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The Perks of Being Unconventional My Research Rāmāyana by Michael John Tilley 1.

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Presentation on theme: "The Perks of Being Unconventional My Research Rāmāyana by Michael John Tilley 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Perks of Being Unconventional My Research Rāmāyana by Michael John Tilley 1

2 A critical exploration of the Hindu relationship to inter-religious dialogue and conflict resolution in the context of contemporary Sri Lanka 2

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5 Insider vs. Outsider Is it better to be towards the heart, or on the periphery of one’s target population? Notoriously unsettled discourse Current trend attempting to reconcile both extremities Yet general suggestion is that to be solely an outsider is tantamount to a struggle, at least pragmatically speaking 5

6 Sri Lankan Hindus and Me Target Population: Hindu Ethnically Tamil Sri Lankan nationals Primarily Tamil-speaking, with English as lingua franca Me: Non-Hindu Irish-Welsh-English- German-French British national English speaker, extremely limited knowledge of Tamil 6

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8 The Woes of the Outsider Axiomatic absence of trust Prospective language disparity Potential conflict of values and histories 8

9 Gaining Access and Building Trust ‘Gatekeeper’ figure Relied upon internet access Inter-religious movements and a national Hindu organization 9

10 Mike’s Field Research Emergency Survival Guide Remember the wisdom of Robbie Burns – the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry! Remember the wisdom of Charles Darwin – ADAPT OR DIE! Consider going rogue... 10

11 The Schwarzenegger Approach 11

12 The Schwarzenegger Approach Visit community hubs of target population In this case, primarily temples, though also commercial and residential neighbourhoods Turn up and basically see what happens! 12

13 Vegetarianism Saved My Life! Access to certain temples prohibited if meat had been consumed within the past 24 hours Such is linked to Hindu purity laws, as meat is traditionally regarded as a polluting substance Confronted with target population’s (mis)characterization of the researcher 13

14 Blessed by Body Modification (1) Tattoos are highly uncommon in Sri Lanka As such they attract a significant portion of attention When arriving at Hindu community hubs, many individuals would approach to ask about them 14

15 Blessed by Body Modification (2) 15

16 Impugning Preconceptions Sri Lankan appeared in a multitude of ways a ‘conservative’ society Home context – tattoos and conservatism are typically contradistinct polarities Assumption therefore was that my appearance would alienate me further 16

17 Actual Experience Tattoos and body piercing exhibited an unanticipated field research utility Bypassed the ‘necessity’ of a Gatekeeper figure Somewhat of a linguistic filter 17

18 Thaipusam and the vel kavadi Tamil Hindu festival in praise of the deity Murugan Corporeal mortification though to induce Murugan’s blessing Involves devotees piercing their flesh with numerous ‘vels’, or ‘spears’ 18

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21 Conclusion The recommended approach to accessing target research populations cannot always be counted upon In such cases it is possible to risk improvisation, although this is fraught with dangers Sometimes looking weird can be to your benefit, but serendipity remains a capricious mistress 21

22 Thank you for your attention 22

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