Giacomo Mantovan's picture
Affiliated Fellow
Giacomo Mantovan

My research in social anthropology, which focuses on individuals and their relations with their social milieu, and in particular with state authorities, aims to grasp how certain critical times, such as civil war, exile, and illness, become moments of construction of subjectivity and memory.

I will use the IIAS fellowship to prepare my doctoral thesis for publication. My dissertation focuses on Sri Lankan Tamils who came to France in order to escape the long-running civil war in Sri Lanka (1983-2009), which ended with the military destruction of the main Tamil rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The civil war caused widespread emigration in particular towards Europe, Canada and India. This work is based on ethnographic research conducted in the Tamil community of Paris between 2008 and 2013 for my dissertation, and then prolonged in 2016 for my post-doctoral research. While most of the data for my dissertation concerns the life histories of former LTTE fighters and the study of asylum policies, my present research seeks to analyse the politics of remembering of the nationalist associations in France, and their relations with the other sites of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

The construction of subjectivity and the construction of memory, which are intrinsically related, will be the subject of my book. This project seeks to investigate the ways in which the emergence and the construction of the political subject and of individual and collective memory are influenced by the LTTE, the nationalist associations, demobilisation and exile, as well as by French immigration policies and by the social uses of violence in different contexts. Furthermore, I am currently working on how the defeat of the LTTE is shaping both the collective and individual histories. 

The book will be divided into two parts. The first focuses on life histories, in particular those of the former LTTE fighters. I will analyse why they chose to engage in a nationalist organisation, how they construct their identities, and how the farewell to arms and exile change their public life and their intimacy. The second part broadens the analysis to the public sphere of memory: that of the Tamil nationalist associations and the French authorities. As regards the first, I will examine how they remember the deaths, how they reconstruct Tamil history, and what their political project is for the future. Concerning the second, I will focus on the production and the examination of asylum requests.


  • Social Anthropology
  • violence
  • memory
  • subjectivity
  • life histories
  • former fighters
  • Tamil tigers
  • diaspora

Country of origin


Period of stay at IIAS

01/09/2016 to 30/06/2017

Research topic

Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora

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