Enemy Lines

Enemy Lines: Warfare, Childhood, and Play in Batticaloa

Margaret Trawick
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pn54w
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  • Book Info
    Enemy Lines
    Book Description:

    Enemy Linescaptures the extraordinary story of boys and girls coming of age during a civil war. Margaret Trawick lived and worked in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka, where thousands of youths have been recruited into the Sri Lankan armed resistance movement known as the Tamil Tigers. This compelling account of her experiences is a powerful exploration of how children respond to the presence of war and how adults have responded to the presence of children in this conflict. Her beautifully written account, which includes voices of the teenagers and young adults who have joined the Tamil Tigers, brings alive a region where childhood, warfare, and play have become commingled in a world of continuous uncertainty.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93887-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Tamil Transliterations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    This book is based on field notes and interviews I did in the Batticaloa District of Sri Lanka from November 1997 through June 1998, plus material from briefer visits in 1996 and 2002. Most of the interviews and notes were recorded in the Paduvankarai area, just across a narrow lagoon from the town of Batticaloa. The narrow coastal peninsulas on which the town of Batticaloa and other main towns of the district are situated were and are held by the Sri Lankan army. Batticaloa District, which contains Batticaloa city and Paduvankarai, is a Tamil-majority area within Sri Lanka.Paduvānkaraiin...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Past
    (pp. 14-55)

    It is not the aim of this book to explain or make sense of the war in Sri Lanka.¹ Many millions of words have been written on this topic by people more knowledgeable than I. For me, this war is a context in which certain aspects of being human are illuminated in unique combinations of lights. Sri Lanka has been called a laboratory for the study of ethnic conflict, but it is not that for me. In a laboratory, conditions are controlled. In Sri Lanka, they are not. The violence in Sri Lanka, at the magnitude and intensity it has...

  7. CHAPTER 3 March 1996
    (pp. 56-89)

    Sister Maria has given me careful instructions for entering the Tiger-controlled area in the hinterlands.¹ Hearing me tell of my desire to meet with Tiger combatants, she has advised me to take great care. She will send a message that I am coming. I should take the bus from the town to a village some miles away and disembark there. Then I should rise before dawn and cycle across the bridge before the soldiers are up and about. She sends a note with me to Sister Ann, telling her to let me stay at the orphanage overnight and the following...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Vasanta and Rosa
    (pp. 90-99)

    November 1997. I am staying with Vasanta in her house in the village of Mahiladithivu. Vasanta is a Christian; the walls of her house are decorated with pictures of children and babies and passages from the Bible in Tamil. One of them reads:Itu enraikkum nān tankum iḍam, itu nān virumbinapaḍiyāl ingē vacampaṇṇuvēn(In this place I shall always dwell. In accordance with my liking, I shall make it my home).

    Vasanta has mentioned to me several times the massacre on a prawn farm in Mahiladithivu, where her brother was among the laborers killed by the STF. I have asked...

  9. CHAPTER 5 About Vithusa
    (pp. 100-128)

    November 1997. I first met Alagar in March 1996, when I visited here for a week. He was a boy of this village who now holds a local leadership position in the LTTE. Civilian villagers had told me that Alagar was the cross-cousin of Valli, a young civilian woman. The implication was that Alagar might marry Valli. It would be a good match: both were personable, educated, skilled, and of good families. This match would have been maintained as a probability all of their lives, until Alagar joined the LTTE. Even then, it was still possible: LTTE men often married...

  10. CHAPTER 6 What Menan Showed Me
    (pp. 129-146)

    No one born in the Paduvankarai area after around 1980 could clearly remember a time without war. A generation was coming of age who could only imagine what peace might be like.

    The year 1987 was a crisis point for people here, the time of the prawn project massacre. In 1991 the Kokkadichcholai massacre again brought the war home to the people in the Paduvankarai area in the most horrible way. Between such major disasters, intermittent aerial attacks, shelling, ground attacks, disappearances, and abductions kept civilians in a state of constant uncertainty. What was always surprising to me was the...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Girls in the LTTE
    (pp. 147-184)

    Young people have served in military organizations for as long as there have been military organizations. Typically, those who were not fully grown were not regular combatants but served in other capacities. During the United States Revolutionary War, the U.S. Civil War, the First World War, and the Second World War, however, beardless boys found themselves at the combat front, in part because the armies they served had run out of grown-up fighters.

    Today the global proliferation of small arms has made it possible for small-bodied people (including women and children) to participate as effective front-line ground combatants on a...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Boys in the LTTE
    (pp. 185-209)

    The boys in the LTTE whom I got to know were actually grown men in their twenties or early thirties, some of whom had been in the movement for ten years or more. Some were just waiting for the time when they could leave the movement, settle down, have families, and lead a regular civilian life. Meanwhile, however, they had to play the role of boys whose only desire was to fight for the freedom of Eelam. I am not saying they were cynical: as far as I could ascertain without reading their minds, their dedication was sincere. But they...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Spectacles and Mysteries
    (pp. 210-269)

    Military analysts do not like to speak of emotion and imagination as significant components of warfare. For them it is all strategy and tactics, numbers and probabilities, an intellectual game. But it is a truism that once you get on the battlefield, the ordinary world of logic, meaning, order, and reasonable expectation dissolves, and you find yourself in another kind of game. Reports from the battlefield stress the surreality of it, the dreamlike, nightmarelike, sudden, unheard-of, unexpected, officially denied juxtapositions of beauty and horror, cruelty and devotion. I have never been in battle, but representations of it, from theIliad...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Look for What You Do Not See
    (pp. 270-280)

    Social scientists sometimes talk about power as though it were all that existed or as though nothing else were important. And yet one may argue that the concept of power itself, as a social reality, has not been sufficiently problematized. Max Weber’s definition of power as the ability to get another to do your will is simple and clear, but it conduces to the idea of power as a substance or quality that inheres in some individuals or is projected onto them by others through mysterious mechanisms. Foucault’s idea of power as one-way knowledge (I see all of you, but...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 281-292)
  16. References
    (pp. 293-298)
  17. General Index
    (pp. 299-304)
  18. Index of People
    (pp. 305-306)
  19. Index of Places
    (pp. 307-307)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 308-308)