, 71, 79, 109, 175 Boat owners associations (BOA), 80, 123 Bodu Bala Sena (BSS), 9 Borders borderlands, 19, 40, 48 border making, 139 borderscapes, 18, 19, 22, 40, 103, 147–155 border villages, 54, 111, 140, 142 Boundaries/boundary crossing/boundary making, see Borders British India, 6 Brohier, R.L., 49 Buddhist, 8, 9, 11, 18, 24, 30, 31, 44, 49, 58, 60, 61, 64, 73, 81, 100, 103, 113, 137, 143, 145, 157–161, 183, 195, 202 Building funds, 73, 81 Burgher descent, 7, 9, 18 Burton, G., 137 Bycatch, 118, 119, 153 C Canetti, E., 29, 177 Canoes outrigger, 47, 53 thoni, 47

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 R. Siriwardane-de Zoysa, Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood, MARE Publication Series 20, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78837-1

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222 Cape Verde, 200 Capital accumulation, 54 expenditure, 148 revolving capital, 148 social, 43, 80, 180 Capture fisheries, 13, 66, 67, 133 Caste Karaiyar, 41, 146, 148, 175 Malabar, 9, 40 Mukkuvar, 8 Paravar, 40, 138 Cast-netting, 64 Catholicism Bible, 138 Jesuit priests, 138 Ceasefire agreement, 55 Ceylon crown colony, 49, 178 Chandrasekeram, V., 201 Chiefdoms (vanniyars), 7, 40, 198 See also Pre-colonial Chilaw, 7, 11, 29, 31, 44, 67, 68, 105, 111, 114, 115, 133, 138–142, 144, 146–148, 154, 159, 160, 196, 207 China, 7, 40, 150, 198 China Bay, 150 Chinese ethnic, 9 Christian denominations, 8 Civilian life, 5, 9, 54, 103 Civility inter-group, 15, 192 Civil society, 32, 55, 84 Clothing styles, 142 Coalitions building, 165, 178 Collective action, 4, 14, 18, 81, 125, 153, 177, 178, 193 See also Ostrom Colombo, 10, 26, 101, 112, 113, 119, 160, 170, 171, 179, 196, 197 Colonialism British, 6, 8 Dutch, 6, 9 Portuguese, 6, 9, 137 Common pool resources, 58, 206 Community consultations, 31, 171, 177, 206 See also Public consultations Conviviality, 61, 107, 149, 152–155, 201 Co-operation-conflict dualism/binary, 15, 16, 72, 190, 197

Index Co-operative movement, 78, 195 Coromandel Coast, 10, 49, 71, 198 Cosmopolitanism, 6, 198, 201 Craft-based fisheries, 71, 98, 103, 106, 112–114, 127, 133, 134, 140, 147, 149, 157, 162, 163, 207 Credit access credit and thrift Societies, 79, 137 (see also Debt; Indebtedness) Criminal Investigation Department (CID), 113, 154, 155, 183 Cross-coastal, 6, 29, 41, 44, 112, 131, 137, 148, 155, 156, 164 Customary practices, 44, 45, 77 Cyclones, 137 D Day-wage labour, 98 Debt cycles, 69 payment, 196 (see also Indebtedness) Decolonial scholarship, 49, 199 Development-speak, 33 Dispossession, 59, 84, 149 See also Landlessness Dissent, 44, 45, 168, 177, 179–181, 185, 192, 193 Diving ornamental fish, 23, 31, 65, 98, 110, 111 pearl, 49 Divisional secretariats, 147, 148 Dolphins, 99, 118 Dondra, 6, 47, 158 Dowry, 68 Dryzone, 6 irrigation, 6 (see also Rajarata) Dugongs, 99 Dutch reformists, 8 Duwa, 137 Dynamite, 53, 54, 70, 114, 116, 117, 120, 121, 125, 143, 160, 169, 174 E East coast Muslims, 8, 31 Egalitarianism, 70, 72, 85, 90 Elections, 9, 70, 85, 89, 119, 179, 185, 195 Emplacement, 7, 23, 197 Enclaving, 18, 40, 44, 101, 138, 140, 143, 145, 158–161, 165

Index Enskillment, 49, 62, 196 Entropy, 105–115, 126, 129, 167, 184 Ethics ordinary, 5, 19, 21, 96 Ethnic loyalties, 8 orders, 7 Ethnic relations intra, 45 Ethnicisation, xix, 5, 18, 55, 100, 115–126, 173, 186 Ethnography encounters, 19, 26 situated, 194 Executive Presidency, 179, 195 F Farming, 31, 54, 65, 70, 71, 120, 146, 157 See also Agrarian Fieldwork, 4, 10, 16, 22, 26, 29, 31, 62, 67, 68, 82, 88, 89, 96, 101, 102, 110, 124, 133, 152, 157, 168, 182, 194, 197 Figurations, 3, 22–25, 89, 90, 132, 172, 179, 190, 191, 205 Fish benthic, 64, 133 crab, 64, 161 pelagic, 64, 67, 108, 109, 119, 133, 173 semi-demersal, 64, 133 species, 64, 65, 67, 69, 99, 134, 143, 153 Fisher co-operative societies (FCSs), 30, 68, 77–80, 103, 152, 156, 179, 194 See also Co-operative Movement Fisheries Department, Sri Lankan, 10, 71, 78 Fishing, 67 artisanal, 49, 58, 63, 64, 79, 89, 113, 117, 129, 147, 170, 175, 185 bans, 10, 30 collectives, 25, 28–31, 41, 51, 58, 59, 62, 71, 73–75, 88, 90, 103, 126, 140, 158, 168, 173, 178 destructive fishing, 103, 109, 114–116, 162, 173 dynamite fishing, 53, 54, 70, 114, 117, 119, 120, 160, 174 fishing cycles, 58, 97, 150 illegal, 70, 83, 109, 115–117, 122 (see also Rule; Rule breaking) intergenerational fishing, 110, 120, 130, 175 permits, 31, 53, 67, 114 (see also Licenses)

223 restrictions, 10, 11, 30, 101 small-scale fishers, 30, 96, 118, 130, 174 Folklore, 61 G Galle, 11, 47, 113, 156, 158 Gender, 28, 32, 43, 61, 64, 67, 69, 71 See also Women Genographic project, 201 Gillnetting, 130, 134, 144 Gokarna/Gokaana, 40 See also Trincomalee H Hand-lining, 64 Hierarchy, relational, 84 High Security Zones (HSZ), 10, 101 Hindu, 8, 11, 24, 30, 31, 45, 47, 51, 58, 60, 73, 78, 80, 82, 102, 105, 111, 113, 143–145, 149, 150, 155, 158, 160, 162, 175, 177, 181, 196, 199 Hybridity, cultural, 42, 138, 142, 147 I Identity markers ethnic, 7, 44, 198 linguistic, 7, 198 polyglot, 8 religious, 7 Indebtedness, 70, 154 India, 10, 47–49, 51, 55, 62, 71, 78, 138, 158, 163, 198, 199 Indian Ocean worlds, 202 Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF), 9, 53, 139 Insider-outsider relations, 5, 19, 90, 193 Insurance social, 80 Intermarriage, 41, 184 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) IDP camps, 18, 113 Island framings, 6, 198 Italy, 163 J Jaffna, 3, 8, 9, 11, 22, 24, 25, 40, 45, 48–51, 64, 82, 87, 102, 111, 112, 138, 155, 156, 158, 160, 168

224 Janatha Vimukthi Perumuna (JVP), see Marxist Justice redistributive, 97, 126 K Kafiringhas, 9 Kandy, 6, 7, 40, 101, 119 Karuna faction, 50 Knowledge local, 148 technological, 62 (see also Enskillment) Kokkilai, 23, 40, 46, 111, 119, 122, 134, 139, 158–161 Kotte Kingdom, 40 Kottiyar Pattu, 27, 43, 45, 65, 191 L Lamps petromax, 61 Land commissioner, 147 Land Development Ordinance Act, 147 See also State Ordinance Act Landlessness, 11, 70, 150, 154 Land Registrar, 161 Landing sites, 12, 29, 101, 123 Landmines, 50, 141 Land-sea dichotomy, 6 Legends, 60, 61 See also Folklore Liberal democracy Westminster-styled, 7 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), 9, 10, 18, 28, 50–55, 60, 62, 68, 79, 84, 99, 102, 103, 116, 120, 123–125, 127, 139, 142, 143, 151, 154, 155, 159, 160, 162, 176, 195 Licenses fishing, 118, 130, 146, 148, 172 padu, 66, 98, 106, 111, 113, 116, 147, 149, 158 Lifeworlds, 10, 13, 19–22, 57–90, 96, 97, 108, 190 Littoral space, 112, 117, 151 Livelihood analysis, 29, 43, 111 Loans, 68, 81, 85, 88, 120, 145 Longlining, 23, 31, 57, 64, 65, 134, 144, 153 Luck, 61, 67, 68, 97

Index M Madagascar, 41, 61 See also Vezo people Malabar, 6–8, 40, 49 Malay-Indonesian Archipelago, 40 Manchester Anthropology debate, 13 Mannar, 49, 63, 64, 111, 112, 119, 134, 138, 156 Markets lellama, 184 relations, 71, 72, 78 Marlin, 64, 67, 70, 97, 98, 134 Marxist, 7, 119, 181, 195 Matara, 11, 29, 47, 89, 111, 113, 129, 145, 158, 172, 196 Matrilineal, descent, 9 Mauritius, 200 Mauss, M., 16 Memory, 27, 47, 51, 62, 69, 77, 87, 114, 144, 146, 155, 158, 198 Mercantilist, classes, 8 Mesh size, 57, 67, 118, 174 Micronesia, 61 Middlemen, 30, 31, 101 See also Mudalalis Migrant encampments/camps, 11, 23–25, 31, 32, 46, 81, 101, 105, 110, 115, 134, 139–143, 152, 163, 196, 207, 209, 210 Migration cycles, 10 internal, 10, 130 reverse migration, 11, 112, 154–157, 164 seasonal, 10, 11, 29, 30, 44, 46, 49, 65, 68, 110, 114, 130–133, 137, 138, 140, 149, 156, 158, 165 Militarisation, 4, 9, 13, 18, 52, 54, 99, 116, 127, 178 Militarycivilian interactions, 55, 115 Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development (MFARD), 63 Missing persons, 197 Mobility dynamics, 5, 18, 49, 156, 157 Momondo, 201 Monsoon northeast, 10, 11, 24, 64, 70, 102, 114, 178 southwest, 29 Moore, H., 13 Mosque committees, 80 trustees, 78, 124 Motility, 164

Index Mudalalis, 12, 30, 53, 68, 70, 74, 89, 101, 102, 112, 119, 120, 130, 142, 144, 145, 149, 151, 154, 155, 160, 184, 196 Mukkuvar, 8, 44 Mullativu, 53, 137 Multi-day boats, 31, 69, 82, 110, 196 Muslim, 7, 8, 11, 16, 18, 24, 31, 39–41, 45–47, 50, 52, 54, 62, 65, 73, 80, 82, 83, 86, 87, 89, 101, 105, 111, 112, 121, 122, 125, 144, 148, 149, 155–158, 160, 162, 170, 171, 175, 179, 181–184, 196, 198, 201, 205, 207 N National Fisheries Solidarity Organisation (NAFSO), 84 Nationalism, 7, 8, 47 Navy Nayaru, 25, 50, 53, 68, 110, 114, 115, 134, 137, 139, 143, 146, 150, 160 Negombo, 11, 26, 29, 31, 44, 64, 68, 69, 84, 85, 88, 101, 111, 112, 133, 140, 141, 148, 150, 151, 153, 159–161, 163, 184, 207 Normativity, 96 Nusantara, 61 O Oceania, 60, 61 Oceanic currents, 109 Oceanic turn, 199 Oral history, 24, 27, 53, 156, 159 Ornamental fish trade, 133, 156 Ostrom, E., 14 Othering, ethnic, 120 Outboard motors engines, xvi P Padaviya, 142 Palk Bay/Palk Straits, 12, 60 Panchayats, 71 Patronage machine, 119 patron-client relations, 180 politics, 110, 179, 180 transversal relations, 14 Pawning, 51, 68, 70 Peace and conflict resolution, 206

225 Peacebuilding, 16, 206 Percival, R., 6 Persian Gulf, 40 Pffaf-Czarnecka, J., 132 Phenomenology, 15, 18, 20, 97, 120, 123, 125, 156 Pioneers narratives, 143–147, 192, 196 Point Pedro, Jaffna, 6, 24, 25, 45, 82, 102, 155 Political struggles, 7, 176 Politics patronage machine, 119 Pollution Positionality, 26, 51, 73, 85, 107, 108, 110, 113, 120, 131, 170, 173, 191, 205 See also Reflexivity Pradeshiya sabha, 181, 183 Prawning, 31, 53, 70, 79, 134, 154–156 Precolonial, kingdoms, 7 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), 116 Provincial council, 9, 52, 63, 100, 116, 122, 181 Public consultations, 31, 171, 177 protest, 31, 84, 168 Purity ethnic, 40, 174 moral, 67 Purse-seine fishing, 118, 185, 194 Puttalam, 3, 11, 24, 29, 31, 44, 53, 64, 68, 69, 102, 105, 110, 111, 116, 123, 133, 138, 139, 141, 144, 148, 150–152, 154, 156, 157, 159–161, 163, 181, 194, 207 R Rainbow coalition, 195–197 Rajapakse, Mahinda regime, 4, 9, 116, 122 Rajarata, 7, 49, 170 Reciprocity negative, 15, 71, 191 Red Sea, 7, 198 Reflexivity, 20, 26, 193, 202 Refugee centers, 22 See also Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Relations bigamous, 41 market relations, 71, 72, 78 non-kin based, 41 Rent-seeking, 50, 122, 156

226 Rescue missions, 76 Resettlement internally displaced, 6 Resource abundance, 4, 105, 126 depletion, 55, 83, 108, 114, 117, 130 exploitation, 52, 96, 99, 100, 103, 105, 108, 117, 119, 130, 169, 186 Rights access, 64, 66, 82, 112 livelihoods, 45, 84, 146, 158, 183 Ring, L., 15, 20 Rule-breaking, 54, 83, 98, 103, 115–126, 143 See also Illegal fishing Rumour, 28, 140, 183 Rural development organisations (RDOs), 77 Rural fisheries organisations (RFO), 88, 172, 194, 196 S Sabotage, 12 Saints St. Anthony, 162 St. Francis, 144 Sampoor trincomalee district, 24, 116, 124, 197–199 Sanctions, 15, 25, 31, 79, 82, 83, 99, 109, 116, 143, 157, 170 Sanctuary, 48, 62, 137, 160 Sardinella, 69, 97, 106, 134 Sea cucumber, 31, 46, 65, 111, 133 Sea Tigers, 154 Seasonality, 4, 6, 10, 11, 24, 29, 30, 44, 46, 49, 53, 64, 65, 68–70, 74, 81, 82, 98, 106, 110, 111, 114, 124, 130–134, 137–140, 144, 145, 149, 151, 153, 154, 156–158, 163, 164, 196 Securitisation, 82, 102, 103 Sedentary life, 59, 70 Sennett, R., 14, 19, 76 Sentience, 99 Settlers Arab, 200 European, 200 Ottomon, 200 Persian, 200 Sinhala, 200 Sharemen, 173 Sharking, 67, 69, 70, 99, 134

Index Shrines Buddhist, 9, 73 Ganesh, 144 Virgin Mary, 144, 162 Singapore, 26, 160 Sinhala privilege, 26, 28 Sinhalisation, 111, 130, 140, 159, 164 Sitawaka Kingdom, 40 Sociality everyday, 3, 13, 15, 17, 19, 58–60, 62, 75, 95, 130, 131, 147, 161, 192, 194, 197 saltwater socialities, 4 Sorcery, 181 South China Sea, 7, 198 Special Economic Zones, 10, 18 Squid, 51, 70, 119 Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s (SLFP), 48, 195 Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), 89, 172, 181, 182, 184, 196 State Ordinance Act, 147 Stathern, M., 13 Surveillance, 11, 32, 55, 103, 116, 121, 127, 140, 152, 163, 165 Sustainability, 33, 114, 174–176, 205 Syncretism religious, 17, 97 T Tamil Makkal Viduthailai Pulikal (TMVP), 9, 50 See also Karuna faction Technology transfer, 49, 196 Territoriality, 4, 19, 42, 60, 62, 64, 76, 82, 102, 112, 145, 152, 164 Theatre folk, 181 Tourism, 10, 31, 47, 50, 196 Tragedy of the commons, 57 Translocalism, 5, 13, 33, 48, 49, 138, 152, 153, 159, 161, 165, 205 Trawlers Indian, 12, 102, 110, 113 Trincomalee Kinniya, 44, 65, 101, 118, 120, 124, 149, 194, 196 Kuchchaveli, 44, 120, 125, 134, 148, 149, 181, 194, 196 Muthur/Muttur, 45, 65, 101, 117, 124, 125, 149, 196

Index Nilaveli, 30, 148, 149, 156, 162, 196 Pulmoddai, 30, 52, 79, 101, 105, 110, 118, 134, 144, 149, 162, 181 Town and gravets, 24, 79, 117, 118, 125, 159, 175, 194 Verugal, 44, 117, 125, 149 Truth counter-truth, 28 Tsunami Indian Ocean/Boxing Day, 11 Tuna bigeye, 64, 70 skipjack, 70 yellow fin, 64, 70 U United National Party (UNP), 140, 159, 172, 195 United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), 89, 100, 172, 181, 182 Uppuveli trincomalee district, 22, 25, 62, 132 Urban communities, 9

227 Vernacularization honour, 14 hospitality 4, 14 Vezo people, 41, 61 See also Madagascar Vihara Maha Devi, 60 Village republics, 49 Violence representation, 41 structural, 4, 28, 41 W War veterans, 5, 6 Water bodies estuarine, 64, 65, 70 lagoon, 63, 64, 70, 115, 116, 160 Welfare support, 80 Whyte, W.F., 16 Women, 10, 24, 27, 29, 32, 40, 41, 51, 61, 62, 65, 67–71, 77, 80, 85, 105, 119, 142, 145, 146, 150, 153, 169, 176, 196, 198–200 Y Yonis, Y., 200

V Vanni, 40, 54, 102, 154, 194 Venapuwa, 31, 75, 145, 149, 150 Verdar/Veddha, 7, 30, 40

Z Ziyarams, 73, 143, 198

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