Exploring the impact of online politics on political agents and political strategies in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora
Vidanage, Harinda Ranura
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The thesis explores the role and impact of the internet on Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora political activism, focusing on both the experiences of political activists and on an analysis of web content related to diaspora activism. The central argument of the thesis is based around the relationship between political agents and cyberspace. The thesis argues that the political strategies and tactics adopted in the Tamil diasporan political sphere have changed with an increased dependence on the internet changing with it the politics and lives of individual activists. Cyberspace is presented as a site of power struggle with power as both an objective and source in micro-political struggles. The thesis also highlights the double sense of space attributed to cyberspace, both as a space facilitating political activism and as a qualitatively new space for politics. It traces the manifestation of violence in cyberspace based on its extensive reach and the collateral damage it can cause in political conflicts. Also the thesis argues that these intense web engagements for domination and resistance within the diaspora communities cause the emergence of new political priorities in Tamil diaspora politics. These do not parallel political developments in the conflict back in Sri Lanka. The thesis is based on research conducted from 2005 to 2008 during heightened rivalries between supporters of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and dissident Tamil diaspora political activists which involved the extensive use of cyberspace for political purposes. The empirical research consisted of an integrated framework of online and offline research. The offline research was based on eight months of fieldwork in London including interviews with Tamil diaspora political activists across the spectrum from pro-LTTE to anti-LTTE dissidents. The online research was based on the technique of Web Sphere Analysis, which enables a framing of web content into a coherent unit of analysis.
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