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Pinnip pinainthu kidakkum oorangattthalkalai kattudaiththal: Reimagining social activism with intersectional subaltern activist consciousness

People have been marginalised and oppressed due to their beliefs, identities, and expressions based on race, ethnicity, sex, gender, language, religion, class, caste, disability, neurodiversity, and sexuality for centuries. In Sri Lanka, these are deeply rooted and intertwined with historical violence, colonisation, and generational pain and suffering. Every instance of marginalisation and oppression, especially in the North and the East of this war-torn ‘teardrop island’ in the Indian Ocean, is a product of multiple crimes against humanity at various levels. Alongside marginalisations and oppressions exist the powerful instances, journeys, and stories of resistance, social organising, celebrations, and social movement building based on a profound sense of solidarity. Over the years, they have produced many seedlings of manifestations that keep these powerful instances alive and continually evolving. This doctoral thesis is one such seedling. Driven by the desire to theorise with subaltern activist journeys, this thesis explores the textures and contours of social activism organised by young trans, intersex and women activists from the margins who seek social justice in post-war Northern Sri Lanka. It searches for voices and experiences pushed to the margins by hegemonic and destructive powers and structures of society. By treating them as credible knowers, the thesis co-weaves a metaphorical mat of activist consciousness to argue i) particular experiences of subalternity emerge in post-war justice movements, ii) activist consciousnesses are shaped by everyday struggles that are constantly changing and evolving as activists navigate precarious living due to multiple and intersecting forms of marginalisation, iii) activists engage in reactive and proactive processes to manifest purposes beyond their differences and challenge forms of marginalisation, address the legacies of differences, and work towards justice and changes, iv) collaborative consciousness promotes collective growth, v) activists produce imaginaries of justice beyond binary thinking and understanding of their social worlds, and vi) critiquing practices aimed at critical reflections on the self as well collectives deepen understanding of the subalternity of social transformations. Conceptual frameworks from particular subaltern locations and histories substantiate these claims. The thesis concludes with suggestions for future researchers to further generate knowledge in collaboration with collective social processes.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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