9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN25 Social Movements

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Transnational Activism (II) Building I, 1E3

The political mobilisations of Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora as a transnational social movement

Transnational social movements have become a prominent theme of the research on social movements. I propose to examine transnational movements through the case of the pro-LTTE political mobilisations of Sri Lankan Tamils in Europe and in Canada. The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) are engaged in an armed conflict against the official army in Sri Lanka. This war has provoked a huge exile of Sri Lankan Tamilians who have applied for asylum in several countries (India, Canada, United-States of America, European and Southeast Asian countries). The LTTE have managed to gain a certain support within this Tamil Diaspora all over the world. Consequently a pro LTTE movement has developed in a transnational way. Its leaders and members seem to act coherently at international level, and they attempt to get visibility to the authorities of the European Union or to international organizations such as the United Nations through demonstrations or lobbying actions. But at the same time, some of their political activities (petitions, hunger strikes) are more specifically directed to the governments of their host countries (even if mostly in a coordinate manner). Moreover these activists stage different kind of activities (school tutoring, dance or music course, sports) and lots of events (dance or music festival, political meetings, demonstrations) in order to socialize Sri Lankan Tamil immigrants to their cause. So they have to interact with the municipal level and are deeply constrained by the local level of this type of action. Studying this case will allow us to better understand what is actually transnational in their actions (a point sometimes neglected in the current literature in my view), and how this transnational level is supported by a hierarchical organization and also by the diasporic family network. With this communication, I would also like to defend the idea that this kind of political mobilisations of migrants present real transnational features and, as such, deserves more attention from scholars. My analysis is based on interviews, direct observations and Tamil documents gathered during a three years fieldwork in the Parisian region, France, and a short fieldwork in Toronto, Canada.