Deborah Marianne Philip

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York, Graduate Center, City U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10236

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Philip, Deborah (New York, Graduate Center, City U. of) "Burgher Be(longings): The Politics of Home in Colonial and Post Colonial Sri Lanka"

In 1850, during the British Colonial Period in Sri Lanka, Charles Lorenz penned an article in the literary journal Young Ceylon arguing that ‘no difference of descent or manner or feeling shall prevent us from acknowledging Ceylon, the country of the Cinghalese [Sinhalese], as our country too’. By ‘us’ Lorenz was referring to the Burghers of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), a mixed-race, creole community of Portuguese, Dutch, Sinhala, Tamil and Moor descent. Home’ is a useful heuristic term through which to understand how that which is familiar, can be deeply unfamiliar and unhomely, evoking loss, abandonment and haunting (Bammer 1992; Blunt and Dowling 2006). Freud (1919) explores how ‘heimlich’ (belonging to the house, familiar) and ‘unheimlich’ (uncanny, unfamiliar, concealed) eventually coincide, making the familiar unfamiliar and strange. My project is a historical and ethnographic study of home and unhomeliness (unheimlichkeit) in colonial and postcolonial Sri Lanka. Through fifteen months of ethnographic and archival research, this study on the Burgher minority asks what practices and conceptualizations of ‘the ‘politics of home’ and ‘creolization’ reframe questions of belonging in colonial and postcolonial Sri Lanka?