Shibanee Sivanayagam

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York, Graduate Center, City U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10729

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Sivanayagam, Shibanee (New York, Graduate Center, City U. of) "Palmyrah Politics: Rethinking Region and the Subaltern in Northern Sri Lanka"

Palmyrah trees are part of a differentiated geography in Sri Lanka, correlating with the spatialization of ethnicity in the island; the trees exist in regions where Sri Lankan Tamils, a minoritized ethnic community, have historically been concentrated. The tree contributes to a sense of regional cohesion rooted in ethnicity and reproduces internal divisions along lines of caste and class. My project emerges from a concern that existing explanations of regional politics that focus on ethno-nationalism are incomplete and omit a history of division in the North rooted in caste and class. I argue that analysis of the political economy of the Palmyrah tree can help illuminate a more complex notion of subaltern politics in the region. Through twelve months of archival and ethnographic research, this project unpacks the differential impacts of political projects on regional unity and stratification through Palmyrah practices at various conjunctures. It considers how the movement of capital might help make sense of these changes by theorizing “the North” as a complex social formation (Hall 2021). Using the concept of “articulation”, it investigates how tensions between ethnicity, caste, and class in the politics of subaltern Palmyrah workers relate to configurations of unity and stratification.