Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Mark P. Whitaker


This dissertation investigates how community rebuilding is occurring in a gravely damaged, post-conflict society. Specifically, it looks at how people in two villages in Tamil, Hindu, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, are using their ‘sense of place’ and ‘place-making practices’ or what I call here their ‘village-temple consciousness’ or village consciousness, to maintain and rebuild their communities after war to make them, once again, places in which they feel a comfortable sense of belonging. This is a comparative study because Inuvil and Naguleswaram were affected differently by the Sri Lankan civil war. That is, while Inuvil, was physically damaged and socially disrupted by the conflict, which ended in 2009, it nonetheless remained intact throughout; Naguleswaram, on the other hand, was completely raised to the ground by government forces, and its scattered inhabitants are only now being allowed to return after twenty-six years to rebuild their homes and Hindu temples.

By comparing the efforts of people in these two villages -- one where people are using an ongoing but altering sense of place to adjust to changed circumstances, and another where people, of necessity, are using their memories to reconstruct a place once lost -- this dissertation attempts to show the role Jaffna Tamil people’s own models and practices of community making play in postwar healing and reconstruction that is ongoing in this rapidly changing post-war society. This study uses the compound term ‘village-temple consciousness’ to refer to local models and practices of community-making. This term reflects a Tamil word, ūr, meaning, at once, a physical village of origin and the sacred, landscape-fixing temples that organize such places as social and physical spaces. Thus, this study found that understanding the conjoined village-temple sense of place that underlies social life and its reconstruction in Jaffna requires recognizing the conjunction of the physical and the sacred implied by this compound term.

This dissertation discusses the three key components of village/village-temple consciousness that are central to its use in village reconstruction. (1) Temple-centered practices of allegiance, rights, status and conflict, which regulate local notions of caste and gender hierarchy and, more generally, social control and power. (2) Bhakti (devotional) religious practices, including domestic rites of passage, which many residents appear to be remaking to reflect postwar concerns in ways that involve modern, capitalist and cosmopolitan influences. And (3) the village’s temple-organized landscapes, as imagined and as lived in, including as re-imagined in the wake of the war’s destruction and the post-war intrusion of cyberspace and the Tamil diaspora. In terms of the community reconstruction, this study found two larger significant findings that (1) the postwar social and communal rebuilding ongoing in these two villages depends upon people using their village-temple consciousness as models of/for such endeavors; 2) that an ethnography of the role of ‘place-making’ in community rebuilding in Jaffna, Sri Lanka will illuminate the more general issue of how communities anywhere after war use similar models and practices of community-making to reconstitute themselves -- and not just as physical locations but as places in which people can once again feel at home.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (1756870) from 02/01/2018 to 07/31/2019

Dean's Competitive Graduate Fellowship, the University of Kentucky (for Spring semester 2018)