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Crucible of Conflict


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
List of Tables xiii
Acknowledgments xv
Note on Transliteration xvii
Part 1. Framing Fieldwork in the Batticaloa Region
Introduction 3
Chapter 1. The Research Setting 21
Part 2. Problems of History and Anthropology
Chapter 2. Past and Present 55
Chapter 3. Issues in Comparative Ethnography 97
Part 3. Tamil and Muslim Social Structure
Chapter 4. Views of the Tamil Caste Hierarchy 151
Chapter 5. The Tamil High Caste Alliance 167
Chapter 6.The Kudi in Action 189
Chapter 7. A Profile of the Tamil Specialist Castes 210
Chapter 8. The Moors: Matrilineal Muslims 266
Chapter 9. Muslim Elites and Specialists 292
Part 4. Ethnicity, Conflict, and the War in the East
Chapter 10. Ethnic Identities and Communal Violence 313
Epilogue: Fieldnotes from the War Zone 331
Appendix 1. Tamil Kinship Terms in Akkaraipattu 365
Appendix 2. Moorish Kinship Terms in Akkaraipattu 367
Notes 369
Glossary 389
Bibliography 395
Index 417

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Ethnography of a region in Sri Lanka known for its ethnic and religious diversity - a pivotal area in the ongoing guerrilla war

About the Author

Dennis B. McGilvray is Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the author of Symbolic Heat: Gender, Health, and Worship among the Tamils of South India and Sri Lanka.


"Recognized as a leading anthropologist of Sri Lanka, Dennis B. McGilvray has been studying the Tamil-speaking Hindus and Muslims of the country's eastern region for some thirty years. McGilvray argues that it is in the eastern region that the future of the insurgency is being decided, and therefore the future of Sri Lanka itself. His book has great potential to deepen understanding of the crisis, and to show the strategic importance of this neglected region. It is a very rich work." Thomas R. Trautmann, author of Languages and Nations: The Dravidian Proof in Colonial Madras "Crucible of Conflict is clearly one of the most important books on Sri Lanka to be published in decades. Dennis B. McGilvray has written a rich, thorough, historically grounded ethnography of a fascinating but understudied region, and he has articulated it with the most contemporary regional, national, and world developments. He moves smoothly and never superficially from ancient history to his decades of ethnographic work to world Islam to the recent tsunami. This is work of lasting value, a book that will be cited and cited for years to come." Deborah Winslow, co-editor of Economy, Culture, and Civil War in Sri Lanka "Dennis B. McGilvray has long been engaged in ethnographic and historical research among Muslims and Hindus in Sri Lanka's matrilineal belt in the East Coast, the current scene of intense ethnic conflict and warfare. This much-awaited book will be indispensable for understanding the complexities of the nation's ethnic conflict and a 'must read' for those working in South Asia, on ethnic conflict and resolution, on the vicissitudes of matrilineal descent and the complexities of historical and social change in this region."--Gananath Obeyesekere, Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, Princeton University

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