Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in and around a so-called War Hero Village (Ranavirugama) in northwestern Sri Lanka, this article traces the social (un)becomings of Sri Lankan Army veterans injured during the civil war with the Tamil liberation front. It argues that such veterans have long been able to draw on a materially rewarding narrative of sacrifice and carnal capital—epitomized in the honorific ranaviru (war hero)—in order to produce a particular kind of veteran citizenship, let alone subjectivity, and thus to pursue socially meaningful post-injury existences. In the eyes of the veterans themselves, however, this celebratory narrative is eroding and a “collective narrative” characterized by a kind of social forgetting of the injured veteran is emerging. Material benefits notwithstanding, this narrative contestation entails a “struggle for recognition” that threatens to leave them not only disabled but also with no one to be, or become.
Recognition and Citizenship among Disabled Veterans of the Sri Lankan Army
Matti Weisdorf and Birgitte Refslund Sørensen
War Veterans and the Construction of Citizenship Categories
Nikkie Wiegink, Ralph Sprenkels, and Birgitte Refslund Sørensen
War veterans oft en constitute a specific category of citizens as they inspire and bring forward particular claims on recognition and resources of the state. The authors featured in this special section each explore processes of the construction of categories of war veterans in different contemporary contexts. Drawing on ethnographic data, the contributions explore the interactions between (those identified) as war veterans and the state, and the processes concerned with granting value to participation in war. This involves (the denial of) rights and privileges as well as a process of identity construction. Th e construction of war veterans as a specific kind of citizens is a political phenomenon, subject to negotiation and contestation, involving both the external categorizations of war veterans as well as the self-making and identity politics from former fighters “from below.”