In the Ruins of Truth: the work of melancholia and acts of memory

This paper seeks to problematize and render inadequate the ‘truth’ of Truth Commissions, which have proliferated globally. It does so by questioning the relationship of ‘truth’ to ‘testimony’ by offering a critical account of their relationship to ‘trauma,’ on the one hand and by questioning the location of ‘testimony’ in relation to ‘resistance,’ on the other hand. Moving away from this ‘psycologistic register,’ the paper rehearses a re-reading of Freud, which attempts to question the sharp distinction between mourning and melancholia, in his 1917 essay. Given this, a complex, psychoanalytic subject is constructed, whose psychic and social ‘work of melancholia,’ and ‘acts of memory,’ cannot be straightforwardly rendered in testimony or recollection, and is unavailable for nationalist appropriation. Empirical material is drawn from field work in Eastern Sri Lanka, on the after life multiple massacres that took place in the early 1990s, and is juxtaposed with Commissions of Inquiry into these events in the late 1990s.
: mourning, melancholia, memory, Freud, war, violence, massacres, Truth
Commissions, trauma, Sri Lanka, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim

in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 11, 1, 6-20, 2010

The new 2007 Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the early editions of which Pradeep used read in his high school school library as a child, as now been published. He is a co-author of the anchor article on Anthropology, which is a joint effort of many scholars, through out the world. His contribution that article, on the anthropology of nationalism is PDFed here.



"Afterword," in Spatialising Politics: Culture and Geography in Postcolonial Sri Lanka, Cathrine Braun and Tariq Jazeel (ed.) (Sage, 2009). Other contributors include, Nira Wickramasinghe, James Duncan, Benadikt Korf, Nihal Perera, Sharon Bell and Oivind Fuglerud.



"The Postnational, Inhabitation and the Work of Melancholia," in the special section on the Postnational Condition, in Economic and Political Weekly, (Vol XLIV, No 10, March 7, 2009). Other contributors are Satish Deshpande, Mary John, Nivedita Menon, Aditya Nigam, Akbar Zaidi, M.S.S. Pandian, and Malathi de Alwis. Read an excerpt.

"Disco-very: Anthropology, Nationalist Thought, Thamodarampillai Shanaathanan & and Uncertain Descent in the Oridinary," in Violence (School of American Research Advanced Seminar Series) Neil L. Whitehead (ed.) (SAR, Santa Fe & James Curry, Oxford: 2004). Other contributors include Begona Aretxaga, Kenneth George, Alex Hinton, Carolyn Nordstrom, Mark Seltzer and Christopher Taylor.


 "Checkpoint: Anthropology, Identity and the State," in Anthropology in the Margins of the State (School of American Research Advanced Seminar Series) Veena Das & Deborah Poole (eds.) (SAR and James Curry, Santa Fe & Oxford, 2003, OUP, Delhi 2004). Other contributors include, Talal Asad, Adam Ashforth, Lawrence Cohen, Mariane Ferme, Diane Nelson, Janet Roitman and Victoria Sanford.



"The De Kretser Case: A note on Sri Lankan Writing in English," in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 6(3), 2005. 

Abstract: How is the content of a literary canon, or tradition to be configured? What counts as a literary archive? More than 25 years after Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), it seems reasonable to assume, that central to such traditions, would be the work of those who live and work in the society that gives rise to it. In this review, such a location of Michele de Kretser’s new novel, The Hamilton Case, is offered, as a caution to metropolitan literarily critics who continue to approach Sri Lankan writing in English, as Christopher Columbus approached ‘America.’ It is argued that the novel owes much to, and can be read as echoing and elaborating the detective fiction of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who was, also, 4th Prime Minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), 1956-59.


"Pain, Politics and Epistemological Ethics of Anthropological Disciplinarity," in Embedding Ethics: Shifting Boundaries of the Anthropological Profession, Peter Pells and Lynn Maskell (eds) (Wenner-Gren International Symposium Series) (London, Berg, 2005)
.Other contributors include, Jonathan Marks, Alison Wylie, Joel Kahn, Martin Hall, Glenn Davis Stone, Craig Howe, Don Brenneis & Rosemary Joyce.


"Walking Through Violence: 'Everyday Life' and Anthropology" in Everyday Life in South Asia, Diane P. Mines & Sarah Lamb (eds.) (Indiana, 2002). Other contributors include Gloria Goodwin Raheja, Mckim Marriott, Barnard Bate, Gautham Gosh, Nita Kumar, William Mazzarrella, Kathleen Hall & Valantine Daniel.


" Place, Nation and Imagi-Nation in Cyberspace," in Public Culture 10(3), 1998.






'Violence' as an Analytical Problem: Sri Lankanist Anthropology After July '83. is in Nethra 2(4), 1998:7-47, the old journal of ICES, Colombo. This article is now available on this site; the file is 1.6 Mbs.


"On the Anticipation of Violence," in Anthropology, Development and Modernities: Exporing Discources, Counter Tendencies and Violence, (Routledge, 2000) Alberto Arce and Norman Long (eds).



"All the Lord's Men: Ethnicity and Inequality in the Space of a Riot" in Sri Lanka: Collective Identities Revisted (vol.2), Michael Roberts (ed.) (Marga, 1998).



"In the Shadow of Violence," Buddhist Fundamentalism and Minority Identity in Sri Lanka, Tessa J. Bartholomuesz and C.R. de Silva (eds.) (SUNY, 1998).