Symbolic gestures: the development terrain of post-tsunami villages in (southern) Sri Lanka

Hollenbach, Pia and Ruwanpura, Kanchana N. (2011) Symbolic gestures: the development terrain of post-tsunami villages in (southern) Sri Lanka. Journal of Development Studies, 47, (9), 1299-1314. (doi:10.1080/00220388.2010.527950).


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This article analyses how rituals and ceremonies were deployed in the post-tsunami rehabilitation process in Sri Lanka to ‘incorporate’ development projects into the habitus and social reality of local communities. It argues that even though the aid delivery process is represented as a gift, in reality it is more concerned with strengthening the social capital of the local and foreign donors. Through this process there is an expectation and an implicit demand for acquiescence from the beneficiaries, which leaves them with a social debt. This, in turn, compels them to participate in the game of development rituals and ceremonies, in order to express their (ambivalent) gratitude and thankfulness. Through two case studies, we explore how the good intentions of donors to provide aid and alleviate suffering and the acceptance of this aid by the local communities, results in an asymmetric relationship where both become accomplices of
Bourdieuian notions of subtle and gentle violence.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1080/00220388.2010.527950
ISSNs: 0022-0388 (print)
1743-9140 (electronic)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions : Faculty of Social and Human Sciences > Geography and Environment > Economy, Society & Space
ePrint ID: 200477
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
7 September 2011Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2011 13:54
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:45

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