1st Edition

Inhabiting an Embattled Body The Making of Warrior Masculinities in Sri Lanka

By Jani de Silva Copyright 2023
    294 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    294 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    294 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    This book offers an anthropological account of Sri Lanka’s Eelam Wars III and IV. It is based on the life-narratives of ex-servicemen who fought on the frontlines. The volume approaches militarism as a practice of masculinity. It explores the sense of embattlement that young recruits feel, which stems from the inner war between notions of bodily deference instilled in childhood and having to conduct offensives on the battlefield. Thus though they wish to move smoothly into the assault techniques learnt in combat-training, they sometimes find their bodies are acting-out a different trajectory; engaging in acts of spectacular violence or simply running away. It traverses themes such as masculinity and Sinhala society, British martial masculinity vs the composed body in Sinhala discourse, combat-training and the battlefield. The author traces the ways in which troops tried to negotiate the thin line between valour and violence in a context in which the enemy’s suicide fighters engaged in the more extreme code of sacrificing-the-body, which derided the very manliness of soldiers who couldn’t prevail against them. She argues that the Sri Lankan experience has resonance for soldiers on battlefields everywhere, who become embattled when confronted by adversaries whose practice seems to diminish their own manliness.

    Rich in ethnographical narratives, this book will be interest scholars and researchers of war studies, gender studies, masculinity studies, peace and conflict studies, ethnic studies, political science, international relations, sociology, social anthropology, cultural studies, and South Asian studies, especially those concerned with Sri Lanka.

    List of Maps




    1. Masculinity and militarism in Sri Lanka

    2. Motifs of masculinity: The imperilled body and the composed body

    3. Victorian manliness and the composed body in Sinhala discourse

    4. Growing up: Youth uprisings, social change and ethnic conflict

    5. Combat training and the battlefield

    6. Operation Sathjaya: Confronting child soldiers

    7. Operation Jayasikurui: Female fighters on the battlefield

    8. Unceasing Waves III: Confronting spectacular violence

    9. Operation Agnikheela: Aerial bombardment as spectacle

    10. The final victory

    11. Conclusion




    Jani de Silva is an independent researcher based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She has a PhD in anthropology from the London School of Economics, UK.