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BBC Sinhalese, Tamil, and English for Sri Lanka

Sharika Thiranagama shows how the BBC, apart from being a global dispassionate observer is imbricated in Sri Lanka’s fractured ethnic landscape. Archival research and hands-on fieldwork with BBC Tamil and BBC Sinhala journalists qualify how the two services became both ethicised but also ethicising love objects. In Raymond Williams’ terms, the two audiences, and their respective exchanges of confidence between journalists and audiences, are analysed as constituting separate ‘knowable communities’. Through looking at the ways in which BBC journalists imagine Sri Lanka and how Sri Lanka’s ethnically segmented audiences imagine the BBC, she explores how the BBC World Service both mediates, but is also structured, by local cultural and ethnic identities.

Project contact: 

Sharika Thiranagama: New School Social Science Research, NY

    Project members: 

  • Sharika Thiranagama is an assistant professor at the Eugene Language College. Her doctoral and postdoctoral work has focused on various aspects of the Sri Lankan civil war. Primarily, she has conducted research with two different ethnic groups, Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims, and the effects of protracted civil war on ideas of home, kinship and self. She has also conducted other research on the history of railways in Sri Lanka, on the political culture of treason amongst Sri Lankan Tamils, the BBC World service in South Asia etc. Her new research will focus more broadly on the South Asian region and the south Indian state of Kerala in particular. She is currently working on a book project entitled In my Mother’s House: the Intimacy of War in Sri Lanka which will be forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press. For more information see Sharika’s website.

    Gerd Baumann, University of Amsterdam, has authored two long-term ethnographies: National Integration and Local Integrity in the Sudan (Oxford UP 1986) and Contesting Culture: Discourses of Identity in Multi-Ethnic London (Cambridge UP 1996). His ten other authored or (co-)edited theoretical volumes include: Civil Enculturation at Schools in Four European Countries (with W. Schiffauer et al.; Berghahn 2004; also in German); The Multicultural Riddle: Re-Thinking National, Ethnic and Religious Identities (Routledge 1999; also in five translations since) and Grammars of Identity / Alterity: A Structural Approach (with Andre Gingrich, Berghahn 2004; also in Spanish 2010). He has worked on the AHRC / OU research project on the BBC World Service since 2006, contributing to and co-editing four Special Issues of the Journals listed in the Project Bibliography.