Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Graphic Design Seminar
Project 1 Proposal “Margins”

Having being born in an island in the Indian Ocean, I have been exposed to Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian cultures, beliefs, and ways of life. I was raised in a Muslim family and grew up amongst friends and teachers of various religious backgrounds, which has had a significant influence on my outlook on life- even more so upon living my adult life thus far in the U.S. I not only identify as an individual form the ‘orient’ and am considered ‘Asian’ or ‘exotic’ to the western world, I also identify as a woman from a Muslim heritage, bearing an Arabic name in a country that has been brainwashed by the media, politics and terrorism, therefore bringing upon a judgment from certain fractions of society as to being a plausible terrorist. I have faced this numerous times- in Embassies, in airports around the world, in academic institutions, upon my travels and so on. Therefore while reflecting on this assignment, I have found myself having a conflict of interest as to which cultural group I would like to represent. Due to the fact that Asia and the ‘orient’ are so vast and generalized an area, my Island seems too minuscule to individualize. At the same time there is such a rich culture and history that is specific to Sri Lanka; we speak our own Sanskrit language and have our own race of people, which are among the many things that define and makes us unique from the rest of the Asian world.

I intend to pursue my personal study into the depths of my heritage, as I was never taught my country’s history or language during my school days- and was taught American and British history instead. I hope to keep shedding light and awareness to Sri Lanka’s current desperate and tragic state, by using imagery of the magnificence of its ancient architecture, mythology, art work and so on- to try and represent or identify my experiences as not only being an Asian, but being a South East Asian Muslim woman, with all the stereotypes, segregation, racism and that come along with it.

Since I do not have any Sri Lankan graphic designers to look to for inspiration, I hope to continue to find and develop my own style and voice, while looking at the work of such design masters as Ikko Tanaka and Yokoo Tadanori from Japan, and Reza Abedini from Iran. I would like to integrate calligraphy from the Sinhalese language, and draw upon photographs from, through which I am able to witness the colonization of my country and the transformation into what it has become today, how its identity has been shaped and interpreted to the rest of the world.


Project 1 Final Proposal “Margins”

I have decided to develop this assignment into a deeply personal one. I constantly find myself in situations where I am regarded as the ‘other’ or the ‘outsider’; I seem to not fit in completely and comfortably in this country as well as in my own. In the US I am considered ‘eastern’ or ‘exotic’, whereas in my own country, I am considered ‘westernized’, no longer looked at as a typical Sri Lankan woman. I intend to formulate content for this magazine spread in the manner of a journal, pointing out situations and circumstances that I have experienced ever since I left Sri Lanka to pursue an education in the US. I will use imagery that will lead a western audience to immediately identify me as an eastern woman while at the same time using images that will defy the stereotyping I am often burdened with here and at home. I will integrate into my design some of the comments people have made- for example here in the US, especially in the southern states, people have said “I’m surprised you can speak English”, whereas in Sri Lanka, people take one look at me and say “She must have gone to America and got Westernized”.

It is my intention to design these spreads with the hope that it will shed some light and insight to not only the island of Sri Lanka, but also women (in this case, myself) in that part of the world (South East Asia), which is a fully patriarchal society and I have always been considered unconventional, and therefore my behavior and habits-unacceptable, while at the same time I rebel fiercely against gender stereotyping and double standards.


"The body...cannot escape being a vehicle of history, a metaphor and metonym of being-in-time".

- Wickramasinghe, Nira

In the pages of this book, political and economic meanings assigned to clothing and dress are explored in a variety of colonial contexts. The author states that major political and personal problems are often problematized in the body- dressed or undressed- and expressed through it.

In recent years, there have been extensive studies and research on the body surface as a principal site of social and political action by feminists and scholars in the field of cultural studies. Dress has been considered both a sign and commodity enmeshed in multiple webs of meaning and value. It deals with the relationship between body and society, the body and feminist theory, and body in consumer culture.

Dress and attire are not only important commentaries, but also transmit a variety of cultural meanings. It touches on social hierarchy, fashion and cultural stability to name a few examples.

In a majority of non-western cultures, both men and women show tremendous creativity in the adornment of their body by means of clothes, paints or jewelry. The body then becomes the bearer of cultural signifiers.

Dress therefore is a mode of non-verbal communication, if not a language.

This book studies the vagaries of dress during the period of nationalism in Sri Lanka, as a way of comprehending the changes the island went through as it emerged after colonialism.

A prominent Buddhist figure of the 20th century, Dharmapala, played a crucial role in the propagation of Sinhalese cutlure and identity. The "Lion Race", the Sinhalese nation was the hub of his thinking, and dress reform was crucial to his goal of restoring a Sinhalese pride in Sri Lankan culture:

"We are blindly following the white man who has come here to demoralize for his own gain. He asks us to buy his whisky, and we allow him to bamboozle us. He tells us that we should drink toddy and arrack seperately, that we should teach our children Latin and Greek and keep them in ignorance of our own beautiful literature and that we should think like the Yorkshire man and not like our own, that we should discard our own national dress which was good for our noble and spirited ancestors, and dress according to the dictates of the fashion of London and Paris"

The following images are courtesy of, a website which I had previously believed to have provided me with a wealth of information and photographs of my heritage, my ancestry- an only resource to gain an insight of what life used to be like in Sri Lanka. However, through my studies and research this semester, I have to question these images- they were undoubtedly staged by the British, Portuguese and Dutch settlers who colonized Sri Lanka. They themselves are in many of the photos seen below- and the Sinhalese, Tamil and Moorish (muslim) people can be seen in various unlikely poses for the camera, donning western attire and so on.

Where then can I trace the roots of my descent?

How can I investigate the true nature of my successors, their way of life, their clothing, their true culture before the influence of the white man?

I believe the answer lies in Sri Lanka itself. In the forgotten areas of the island where people live as they once did- I feel elated at the thought of the possibility of finding out for myself, very soon...

Government Agent with Kandian Chiefs (Kandy is the town where I was born and raised)

Rodiya Women

A British Officer

A Sinhalese Wedding?

A Tamil Woman

British Staff at their Headquarters in Colombo (capital of Sri Lanka)

A Group of Christian Priests

Government Agent with Kandian Chiefs

A Sinhalese Headman



Wickramasinghe, Nira. Dressing the Colonised Body, Politics, Clothing and Identity in Colonial Sri Lanka. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2003.

Sirisena, W.M. Sri Lanka and South East Asia, Political, Religious and Cultural Relations. Leiden:Brill, 1978.

Tambiah, S.J. Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy. Colombo: I B Tauris & Co Ltd, 1986.

Roberts, Michael. Exploring Confrontation. Sri Lanka: Politics, Culture and History.Oxford: Harwood Academic Pub, 1994.

Winslow, Deborah and Woost, Michael D.
Economy, Culture and Civil War in Sri Lanka. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 2004.

Juki Girls, Good Girls: Gender and Cultural Politics in Sri Lanka’s

Global Garment Industry. By CAITRIN LYNCH. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University

Press, 2007.

Ahooja-Patel, Krishna. 1995. Employment of Women in Sri Lanka: the Situation in Colombo. .

Baker, Victoria, J. 1998. A Sinhalese Village in Sri Lanka: Coping with Uncertainty.

Malhotra, Anju., M. Mather. 1997. Do Schooling and Work Empower Women in Developing Countries? Gender and Domestic Decisions in Sri Lanka.

Perera, Lakshmi. 1995. Women in Micro- and Small-Scale Enterprise Development in Sri Lanka.

Nobodies to Somebodies: The Rise of the Colonial Bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka. By Kumari Jayawardena. London and New York: Zed Press, 2002.

Mittra, Sangh and Kumar, Bachchan. Encyclopedia of Women in South Asia: Sri Lanka. Gyan Publishing House, 2004. p 8

Hasbullah, H, S and Barrie Morrison. Sri Lankan Society in an Era of Globalization. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2004.

The Margins Publication- my 3 spreads

Next: research from the book :


*20 new things I have learnt while conducting my research thus far:

1. I can no longer rely on photography that I had previously believed to have provided me with insight into my roots and heritage. I have to question these images which were undoubtedly staged by the British, Portuguese and Dutch settlers who colonized Sri Lanka.

2. With regards to the ethnic war going on in Sri Lanka, those who have been most deeply and traumatically affected by the conflict are women: women who have lost family members; who have been forced from their homes to live impoverished lives as displaced persons; who have found themselves as heads of households as a result of their losses. Such women are often the most marginalized amongst the many who suffer the consequences of war. It is thus all the more important to ensure that the voices and needs of women will not be ignored or forgotten during stages of the peace process, and that their needs will be addressed.

3. My research into what clothing and attire signifies- why it is such a crucial factor in making me feel marginalized both in Sri Lanka and in the US, has lead me to find that political and economic meanings have been assigned to clothing througout time. A majority of political and personal problems are often problematized in the body- dressed or undressed- and expressed through it. It is no surprise that attire then, can be a mode of non-verbal communication, if not a language.

4. Anthropologist Caitrin Lynch writes a provocative ethnography about women workers in Sri Lanka’s 200 Garment Factories Program (200 GFP), a state initiativethat brought international industry to rural villages. Working at the intersection of globalization, gender studies, and labor relations, Lynch discusses the localization of production, examining how transnational capitalist dynamics settle into local contexts. This engaging book is based on eighteen months of qualitative research performed in two garment factories. Lynch suggests that “[p]eople in nations that experienced colonization often fear that globalization, in practice, means neocolonialism” (p. 237). Anxieties about cultural preservation played out in Sinhala Buddhist discourse during the colonial period and have resurfaced since economic liberalization in 1977. Could Sri Lanka modernize without Westernization? In particular, could the government employ women to work in global industries without threatening the core of national authenticity? In 1992, President Ranasinghe Premadasa set up garment factories in rural areas. Lynch argues that this placement depended on deeply held Sri Lankan stereotypes about villages and rural women.

5. Urban and rural locations hold symbolic importance in Sri Lanka. Villages have ambiguous valances; they are seen as backward sites inhabited by superstitious, uneducated people, as well as loci of cultural and religious purity. Urban areas provide a dark foil for the village. They symbolize not only wealth and opportunity but also corruption and degenerate morality.With the 200 GFP, Premadasa strove to revitalize rebellious rural areas (providing electricity, roads, employment, and a higher standard of living). The political opposition responded to Premadasa’s 200 GFP with “the underwear critique,” summarized in the sentence, “Our innocent girls are sewing underwear for white women” (p. 92). Lynch’s analysis of this political debate highlights the centrality of gender in the preservation of tradition, whereby the strength of the nation depends on how well women follow the feminine ideal.

The underwear critique relies on stereotypes of various categories of women.The obedient, self-sacrificing “good girl” is a virgin at marriage and subservient to her parents and husband.

In contrast to the innocent good girls, foreign and Westernized women are seen as hedonistic, immoral, and promiscuous. Only slightly less stigmatized are the urban garment factory workers, or “Juki girls” (derogatorily nicknamed after a brand of Japanese sewing machine). Lynch suggests that Juki girls have become the subjects of “moral panic” (p. 113), because their public visibility and unsupervised sexuality (frequently portrayed in serialized

evening television programs) are feared to threaten valued aspects of society. The Juki stigma followed garment factories from the urban Free Trade Zone to the rural areas. Lynch insightfully describes how women workers in the 200 GFP factories use their residence in rural villages to craft a respectable identity as good (disciplined, obedient) workers, neither too modern (unlike Juki girls or Westernized women) nor too rural (unlike agricultural country bumpkins)— becoming what Lynch terms “good girls of Sri Lankan modernity.”

6. As rural garment factory workers deftly craft new identities around the good girl ideal, should we view them as being duped by tradition or empowered by industrialization? Lynch decisively pushes feminist interpretation beyond a discourse of victimization toward a sophisticated understanding of agency and resistance.

Describing women workers’ stigma-minimizing approach, Lynch argues,

“We cannot cast them as victims simply because they appear to adhere to

many norms dictated for women” (p. 149). As good girls of Sri Lankan modernity,

garment workers have jobs that pay relatively well; they have fun with coworkers,

accumulate dowries, flirt with boyfriends, and dress in fashionable styles. But

maintaining a good girl reputation also subjects working women to numerous

forms of industrial discipline and social constraint.

Women’s concern over reputations—their own, their family’s, and their nation’s—shape their behavior on and off the job. Lynch demonstrates these dynamics in a fine-grained analysis of a worker walkout, in which alarm over women’s sexuality trumped critiques of management (pp. 218–27).


Portland State University

7. My curiostiy about what organizations or groups are currently doing to empower women in Sri Lanka and get them out of their stereotypical roles (which I have always rebelled from) lead me to this site:
UniLevers is a giant international company which for years has supplied Sri Lanka with personal hygiene items, personal care, as well as food and nutrition articles- recently came up with a Dove campaign, much like the one seen in the US.

Project Saubaghya is an innovative partnership scheme that trains village women to become rural entrepreneurs to increase the living standards of their families and at the same time, creates a new sales mechanism for our products.

Empowering women in Sri Lanka
This latest initiative by Unilever Sri Lanka (USL) has changed these women’s lives in ways that are much more profound than the income they earn from selling products. It has brought them self-esteem, a sense of empowerment and a place in society.
The main objective of this programme is to empower Sri Lankan women to create micro-enterprises that provide them with a sustainable source of income through recommending and selling Unilever brands house to house in their own villages. Saubaghya entrepreneurs acts as direct –to- home ambassadors of Unilever brands.
Catalysing prosperity in Sri Lankan villages
Under the project, Unilever Sri Lanka offers a range of mass-market products to the Saubaghya women, which are relevant to rural customers. Necessary training is provided to these groups on the basics of enterprise management, which the women need to manage their enterprises. For the Saubaghya women, this translates into a much-needed, sustainable income contributing towards better living and prosperity.
For most of these families, Project Saubaghya is enabling families to live with dignity, with real freedom from want.
In addition to money, there is a marked change in the woman's status within the household, with a much greater say in decision-making. This results in better health and hygiene, education of the children, and an overall betterment in living standards.
Win-win partnership
The most powerful aspect about this model is that it creates a win-win partnership between Unilever Sri Lanka and the consumers, some of whom will depend on the organization for their livelihood, and builds a self-sustaining cycle of growth for all.
USL’s vision is to establish a minimum of 1000 entrepreneurs each year.

8. During my years in middle school and high school, I was always frustrated and annoyed at how many of my female classmates used the product "Fair & Lovely", a cream for the face and body which lightens the skin. While women in my country are spending money on this product in their attempts to look like the 'fair and beautiful' white women- even going as far as to bleach their hair and wear blue or green colored contact lenses, little do they realize how much time and money women in Western countries spend on that 'perfect, sexy tan"...I would hear people often describing me "she's really pretty, but a little dark..."

Fair and Lovely is one of Unilever Sri Lanka’s key brands offering skin lightening benefits to thousands of Sri Lankan women. In line with the essence of the the Fair and Lovely brand - ‘fairness that changes your destiny’.
"Giving wings to dreams"
Thus the Fair & Lovely Foundation was formed in 2003 with a mission to encourage women's economic empowerment through information and resources in the areas of Career, Education and Enterprise.
Now more than ever before, the Fair and Lovely brand is set on delivering on its promise of changing destinies , giving wings to the dreams of many Sri Lankan women.
The Fair and Lovely Foundation has been involved in a series of personality and entrepreneruship development programmes giving Sri Lanka women the much needed assistance to realise their dreams.

crazy!!! Take a look at some ads seen around south-east asian countries, below-

...and so many more. Are they implying that being 'fair' will make you gorgeous, make you stand out, give you confidence? Apparently so.

9. In general, when considering third world countries, most would say that they are places that are impoverished, have significantly high birthrates, are economically dependent on advanced countries, and have not evolved socially in regards to equal rights issues. Although many of these characteristics do apply to Sri Lanka, the latter has definitely evoked some discussion on the topic of gender issues in underdeveloped countries. Issues such as decision making in the household, educated women and their role in society, and attitudes towards women in employment need to be discussed. As stated earlier, most would agree that from a distant perspective Sri Lanka would seem to be socially underdeveloped in regards to equal rights. One way that this misconception is debunked is by looking at the roles of male and female in the household. There are many variables to take into consideration when looking at roles of family members and who has the balance of power; for instance, if the wife is working or not could be considered at both ends of the scale. If she is working than her husband may feel that because she is making a financial contribution she has more of a right to make important economic decisions that may effect the family. On the other hand he may feel as though her being away from the children is a detriment to their upbringing, and in turn is placing a burden upon the family leaving the wife with few domestic decisions.

10. The answers to some of these questions were the focus of a study conducted by Anju Malhotra and Mark Mather in 1992. The study showed that when the wives were working, regardless of whether or not they shared their wages or kept them, they had an increase say on financial matters. However, the domestic decisions were not nearly as great, especially if the wages earned by the wife were kept for herself (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620). When looking at the balance of power in regards to household arrangement, the study found that the wife had almost no say on financial matters when living at the husband's parents house but did have some say on domestic issues. The opposite it true for when the family resided at the wife's parents house. The wife typically had a significant say on financial and domestic matters with the latter outweighing the two (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620). As far as marital duration is concerned, it seems as though as the family grows together there is somewhat of a role reversal. The husband becomes more concerned with domestic matters and the wife takes some responsibility for the financial decisions (Malhotra et al. 1997:620). These findings led my research group to believe that the people of Sri Lanka are generally very similar to those of western societies in regards to household decisions. Many believe that the more westernized Sri Lanka becomes the more independent the thoughts and wills of women will expand, creating a country of little inequality.

11.Women in the work force today in western societies face many barriers; this is after years of trying to refine the social economic status of women. In Sri Lanka, because of its poor economy, employers may have actual complaints that may affect the profitability of their business. In general in Sri Lanka, men are usually preferred over women as employees. Some employers complain that because of the possibility of the need for time off to bear children that it may disrupt the flow of the work force. Many men could feel as though women were being treated with undeserved favoritism, which could cause conflict. Others feel that the financial burden of having to install proper facilities to accommodate women could create too much of a loss that they would not be able to overcome it. The topic of most discussions seems to revolve around the Maternity Amendment Act of 1978, which states that women workers are entitled to six weeks maternity leave with pay. It also states that they are allowed two nursing breaks of one hour each or two breaks of one half hour each when a day care center is available (Ahooja-Patel K. 1979: 219). Women cannot, under the law, be fired for any reason that stems from them being pregnant. An unfortunate fact that is slowly being eradicated is that many women are just not qualified for the jobs that are available in Sri Lanka. Because of the gender gap in education and training that has plagued Sri Lanka for years this trend will surely continue until the inequality has subsided. In many ways Sri Lanka has come very far in terms of gender equality when discussing kinship and education. However, women's economic situation has shown to be less favourable. The people of Sri Lanka acknowledge that women have a place in the work force but financially cannot accommodate them. Until the economic growth of Sri Lanka can develop further, people will continue to have the 'survival of the fittest' kind of attitude, which will continue to alienate and repress the women or Sri Lanka.

12. From Nobodies to Somebodies: The Rise of the Colonial Bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka. By Kumari Jayawardena: Previous historical research has acknowledged the importance of economic and social forces, the analysis of Sri Lankan history under British colonial rule has been characterized by inordinate attention to political history. The main themes of history writing on this era has been the conquest of the island by the British, the development of the apparatus of colonial control, the emergence of a nationalist movement and the process of constitutional reform culminating in independence in 1948. Attention paid to economic forces has been confined largely to the emergence of a plantation economy and its consequences, while social history has tended to focus on the rise of caste and ethnic rivalries and the activities of Christian missionaries and the resistance they evoked among Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, particularly in the area of education.

Jayawardena points out that there were fissures within the bourgeoisie, between the "nobodies" or new rich and the "somebodies" or the older established families. Jayawardena correctly points out that most of these "somebodies" had attained that status during previous periods of colonial rule under the Portuguese and the Dutch. More significantly, she clearly disagrees with Michael Roberts who interprets the divisions within the bourgeoisie as caste conflicts. While she acknowledges that there was a disproportionate number of the bourgeoisie (especially "nobodies") from the karava caste, she points out that many members of the dominant goyigamacaste played key entrepreneurial roles and that families from all ethnicities-- Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim-- were participant members of the new class. Jayawardena contends that colonial rule ensured that wealth and a consumerist lifestyle were no longer largely coincident with caste lines.

13. Jayawardena documents how the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie was Westernized and accepted cultural norms of the British. Some of them converted to Christianity and became critical of some indigenous practices such as polygamy and divorce by consent. They valued foreign education, European sports and Western-style houses. She explains how the dominance of the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie was reinforced by their acceptance of the dominant British culture. On the other hand, her analysis of how such a Westernized bourgeoisie gained acceptance of a people whose values and lifestyle were different and rode to political power with universal franchise implemented in 1931 despite the challenges posed by "Marxist" parties, is less convincing. Jayawardena suggests that they did this by "a switch to more egalitarian, socialist policies" and that "the 'charisma' of political leadership reinforced by wealth, landownership, status and caste survived into the years after independence" .

14. From

Compared to their South Asian neighbours, Sri Lankan women enjoy relatively high levels of literacy and representation in education and the workforce. Gender inequality, however, is still a major issue for the country.

Sewalanka's gender program was established to improve the social, economic, psychological and spiritual well-being of both women and men, particularly those from Sri Lanka's poor, socially marginalised and vulnerable communities.

In 2005 a series of training workshops were conducted for Sewalanka's southern gender focal points and field staff to create awareness about gender issues, gender sensitivity and gender auditing practices. Funding for the program was provided by Concern Worldwide. To further build on these skills, additional workshops were held in November 2006 for 42 staff members from Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Matara and Hambantota districts. Train-the-trainer-style programs involving skills training in positive thinking and gender were conducted in Colombo by Mr Saman Weerawansa, a senior lecturer from the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute. Sessions focused on gender mainstreaming, gender mobilisation and training methods, and physiological and biological approaches.

15. Searching for articles on 'gender issues' in Sri Lanka, I came across this site, much to my shock and amusement- never before was it even heard of- an online dating service for sri lankan men seeking men, women seeking women... what is particularly amusing is that the images on the site are of popular Bollywood stars....INDIAN men and women....?!?!?!? No pictures of happy and 'gorgeous' sri lankan men and women?

16. The many faces of Sri Lankan women:

Miss Sri Lanka amongst other beauty pageants- this woman has a European mother and was born and raised overseas as well.

Sri Lankan dancers

Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers, Women...

Women's cricket team...

17. Feminism in Sri Lanka. This information contributed by Anna Abeysekara.

  • There are many important women's organizations in Sri Lanka I had never knew exsisted:
    • The Women's Liberation Movement of Sri Lanka- dedicated to bringing more equal rights to the women factory workers in Sri Lanka.
    • CENWOR - Centre for Women's Research, which publishes materials concerning women's issues.
    • The Hatton Women's Committee works with plantation workers (tamil women). They have three primary objectives: a) to raise the level of awareness and provide a forum for women in the plantations, b) to motivate, educate and train plantation women with a view to emancipate them from their current subordinate status and empower thyem to play a positive and equitable role in society, and c) to provide for the organization of plantation women in order to enable and develop their confidence, self-esteem and participation in decision-making.
    • Kantha Handa (Voice of Women) is a group which works with women refugees of ethnic fighting. They publish "Women's House" in 3 languages.
    • PAWF - Pacific and Asian Women's Forum links together many different women's organizations in Asia and the Pacific.
    • The Katunayake Women's Group works to improve the conditions for women factory workers and publishes a newsletter in Sinhala.
    • The Progressive Women's Front works to improve the conditions for peasant women and publishes a journal in Sinhala.

18. In 1975, Sri Lankan immigrants were classified for the first time as belonging to a category separate from "other Asian". In that year, 432 entered the United States. The number increased to 14,448 in the 1990s due to the Sri Lankan Civil War. Sri Lankan Americans settled largely in cities.As of 2005, Los Angeles' Sri Lankan American community claims 35,000 members. Sri Lankan Americans are persons of Sri Lankan origin from Sinhala, Tamil, Moor, Malay, Veddhas, descendants of Chinese traders and descendants of colonizers such as Portuguese (born and raised in SL), Dutch Burgher (born and raised in SL) and of English (born and raised in SL) .They incorporate American values into their lives and continue to practice Sri Lankan cultural aspects as well. One issue regarding the term 'Sri Lankan American' is that many Sri Lankans identify separately as Tamil, Singhalese, Moor (Muslim) or Dutch Burgher and may continue to do so in the United States.

19. Material aspects of globalization extend to changing contents and processes of print and electronic media; diet and dress; economic, business and financial structures and processes; relationships between labor and capital; knowledge and technology. These material dimensions create new opportunities and expectations for exchange and communication. Also, the material dimensions of globalization encourage a self-supporting value system that privileges some and marginalizes others based on their access, familiarity, and facility with these material dimensions..

-Excerpt from "Sri Lankan Society in an Era of Globalization" by S.H, Hasbullah and Barrie M. Morrison (pp 7-8)

20. From "Encyclopedia of Women in South Asia: Sri Lanka by Sangh Mittra and Bachchan Kumar (p 8)

...Another element of the Western legacy (in Sri Lanka) was Christianity. The spread of Christianity, especially in coastal areas, has led to the introduction of Western and Christian values. On the other hand, though parts of the coastal areas had been in European hands since the sixteenth century, the small number of Christian missionaries and priests in Sri Lanka ensured that Westernization was confined to an elite group among the Christians until well into the nineteenth century. It was the growth of newspapers and the establishment of Western-type schools in the late nineteenth century that exposed the majority of Sri Lankans to Westernization, and the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim religious revivals of the period have to be understood in this context. The continued exposure of Sri Lanka to the Western values and concepts has stimulated the growth of cultural revivalist movements aimed at preserving indigenous traditions and values.




- Where am I from? A guessing game filled with irony and satire, created in flash. Have various photos of myself in different attire, poses, around certain environments and have an audience use a line-art map of the world to locate and click on Sri Lanka if they answer correctly.It will be interesting to find out just how many people even know where Sri Lanka is.


- I believe the best way to reach this audience through my own experience, is by creating a myspace of facebook page/profile (myspace allows for more freedom in creating the layout of the page) It will contain candid images of myself in 'western' attire, smoking cigarettes, having a drink- all those things that are considered 'westernized'. However no personally identifiable images will be shown.


- Send out a mail-out travel guide-created to be visually arresting and informative- on one side the viewer will be invited to Sri Lanka- 'The Pearl of the Indian Ocean" and contain beautiful images of the island. On the other side, I will show a carefully designed collage of "A War Without Witness", demonstrating the facts and figures of Sri Lanka's current 25 year civil war, and calling for attention and donations to the cause.



Although we tend to put people into ethnic groups based on their appearance, I personally desire to create awareness about my country and the marginalization I face being an south-east asian woman of muslim descent living in a western country.


Research by conversing with the following groups:


1.A group of female and male teens aged between 16-19 asked me "What are you?"

2. They have said "You're from India right?" and "You must be middle eastern?"

3. They mostly hear about asian countries if they watch world news, which mainly focuses on either the Middle East, India or Pakistan. Therefore very few of them have even heard of Sri Lanka or even cared to know about the war going on there- 'never heard of it'

4. Some of them thought I was from Trinidad, some kind of Hispanic country, or from Guyana.

Sri Lankans:

1. From discussions and from prior experiences, westernization has a negative connotation, mostly amongst adults. They dislike the fact that when Sri Lankan young adults go to Western countries, they start to adopt the lifestyle. They consider it as a loss of identity, culture, values etc. Attire is also of crucial importance because it is the most controversial aspect of their judgement.

2. The younger individuals- especially teenagers, are much more open and welcoming to it. They long to be able to live in the US or somewhere abroad.

They adopt styles and appearances that are popular in the media, usually western TV shows, musicians, movies, magazines and so on.

Benefactors/ Media Attention-

The idea of creating a travel guide might not reach this audience as well as I would like. I am considering the thought of a travel website- this could be emailed out to a larger number of people. The link would take them to a site or page created in flash that would look like an inviting, exotic experience in Sri Lanka and highlight all its unique features, but there would be another side to it- the one that will call attention to "A War Without Witness"..


What has been the role of the United States in the peace process?

The United States, along with the European Union, Japan—which is Sri Lanka’s largest donor—and the facilitator, Norway, formed the four cochairs to the peace process, which is mainly a donor mechanism that was initiated at the Tokyo Donor Conference in 2003. Since then the United States has been a watchdog, along with the other cochairs. Both the State Department and the U.S ambassador in Colombo have been very vocal, both on the lack of progress and the need to address human rights and humanitarian concerns. More recently, late last year, the foreign operation bill passed by Congress has activated the Leahy amendment, which inhibits most forms of military support to Sri Lanka unless Sri Lanka moves on prosecuting military personnel responsible for grave human rights abuses, and there is humanitarian access as well as access to the media in conflict areas, and Sri Lanka works toward a new human-rights monitoring mission with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. So the United States has been engaged considerably on the political front to push Sri Lanka toward a political solution.

What do you see as a solution to this conflict? What could break the deadlock?

The only way forward is through the political process. The long-standing demands of the Tamils and now increasingly all the other minorities has been constitutional reform to address their grievances and aspirations. While it’s quite clear that this year the war is going to escalate, the government has said that they will defeat the LTTE. Even if they defeat the LTTE, which is questionable as to whether they would be able to—they have claimed that in the past [too]—they still have to put forward a political solution that addresses the grievances and aspirations of the minority communities. The political process needs to go forward and at the same time the confidence of the minorities have to be won over by ensuring that human rights are protected because over the last two years, the human rights situation has deteriorated terribly.


Sri Lanka's "forgotten war": a call for global church advocacy

No weapon sign at the entrance of the social service centre of Mannar Catholic diocese in Sri Lanka. Photo: WCC/Anto Akkara

By Annegret Kapp (*)

In Sri Lanka, the conflict between the army and Tamil rebels has caught the civilian population between a rock and a hard place. Although the world turns a blind eye, Christian global advocates say churches should insist that attention be paid to victims caught in the violence.

For several years, a civil war in Sri Lanka has placed in opposition a government dominated by the Sinhalese majority population and rebels who claim to defend the rights of the Tamil minority. Defenders of human rights protest that this war is being fought at the expense of the civilian population, with displaced people detained in camps that fail to provide for their basic needs, children abducted for recruitment as soldiers, and other inhabitants of combat zones being used as human shields by the rebels.

Representatives of churches, ecumenical groupings and non-governmental organizations discussed Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict at a session of the 4th annual United Nations Advocacy Week sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), held in New York City on 16-21 November.

Rohan Edirisinha, a Sri Lankan Anglican layman, presented prospects for a negotiated political settlement. According to Edirisinha, who is a former chairperson of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the National Christian Council in Sri Lanka, the militaristic approach of the current government, focusing on a defeat of Tamil rebel forces on the battlefield, creates doubts regarding the actual chances for a settlement.

The domestic political discourse, Edirisinha said, glorifies the military and centres on the defeat of rebel forces and the reconquest of areas controlled by them. As a constitutional law expert, he argued that "a federal constitution with [safeguards for] devolution of power, and which combines shared rule with self-rule, should be the basis of a just political solution to Sri Lanka's current war".

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Bondevik, who moderated the session, affirmed the churches' responsibility in advocating for a negotiated solution. Bondevik's government brokered a ceasefire in Sri Lanka in 2002, which was completely abandoned last January after repeated violations by both parties. Currently, Bondevik is the moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.

Christians make up 9% of Sri Lanka's 19-million population. They are the only religious community which bridges the ethnic divide between the Sinhalese-speaking, predominantly Buddhist majority and the predominantly Hindu Tamils.

Church unity is of particular importance to the Christian witness for peace in Sri Lanka. A variety of denominations resulting from several missionary waves, some of them connected to former colonial powers Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain, are present in the country. If the churches fail to speak with one voice, their testimony loses its force.

Ecumenical solidarity in the region and beyond

Solidarity with the Sri Lankan people was expressed at the New York event by church representatives from all over the world.

Jochen Motte, of the United Evangelical Mission (Germany), shared his impressions from a recent visit to Jaffna. In the highly militarized area in the north, civilians are suffering because of restrictions imposed by the army, he said: "Fishermen are lucky if they get a permit to go out fishing once or twice a week, but even then they must stay within a two-kilometre range, or else they may be shot by the soldiers."

Canon Grace Kaiso, of the Uganda Joint Christian Council, advised the Sri Lankan churches to "be consistent in [their] call for a negotiated, non-military solution. For 15 years we [in Uganda] sang this same song, and finally we succeeded".

Sri Lankan government measures such as special identity cards for Tamils – which bring charges of discrimination – as well as the underlying ideology of racial supremacy evoke terrible memories for veterans of the struggle against apartheid. But as South Africa has trade relations with Sri Lanka, they see this connection as a possible opening for advocacy.

The need to report human rights violations to UN bodies and to governments, especially in the global south, was identified as a priority for church advocacy on behalf of Sri Lanka. While Western countries have lost clout with the government of Sri Lanka, criticism by countries that have gone through similar challenges could be particularly meaningful.

Among the advocacy objectives that came up during the discussions were suggestions concerning appropriate demobilization procedures for child soldiers, who currently end up in prison when captured, and a call for the UN working group on Sri Lanka to visit the country and get first-hand knowledge of the situation.

The WCC and Sri Lanka

The WCC project "Accompanying churches in situations of crisis" supports the Sri Lankan Christians in their efforts to build partnerships for peace with people of other faiths, especially Buddhist leaders, and to press for a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The WCC executive committee expressed its concern over the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka in astatement during its last session in September and urged the ecumenical community to uphold the people and churches of Sri Lanka in prayer.

Solidarity visits by an international ecumenical Living Letters delegation in 2007 and by the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in mid-October have given a concrete expression to the Council's concern.

From the blogs-



My video will be uploaded onto this site after I create a fundraising page

Compare these tanning ads with the Fair & Lovely ones...

(haha, it's okay to laugh a little...)

Check out my customized myspace profile to test this focus group:
{still working on the layout here and there, found myself with many restrictions regarding the fonts and placement}

Will present the game I am working on on monday morning, and subsequently post the link on this blog soon after it is live. If the focus group guesses my nationality correctly, they will be taken to my survey on so I am able to document my work and their performances appropriately.

Working on minimizing/editing the amount of text on this piece. Also trying long and hard to find the best song to work with my initial segment of the travel clip.

Myspace: Having received quite a few interesting comments and messages, I decided to take up the challenge and try harder to make the layout work for me.

Game for Teens: Created a whole new interactive interface, which will be presented on monday or the link for my profile on will be posted tonight (sunday 19th). I have had a few teenagers take my quiz already and I am glad I worked harder to create a more dynamic look to this game. Took a LOT of time! 

UPDATES April 21

Flash game is done! Posted successfully on
please visit my profile
or the game directly

-only issue is that the site will not accept external links (from the right country to the surveymonkey quiz. But I have already received 107 views (in 5 minutes) !!! and counting.
and have asked for comments, criticism, and provided a link for the quiz.

UPDATES April 23

Finally! After countless hours of troubleshooting, my video is up on

finding the ideal video quality was hard because most sites have such tight restrictions when it comes to file types and sizes. Did the best I could do for the moment, but will include the full quality video for the gallery installation scheduled to be held during the summer. 
also, a separate site with appropriate tags can be found here


  1. Really interesting research--I'd to see more if it woven into your projects. For example, the discussion of loaded meaning of clothing.

  2. The fair and lovely ads are really too much. Can you imagine the uproar it would cause those ads here? Interesting to contrast them with the Dove campaign that featured women of all shapes, sizes and skin color. Odd to contrast it with our own desire to tan. Is one worse than the other?

  3. "1. I can no longer rely on photography that I had previously believed to have provided me with insight into my roots and heritage. I have to question these images which were undoubtedly staged by the British, Portuguese and Dutch settlers who colonized Sri Lanka"

    I studied most of these photos myself for a while and came to the same conclusion. The photos are in contrast to that of the inhabitants of present day Sri Lanka except that of the Last King and Queen rest was staged. It seems colonial oppression of Ceylon was so high they faked the photos as well. It's hard to believe after severe resistance from the Kandyans towards colonials they would actually pose for photographs as well. Even though I disagree about the fair and lovely ads which you criticize from your westernized point of view.(Giving into the colonials I see)