This article looks at citizenship from a position of liminality – that of Sri Lankan Tamils in India. It is based on fieldwork conducted with different groups of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and repatriates in and around Keezhputhupattu camp (Tamil Nadu), in Ceylon Quarter (Pondicherry) and in Chennai. No matter what their legal status is, they all position themselves on the refugee-citizen spectrum and, by doing so, they find themselves standing in-between its two opposed poles. From there they build their political subjectivities by negotiating, appropriating and sometimes rejecting Indian citizenship and Sri Lankan refugeehood. It is through their relationship to this position of in-betweenness that, we argue, citizenship, but also refugeehood, acquire new meanings.
Anne-Sophie Bentz is Associate Professor in South Asian History at Université de Paris. She received her PhD from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. Her research focuses on nationalism and postcolonial theories, as well as refugee and diaspora politics. She is the author of Nationalism in Exile: Tibetan Refugees in India (in French, Presses Universitaires de France, 2010) and of several essays and book chapters on other refugee communities in India (Afghan, Burmese and Sri Lankan). She is currently at work on a book-length project tracing migratory patterns of South Asian refugees beyond India.