Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationIllinois, Chicago, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10417
Approve DateOctober 11, 2022
Project TitleEllawala, Themal (Illinois, Chicago, U. of) "When Ephemera Bind: On Negative & Positive Space and Queer Relationality in Sri Lanka"
This project interrogates the logics of modernity that underlie the anthropology of relationality, namely that relations are forged only through privileged modes – speech, presence, action, and certitude (or positive space). I seek a more expansive understanding of relations by exploring how categories of positive space interact with their supposed antitheses – silence, absence, inaction, and indeterminacy (collectively termed “negative space”) – in un/making relations. Focusing on queer subjects in Sri Lanka, I explore how the dialectical interplay between negative and positive space constitutes social and structural relations these individuals are entangled in. Using a combination of interviews, journaling exercises, photography, and participant observation I co-create a theory of relationality with my interlocutors. This project offers a methodological intervention by studying the ephemeral categories of positive and negative space through ethnography. I propose using speculative methods of inquiry and analysis, attention to negative and positive space in both form and content of ethnographic “data,” and attending to the sensory and affective dimensions of relational experience to generate a more capacious repertoire of research methods, and a more subtle and supple understanding of what it means to be human in relation