Department of South East Asian Studies (Mainland)
University of Passau
Female Identity Under Conditions of War: Tigresses and Others
The Tamil areas of Sri Lanka have during the civil war become known - sometimes notorious - for their female fighters (Penpuli). These female warriors have a reputation of being tough and self-confident. The paper endeavours to clarify two things: i) How do the female fighters perceive themselves, their role, their task in the movement and so on? Following on the work of Margaret Trawick and based on interviews with fighters, these questions will be addressed; and ii) What is the influence of these women on the rest of the female population? Are they seen as role models, as idols, as evincing behaviour fit to follow? Or are they, as seems to be the case, seen rather as women above the ordinary, like the goddess, women who can be admired, but not emulated? If the second impression is true, the question would be why this is so. It simultaneously raises the question of how much social change the movement and the war have been or are able to bring about in Sri Lankan Tamil society.
Dr. Hellmann-Rajanayagam's research foci are cultural nationalism in South Asia, especially South India and Sri Lanka, ethnic and religious minorities in South and Southeast Asia. For her doctoral thesis, she chose to study the programme of the Dravidian movement(s) in Tamilnadu; her Habilitation deals with the development of Tamil national consciousness in Sri Lanka. She published three monographs, several edited volumes and numerous articles in journals as well as book contributions and reviews on Tamil nationalism, the conflict in Sri Lanka and the Indian minorities in Southeast Asia. She just finished a project on 'Dynasties and female political leaders in Asia' and is currently working on the DFG project 'Religious dimensions of local conflicts in three Theravada countries in Southeast Asia'. Her publications include, Von Jaffna nach Kilinochchi: Wandel des politischen Bewußtseins der Tamilen in Sri Lanka (2007); "And Heroes Die: Poetry of the Tamil Liberation Movement in Northern Sri Lanka", in South Asia, new series, Vol.XXVIII, no.1 (2005); "Is there a Tamil 'Race'?" in The Concept of Race in South Asia (1995); "The Politics of the Tamil Past" in Sri Lanka: History and the Roots of the Conflict (1990); Tamil-Sprache als politisches Symbol, Beiträge zur Südasienforschung 74 (1984).