Rebecca Dharmapalan

Unrecognized Genocide: The Case of Sri Lanka

Intergenerational Trauma, Legitimate Violence, and Selective Memory

My research will be investigating the case of Sri Lanka to explore the theory of genocide, critically analyzing scholarship surrounding mass atrocities and mass violence. It is my contention that when genocide goes unrecognized, it incites anomic conditions. Residual war trauma is externalized within the affected diaspora through intergenerational trauma, abuse, and selective memory. The goal of this article is to clarify and provide specific cases of post war trauma manifesting in Sri Lankan Tamil youth refugees living in California. By mapping the colonial history of Sri Lanka that led to the conditions of civil war, and speaking on the forced migration of civilians both internally and abroad, I will provide context for narrating my observational research with three Sri Lankan asylum seekers that attend high school in California. This investigation poses several questions: How does the definition of genocide function to scale war crimes, violence, and trauma and reproduce inequities of classification? More specifically, in what ways does its definition confirm historically identified genocides while overlooking and condemning other episodes of mass violence? How does selective memory prevail within a post-war, post-genocide diaspora? How is trauma from Sri Lanka intergenerational?