Pathways of dominance: ‘Pathways of Dissent’ edited by R.Cheran

On 19 May 2009, with the violent deaths of the top rung of the LTTE leadership, including that of its leader V Prabhakaran, Sri Lanka's 30-year-old civil war came to an abrupt end. While the conclusion was a traumatic event for many in the country – not necessarily because of the destruction of the LTTE, but because of the huge loss of life and immense suffering of roughly 300,000 people, as well as the sheer scale of the breakdown of social cohesion – it also ushered in an era of possibilities, particularly in rethinking the pathways of nationalism. With these ideas in mind, this reviewer began to read Pathways of Dissent, edited by the sociologist R Cheran.

What would one expect from a volume on Tamil nationalism at this critical juncture? Having written and worked on this subject for many years, wading through the volume proved to be frustrating. The work provides no direction to any one of the burning questions that are currently posed for the academic or the activist situated at the cusp of the post-war political scenario. This is distressing, as so many are today seeking answers to questions that became so pressing in the context of the disastrous conclusion to the war. At that time, the Tamil diaspora, again paying scant attention to the lives of these people, turned out in their hundreds of thousands in the capitals of Europe and Canada to demand the release of Prabhakaran. What had gone so wrong with Tamil nationalism that it had became consonant with the actions and imperatives of LTTE and Prabhakaran? Unfortunately, although the essays of this volume were written fairly recently, they do not touch upon the destructive path that Tamil nationalism has long been taking, particularly in the new millennium.

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Himal Southasian