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The Sri Lankan Tamils - a comparative analysis of the experiences of the second generation in the UK and Sri Lanka

By Shanthini Rebecca Cowley-Sathiakumar


There are many studies that focus upon the lives and experiences of the children of migrants born in the settlement country, the group known as the second generation. Yet, there are few, if any that explore the experiences of the middle class Sri Lankan Tamil second generation in the UK. This study looks to remedy this by comparing the experiences of the educated middle class second generation in the UK with their contemporaries in Sri Lanka. By focusing on two complimentary research sites the study provides an insight into how the experiences of the first generation in Sri Lanka may have influenced responses and reactions to their children born and brought up in the UK. This empirical research is therefore unique in that it focuses on the Sri Lankan Tamil middle class second generation and presents a comparison of both\ud ends of the migratory journey.\ud \ud This study is a qualitative piece of research involving two periods of fieldwork in Sri Lanka and the UK. 3-months were spent in Colombo, Sri Lanka from June 2005 to September 2005\ud and in the UK, London and Leeds were the fieldwork sites, with interviewing from January 2006 to April 2006. Both in Sri Lanka and the UK, through a process of strategic sampling as a result of snowballing, the participants were educated, middle class Sri Lankan Tamils of both genders and between the ages of 14-34.\ud \ud The thesis focuses upon three main themes, pre-marital relationships and marriage, traditional practices and migration. Firstly, there has been a clear shift away from the traditional model of arranged marriage both in Sri Lanka and the UK, however there still remains the expectation to marry within caste, class, religious and most importantly ethnic boundaries. The number of individuals choosing to marry out is increasing, yet this appears to be more accepted in Sri Lanka than the UK. Both in Sri Lanka and the UK cultural traits like the coming of age ceremony are gradually declining, however the main concern in the UK amongst the second generation is that the Tamil language is disappearing. For many this has a direct link to ethnic identity and there is a worry that this will continue to erode. Directly related to this is the weakening of practical and emotional ties between the second generation in the UK and Sri Lanka. The tsunami in 2004 encouraged many young Sri Lankan Tamils to fund raise and send financial remittances to family, friends and charities in Sri Lanka. However, four years on there is increasing transnational redundancy and severing of ties with Sri Lanka evident in the responses and experiences of the second generation in the UK.\ud \u

Publisher: School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

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