Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 May 2014
This article analyses Sri Lanka's April 2010 parliamentary elections as they played out in the Muslim community on the east coast. The political work of elections, as the article shows, involves a lot more than the composition of government. Antagonism over group identities and boundaries are at centre stage. Elections force people to show their colours, which causes turbulence as they grapple with several, possibly contradictory, loyalties. The article argues that elections bring together different political storylines, rather than one master antagonism. It is the interaction between different narratives that paradoxically provides elections both with a sense of gravity and dignity, and with the lingering threat of rupture and disturbance.
For valuable help during the field research, the author would like to thank Shahul Hasbullah, Jasmy, and Mubarak. Mr Ajiwadeen's archival research is also gratefully acknowledged. Many thanks are also due to Mukulika Banerjee, Ward Berenschot, Sarah Byrne, Georg Frerks, Timmo Gaasbeek, Urs Geiser, Benedikt Korf, Jonathan Spencer, and two anonymous reviewers who provided constructive feedback on earlier drafts of this article. For help with the drafting of the map, I am indebted to Marc Vis.
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10 Spencer, Anthropology, Politics and the State, p. 3.
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18 Population statistics are based on the author's calculations, using 2007 census data taken from: Department of Census and Statistics (2007) ‘Basic Population Information on Trincomalee District—2007, Preliminary Report Based on Special Enumeration—2007’ [ISBN 978-955-577-616-5].
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25 Data taken from: Department of Census and Statistics (2007) ‘Basic Population Information on Trincomalee District—2007’.
27 Gaasbeek, ‘Bridging Troubled Waters?’, pp. 107–109.
28 For discussion, see Spencer, Anthropology, Politics and the State, pp. 79–84.
29 The United People's Freedom Alliance was a compilation of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and junior partners. People simply called them ‘government’, however, and to prevent confusion, so will I.
30 Haniffa, ‘Piety as Politics’; Hasbullah and Korf, ‘Muslim Geographies’; Klem, ‘Islam, Politics and Violence’; McGilvray, ‘Sri Lankan Muslims’.
31 Banerjee, ‘Democracy, Sacred, and Everyday’; Bertrand, Briquet and Pels, Cultures of Voting; Spencer, Anthropology, Politics and the State.
32 Spencer, Anthropology, Politics and the State.
33 Bastian, ‘Electoral Systems’; Uyangoda, ‘Ethnic Conﬂict’; Venugopal, ‘Cosmopolitan Capitalism’; Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka in the Modern Age.
34 Berenschot, Riot Politics; Spodek, ‘In the Hindutva Laboratory’.
35 Doron, ‘Caste Away?’; Roy, ‘Caste and Power’.