ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The Spectre of Violence in the Memory of the Sri Lankan Diaspora in France: A Textual and Visual Analysis of Jacques Audiard’s film Dheepan (2015)


Susan Abraham Anu - Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal, Humanities and Social Sciences, Bhopal, India


30- Creative and social engagement with conflict: a perspective from the South Asian Diaspora


This paper explores the memory of violence and trauma of the Sri Lankan civil war in the diasporic consciousness of the Sri Lankan Tamil community in France through a close reading of the film text Dheepan (2015) directed by the French director, Jacques Audiard. The Sri-Lankan Civil war, fought between the Sri-Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which lasted for 26 years from 1983 to 2009, triggered a mass migration of the Sri Lankan Tamils into different parts of the world. More than one lakh Sri Lankan Tamils now live in Paris. The place called ‘little Jaffna’ in Paris is a hub of Sri Lankan Tamils that serves as the vertex of cultural reproduction and exchange between Tamils and the Parisians.

The film discusses the context of the Sri Lankan civil war and the experiences of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in France. The film destabilises the victim-perpetrator binary through the title character of Dheepan and shows how the spectre of violence makes the task of forgetting difficult. The characters in the film strive to forget the violent past and long to start their lives afresh with new familial bonds and warmth of home. But new conflicts await them in the land of exile to constantly remind them of their past experiences of violence. In this paper, I would like to explain how the intersections of the memory of violence and trauma and the everyday diasporic experiences complicate the lives of the Sri Lankan Tamils in exile.