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Expecting the sea : displacement and the environment on Sri Lanka's east coast Lehman, Jessica 2010

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EXPECTING THE SEA: DISPLACEMENT AND THE ENVIRONMENT ON SRI LANKA’S EAST COAST   by  JESSICA LEHMAN  B.Sc., The Pennsylvania State University, 2008     A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  MASTER OF ARTS   in   THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES   (Geography)       THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA  (Vancouver)      September 2010     © Jessica Lehman, 2010  
 ii
 Abstract
  In
this
thesis,
I
explore
the
relationship
between
displacement
and
the
environment
on
Sri
Lanka’s
East
coast.
In
particular,
I
analyze
the
intersections
between
armed
conflict,
the
2004
tsunami,
and
climate
change,
and
the
ways
they
are
enlisted
to
pose
threats
to
impoverished
people
living
on
the
coast.
My
tactic
is
following
the
ocean
as
an
actor,
employing
a
relational
ontology.
I
bring
posthumanist
literature
into
conversation
with
social
theory
of
the
sea,
as
well
as
current
literature
on
the
scientific
and
social
impacts
of
climate
change.
I
also
work
with
an
understanding
of
uncertainty,
partiality,
and
ethical
complications
at
the
foreground
of
my
analysis.
The
empirics
for
my
study
are
based
on
six
weeks
fieldwork
in
Batticaloa,
Sri
Lanka.
In
the
first
chapter,
I
provide
background
on
Sri
Lanka’s
unique
situation,
introduce
the
concept
of
“framing”
with
regards
to
environment
and
displacement
debates
as
well
as
conflict,
disaster,
and
climate
change,
and
explain
my
theoretical
inspirations.
In
the
second
chapter,
I
set
the
conditions
for
closely
following
the
ocean,
exploring
the
cultural
and
biological
role
of
the
sea
and
its
specific
meanings
in
Sri
Lanka
and
during
my
research.
The
third
chapter
explores
the
implications
of
centering
the
ocean
in
a
relational
approach
on
Sri
Lanka’s
coast.
I
argue
that
the
co‐constitution
of
climate
change
and
the
2004
tsunami
becomes
apparent
when
taking
a
relational
perspective.
Finally,
I
conclude
my
analysis
in
the
fourth
chapter,
by
revisiting
concepts
of
vulnerability
that
I
discussed
in
the
first
chapter
with
an
approach
that
centers
and
values
relationships
between
humans
and
nonhuman
others.
In
this
way,
I
posit
an
alternative
framing
that
considers
factors
deemed
‘the
environment’
as
active
participants
in
performances
of
displacement
and
resistance.

  
 iii
 Table of contents Abstract....................................................................................................................................................ii
 Table
of
contents................................................................................................................................. iii
 List
of
figures.........................................................................................................................................iv
 Acknowledgements.............................................................................................................................. v
 Chapter
1:
Introducing
the
frames,
following
the
actors ........................................................1
 Framing
Sri
Lanka:
Conflict,
disaster,
and
coastal
populations...................................................... 4
Sri
Lanka’s
armed
conflict ...........................................................................................................................................4
Tsunami:
Waves
of
destruction
and
rebuilding.................................................................................................5
Facing
a
changing
climate............................................................................................................................................7
Vulnerability......................................................................................................................................................................9
 Encountering
uncertainty
in
the
field:
Batticaloa .............................................................................11
 Theoretical
influences
and
oceanic
confluences ...............................................................................20
Breaking
with
the
frame
of
environmental
displacement ......................................................................... 22
Vulnerability
as
a
negative
condition .................................................................................................................. 28
Reframing
the
debate ................................................................................................................................................. 32
Relationality
and
relational
ontology.................................................................................................................. 34
Agency
beyond
the
human....................................................................................................................................... 38
Following
the
ocean .................................................................................................................................................... 40
 Structured
narratives..................................................................................................................................41
 Chapter
2:
Embodying
the
ocean
as
an
actor
in
Eastern
Sri
Lanka................................... 42
 Theorizing
the
ocean:
Difficulties
and
potentials..............................................................................42
 Making
meaning
of/with
the
sea.............................................................................................................47
 Engaging
the
ocean
in
Sri
Lanka ..............................................................................................................51
A
volatile
ocean:
The
impact
of
the
2004
tsunami......................................................................................... 59
 Conclusion.......................................................................................................................................................63
 Chapter
3:
(Re)configuring
Sri
Lanka’s
coastal
networks: .................................................. 65
 Connecting
the
2004
tsunami,
climate
change,
and
human
displacement .................... 65
 Changes
in
the
ocean:
Social/natural
junctures
and
the
ocean
at
work ....................................68
 Alternatives
to
fishing
and
future
expectations.................................................................................75
 The
tsunami
and
the
co­production
of
climate
change ...................................................................77
Climactic
observations
and
predictions ............................................................................................................. 78
Relating
climate
change
and
the
tsunami.......................................................................................................... 80
The
tsunami,
climate
change,
and
the
dangers
of
aid................................................................................... 85
Coastal
management
and
the
buffer
zone ......................................................................................................... 86
Climate
change
and
the
displacement
of
the
East.......................................................................................... 91
 Conclusion.......................................................................................................................................................95
 Chapter
4:
Conclusion:
Formative
relationships
and
valuing
vulnerability.................. 97
 Living
on
after
the
tsunami .......................................................................................................................97
 The
impact
of
disaster,
surprise,
and
uncertainty
on
the
human­environment
relationship .......................................................................................................................................................................... 100
A
relational
approach
to
vulnerability..............................................................................................................100
 Concluding
remarks:
Researching
relationships ........................................................................... 105
 Works
cited........................................................................................................................................111
 Appendix
1:
Research
ethics
approval
certificate ................................................................124
 
 iv
 
 List of figures  Figure 1: Map of Batticaloa………………………………... ……………………………………15 Figure 2: Batticaloa lagoon, 2006………………………….. ……………………………………53 Figure 3: Outrigger canoe, near Batticaloa………………… ……………………………..……..55 Figure 4: Multi-day boat, Valaichennai……………………. ……………………………………55 Figure 5: Tsunami ruins, Navalady………………………… ……………………………………56 Figure 6: Fisherman fixing net, near Batticaloa……………. ……………………………………57 Figure 7: Concept map created by fisherfolk,Valaichennai... ……………………………………69 Figure 8: Passikudah beach………………………………… ……………………………………73 Figure 9: Mangrove seedlings, Batticaloa…………………. ……………………………………92 Figure 10: Mangrove plantation, Bentota………………….. ……………………………………93 Figure 11: Processing mangrove fruit, Bentota……………. ……………………………………94 
 v
 Acknowledgements  To be truly faithful to a relational ontology, which maintains that anything is created through its relations with others, I must list virtually infinite debts of gratitude, and indeed I constantly sense the presences of these thousands of influences. However, there are a number of specific, acknowledgements that I am honored to make in the space provided here. I am foremost indebted to the Sri Lankan participants in my project, for granting me their time and insight, and showing me many kindnesses in Sri Lanka. I am extremely grateful to Dr. Jennifer Hyndman for financially supporting my fieldwork through a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, as well as for her guidance during the early stages of my fieldwork and perceptive comments as a reader of my thesis. I also thank my advisers, Drs. Philippe Le Billon and Juanita Sundberg, for their tremendously helpful support and feedback on my thesis and throughout my graduate studies. I offer special thanks to Sorna, Amara, Christine, Joseph, Siva, Suren, Shangar, Earl, Fernanda, Parnu, Nadan, Martha, Vivian, and particularly Dr. Malathi de Alwis for their invaluable support and generosity during my fieldwork. I also appreciate the inspiration, feedback, and encouragement provided by the faculty and other graduate students in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia. I offer additional thanks to my family and friends who gave me their unending support from afar. Finally, I write with unspeakable gratitude to Kathleen Dietrich, for everything.  
 1
  Chapter 1: Introducing the frames, following the actors  It is my last day of fieldwork in Batticaloa. The heat, which seems almost audibly loud in its intensity, can barely manage to suppress the frenetic energy of tying up loose ends and saying goodbye to the participants in my six-week study. Yet, I find time for a last motorbike ride with one of my key local guides, who has become a good friend. We buzz down the coastal road, past houses and small kiosks, until the landscape gradually shifts to one of ruined buildings, fishing shacks, and bright, sturdy two-story houses bearing the placards of various charitable organizations. We are now in Navalady, with the lagoon on one side and the open ocean on the other, a zone battered by two decades of civil war and then all but obliterated by the 2004 tsunami. We stop at one of the newly-constructed homes and my friend introduces me to two Tamil women, one older and one younger, sitting on the clean tile floor to escape the heat. After explaining my research, with the help of my friend’s interpretation we strike up a conversation about how they make a living and their experiences of the tsunami. Many people have left the area, but this family remains, in a house constructed for them by Caritas, an international Catholic aid organization, which runs a local project called Eastern Human Economic Development (EHED). The women lost three family members in the disaster and relate the experience in some detail. But it is not only the tsunami that troubles them. The older woman’s son, who later appears from behind the house, is a fisherman. The women and the son report changes in the climate that make the ocean currents unpredictable. The man also claims that fishing is not very productive due to overfishing techniques used by large-scale operations. Additionally, the armed conflict has taken its toll, and the army restricts fishing. Even though a military victory was attained two months prior, they tell me that they don’t believe the war is 
 2
 truly over. If it were, they say, the Tamil people would have gained something. Despite the uncertainties and difficulties they face, they do their best; the women sell food to diversify their income, and they all read the paper for weather predictions. The man tells me that his four children will study and pursue careers alternative to fishing. The problem here, he says, is that the people only “expect the sea,” which I understand to mean both that they rely on the sea for their livelihoods, and in doing so depend on it having certain characteristics.  As the conversation draws to a close, we thank the man and two women and climb back on the motorbike.  My friend persuades me that we should go to the beach. I have declined to swim in Batticaloa, not wanting to be at odds with local customs that discourage women from revealing too much skin. However, the day is very hot and he takes me to a very secluded stretch of the shoreline. I change into my swimsuit in the belt of trees designed to protect the coast from erosion and slip into the ocean. The water is warm but refreshing and the fine sand gives way as the sea quickly becomes deep. I look out to the open ocean, imagining the tsunami, a wall of water coming from this very direction. It is hard to fathom the unexpected spectacle with such underlying force. However, as if to make the volatility of the sea more believable, the weather changes quickly while I am swimming and a storm arises, rare for this time of year. The sky grows dark and wind whips the surface of the water. I am a decent swimmer, but suddenly I feel very small and the rolling of the waves seems abruptly dangerous. I allow the current to carry me back to shore, slip on my clothes, and we take off quickly on the motorbike, beating the storm home. The story above demonstrates the ways that armed conflict, coastal natural disaster, and climatic changes such as sea level rise interact to influence the lives of people living on Sri Lanka’s East coast. It shows how complex dynamics exist between uncertainty, preparedness, recovery, durability, and displacement. Perhaps most importantly, this narrative illustrates not 
 3
 only the enlistment of the ocean in various ways that necessitate, sustain, or even counter displacement, but also the sea’s constant material presence and even agency in the lives of coastal residents and in my research. While climate change, the 2004 tsunami, and Sri Lanka’s 30-year armed conflict have each been analyzed individually, I apply a relational approach to try to understand the ways that different elements of these frames interact, or the ways that the same elements function differently in each, to create linkages and discontinuities between the environment and displacement. Following Latour (2005), I do this by using the ocean as the actor I trace. In this thesis, I trace connections that are formed through and around the ocean. I approach these linkages with the fruits of bringing social theory of the sea into conversation with posthumanism. Using ethnographic and qualitative empirics from six weeks of fieldwork in Sri Lanka, I find that climate change, natural disaster, and violent conflict are located in the same networks on Sri Lanka’s East coast, and that these linkages are given meaning through the enlistment and agency of the ocean and other actors typically relegated to the environment. I also find that the frames of climate change, tsunami, and war intersect not only with each other but also become mediated by frames of analysis including vulnerability, violence, un/predictability, and others. In this introduction, I introduce the main topics of my thesis as conflict, climate change, and the 2004 tsunami, as both framed and framing with regards to discourses about the environment, displacement, and human vulnerability. I provide some background information on the situation on Sri Lanka’s East coast before explaining my methodological approach and outlining key elements of my fieldwork experience. Then, I describe the key theoretical arguments and analytical traditions that I put in conversation with my findings. Finally, I sketch the progression of the chapters to come. 
 4
   Framing Sri Lanka: Conflict, disaster, and coastal populations Contemporary Sri Lanka is framed by two major events: an armed conflict lasting three decades, and the 2004 tsunami that left a permanent legacy in a matter of minutes. Both of these occurrences, and their aftermaths, have not only had intense impacts on the people and environment of Sri Lanka, but have reframed the relationship between human and nonhuman others. Climate change, the third factor that I analyze, provides another element of uncertainty about the future. On Sri Lanka’s East coast, all of these forces intersect through the ocean, causing it to be an ideal actor to follow. Sri Lanka’s armed conflict It is impossible to tell any story of Sri Lanka without speaking of the 30-year violent struggle, which has been alternately termed by various authors, politicians, reporters, and NGOs as a ‘civil war,’ ‘ethnic conflict,’ ‘libratory struggle’ or ‘separatist movement’ (cf. Rotberg, 1999; De Silva, 1998; Nadarajah and Sriskandarajah, 2003; Abeyratne, 2003). What it undoubtedly has been is divisive, bloody, drawn-out, and entrenched, such that Uyangoda states that: “Observers of Sri Lanka’s peace process are often baffled by the relative ease with which the main parties to the country’s ethnic conflict have repeatedly abandoned opportunities to work out a peace settlement through negotiations” (2007: 1). The LTTE have been engaged in conflict with the Sinhalese- majority Government of Sri Lanka, claiming discrimination and persecution at the hands of the governing authorities, and advocating for autonomous sovereignty over the North and East provinces, often through the use of guerilla tactics. Although the government of Sri Lanka militarily defeated the LTTE in May 2009, much ethnic violence and tension remains, and there 
 5
 is a great deal of uncertainty over what lies ahead, especially for the Tamil citizens, including the nearly 300,000 displaced (cf. BBC News, 5 April 2010). Tamil-Muslim violence has also been pronounced throughout recent decades, perhaps being shown most visibly by the “ethnic cleansings” of the North by the LTTE in the early 1990s. During these episodes, Muslims from the North were pushed to marginal lands in the Eastern region, exacerbating conflict with the Tamils and Muslims who already lived there (Hyndman, 2007; Imtiyaz, 2009). Currently, a fragile peace is frequently broken as Muslims in the East typically live in homogenous settlements, interspersed with Tamil divisions (McGilvray, 2008). However, it is important to keep in mind that the conflict has not been centered on religious beliefs but rather on land and political representation (Uyangoda, 2007; McGilvray, 1998; Hasbullah and Korf, 2009). Several scholars have analyzed the specific dynamics of the conflict, highlighting the unique brands of masculinist, militarized nationalism cultivated by different regimes of Sinhalese governments and their dissenters (cf. Hyndman, 2007; Hyndman and de Alwis, 2004; Uyangoda 2007; Jayawardena and de Alwis, 1996; Le Billon and Waizenegger, 2007). Tsunami: Waves of destruction and rebuilding There has been a great attempt to account for the tsunami: to record deaths and property damages, to understand patterns of aid and reconstruction, to analyze political, social, and economic tensions that affect the long term results, and to account for future possibilities with early warning systems. Yet, for the people of Sri Lanka and other affected countries, the incomprehensibility and illegibility of such a dramatic and sudden disaster will stare them defiantly in the face, likely for generations. To begin any story of the tsunami without acknowledging this seems to me irresponsible and inconsiderate. 
 6
  On the morning of Dec 26, 2004, a 9.15 magnitude earthquake was registered off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The resulting tsunami killed approximately 225,000 people in 12 countries, marking it as the “most deadly tsunami in recorded history and one of the worst natural disasters in hundreds of years” (Inderfurth et al, 2005: 4).  Countless researchers have documented the ways that natural hazards (such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis) become disasters as they not only destroy infrastructure and human life but also reveal and exacerbate underlying inequalities and societal problems (cf. Williams, 2008; Brun, 2009). They can also present an opportunity to change these dynamics for the better; rarely does this actually happen. The tsunami of Dec 26, 2004 was no exception. In Sri Lanka, inequalities between ethnic groups were deepened and Sinhalese nationalism emerged stronger than ever (Hyndman, 2007; Le Billon and Waizenegger, 2007). In addition, although coastal management plans had existed prior, the tsunami ushered in a new era in coastal conservation and disaster planning, with international funding and initiatives at every level. On a macro scale, the world order was reinscribed as countries in the global South were forced to take on roles of supplication in response to the influx of aid from the North (Korf, 2007).  Sri Lanka, unlike many of the other Asian countries affected, had rarely experienced severe natural disasters in the past and hence was not prepared for a natural disaster of this magnitude (Savananthan, 2007). In Sri Lanka, which was already affected at the time by bad economic conditions and a continued sense of futility around the government - LTTE peace talks, about 35,000 deaths occurred as a direct result of the tsunami, and hundreds of thousands were displaced (Savananthan, 2007). Moreover, the area most heavily hit was the East coast, already affected severely by outbreaks of violence, ethnic inequality, and worsening coastal degradation (Bohle and Füngefeld, 2007). The aftermath of the tsunami was characterized by a tremendous outpouring of international aid as well as countless local examples of self-sacrifice 
 7
 and generosity (Korf, 2006; Clark, 2007). However, aid distribution was often mismanaged and manipulated to the benefit of already powerful parties. In the end, post-tsunami aid served to secure public fear in the interests of the Sinhalese government (Hyndman, 2007). Thus the tsunami “did not create a space of disjuncture, a rupture of ‘politics as usual’ or a space of opportunity for opening up politics towards inclusion” (Hasbullah & Korf, 2009: 248).  Despite the realities of continuation versus rupture, some authors have written about a significant element of surprise and even awe associated with a disaster on the scale of the tsunami. Williams (2008: 1115) writes that, due to the infrequency and high impact of such events, they are still met with surprise. Clark, perhaps most elegantly, writes about the power of events like the tsunami have to cause our own existence: “a glimpse of our infinitude, our continuity with the rest of existence, comes in the moment we encounter material forces which overpower us” (2007: 15). Intimately connected to this is our realization of our relationships to others, and the possibility for both continuation and the new: when a ‘you’ and an ‘I’ face each other over the insuperable divide of the tsunami – or any other disaster, large or small – we not only enact something entirely novel, we also each bring with us the residue of our past calamities. We are the storms we have weathered, the quaking of the earth we have ridden out, the infections we have stomached. We are the immensity of small sedimentary changes, punctuated by episodes of upheaval. And we are also the bodying forth of all the guidance and help that has allowed us to live through the tsunami, […] generosities that may have enabled some of us to live on at the expense of others (2007: 16).  I follow Clark’s offering of “generous geographies” with the goal of considering both the continuities made ever more possible by the tsunami as well as the spaces for new relations that opened up. Facing a changing climate Sri Lanka is affected both by climate change and by climate change discourses. Although Sri Lanka is not known internationally as being particularly vulnerable to climate change, especially 
 8
 in comparison to other Pacific islands, the potential for predicted changes to take effect exists, with much regional variability (Yamane, 2009; IUCN et al., 2006). For its size, Sri Lanka is characterized by great regional diversity in temperature, rainfall, and elevation (IUCN et al., 2006), from the cooler, rainier mountains in the South central area to the hotter, more arid coastal plains along the South and East coasts. In their 2001 National Communication with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), hereafter referred to as the National Communication, Sri Lankan correspondents reported that an increase in temperature, less rainfall over most of the island, and an increase in thunder activity has already been observed over the last 100 years. They expressed an expectation that an increase in sea level, already observed over the South Asian Sea Area in general, will lead to inundation, coastal erosion, and saltwater intrusion. This is a major concern given that a reported 32% of the population inhabits the coastal zone, and that 80% of fish production, 65% of industrial output, 80% of tourist infrastructure, and other important forms of infrastructure, biodiversity, and social and cultural heritage are accounted for in this area (National Communication, 2000: 64). Accordingly, the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) is the only environmental plan to recommend direct action on climate change (National Communication, 2000). Other major concerns for the entire island include those related to drought, high intensity rainfall, and increased thunder activity. The influence of the climate change frame goes beyond these threats to include configurations of power and knowledge proliferated by an enormous and rapidly-growing mechanism that draws in politicians, NGOs, academics, and others. Climate change is itself a network, where the global climate works as a non-human actor enrolled toward the shared goals of other powerful actors. If the tsunami experience demonstrated the ways that “environmental” regulations come to govern everyday life, then the proliferation of discourses around climate 
 9
 change, both nationally and internationally, present opportunities for these forms of power/knowledge to become even more pervasive. These forms of power constitute a sort of “environmentality” which Luke states “can be seen fabricating disciplinary environments where power/knowledge operate as ensembles of geo-power and eco-knowledge” (1995: 58). In exploring how certain regions of Sri Lanka have been constructed as being particularly vulnerable to climate change, Yamane points out that the North and East have been neglected in these assessments due to political and ethnic instability (2009). Yamane brings this to attention not to create a “race to the bottom,” or a contest to determine who or where is the most vulnerable, but to examine and perhaps challenge dominant discourses of climate change vulnerability and the processes which create these representations and then translate them into material realities. Vulnerability Vulnerability is a concept that mediates not only climate change discourse but also most analyses of the relationship between the environment and human displacement. Widely used by people who work in disasters and risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and other fields of science and social science, vulnerability stretches across social-natural boundaries, although the particulars of its meaning are often ambiguous across and even within different fields (Brooks, 2003; Füssel and Klein, 2006). People can be vulnerable to nature, to poverty, to disease. Nature can also be vulnerable, to humans or to itself; for example, coasts can be vulnerable to tsunamis (cf. Mascarenhas, 2006). For the sake of the following arguments, I attend mainly to human vulnerability to environmental change. In predominant understandings of the relationship between the environment and human displacement, vulnerability comes into play because people become displaced when they succumb to their vulnerability to the environment. This quality of being vulnerable leads to 
 10
 displacement, according to this thinking. Likewise, in much of climate change adaptation literature more broadly, vulnerability and inability to overcome it is precisely what will lead to disease, poverty, hunger, large-scale migration, and other ills at the hands of climate change. Vulnerability is seen as the antithesis of adaptation. When adaptation is successful, vulnerability will be reduced or eliminated. In interrogating the concept of vulnerability, my aim is not to refute the notion that coastal residents of Sri Lanka nor indeed citizens of the global South are highly vulnerable in the sense that they have a greater degree of susceptibility to changing climate, natural disaster, political instability, or other disruptions. While the practices employed to identify some areas and populations as “most vulnerable” (cf. Boruff et al., 2005), should certainly be scrutinized, that is not my purpose here. Additionally, I do not trace associations with concepts of vulnerability in indigenous or Southern cultures, although this would be an interesting and worthwhile pursuit. Rather, I want to explore the normalization of vulnerability and sensitivity as negative within Western thought, as leading to displacement, and as needing to be overcome by adaptation or resilience, and to put these associations into conversation with a relational ontology. Building on Clark (2007), Yamane (2009) and others, I challenge the prevailing discourse of vulnerability to climate change as a condition to which certain populations may find themselves subjected, or a weakness that one must strive to overcome. While some climate change scholars, perhaps most notably resilience theorists, have largely moved beyond the term vulnerability, the concept is still at the core of such studies. Rather, following Clark (2007) I take vulnerability as an inevitable condition in a relational world, that which facilitates interactions between entities, which allows for becoming and hence being. Clark captures this in his 
 11
 discussion of “radical passivity,” the quality of being receptive to human and non-human others (2007: 11). This is a concept I return to in Chapter Four. Encountering uncertainty in the field: Batticaloa Climate change, the tsunami, the war, and indeed the ocean all contain an element of the unexpected and the unknowable. Moreover, the situated quality of knowledge makes any claims to truth highly suspect (cf. Haraway, 1988). Despite these inevitabilities, decisions must often be made in situations where the stakes are quite high. While I am sensitive to the fact that uncertainty and unknowability are situated labels, I explore the ways that these elements work through the circumstances that I analyze. I look not at attempts to eliminate uncertainty but the ways that partial knowledges and situated agency shapes discourses and decisions. In correlation, I acknowledge the uncertainties and partialities in my own research and proceed with the understanding that these areas of ambiguity have as much power to shape processes and outcomes as any certainties. I keep as central both a start from and a return to what Clark emphasizes is less importantly a “bringing to light” from various strains of knowledge and experience as a “working in the dark” (2007: 13). I pursue an approach that aims to be feminist, anti-colonial, and anti-racist, while operating inside the circumstances that have made the antitheses of these goals possible. I work within the knowledge that ethnographic, participatory, and other forms of scholarship with which I engage have likely done as much or more to cause displacement as climate change, natural disaster, or civil war. Some of my colleagues abstain from “fieldwork,” much less fieldwork in other places, to avoid some of these pitfalls. Yet what lies at the heart of my project is that I talked to, walked with, and engaged with people - people who are living very different lives than mine. Moreover, due in part to my forays, their stories, knowledges, and even lives are potentially vulnerable to academic manipulation. Yet, in engaging in such a way, I also open my 
 12
 own work to other dimensions of vulnerability, as the participants in my research also had the agency to manipulate the results in ways, justified or unjustified, that I could not detect nor mediate. The co-production of ambiguous and partial information operated just as actively and fundamentally to the project as the co-production of knowledge. Therefore, in this thesis, I work through some of the politics of encounter and the collective creation of knowledge and uncertainty. I turn to what Visweswaran identifies as the tactics of feminist ethnography: shifting identities, silence, and temporality (1994: 50). Here, I want to work beside what is not said, what cannot be said, and what can only be said by some. As Visweswaran writes, “recognition of the partially understood is not simply a strategy but accountability to my subjects; partial knowledge is not so much choice as necessity” (1994: 50). This acknowledgement of partial knowledge correlates with a commitment to working with, rather than against, uncertainty as mentioned above. Further, I aim towards what Visweswaran and others call a deconstructive position, one that operates in the interrogative mode and “emphasizes how we think we know what we know is neither transparent nor innocent” (Visweswaran, 1994: 80). Spivak aptly characterizes this as a position which “consists saying an impossible ‘no’ to a structure that one critiques, yet inhabits intimately” (cited in Prakash, 1992). This statement’s resonance with my work will become clear in the proceeding pages.  Approaching the tsunami and the checkered history of multiple displacements on Sri Lanka’s East coast ties ethical issues inextricably with the production of knowledge and the politics of encounter. Research is tied up in the same networks of international aid that have proved so problematic after disasters. Brun (2009) discusses the debates that evolved after the tsunami about the role of researchers and whether the most ethical position is from the field or at a distance. She ultimately argues that due to the power of relations, we become part of Sri Lanka 
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 when we produce knowledge on Sri Lanka, whether through direct field encounters or from theorizing at a distance, and hence we must determine how to be responsible to Sri Lanka. Brun explains that it is necessary to engage in discussions about physical encounters of researchers in the field. If we profess a relational ontology, we acknowledge that some of these relations are formed through direct encounter and through relationships that traverse distance and time (Brun, 2009). Living through the tsunami as a researcher means interrogating, not avoiding, the production of knowledge through these physical relationships. This is not to say that valuable knowledge cannot be created from a distance, or that the value of knowledge created through encounter negates the ethical issues it engenders.  In my research, encounters through fieldwork had a central role. Buranakul and others “believe that there is a role for concerned scholars who wish to practically engage with, rather than merely comment upon, the tsunami and its aftermath” (2005: 246). Figuring out how to engage with the tsunami, with climate change, with the war, rather than simply provide commentary on them, was the constant occupation of my research. One vital element of this was to engage materially: to do my research in sight of the sea, to walk among the tsunami ruins, and allow myself to be overcome by the physical power of the ocean.  Responsive and responsible engagement also involved taking seriously the experiences and knowledge of people who were experiencing the coast firsthand. While I could potentially have relied on the knowledge produced by Sri Lanka scholars, whose contributions are often unjustly ignored (Brun, 2009), this would have prevented me from following the actors in the way that Latour (2005) urges, thereby leaving certain connections unexplored. It would also likely have left nascent sites of connection, for example people who have reoccupied the buffer zone, as exceptions rather than influential sources of knowledge and locations where subjects are formed. 
 14
 I arrived in Sri Lanka at a vector of significant times. Five years after the tsunami, one month after the end of the war, and one week after the deportation of Bob Rae, Canadian MP. As Puar (2007: xxii) puts it, I wanted to ask “How are we living time in these times?” The different frames that I consider operate under varying regimes of time. As Lobo-Guerrero states, “climate change operates a future-oriented form of underwriting” (2009:13); measures taken now are intended mainly to mediate potential future disaster, that may occur decades from the present. Conservation efforts, too, operate in a futuristic time frame, one that often looks much further forward than economic or political time frames (Harvey, 1990). Trawick emphasizes the ways that war intensely inhabits the present: “you concentrate on the moment, on your immediate surroundings, and on how each element of the here and now is part of what you are doing and being. The future and the past are forgotten” (2007: 8). Yet, history and memory remain central, evidenced for example in the work of de Alwis on the role of memory and memorials in Sri Lanka (de Alwis, 2009; Simpson and de Alwis, 2008). History and memory allow and give urgency to plans for the future. As Visweswaran states quite simply, “no memory, no history. No history, no agency” (1994: 68). I realize also that in the writing, I enact a present and create a possible history. Again I turn to Visweswaran, who discusses Ginzburg’s idea of “conjectural historiography,” “raising the possibility of changing the past in the future simply by making it the past of a different present” (199: 71). Rather than an approach to what has passed that looks for some kind of truth, this way of understanding asks questions in the conditional tense, about possibilities and what could have been. Again repeating the themes of uncertainty and partiality, I find this characterization best suits my project here. In Sri Lanka, unpredictability and uncertainty are often linked closely with threat and in particular, the threat of various types of violence. Many evenings in Batticaloa, while I prepared for the end of the day, I heard sharp popping sounds in the near distance. Each time, I paused, 
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 worried that I was hearing gunshots or other forms of dangerous explosions. It was far more likely that they were firecrackers, commonly used in temple festivals, funerals, and other events. Yet, given the recent and pervasive violence in the area, and the amount of weaponry I saw around me every day, my unease was perhaps understandable. Each time that I felt those slight pangs of unease, I realized that they were analogous to daily experience for many Sri Lankans, especially those living in the Northern and Eastern provinces; the experience of living life under low-intensity, yet constant threat.  The feeling of never knowing what may happen could only be heightened for those who had survived the tsunami, who had seen the sea, a constant presence in their lives, rise up and engulf land, possessions, and people. Posed with this reality of threat and uncertainty, I wanted to ask questions about preparedness, prediction, and facing the future.  The majority of the empirical research that forms the basis of this thesis took place in Batticaloa district in the Eastern province of Sri Lanka (Figure 1).  
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 My time there was plagued by uncertainty and insecurity related to the area’s contentious past and to occurrences immediately preceding my arrival. Given the timing of my project and the political atmosphere in Sri Lanka in early and mid-2009, it was not possible for me to obtain a research visa. Moreover, a string of national events occurring in the weeks and even days Figure 1: Map of Sri Lanka. Adapted from UN Map No. 4172 Rev. 2 
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 leading up to my arrival, including the deportation of Canadian M.P. Bob Rae, complicated my situation. These events indicated the government of Sri Lanka’s suspicion of foreigners arriving under tourist visas to do other work, in particular report on the conflict in order to either aid the LTTE or to bring potential human rights abuses on the part of the SLAF into the global spotlight. Hence, because I did not have the proper visa to legitimate my presence in the decidedly non- tourist destination of Batticaloa, let alone my asking questions related to the conflict, I kept a low, non-contentious profile. This limited the questions that I perceived would be appropriate or safe to ask, often restricting my line of inquiry to ecological issues, the consequences of which are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3. Additionally, because my presence as a researcher could not be public, my integration into the community was severely restricted. Finally, a general lack of mobility coupled with other security challenges made it difficult for me to work with groups of fisherfolk on repeated occasions, as I would have desired in order to encourage a process of knowledge co-production.  Batticaloa was one of the districts of Sri Lanka both hardest hit by the tsunami and most devastated by the conflict. As Hyndman and de Alwis put it, “Batticaloa is also a place of remarkable violence, where buses full of government soldiers have been blown up, members of parliament have been assassinated, and grenades are exploded on a regular basis” (2004:551). Throughout most of the 1990s and early 2000s, Batticaloa was controlled by both government and LTTE forces in shifting and contentious patterns, constructed by the government as a main source of terrorist activity (Hyndman and de Alwis, 2004). The evidence is everywhere, but perhaps nowhere so apparent as in the main town of Batticaloa, where the impressive gated compounds of seemingly every major NGO line the roads.  In the district of Batticaloa, there are 14 Divisional Secretariat (DS) divisions, with the greatest population and town centre of Batticaloa located in the Manmunai North DS division. A 
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 special enumeration by the Sri Lanka Department of Census and Statistics (SLDCS) reports that in 2007, nearly 10% of the district’s population was displaced, the majority by conflict; however, the proportion of residents displaced at some point in time is likely significantly greater. Moreover, many people experience multiple displacements, for example returning to their homes several months after being forced to leave due to conflict only to later be displaced by the tsunami. Although Tamils represent a minority in Sri Lanka, in Batticaloa they account for nearly 75% of the population. Most of the remainder are Sri Lankan Moors (Moor is a term used interchangeably with Muslim in Sri Lanka) with only about 1% accounted for by other ethnicities. As mentioned previously, violence between Tamils and Moors has flared up quite dramatically from time to time in the district.  Much of the population Batticaloa is literally surrounded by the sea, bordering on the ocean itself, a number of lagoons, or both. Indeed, the Sri Lanka Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (SLMFAR) reports that 89,910 residents of the district belong to fishing households, out of a total population of 515,857 (SLMFAR, 2007, SLDCS, 2007). Nearly 3000 people in Batticaloa district lost their lives in the tsunami, and many more thousands were displaced (UNICEF, 2006). Given the nature of my research, I focused especially on those people who live near the sea, and as the majority of them did, relied on the ocean for their livelihoods.  The majority of my time in the field was spent with fisherfolk, engaged in participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and a concept mapping activity adapted from participatory methods (discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3).1 I worked with both individuals and collectives, although most often with groups of roughly four to eight participants. In total, I 























































1
While the people with whom I spoke were predominantly male, I avoid using the term “fishermen” in order to refrain from implying that it is only men that are affected by the relationships and phenomenon described.  While “fisherfolk” feels a bit clumsy and perhaps outdated, no appropriate gender-neutral term for people who fish exists.
 
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 conducted 14 interviews with individuals and groups and four concept mapping activities. Several key informants also helped to arrange appointments and provided valuable contacts, which helped me to establish rapport with the participants. In the towns of Kallady, Mahiloovmunai, Valaichennai, and Ottamovadi, all surrounding Batticaloa, the fisherfolk that I met with were organized as members of Fishing Cooperative Societies (FCSs), the fundamental unit of administrative grouping for small-scale fisherfolk in Sri Lanka. The vast majority of the participants in my research were men; this reflects both the predominance of men (99%) in the fishing industry (Venkatachalam et al., 2008: 59) and the more private lives that many Sri Lankan women lead, especially in non-urban areas. In addition to my work with fisherfolk, I conducted semi-structured interviews with government representatives and officers of non- governmental organizations (NGOs) in Batticaloa and Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capitol. I interviewed both NGO and government officers from a variety of ranks and NGO representatives from both independent and state-sponsored organizations. Many of the interviews and activities were conducted using simultaneous interpretation from English to Tamil and vice versa, with the aid of a local interpreter. None of the interviews or activities were audio recorded because of the fraught political environment and possible risks that could have been perceived as associated with audio recording. For these two reasons, I have not included any significant direct quotes. Rather, I have focused on the ideas and concepts expressed and it is my hope that some of these important voices come through in these regards.  In addition to the trials presented by the unique political situation mentioned above, my fieldwork was subject to the difficulties and surprises that can be expected in any empirical venture. Further elements of non-uniformity in the process and results were perhaps added as I engaged with more experimental methods such as the concept-mapping activity. These methods are designed with the expectation that flexibility will be a necessary and instrumental part of the 
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 process. Furthermore, working mostly independently in a cross-cultural context, particularly at this early stage in my career, opened up the potential for the politics of knowledge to emerge in ever-more fraught ways throughout my research. Rather than expand on these experiences in this bounded section, I have chosen to insert my reflections alongside the relevant empirical analyses to more fully imbricate them in the knowledge production process. Theoretical influences and oceanic confluences I explore the intersection of the three oft-demarcated forces outlined above, and the way they have enlisted the sea to pose threats to impoverished people living on the coast. I deploy the description of “frames” strategically. As Butler (2009) points out, in the English tradition to frame can apply both to a picture and to a criminal accusation (justly or unjustly). In either case, the frame guides the interpretation. Furthermore, the function of the frame relies inherently on both what is outside of the frame, both in providing context and in defining what is inside by what is excluded. The effectiveness of the frame also relies on its ability to maintain coherence in different contexts, similar to the notion of an immutable mobile in Actor Network Theory (ANT). Yet Butler points out that in order to maintain this coherence, the frame must constantly break from context in order to be reproduced elsewhere. Hence, “the ‘frame’ does not quite contain what it conveys, but breaks apart every time it seeks to give definitive organization to its content” (Butler, 2009: 12). In my work, I attend to natural disaster, conflict, and climate change, in a similarly complex way, with attention to exteriority, mobility, and mutability, and to that which exceeds and defines these frames. In pursuing a critical approach to the framing of issues on Sri Lanka’s East coast, I take Butler’s approach, following Trinh Minh-ha, to “frame the frame” (Butler, 2009: 9). This strategy, as Butler (2009) explains, diverges from oft-critiqued models of reflexivity that claim to reveal knowable biases or exclusions. Rather, to truly frame the frame, we must admit that “the 
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 frame never quite determined precisely what it is we see, think, recognize, apprehend. Something exceeds the frame that troubles our sense of reality” (Butler, 2009: 9). Therefore, I prioritize the overlaps between the frames, where they can be seen to be mutable and imprecise, and that which escapes them entirely. I understand each frame, like the ocean, to porously contain many different spatial and temporal elements. Hence, the frame of ‘tsunami’ includes not only the big wave, but also international outpouring of humanitarian aid, temporary settlements, fund management agreements, and more. In conjunction, I acknowledge that these categorizations are imprecisely and incompletely, though not arbitrarily, bounded. Indeed, they are lines drawn through, around, and over human and non-human entities in order to analyze the world and create meaning (cf. Murdoch, 2006). With these presuppositions in mind, it becomes clear that what is necessary is an analysis that looks at the messy in-between areas where these frames intersect and where they become overwhelmed, because none of them act alone or decisively on the lives of Sri Lankans who inhabit the East coast. I locate these frames within a context that provides limits and opportunities for these frames to determine reality. Here, I employ Sara Ahmed’s discussion of background as the “conditions of emergence” for that which I discuss (2006: 38). Some of the most prominent conditions of this everyday topography are its neoliberal capitalism and postcolonial attributes, as noted in the case of Sri Lanka by scholars such as de Alwis and Jeganathan (cf. de Alwis, 2002; Jeganathan, 2000; Jeganathan and Ismail, 1995). It is not my focus to detail the ways that neoliberalism functions; suffice to say, it brings to bear an increased focus on capital, markets, internationalization, and accumulation. Lobo-Guerrero has written about the ways that Western liberal financial structures, through discourses of insurance, create spatialized understandings of risk and uncertainty tightly tied to biopolitical power. He calls for alternative conceptualizations of risk and uncertainty that take non-insurance based knowledge into consideration (2009). 
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 Postcolonialism, and indeed the colonial present (Gregory, 1994), influences both the patterns on the ground in Sri Lanka, and the way that global knowledge about them is produced, including the writing of this thesis. I maintain a strong obligation to anti-colonial and anti-racist scholarship. These traditions (in contrast to some aspects of postcolonial theory) assert that colonialism, dispossession, and institutional racism are forces that must continuously be worked against, rather than relics of a past era (cf. Gregory, 2004; Comaroff and Comaroff, 1997). While I recognize that striving for such goals does not always mean achieving them, I follow the examples of Kay Andersen and Ann Stoler, among others, to trace the historical continuities between current norms and practices of negotiating the environment and displacement nexus and colonial regimes of power, with the aim of breaking these trends and provoking more just conceptual and practical alternatives. I also draw on feminist scholars to employ a starting point that centres the potential and realized agency of human and nonhuman others for knowledge creation and political action. I provide further reflection on my subject position in the context of colonialism and other forces in pages that follow. Breaking with the frame of environmental displacement In addition to the frames mentioned above, this thesis emerges in reaction to the framing of the relationship between the environment and displacement as a debate over environmental refugees, which has occurred in traditional academic and political circles. The concept of environmental refugee has been on the table for nearly 25 years. Yet, it remains poorly defined and without any legally binding mechanisms of protection or support, largely because the discipline of migration studies has not taken into account the environment as a driver (Dun and Gemenne, 2008). Recently, the issue of climate change migration has become prevalent, largely sidelining other potential forms of relations between the environment and displacement and introducing more 
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 challenges for understanding and coping with migration and environmental change (MacGregor, 2010).  Perhaps a first clue as to the complexities of the issue of environmentally induced migration is that a formal and authoritative definition or term for the environment-migration nexus does not exist. While terms such as environmental refugee, climate change refugee, environmentally forced migrant, environmentally induced migrant, and more are bandied about, some underlying uncertainties have not been resolved in a way that is sufficient to arriving at a definition. These uncertainties stem from two main sources: the degree to which such migration is involuntary and the difficulty of separating out the environment as the true driving factor (Dun and Gemenne, 2008; Castles, 2002). I am careful in my research to refer to a relationship between the environment and displacement as a nexus. This is because I seek to avoid terms that imply causality, and also in order to consider multiple forms of displacement of humans and nonhumans.  As people try to categorize causes of environmentally induced migration, they also attempt to estimate the number of migrants who are driven to move by environmental impacts. However, this proves nearly impossible, and often gives false impressions. In 2002, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a report estimating that there are at least 24 million migrants who have fled their homes for environmental reasons (UNHCR, 2002). Other reports vary widely, especially in terms of future predictions. A commonly accepted estimate for the future is 200 million environmentally displaced people by 2050 (Myers, 2005) although predictions soar as high as one billion (Christian Aid, 2007, cited in Brown, 2008). Naturally, it is difficult to arrive at a numerical estimate when who will be included is unclear. Additionally, baseline data, especially for countries in the global South, is often inadequate (Brown, 2008). I suggest that it is important to understand the power of these predictions and the politics that lie 
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 behind them with regards to their scanty foundations in empirical evidence.  On first consideration, possibilities exist for the environmental refugee debate to initiate an imperative for acceptance of international responsibility for localized effects of environmental change. This is particularly relevant in the case of global climate change, and is likely a significant reason why the concept of climate change refugees has gotten the bulk of attention in the environmental refugee literature. Indeed, the issue could go beyond international responsibility, because it is estimated that most environmental refugees would flee countries in the global South to the North (Renaud et al., 2007). Moreover, it is policymakers in the North who set the refugee agenda; it often reflects their views and priorities (Chimni, 2009). Thus, by accepting environmental refugees, in concept and in practice, policymakers in the North would be acknowledging that the effects of environmental change are inequitably distributed and that countries in the North have a significant responsibility to citizens of the South.  However, the consideration of environment as an active agent in generating displacement has other, less justice-based motives. After initial forays into current literature on adaptation and on climate change and human security more broadly, I became quite dismayed. In addition to the lack of empirical grounding mentioned above, papers that were being swallowed up by major academic journals as de rigueur or even progressive seemed to be to be severely lacking in the stuff that critical geography is made of, with social theory underdeveloped, absent, or extremely problematic. Moreover, in a field that is supposed to be about retribution for wrongs committed by the North and the agency and entitlements of those in the South, much of this discourse, if not outright racist, reproduces the unequal power relations that are integral to the problems at hand, and stops drastically short of addressing larger-scale issues such as the redistribution of wealth and the production of knowledge that are intimately tied up in climate change adaptation and 
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 human security (Hartmann, 2010).2  Homer-Dixon, the political scientist largely responsible for uniting environmental change and security, opens the “overview” chapter in his 1999 book, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, with a warning. He states that violence induced by environmental degradation, which he claims occurs mainly in the South, can “harm rich countries’ national interests by threatening their trade and economic relations, entangling them in complex humanitarian emergencies, provoking distress migrations, and destabilizing pivotal countries in the developing world” (1999:12). Myers, another of the most well-known and oft-cited scholars on environmental displacement, ties environmentally-induced migration with population pressure in a regression to neo-Malthusian models of overpopulation and environmental degradation (2002; 2005). Homer- Dixon corroborates, naming population growth as one of the main components of environmental scarcity and repeatedly connecting expanding populations in the South with resource depletion, degradation, and potential violence (1999). In this and other publications, Homer-Dixon (1994: 17) also claims that poor countries suffer from a lack of ingenuity, stating that “poor countries start at a disadvantage: they are underendowed with the social institutions-including the productive research centers, efficient markets, and capable states-that are necessary for an ample supply of both social and technical solutions to scarcity,” ignoring local knowledge and institutions that have allowed “poor countries” to adapt to changing conditions for centuries.  Hence, the environmental refugee discourse leans heavily on overdetermined demographic and environmental effects, underemphasizing the key roles of economic and political factors in both environmental degradation and migration and robbing citizens of the South of agency (Hartmann, 2010). More recently, Homer-Dixon has participated in the massive shift to climate 























































2
Homer-Dixon (1999; 1994) does include unequal distribution of resources and wealth as one of the drivers of environmental scarcity, but his examples almost exclusively focus on discrepancies within Southern nations rather than North-South disparities or even remanents of colonialism.

 
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 change as the main environmental security threat, stating that "Climate change will help produce the kind of military challenges that are difficult for today’s conventional forces to handle: insurgencies, genocide, guerrilla attacks, gang warfare and global terrorism" (2007: n. pag). “Conventional forces” might as well be replaced with “Western armies,” as here he associates climate change with the fear-mongering buzzwords used by the US-led war on terror. As evidence of environmental security’s damaging potential, many of those who would fit the classification of environmental refugee reject the label and accompanying politics (cf. McNamara and Gibson, 2009; McAdam and Loughry, 2009).  When the relationship between environment and displacement is framed in security terms or as a refugee issue, the floodgates are opened wide for responses that characterize citizens of the Global South as both threatening and destitute, hardly challenging the current state of geopolitical relations (MacGregor, 2010; Hyndman, 2007).  The prevailing literature on the environment and displacement nexus has its foundations in vulnerability as an interceding concept in this relationship. Most concepts of vulnerability within climate change discourses include notions of exposure to particular hazards and “underlying,” “social” vulnerability, based on categorizations such as socioeconomic status, gender, and local politics, and that “overall” vulnerability it based on a combination of these stressors (Adger, 2006; O’Brien et al., 2004; Tschakert, 2007; Yamin et al., 2005). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has authoritatively defined vulnerability for climate change research purposes, and this definition reflects common scientific and social science perspectives on the concept. The authors begin their description of vulnerability as “The degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes” (IPCC, 2001: 995). With this introduction, it is already clear that vulnerability is something negative, equating susceptibility with being unable to cope. The IPCC 
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 goes on to describe vulnerability as “a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity” (IPCC, 2001: 995). When an entity has a combination of high exposure, high sensitivity, and low adaptive capacity, it is said to be highly vulnerable, and being vulnerable is implicitly understood as a negative condition (Adger, 2006). This understanding of vulnerability has spawned not only broad theorizations on how climate change adaptation could and should occur but also countless systems of measuring, assessing, and indexing vulnerability both qualitatively and quantitatively (cf. Brenkert and Malone, 2005; Hahn et al., 2009; Sullivan and Meigh, 2005; O’Brien et al., 2004;).  Within the IPCC definition of vulnerability (and implicitly yet more loosely included in broader theoretical notions of vulnerability) is adaptive capacity, understood as “the ability or capacity of a system to modify or change its characteristics or behaviour so as to cope better with existing or anticipated external stresses” (Brooks, 2003). This understanding of adaptive capacity retains a sense of returning to a pre-existing state or maintaining inherent characteristics. Recently, there have been attempts to counter adaptive capacity’s normative valuations of order, maintenance, and stability by theorizing resilience. For example, Chapin and colleagues (2004: 345) define resilience as “magnitude of disturbance that can be absorbed by a system without fundamentally changing it,” and Eakin and Wehbe state, “a more resilient system is one that is able to respond flexibly to change while maintaining its core functions and integrity” (2009:358). While change is not ruled out, concepts of resilience maintain that entities or systems have inherent characteristics. While resilience has begun to encroach on vulnerability’s conceptual monopoly on the human dimensions of climate change, vulnerability still underpins most thinking about impacts and adaptation. 
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 Vulnerability as a negative condition There are numerous problematic elements of the IPCC’s definition of vulnerability and the ways it has been used. For example, Yamane (2009) notes that understandings of vulnerability are subject to differing experiences and values. Tschakert (2007) explains that studies of vulnerability in Africa often focus largely on technical sector-by-sector approaches to adaptation, which ignore non-climactic stressors, the specificity of geopolitical contexts, and the agency of people affected. While the second wave of vulnerability assessments and more recent IPCC documents may attempt to address some of these issues, the extent of more progressive approaches has been limited both in geographical extent and political influence (Yamane, 2009; Tschakert, 2007; Füssel and Klein, 2006). In addition, even these variations on vulnerability leave underlying assumptions about its meaning unexplored. Often, these studies assert that vulnerable people have agency and strength, in spite of their vulnerability; receptivity is still understood as something to be overcome. The use of vulnerability, particularly to describe a negative state or quality, bears greater scrutiny due to both to its worrisome historical contingencies and because it is antithetical to a relational perspective.  Why is being vulnerable synonymous with being unable to cope? Why is vulnerability seen as a negative condition? Here, we need to look further than climate science and into postcolonial theory and critical theory more broadly for the traces of this normalization. Denigration of vulnerability in Western thought can be traced to colonial anxieties about the purity of the white bourgeoisie body, seen as crucial to maintaining the strength of the race and the security of the nation. Ann Stoler (1995) traces the genesis of Foucauldian biopolitical power to explain that expressions of colonial control were tightly tied to insecurities around racial and national purity, resulting in the emergence of certain discourses of sexuality. Susceptibility to diverse expressions of nonwhite bodies, and in particular nonwhite female bodies, was seen as dangerous 
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 to the stability and maintenance of the European identity. Examples of anxieties over vulnerability to the “leaky body” of the colonized woman include worries over babies being contaminated by wet nurses’ breast milk, miscegenation, the effects of black servants on white children’s behaviour, and others (Stoler, 1995, cited in Pratt, 2004). Hence, being vulnerable is seen as succumbing to destabilizing forces to the detriment of the individual and of society. To reduce vulnerability was to minimize what Pratt refers to as “the instability and porosity of the white middle-class body” (2004: 31). In addition, Europeans who remained in the colonies for extended periods of time were perceived as being at risk of becoming contaminated by local environments and cultures, leading to physical and moral degeneracy (Stoler, 1989). From these colonial regimes of power, the association of vulnerability with negative attributes can be located within forms of power for maintaining the security and identity of the nation and its citizenry.  Building on a colonial past, another locus of vulnerability’s negative connotation is in the formation and maintenance of the modern (neo)liberal subject. Paul Harrison (2007) offers a rigorous review of the treatment of vulnerability by critical social theory, and the likes of Derrida, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Marx. He finds that vulnerability, passivity, and sensitivity have been under-theorized and devalued, to the detriment of work on embodiment. Although his analysis is more nuanced than I will reveal here, he attributes this lacuna in critical theory largely to a “liberal individualism wherein individual human agents are thought of as striving for the self- realization of their intrinsic identity based upon a normative model of recognition, freedom, and autonomy” (2007: 428) and more broadly to theorizations that focus on power, authority, and purpose rather than not only the lack of such elements but indeed their opposites.  The implications of under-theorizing and devaluing vulnerability are manifold. Harrison (2007) points out that lack of conceptual rigor on vulnerability and sensitivity has been to the 
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 detriment of work on embodiment. However, I break from Harrison to argue that in the South, vulnerability and vulnerable people have not been under-theorized but rather over-determined, as illustrated by the countless vulnerability assessments and indices mentioned. Perhaps in connection to its under-theorization in the North, vulnerability has become seen falsely as largely a condition of the South; Bakker points out the assumption that “the United States is a nation of largely resilient middle-class, individuals, while overlooking the estimated one in eight Americans living below the poverty line” (2005: 799). Evidence is also provided by vulnerability’s attachment to climate change adaptation rather than mitigation; it is widely understood that adaptation takes place mainly in the South and mitigation mainly in the North3 (ignoring the potential vulnerabilities of those one-in-eight Americans that Bakker mentions, and their counterparts in similarly wealthy nations).  This transference of vulnerability as a negative condition of the South has also led to slippage where negative associations with vulnerability leak into negative associations with people considered vulnerable. In many cases, people who are considered vulnerable are considered to lack agency, despite their own willful evidence to the contrary. This has occurred in the North, for example in the case of lower-class obesity (Berlant, 2007). Overweight, lower- class people pose threats to “insurance companies, health departments, and corporate PR offices” (Berlant, 2007: 762). The South provides even more examples, as can be seen by invasive strategies of international aid that ignore agency of local populations after disasters (Korf, 2009). Another example is given by Scheper-Hughes, who mentions that survivors of apartheid political violence in South Africa resisted being classified as vulnerable victims, explaining that “the trauma model stripped them of their identities, not to mention of their glory” (2008: 41). Within 























































3
A potential exception is the case of the Clean Development Mechanism, where mitigation is intended to take place in the South, but it is still deployed by (and largely to the benefit of) the North.

 
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 the field of climate change and human displacement, McNamara found that political leaders of small island states, considered highly vulnerable to sea level rise, resisted discourses of vulnerability and displacement, favoring action which would hold Northern nations accountable for reducing carbon emissions rather than providing refugee services. Berlant (2007) and others explain that association of vulnerability with powerlessness not only denies agency to certain groups but also limits the range of what can be considered agency. Furthermore, these negative associations with vulnerability lead all to easily into understanding vulnerable people as dangerous victims.  In literature on the environment and human displacement, the imperative is to reduce the vulnerability of certain populations so they do not become a threat to the security of Northern nations (cf. Schwartz and Randall, 2003; Homer-Dixon, 2001). Even when it is not explicit, the underlying logic in many of these studies is that people vulnerable to climate change will ultimately be forced to migrate, which will threaten the security of Northern nations by creating additional pressure on physical and institutional resources and by potentially causing or exacerbating conflict. Hence, Northerners must protect themselves from being made vulnerable by the vulnerable South. This maps uncomfortably well onto colonial discourses of race and the protection and purity of the metropole’s population. People who are perceived as vulnerable make others aware of our common susceptibility. As Scheper-Hughes (2008) notes, it is not just being vulnerable that causes problems for individuals, nations, and the world; it is also feeling vulnerable. Perceived vulnerability is often impetus for violence towards others.  Vulnerability maintains its negative connotations at least in part because the condition of being vulnerable easily slides into a condition of making vulnerable. Put differently, to be vulnerable is to be dangerous. Nancy Scheper-Hughes discusses this slippage in her work on urban youth in Brazil and South Africa (2004; 2008). She locates the making killable of 
 32
 populations seen as vulnerable as a type of structural violence, stating that structural violence “[…] also refers to the ease with which humans are capable of reducing the socially vulnerable (even those from their own class and position) into expendable non-persons, thus allowing the license—even the duty—to kill […]” (2004: 14).  Upon reading more deeply into the literature on environment and displacement,  I was tempted to not engage with climate change as related to displacement and vulnerability for fear of playing into this hand, so to speak. Yet, topics related to environmental change came up repeatedly as major issues during my fieldwork. Moreover, I came to recognize that poor scholarship on an issue does not make the issue itself unimportant; rather, a concerted effort to engage is even more urgently required. Accordingly, I proceed despite my misgivings. I recognize mainstream literature and policy on environmental displacement and vulnerability as a frame for understanding the nexus between what is deemed ‘nature’ and displacement. As with the other frames that I analyze, I examine the ways that the frames break apart and can be recast in different contexts, with the ultimate goal of positing an alternative paradigm. Reframing the debate In seeking a way to reframe the environment and displacement debate, I explore the agency of the elements that have been deemed the “environment” and the ways that they and other entities attain power to influence displacement. Nonhuman natural entities such as the ocean have long been considered as factors in political and social struggles, and indeed the concept of environmental displacement includes the environment as a strong influence for the forced migration of populations. Yet, this literature not only maintains a firm divide between the natural and social worlds, at best recognizing them as coupled systems4, but also retains agency in the hands of humans, who carry out their battles and exercise their foibles over an environment that 























































 4 Problems with system theory include hierarchical standardization (cf. Lee and Brown, 1994). 
 33
 is reduced to its ecological functions. Here, I intend to build a case for considering the ocean as an active participant in performances of displacement, resistance, and daily life on Sri Lanka’s East coast.  I do this by exploring important literature around two transformative concepts: relationality and nonhuman agency (cf. Barad, 2003; Whatmore, 2002; Haraway, 2008). Theorizations around relationality, nonhuman actors, and related concepts have been loosely and perhaps slightly inaccurately grouped under the heading “posthumanism” (Braun, 2004) Environmental historians, political ecologists, feminists, critical race theorists, and others have also made important contributions. These ontologies have had immense influence on political ecology, geography, and social sciences as a whole (Sheppard, 2008; Braun 2008).  Poststructuralists and other theorists complicated the idea of representation by rejecting the notion that there exist discreet entities of that which is represented and the representation, instead asserting that discourses create that which they represent (Barad, 2003; Law and Urry, 2004). This important insight has led to extensive forays into understanding the social construction of nature, and more recently in directions that “take us beyond asking ‘how is nature socially constructed?’ and that allow us to answer the far richer question ‘what kinds of “nature” are subject to what kinds of “constructions” and with what consequences?’” (Castree, 2003: 205) Posthumanists, some feminists, and materialists have taken up this call and further challenged these theories by complicating the assertion that discourse as the main agent forming accepted reality. They argue both for the expansion of discourse to include discursive practices and performativities (cf. Butler, 1997) and for the rethinking of the agency of material elements. For the most part, this is not to assert that there exists some sort of pre-discursive moment, rather that discourse and materiality are co-constituted in an iterative and dynamic process. This has allowed for a rethinking of the divide between the discursive and the material and subsequently between “culture” and “nature.” Posthumanists take this further, arguing for a 
 34
 re-conceptualization of the divide between human and non-human, and the attendant political associations and implications. They assert that natures can be contested, multiple, and reimagined. In essence, social constructivists contributed the notion that it is social relations of knowledge that give particular natures specific power, while at the same time endeavoring to give full social status to the nonhuman (cf. Demerritt, 2002; Bird, 1987; Castree and Braun, 2001). In related scholarship, science studies theorists have made weighty contributions to ideas of relationality. They first expanded the role of the social sciences to include interrogating science, as it was no longer seen as isolated from the fabric of other realms of life. In particular, science studies began to take flight when social scientists began to devote the same analytical attention to the practices of science that they had devoted to culture. This worked in tandem with the notion that nature and society were not distinctly separate realms. Science studies scholars began to ask by what processes scientific ‘fact’ came to be established, and by whom, and where and in what kinds of spaces science happened (Law and Mol, 2001). In this way, “normative epistemology gave way to ethnographic realism” (Law and Mol, 2001: 609). I follow this tradition by using ethnographic and other methods to interrogate some of the facts and assumptions asserted by mainstream climate science. Relationality and relational ontology Early science studies scholars discovered that science does not gain its power by mirroring the world, but rather by stabilizing certain relationships between various heterogeneous actors, both human and nonhuman (Callon and Law, 1997). These relationships between actors form networks (also called assemblages or collectives) which give science its power; hence the term Actor Network Theory (ANT). They also found that the types of spaces and places where these relationships occur are co-constitutive of their functioning. Networks only have stability in 
 35
 specific contexts; hence, place is vital. Furthermore, for ANT theorists, space defines scale. Rather than traditional views that treat scale as a nested hierarchy, ANT understands scale as a function of how far networks extend (Murdoch, 2006). In forwarding an understanding of the ocean, the tsunami, the war, and climactic changes, I employ rigorously the concept of assemblage or collective. Latour (2004), Puar (2007), Deleuze and Guttari (1987) and others have used both assemblage and collective to signify the spatial and temporal arrangement of diverse elements in order to create meaning and material effect. Latour states that “by collective we don’t mean an action carried over by homogeneous social forces, but, on the contrary, an action that collects different types of forces woven together because they are different” (2005, p. 71). Here, I want to emphasize what I feel are the two most salient elements of the above quote in relation to my work: that the forces I examine are made up of heterogeneous elements, and that they are characterized by difference. Further, these two characteristics keep them together yet also provide the potential for the formation of new collectives, where various forces from the afore-mentioned frames come together in ways that have not yet been addressed. Science studies, ANT theorists, and others stress the notion that social sciences are relational – that they participate in, reflect upon, and enact the realities that they presume to uncover (Law and Urry, 2004). Moreover, they emphasize that it is the relationships between human and non-human actors that assemble what comes to be understood as science, fact, and reality. Other theorists take this further, asserting that no entities preexist their interactions with others, and it is not just science but the entire world that takes its shapes through relationships (Haraway, 2008; Barad, 2003). This is contrary to positivist, humanist, or realist views that maintain that entities such as the human body are discrete and contain certain inherent characteristics. 
 36
  Because relationships are always happening, open to contestation and surprise, never cemented, an acceptance of instability, incompleteness, complexity, and non-linearity is central to relational ontologies (Latour, 2005). For example, Law and Urry state, “the fleeting, the ephemeral, the geographically distributed, and the suddenly proximate are of increasing importance in current senses of the social” (2004: 403). As this action is emphasized, the social sciences move from asking what things mean to asking what they do (Jones, 2008). As Latour explains, “An ‘actor’ in the hyphenated expression actor-network is not the source of an action but the moving target of a vast array of entities swarming toward it” (2005: 46). Life is inventive and networks, assemblages, and collectives emerge without pre-determined form, making these ontologies characterized as non-mechanistic and non-essentialist (Braun, 2008).  Counter to previously-mentioned understandings of vulnerability as a negative condition, a relational viewpoint maintains that sensitivity is a condition of all beings, for it is through relationships that objects and entities are formed. From a relational perspective, to not be sensitive is to not exist.  More specifically, human bodies rely on sensitivity and exposure to exist. No life can be sustained without support from outside sources, many of which, incorporated into the body, become a part of it (Butler, 2009; Clark, 2007). This is true of ‘environmental’ elements, such as water and nutrients, heat and light. This inherent vulnerability extends to social relations: as Butler points out, “[…] the possibility of being sustained relies fundamentally on social and political conditions, and not only on a postulated internal drive to live” (2009: 21). Social vulnerability, or having the potential to be affected by social relationships, is also vital to our existence, rather than something that should, or even could, be externalized or minimized. The receptivity, through all the senses of the human body, that causes us to feel pain, distress, and suffering is also the receptivity allowing us to communicate and feel comforted, loved, appreciated (Clark, 2007). Hence, receptivity and sensitivity to both social and 
 37
 material elements are qualities of sentient existence, transcending nature/culture binaries.  While the concepts of adaptive capacity and resilience at least partially move toward approaches more compatible with relational ontologies, they fall short of truly relational perspectives. From this standpoint, there are two main problems with common theorizations of adaptive capacity. First, it is understood as an antidote to high sensitivity and exposure, as able to outweigh the negative elements of being susceptible to the environment. The possibility that exposure and sensitivity to a changing environment may be valuable or even necessary for adaptation falls outside of this definition’s purveys. The second issue with the widespread understanding of adaptive capacity is that, while there seems to be a conscious effort to avoid a sense of stasis or equilibrium, it does not fully recognize the power of relations in continuously forming what is referred to in these definitions as the “system.” A relational perspective insists that these “stresses” mentioned in Brooks’ definition are hardly external but rather formative of the “system” itself. This is contrary to posthumanist notions that reject assertions of essentiality. For example, Haraway (2008) claims that all entities are in a constant state of becoming, through engagement with others, and Barad (2003) insists that actors are not in the world but of the world. While resilience theorists encourage conceptualization around non-static ideas such as transformability, they also fall short of fully incorporating the continually shifting nature of networks facilitated by interactions that posthumanism avows (cf. Walker et al., 2004). In addition, the diagram-laden explanations for system cycles risk a mechanistic interpretation that posthumanism warns against (cf. Folke, 2006). Relationality is an important ontology with which to approach my project because it provides a framework for understanding the co-constitutedness of various actors as they formulate what appears as reality in Eastern Sri Lanka. It emphasizes the shifting, contested, and partial character of this reality. It also provides a welcome antidote to perspectives that view 
 38
 vulnerability as an inherently negative condition. Perhaps most importantly, it asserts that different entities actively shape the world to which they belong. By emphasizing the power that emerges from relationships, it reveals that a greater array of both human and nonhuman actors can be understood to more actively participate in the construction of reality. To develop this further, we must turn to scholarship on nonhuman agency. Agency beyond the human Resonating with the understanding that Foucault developed of power as multi-nodal, productive, and creative (1968), a relational ontology sees the network or assemblage as saturated with power; power that comes about as a result of these burgeoning connections. ANT theorists maintain that an analytical symmetry must be applied that considers in considering the weight of human and nonhuman actions (Callon, 1986); it must not be pre-determined which actors have power. For the researcher, power relations can only emerge by following the actors and their connections. The ocean is both an actor and a network, yet this is true of all actors, even the human body (Bingham, 1996). The sea works within extensive networks of soldiers, civilians, fisherfolk, coastlines, management policies, ships, and countless others to influence even, or perhaps especially, what are seen as political or social realities in Sri Lanka. While it is superficially apparent that nonhuman entities can act (waves can crash on the shore, bacteria decompose, tree roots cause sidewalks and roads to buckle), nonhuman agency means something more. In their work on the agency of trees, Jones and Cloke (2008) revisit questions of nonhuman agency. They draw on theoretical accounts that deny intentionality as a prerequisite for agency, citing that it is relationality that gives meaning to actions (Haraway, 2008; Barad, 2003). Jones and Cloke (2008: 80-81) identify four ways that nonhumans (in their case specifically trees) can be understood to enact agency. They can engage in routine action, which may be prevented, encouraged, or shaped by humans, but renders them far from passive. 
 39
 They can participate in transformative action, creating or influencing relationships and places. They can act with purpose and imbedded intent; for example DNA contains an obvious plan for the future. Finally, they can act non-reflexively, with “a capacity to engender affective and emotional responses from the humans who dwell amongst them – to contribute to the haunting of place via exchanges between the visible present and the starkly absent in the multiple and incomplete becoming of agency” (2008: 81).  The ocean can be seen to possess all of these types of agency. It practices routine action in the quotidian processes and activities of tides, currents, not to mention its role in the biological functioning of its inhabitants. It transforms relationships and places through incremental action, such as physical weathering, and also through events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. While Jones and Cloke caution against being reductionist and essentialist with regards to intent, it could be said that the ocean also practices embedded intent in wearing away rocks and other materials that impede its movement. Finally, the ocean inspires strong affective responses, as seen in the preceeding discussion, and radically contributes to the meaning of places through its absence or presence, on multiple timescales. While the focus of accounts of nonhuman agency has typically been on animals or technological hybrids such as Haraway’s cyborg, other natural entities deserve attention (Jones and Cloke, 2008). Hence, my research contributes to previous work on the agency of nonhuman entities, particularly in shaping political and lived outcomes. In Chapter Two I explore and build upon the growing literature on theorizing the sea. While some of this work has made nods to posthumanism (cf. Lambert et al., 2006), in most cases the agency of the sea has remained curiously absent. By bringing these bodies of literature into conversation, I believe we can come to a more complete understanding of the role that the ocean plays in shaping outcomes on Sri Lanka’s East coast. 
 40
 Following the ocean I uncover the intersections between armed conflict, the tsunami, and climate change by following the ocean as an actor. In addition to possessing agency in all the ways mentioned above, I see the ocean as a dense transfer point in a way similar to how Foucault used the phrase. Foucault called sexuality an “especially dense transfer point for relations of power” (1986:103) and a site for the proliferation of discourses. Foucault goes on to explain that “sexuality is not the most intractable element in power relations, but rather one of those endowed with the greatest instrumentality: useful for the greatest number of maneuvers and capable of serving as a point of support, as a linchpin for the most varied strategies” (1986:103). I see the ocean in a similar light; as a nexus for many and various types of relations and discourses on power, politics, security, economics, families, wealth, conservation, climate change, and more. For the inhabitants of Sri Lanka’s Eastern coast, it is an entity through which all these discourses must pass.  In writing about the ocean’s importance to Sri Lanka, the conventional approach might be to begin by citing the economic value of fisheries, tourism, and other industries that rely on the sea. While these figures are indeed significant, the ocean has far more than economic worth to the country. Being an island nation means that the ocean literally defines Sri Lanka. Over 30% of the population lives within the coastal zone (UNFCCC National Communication, 2000) and the sea is an oft-represented theme in religious and cultural practices. Indeed, in the ancient Tamil text Silappadikaram, Sri Lanka is referred to repeatedly as the “sea-encircled world” (Trawick, 2007: 27). While the tsunami, the threat of sea level rise, and dynamics present in the war may cause the sea to matter in different ways they are also figurations of the sea’s continued significance for Sri Lanka.  The ocean exemplifies unboundedness, unknowability, and relationality. The very act of trying to define the ocean shows the need for a relational ontology and a network approach that 
 41
 emphasizes context-specificity and process of becoming. Even from the viewpoint of a purely positivist oceanographer, it can be hard to define the ocean. Is it simply the water, or does it include the myriad species that live their whole lives inside? It seems hard to justify including large mammals, such as whales, in the definition of ocean, yet impossible to consider the sea without taking into account the billions of phytoplankton and bacterium present in every liter of sea water. Here, I refer to political ecological accounts that not only claim that entities are defined by their relations to others but that no entity is discrete unto itself (cf. Haraway, 2008). Hence, I am drawn to the ocean as an element of nature while simultaneously challenging its relegation to the background territory of the environment. Structured narratives This thesis is organized into four chapters, including this introductory exposition. In Chapter Two, I make the case for considering the ocean as an actor in Eastern Sri Lanka. I bring together social theory of the ocean, posthumanist theory, and empirics from my fieldwork to argue for the centrality and agency of the ocean. In Chapter Three, I explore some of the implications of understanding the ocean as an actor. In particular, I argue that centering the ocean allows for the tsunami and climate change to be seen as overlapping networks, particularly when considering their relation to various forms of displacement. I also show how the conflict enters into these networks by displacing the East from climate change discourses. Finally, in Chapter Four, I conclude by positing an alternative paradigm for considering the environment and displacement, which privileges common vulnerability and centers upon the vitality of relationships between humans and nonhumans. 
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 Chapter 2: Embodying the ocean as an actor in Eastern Sri Lanka  
 In order to understand how connections are made and networks come to matter (in every sense of the word), Latour urges us to “follow the actors themselves” (2005: 12). I have chosen to follow the ocean as an actor in order to understand linkages on Sri Lanka’s East coast. In this chapter, I centre the ocean as a departure point for the connections that I trace in the rest of this thesis. I examine how the ocean has taken on meaning through cultural and scientific means. I then focus on the role of the ocean in Sri Lanka and in my research site of Batticaloa more specifically. Throughout my exploration, I take relational ontologies as the key starting point, tracing how the ocean comes to matter through material and discursive associations, and how, in turn, the ocean creates meaning through these relationships.5 Theorizing the ocean: Difficulties and potentials Social theory of the ocean is rife with complexities, parallels, and oppositions. Although the oceans cover about 70% of the earth’s surface, they have not received much attention in geographic theory. The oceans challenge what it means to be human and the contributions that being human makes to geographical theorizing, as I will explain later. In the recent spatial turn in geography and other disciplines,6 the oceans have become at worst an inconvenient exception and at best a challenging conundrum. In a discipline that focuses increasingly on the urban, the technical, and even the cyber-body as the most recent forms of knowing the earth, the ocean 























































5
Relational
ontologies
maintain
that
humans
and
nonhumans
are
created
through
their
relationships
and
that
power
is
an
emergent
quality
of
these
relationships
(cf.
Haraway,
2008;
Whatmore,
2002).

 6 The spatial turn, which began in earnest in the 1990s, asserts the importance of sites of practice in political, social, and economic analyses (cf. Soja, 2003; Soja, 1999; Soja, 1993; Thrift, 2002; Berg, 2004). 
 43
 seems to recede (Connery, 2006). Emphasis and idealization of instant connectivity construes the ocean as the emblematic materiality to be superseded. One possible reason for this lack of engagement is that the ocean has the potential to confound key paradigms of geography, such as place and space. Concepts of place are most intrinsically rooted in the body. In the deep sea, bodies have no reference; when land is not in view, they are oriented only to above and below the water. One may even go so far as to say that the sea7 represents the limits of place-based knowledge; Foucault implies that oceans are place- less (Connery, 2006; Foucault, 1986). In some senses, the perceived placeless-ness of the ocean has led to its consideration of empty, somehow ‘pure’ space. Yet, recent literature that brings the ocean to the fore demonstrates the importance of understanding the ocean as much more than empty space. Through and alongside paradigmatic disruptions of space, place, sovereignty, and humanism, the ocean presents possibilities for materialization of imaginaries of different kinds of space, and for reimagining spaces in new ways.  Relatively recent attempts to decolonize geography have led to a rising interest in the sea as a medium through which global connections can be understood and the nation-state can be transcended (Lambert et al., 2006). This renewed interest involves re-conceptualizing the sea in contrast to the placeless figuration mentioned above as “not as an undifferentiated emptiness between the land, but as a culturally configured site of knowledge and power where philosophical, scientific and aesthetic discourses intersect with socio-economic, technological and political forces” (MacDonald, 2007). This turn is especially apparent in emergent accounts of the Atlantic slave trade, which focus on connections across the Atlantic basin rather than centering the activities of any given nation (cf. Carney, 2005). Hence, regionalisms of the sea replace regionalisms that are focused on land-based activity (Connery, 2006).  























































7
For the purposes of these arguments, I use ‘sea’ and ‘ocean’ interchangeably.
 
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  The wider implications of theorizing the sea are noteworthy for their potential to bring about social change. The sea is not a traditionally productive site of social alternatives, even among critical theorists; as Steinberg (2001) notes, feminists may assert that social reproduction rarely occurs at sea, and Marxists may argue that the sea is neither a significant source of labour nor of added value. However, not only are these viewpoints very humanist and slightly narrow, but Steinberg goes on to explain that postmodernists have increasingly found productivity in the margins, in “zones of partial incorporation” (2001: 190). Here, he mentions that anarchists and communists have looked to the sea for social alternatives, including “communal, non-static ethics of the mercantile-era pirate band” (2001: 191). In examples such as these, the sea can be seen as a different type of space where different realities are possible. At the very least, it provides the opportunity for de-centering the nation state as the locus of analysis. This also has the potential to undo some of the epistemological effects of a Westphalian state system, crucial elements of which included constructing the sea as a great void so as to legitimatize the consolidation of land-based systems of power as the only spaces where civilization and community could be established (Kramsch and Motzenbacker, 2003)8. In conceiving of the ocean as a unique kind of space, Deleuze and Guattari’s theorizations feature prominently. They write of the ocean as “smooth space,” a space of openness, mobility, and freedom, contrasting yet yielding to “striated space,” subject to administration, gridding, and accounting. Yet, others have noted that this “smooth space” ideal is constantly at odds with the modern nation-state and its oft-successful attempts to extend the reign of territorial rule into distant waters (Steinberg, 2001; Kramsch and Motzenbacher, 2003; Gupta and Sharma, 2008). These authors have also critiqued the degree to which an overriding territorial logic is accurate as it takes the sea as being largely ahistorical and immaterial.   























































 8 However, legal developments, such as the 1982 Law of the Sea, and certain prerogatives of capitalist logic extend and reinstate the Westphalian model (Steinberg, 1999). 
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 Political economy addresses the sea within mainly two conflicting imperatives of capitalist spatial logic. Philip Steinberg best explores these tensions in his 2001 book entitled The Social Construction of the Ocean. In this work, he combines perspectives that view the ocean in terms of resource management, commercial space, and political/military field in what he calls a territorial political economy approach, drawing on world systems theory, articulation, and spatial dialectics to holistically evaluate uses, regulations, and representations of ocean space. Throughout, he explains the sea as both space and place. The relationship between the concepts of space and place is complex, perhaps best seen as dialectical. The association between space and place as embodied by the sea includes possibilities and indeed sometimes imperatives of simultaneity, spatial and temporal variation, and mutual necessity. These conflicting logics result in an unstable ocean-space; an arena of flows, but also a place that serves other functions (Steinberg, 2001). While my approach is less focused on political economy, I build on Steinberg’s conception of the ocean as an arena of shifting and multiple meanings. On one hand, free market capitalism’s need for de-regulated and expanding markets and lowest possible costs for shipping mandate that the ocean be seen as simply space to be transcended. In this view, the ocean is empty, pure space. This perspective calls for an absence of regulations that would impede trade and shipping. It simultaneously explains the proliferation of technology and practices that attempt to traverse the ocean as rapidly and friction-free as possible. Steinberg provides several examples of this logic. For instance, containerization has allowed for transport to flow smoothly across land and sea. Ports are viewed nostalgically for their historic value by the general public, while their current functions are largely hidden, and the public figure of the sailor is but a relic. At the other end of this dialectic, capitalism’s imperative of territorial expansion looks to the sea as an opportunity for extending state political and economic boundaries. Here, the sea is a 
 46
 place, and an important one for expanding national territory for interlinked economic and political aims. This can be exemplified by the 1982 expansion of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to 200 nautical miles from the coast.9 This is reflected in analyses of the coast and ocean as important arenas of cultural and economic exchange.10 For example, there exists an emerging body of work on oceanic tourism as sea-based medium for cultural interaction and economic opportunity (cf. Jennings, 2005; Kester, 2003; Hall, 2001; Dowling, 2006). Overlapping but not entirely subsumed within this logic is one that sees the ocean as a source of natural resources and as an ecosystem in need of protection (Steinberg, 2001). From this viewpoint, the sea is seen as a special space not only for trade and military functions but also for nature. Here, specific elements of the ocean are designated as subject to regulation and stewardship, while not being seen as territory of any single nation. The declaration of 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean can be seen as evidence of this perspective.  Within these broad characterizations of the sea, several distinctions are important to consider. Spatial and temporal variations are, not surprisingly, most important. Steinberg (2001) cautions against ahistorical views of the ocean as resource or as military territory, which ignore the reality that oceans have neither a long history of being recognized as resource-rich nor of territorial regulation. Spatially, different oceans have been conceptualized differently, due to any number of socio-natural distinctions. For example, in the Indian Ocean (where my study is located), seasonal weather plays a major role: clear skies and gentle winds have made it historically amenable to trade, while the capricious monsoon has prevented intensive sea travel and has led to the construction of the ocean as dangerous space (Steinberg, 2001). In addition to 























































9
State sovereignty of the continental shelf extends to up to 350 nautical miles from the baseline of the territorial sea (Green, 2001).

10
Steinberg (2001) points out that EEZs are not territories of the state but spaces where single states have exclusive rights.

 
 47
 the variation in different seas across the globe, there are theoretical and practical contrasts between the deep sea and coastal waters.  The dialectic in political economy between the ocean as a space to be transcended and as an important site of production and reproduction is extended in other fields of social theory. It is not hard to recognize the prominent cultural role of the sea. One can easily bring to mind dozens, if not hundreds, of songs, paintings, works of literature, and the like, which highlight representations of the ocean. However, the centrality of the ocean and the ways that it figures in cultural representations are far from universal, even among maritime populations (Lambert et al., 2006). Like most authors cited here, I am hesitant to generalize about the role of the sea across vastly different cultures. However, I follow their lead to explore some of these repeated tropes in order to examine some of the ways the worlds’ oceans have been given meaning, before discussing in greater detail the role of the sea in Sri Lanka. Making meaning of/with the sea In their introductory article for a special issue of the Journal of Historical Geography dealing with the sea, Lambert and colleagues (2006) mention that understanding cultural representations of the sea can offer an important alternative to purely bioeconomic accounts. They provide a helpfully thorough list of recurrent themes in imaginative geographies of the ocean, albeit from a largely Western perspective. These include the vastness of the sea; the trope of the sublime; the sea as a source of fear, madness, conflict, and disorder; the evasive, detached, and sensuous activity of swimming; the ocean as primeval source of life, and the confrontation with the frailty of both the individual and of entire societies. Connery elaborates on the sea within a Western context, citing tropes of the sea as distinctly Other and situated outside of time (2006). Partially in response to a noted lack of theorization around the ocean, there have been increased theorizations on what occurs at sea, most notably on boats. This includes the work on 
 48
 ocean-based tourism mentioned above. In another vein, Foucault has written about the boat as the ultimate heterotopia, a “place without a place” (1986: 27). Heterotopias are, for Foucault, sites that exist in reality yet contain the opportunity for rules of governance that differ from those of everyday life; places where “all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted” (1986: 24). It is interesting to note that Foucault describes these sites as meaningful strictly because of their relational qualities – they both relate to yet in some ways contradict other sites. Likewise, Lambert and colleagues state that what happens at sea is neither a continuation nor the total opposite of what happens on land (2006). Figuring the sea as different from, yet intimately related to the land is a recurring theme in imaginative geographies and cultural interpretations of the sea.  The frequent recurrence of the ocean in relation to uncertainty, conflict, and chaos is remarkable. Westerdhal (2005) cites a widespread sense of antagonism between the land and the sea, elaborating on examples such as different languages that the same group of people use when speaking at sea or on land, and the different taboos at work in these different places. He goes so far as to state that these are common traits in most maritime cultures. A stronger sense of violence is belied in Connery’s discussions of the sea as the genesis of discourses of both human and supernatural conquering of the elements, referring heavily to biblical imagery (2006). Yet the ocean, he notes, is never fully conquered; it has the potential to become again an undifferentiated, ungoverned mass, for example in the case of Noah and the flood.  It is not just in legend that the ocean has maintained a sense of mystery and power. The ocean also challenges scientists with its inhospitable conditions and unknowability. Although there is widespread agreement that it will be a significant issue, sea level rise remains one of the most poorly understood and uncertain aspects of climate change predictions (cf. Lowe and Gregory, 2010). And it is not just sea level rise that is an important effect of climate change – it 
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 is also extreme high and low tides, storm surges, changes in ocean acidity, and other effects of a warmer ocean, such as coral bleaching (Bindoff et al., 2007). Although scientists estimate with very high confidence that these changes will happen, their severity, time frames, and other variables are subject to greater uncertainty and regional variability (Bindoff et al., 2007). Even without considering climate change, much remains unknown about the sea. Much of the ocean floor is unexplored, and although it is likely home to millions of species, currently only about 230,000 have been named (Kunzig, 2007).  Despite the mysteries that the ocean presents, it is important to note that the sea is not always inherently “other” from the land, nor is it always powerful and unpredictable. For example, Lambert and colleagues (2006) discuss the significance of the beach as a liminal space. Westerdahl (2005) also mentions that the worlds of the land and the sea meet in one figure, the fisher/farmer. This is significant for my work as the participants in my research often embodied this land/sea hybrid in their daily practices. However, it is important to note that the centrality of the ocean, even as an elemental force, is not universal. In China, Connery (2006: 504-505) notes, the same word for the sea can also refer to a vast expanse of land, and despite Chinese history of naval prowess, the ocean does not feature as an elemental power in historical accounts. The word Sahel means “shore” in Arabic, but is used in reference to the region at the edge of the Sahara Desert. Similarly, in Arabic, the same word can be used to describe riding a camel and riding a ship (Steinberg, 2001: 49). The various elements I discuss above have one thing in common: they are all ways that people have come to understand and make meaning from the sea, or ways that people have used the sea to make meaning of other parts of life. However, Lambert and colleagues insert an important caution: “overemphasis on human agency […] makes for a curiously empty conception of the sea, in which it serves mainly as a framework […]” (2006: 482). When the 
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 focus rests on how humans have created understandings of the sea, the materiality and the agency of the sea is often lost – we fail to recognize how the sea itself creates human understandings of reality, and indeed reality itself. Furthermore, even work that more centrally locates the sea as a connector creates incomplete theorizations; as Connery aptly states, “connectivity itself functions to dematerialize the connector” (2006: 497). He goes on to assert that the dematerialization of the ocean is “linked to the long process of capital’s concealment of its spatial and social character,” (2006: 498) which further disarticulates production and consumption (Steinberg, 2001). Similarly, Steinberg (2001) notes that while society has seemingly become reoriented around flows and networks (cf. Castells, 2001), it fails to account for the materiality (and I would insert agency) of these spaces themselves. While scientific analyses can reinforce the physical importance of the sea, they often neglect the discursive elements that work in dynamic association with the material to give full weight to the ocean. Hence, both many social theories and scientific studies of the sea reinstate a problematic division between the natural and the social. Therefore, I find it vital to bring this literature into conversation with posthumanist, political ecological, poststructural, and feminist contributions to socio-natural theory discussed in Chapter 1 in order to realize the sea more fully as an actor.  While the focus of accounts of nonhuman agency has typically been on animals or technological hybrids such as Haraway’s cyborg, other natural entities deserve attention (Jones and Cloke, 2008). Hence, my research contributes to previous work on the agency of nonhuman entities, particularly in shaping political and lived outcomes. In conjunction, I build on the growing literature previously mentioned around theorizing the sea. While some of this work has made nods to posthumanism (Lambert et al., 2006), in most cases the agency of the sea has remained curiously absent. Through a consideration of both bodies of literature, I believe we can come to a more complete understanding of the role that the ocean plays in shaping outcomes on 
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 Sri Lanka’s East coast. Engaging the ocean in Sri Lanka The island nation of Sri Lanka is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, and in particular the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Gulf of Mannar. Steinberg (2001) describes the Indian Ocean region in pre-colonial times as highly diverse with extensive trade networks, likely facilitated by clear skies and gentle winds, however limited by the seasonal monsoons. Although variability existed among different cultures in this region, the sea generally was seen as being apart from society, representing space and not place, an “untamable mystery” (Steinberg, 2001: 45). While trade was important, it was largely divorced from social power, leaving Indian Ocean nations unprepared for European naval conquest (Steinberg, 2001). In present times, the seas remain important to this part of the globe. Suryanarayn (2005a) characterizes the region as the “Bay of Bengal community” and points out that all the countries of Southeast Asia, with the exception of Laos, are maritime countries. The Bay of Bengal community takes on international importance as he also states that one in every five people in the world is from this region.  As an island nation, the ocean literally defines Sri Lanka, and with the capital and many significant settlements located on the coast, the role of the ocean should not be underestimated. However, given the long and diverse history Sri Lankan culture and nation-building, it is beyond the scope of my project here to detail all the ways the ocean has mattered for the island as a whole throughout Sri Lankan history. In contrast to Steinberg’s (2001) assertion that the pre- colonial Indian Ocean was a space apart from society, the ocean features prominently in a great deal of Hindu mythology. For example, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is the daughter of the king of the seas, and Vishnu, the most important Hindu deity, takes the form of Matsya, the great fish (Suryanarayn, 2005a). It is also clear that the ocean matters from an economic standpoint. In Sri Lanka, it is estimated that 700,000 people out of a population of about 19 million rely on 
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 fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods (Suryanarayan, 2005b). Ocean-based tourism was also a lucrative industry, particularly at times the armed conflict was less intense (Robinson and Jarvie, 2008).  It is hard to judge the significance of the sea for Batticaloa by looking at fisheries production statistics, because fishing in the district has been severely restricted due to security concerns as the civil armed conflict has played out over the past decades. Perhaps one can get a more accurate sense by looking at the number of people who died in the tsunami which lies at nearly 3,000 or the number displaced, which was almost 60,000, out of a population of about 500,000, but these data are also difficult to verify (UNICEF, 2006; UNHCR, 2005). Maybe all you need to do is look at a map to see that the ocean is ever-present in this district, as most settlements border the open sea and/or a series of semi-saline lagoons.  While the ocean and coastal zone are sources of economic and cultural value for Sri Lanka, they also have historically been zones of displacement. The ocean, both the open sea and lagoons, has played an important role in the history of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, and in Batticaloa in particular. The naval division of the LTTE, the Sea Tigers, has been one of the most powerful elements of the movement, and several key battles have been fought at sea, with the LTTE often emerging victorious (Ganguly, 2004; see also Asian Tribune, 11 November 2006; BBC, 25 September 2006). Further, most of the deadliest and protracted battles in the 30-year civil conflict were fought in the coastal regions of the North and the East, which comprise two thirds of the country’s coastline (Suryanarayn, 2005b). 
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  Both the LTTE and government forces inflicted displacement of Tamil and Muslim civilians both to and from increasingly marginal coastal territory. In 1990, near Batticaloa in the town of Eravur, the LTTE massacred 173 Muslim men, women, and children, marking the start of a concerted effort in the district to “ethnically cleanse Muslims from Tiger- controlled territory, or at a minimum displace them from their homes to shanty villages along the beach, between lagoon and sea” (Hyndman, 2007: 364). As people have been displaced to coastal zones, they also have been displaced within these areas. In Batticaloa district, a narrow coastal zone has also been one of two main theatres in the district of ongoing conflict and erratically shifting regimes of power between the LTTE and the government forces, and the line of control often cut directly through the coastal lagoon system, as shown in Figure 2 (Bohle and Fünfgeld, 2007; Trawick 2007). The lagoons also were a threat to the SLAF because they believed the dense vegetation provided cover for LTTE combatants and vessels. Hence, they destroyed most of the mangroves and greatly altered the lagoon ecology, to the detriment of fish populations (Bohle and Fünfgeld, 2007). As Bohle and Fünfgeld state, “All along the coastal strip of Batticaloa District, violent events have become part of the social memory of the villagers and defining events in their individual life histories and Figure 2: Batticaloa lagoon, 2006. Source: Bohle and Fünfgeld, 2007 
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 collective memories” (2007: 675).  During my research, I attempted to further understand the role of the ocean in the lives of people living in Batticaloa. I wanted to gain insight not only into the ways they use the ocean for fishing or other economic pursuits, but, in a less instrumental sense, of wider meaning of the sea for those who live on its shores. While there is evidence to support the notion that the ocean is central to the lives of Sri Lankans living on the East coast, Connery’s previously-mentioned cautions against assuming that the sea is universally understood as unpredictable (2006) are vital. Rather, I consider the possibility that the tsunami introduced an entirely novel level of unpredictability to the ocean, which had previously been a more stable, albeit powerful, part of life.  The materiality of the sea plays a vital role in defining the rhythms of life for fisherfolk living on the coast. 11 Seasonal weather and currents, physical indicators of good fishing, and ocean topography are crucial to their safety and success and hold great sway over their daily routines. Of course, the sea is not the only actor that determines their wellbeing and influences their day-to-day realities, and the ocean also acts in concert with other forces. Hence, I locate the materiality of the ocean as part of a network, an approach that does not recognize so-called root causes or driving forces.  Fisherfolk in the Batticaloa region engage in three types of fishing, based on the type of water body where they fish: marine, lagoon, and inland. According to the district director of Sewalanka, a development NGO, marine fishing is the most lucrative (and was most heavily affected by the tsunami). Prominent lagoons offer prime habitat for prawns and for mangrove trees, which serve multiple functions, including fish breeding habitat, protection from erosion, 























































 11 While the people with whom I spoke were predominantly male, I avoid using the term “fishermen” in order to refrain from implying that it is only men that are affected by the relationships and phenomenon described.  While “fisherfolk” feels a bit clumsy and perhaps outdated, no appropriate gender-neutral term for people who fish exists. 
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 carbon sequestration, and fruit and fuel resources. In addition to the lagoons, coral reefs abound off the coast of Batticaloa, particularly near Pasikudah, in the Northern part of the district. These corals provide not only ideal habitat for fish breeding and protection from coastal erosion (recognized as important by nearly everyone with whom I spoke), but also economic opportunities for tourism, coral mining, and the export of aquarium fish. However, these corals were severely damaged in a 1998 bleaching incident related to the El Niño year, making them particularly susceptible to tsunami damage (Rajasuriya, 2005). The boats used by most of the fisherfolk who participated in my study are small wooden and fiberglass craft, most very narrow, with wooden outriggers for stability and either no motors or small outboard motors (Figure 3). A few use larger vessels, known as multi-day boats because they can stay at sea for several days at a time (Figure 4). The fisherfolk work in crews of about 17 members, and most do not own the boats or the nets that they use.  The 30-year civil war has been especially hard on the fisherfolk of Batticaloa. Suryanarayn (2005b) states that Tamil fisherfolk are among the most detrimentally affected in the conflict, due to bombings, lack of access to new technologies, and restrictions on their mobility and fishing activities. Constraints on fishing have played various roles in the lives of fishermen in Batticaloa. During the years that the LTTE had political control in the area, they imposed certain laws and Figure 3: Outrigger canoe, near Batticaloa Figure 4: Multi-day boat, Valaichennai 
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 restrictions, but no one I spoke with complained about them, and one NGO worker explained that people were accustomed to the LTTE’s regulations. However, restrictions imposed by the SLAF seemed stricter and more arbitrary and were met with much less understanding. The mobility provided by the sea, even to civilians, was a serious threat to the army. 12 The SLAF was also afraid that Tamil fisherfolk, under the guise of innocent civilians, would help the Tigers with information or resources. Participants in my research study, both fisherfolk and NGO officials, repeatedly discussed restrictions that had been placed on when and where fishing could occur and what technologies could be used (for example, no GPS and restricted motor size). Some reported that the restrictions had been lifted after the government’s military victory in May, about a month before my study began, while others said they were still in effect. Some participants reported that they had made certain agreements with the army that allowed them fewer restrictions, although the army had later turned on them, breaking into their Fishermen’s Cooperative Society building and stealing all their supplies. Restrictions and related punishments were not evenly applied but rather the ocean became another focal point around and through which the SLAF and Tamil civilians negotiated forms of power and resistance.  The ocean was ever-present during the course of my research in Sri Lanka. Most days, I would walk or cycle or get a ride on a motorbike the short distance from my guesthouse to the shore. It was too hot to move about during the heat of the day, so these trips would take place 























































 12 For a discussion on the centrality of limited mobility, even for civilians, to the tactics of the SLAF, see Hyndman and de Alwis, 2004. Figure 5: Tsunami ruins, Navalady 
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 very early in the morning, or late afternoon. At the beginning of this short journey, I would pass many houses and a few small shops selling essentials such as soap, biscuits, and candy, but as I reached the area where the sea and the lagoon are close together, with only a spit of land between, the landscape would change. Here, the tsunami had taken a heavy toll. Wrecked and abandoned buildings and memorials to those who had died defined the scenery on the left side of the road (Figure 5). On the right side of the road was a scrubby belt of trees, and then the beach. Beyond the beach, the sea, dark blue and interrupted only by the horizon.  Here I would find the fisherfok, all of them men, sitting in the sand in the shade of small, thatch-roofed huts with open walls, drinking strong black tea, sometimes mending nets, and watching the sea (Figure 6). They told me that they could tell if the fishing would be good by looking for certain cues in the sea. For example, if the water appears red or black, it means that there will be many fish. They also reported they could tell the type of fish by the angle that they swam from the shore. When they saw indication of good fishing, they said, they would have some boats ready to go to sea. I watched the sea too but could never pick up on the signs they described.  For a large portion of the year, from about November to July, the small-scale fisherfolk do not fish in the sea because the waters become too rough. This is when the Northeast monsoon occurs and cyclones are more likely, particularly in the month of December. During this time, they often turn to the lagoon for fishing (particularly prawn fishing), or to other forms of income, such as making and selling jewelry or cultivating rice paddy. They also do not fish during the full moon because fishing will be unprofitable. On the whole, the fisherfolk with whom I spoke used a great deal of discretion when deciding to go Figure 6: Fishermen fixing net near Batticaloa 
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 to sea, not solely for safety reasons but also for maximum efficiency, particularly when it came to costly fuel.  The centrality of the ocean as a means of livelihood and hence its elemental role in their lives came up over and over. Despite the obvious power of the sea, and their comparative vulnerability to it, the ocean seemed in some senses to be very reliable. Not only did they know it intimately, as described above, but they also depended upon it. With one group of fishermen, I brought up the notion of trust, explaining that I trusted the proprietor of the small guesthouse where I stayed to cook me meals, have a place for me to sleep, and help to keep me safe during my stay, regardless of anything else that may happen. I asked them if they trust the sea in a similar way. They answered that they did, and that even if their wives were late bringing them morning tea, they would go to the sea to fish. Many stated they would continue to fish in the face of any adversity, because it was the only way they knew to make a living. Further, they repeatedly expressed the importance of physical proximity to the sea for fishing, that even though they might desire to move away from the sea after the tsunami, they could not conduct their fisheries livelihood when not in sight of the sea.  Of course, these statements speak also to poverty and lack of alternative options of these fisherfolk, which are caused by a number of forces, not least among them neoliberal capitalism and the armed conflict; it is not just that the sea exerts some sort of innate magnetism. However, my purpose here is not to dispute these various explanations but to understand the ocean as at the centre of their lives, and its durable and steadfast function. The fisherfolk told me repeatedly that the tsunami was an anomaly, that they had never experienced anything like it. It could be said that in a sense, while the ocean has always been powerful, it became unpredictable with the tsunami.  While we chatted, I asked the fisherfolk repeatedly if they had any stories about the sea, 
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 any myths or legends that featured the ocean. They always told me that they didn’t. While it is of course possible that they do not, or that they couldn’t think of any at the time, I think it also may be that the ocean is a constant feature rather than the subject of many stories. With the group of fisherfolk whom I most often visited, I tried a different tack and asked whether the children had any stories about the ocean. I was told that most of the children in this area (near the community of Navalady, between the sea and the lagoon) had died in the 2004 tsunami, and those who hadn’t didn’t want to tell stories that reminded them of the disaster. This response perhaps says more than any story they could have recounted.  Other stories, told by adults, around the tsunami did illustrate some ways in which the ocean acts as a transfer point for global political relations. Although the source and cause of the tsunami it is now common knowledge, and has been for some time, I asked the research participants what they initially believed to be the cause of the tsunami. The most common answer was that Western nations, and the US in particular, had detonated a nuclear weapon. That they believed this to be a stronger possibility than the SLAF trying to assert their upper hand in the civil war attests to the power of the ocean to be a conduit for the political anxieties of the coastal residents of a small island nation about the global world order. A volatile ocean: The impact of the 2004 tsunami With this background of the ocean, I turn to the effects of the 2004 tsunami. Many authors argue that the 2004 tsunami, and so-called natural disasters more generally, are socially formed (cf. Clark, 2007; Comfort et al., 1999). The social construction of “natural” disaster has two meanings; one, such events wouldn’t be considered disastrous if not for humans in the way; and two, social relations cause the negative effects of the disasters to be unevenly distributed and perhaps more harmful than necessary. Both of these implications carry great weight in Sri Lanka and much excellent scholarship has been published to this end. For example, Hyndman (2007) 
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 has discussed the extent to which the Sri Lankan government used the tsunami and related fears to further displace and consolidate Tamil populations as an influential strategy in the armed conflict. Second, Korf and colleagues (2005; 2006; 2007; Hasbullah and Korf, 2009) have written about the aftermath of the tsunami and the ways it was instrumentalized by various groups, both within and outside of Sri Lanka. Hasbullah and Korf write of a “politics of purification” somewhat similar to what Hyndman discusses, although more focused on Muslim settlements in the East (Hasbullah and Korf, 2009).The effects of the record amounts of aid that came in after the tsunami have gained widespread scholarly attention (Nanthikesan, 2005; Korf, 2007; Korf et al., 2009; Clark, 2007; Stirrat, 2006). Korf draws attention to what he terms the “antinomies of aid,” which not only fail to acknowledge the agency of Sri Lankans in recovery processes but reinstate a world order where South Asian countries must supplicate themselves in gratitude to the West (Korf, 2007; Korf et al., 2009). Several commentators also question why local examples of generosity went uncelebrated and why this disaster generated such an unprecedented outpouring of aid. They expose the relative value placed of the lives and deaths of white tourists as opposed to brown and black victims of the tsunami and other catastrophes, as well as political jockeying on the parts of NGOs and national governments that often played a significant role in aid allocation (Clark, 2007; Olds et al., 2005; Nanthikesan, 2005).  What most scholarship on the 2004 tsunami has left unaddressed is the materiality of the disaster – what it means that the ocean unexpectedly arose to destroy property, homes, and lives. The most notable exception is Clark (2007), who describes the way the tsunami, like other natural disasters, caused human beings, even those not directly affected, to confront our collectivity, to re-imagine the centrality of our inherent vulnerability, and to glimpse infinitude. With the powerful associations that many cultures have with the sea, I would add, an event like the tsunami causes these sensations to manifest even more strongly. This is not to say that the 
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 other previously mentioned accounts are inaccurate or misrepresentative, or that the ocean played some sort of asocial role. Rather, I point this out because it is worthwhile to consider the ways that the materiality of the tsunami acted in particular social and political ways, changing how people on the coast think about the sea. This has implications not only for the social and political configurations that are currently playing out, but also for the ways these communities will address potential future disasters or oceanic changes such as sea level rise.  The materiality of the tsunami was certainly not lost on the people who experienced it. Here I turn my focus to the intimate, to what people reported of this most trying of times. I assert that it is important to understand these reactions to the tsunami not as some lesser scale than regional or global social and political outcomes. Rather, different responses at different “scales” can be seen as juxtapositions of similarly weighty contributions, all mattering and all creating the reality of the tsunami’s aftermath. Additionally, it is crucial to make a note on the recounting of these stories, and on proceeding accounts of the conflict. Much has been written on the politics and pitfalls of testimony and witnessing, particularly when this occurs internationally (cf. Wright, 2009). I did not intend to extract stories of personal loss due to the tsunami or the war. Yet, these accounts came up virtually every time I spoke with people during my research, particularly when it came to the tsunami.  The impression I got when being told these stories was not, however, that people were desperate to have these stories heard; rather, people believed I expected them to tell these stories, to offer up the counts of the dead and damaged. My intuition suggests this is what they were asked to do throughout the barrage of NGOs and media organizations that followed the tsunami. For uncertain reasons, these accounts of loss and suffering came up less frequently when it came to discussions around the conflict. This could indicate the fraught political implications of discussing the war in depth. It could also be that the comparative lack of international and NGO 
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 attention that has historically been delegated to refugees of the armed conflict makes these stories less valuable or necessary to recount to visitors. In the discussions that elicited these stories of personal loss due to the tsunami, I found myself being strongly hustled down the discursive paths of previous aid workers and academics. Hence, I proceed with caution, and with the awareness that there is nothing innocent and everything risky in (mis)representing these stories.  People’s stories of what happened just before the tsunami centrally feature material elements of the sea as acting in particularly meaningful ways. A few participants mentioned that jellyfish and snakes filled the lagoon and gathered near the bridge that spans the distance between Kallady and Batticaloa. One man recalled that five days before the tsunami, the sea had been quite rough (not unusual in the month of December) but then three days before it had become calm. Another said that a month before the tsunami, a big cloud had appeared in the sky, and everyone believed there would be a big cyclone. The details recounted in these observations are remarkable, as nearly five years had passed since the tsunami at the time of my research.  As the water withdrew before the first big wave, the fisherfolk reported being able to walk on the ground that would normally be underwater. During the tsunami, those at sea were unharmed, but they heard a loud sound; in the words of one participant, “the sea broke.” After the first wave, some fishermen went away from the sea, but others got caught in the inundation. One man recounted being in the lagoon at 8:45am; he heard screaming and shouting, saw big waves and climbed up a tree.13  Fisherfolk and people living on the coast also observed material changes in the sea after the 























































 13 As Hyndman (2008) writes, many of the women did not have tree-climbing skills. Participants in my research project also explained that women’s long hair and saris got caught in the barbed wire fences that surround their homes when they tried to flee. Hence the tsunami deaths are deeply gendered – between 40,000 and 45,000 more women were killed than men (Tsunami Evaluation Coalition, n.date). 
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 tsunami. These include damage to the lagoons due to an influx of water, sand, and debris; the destruction of corals; more snakes in the sea; and the presence of debris in the ocean, which damaged fishing nets. They also became aware of changes in the currents and climate, which they attributed to the effects of the tsunami. These changes will be discussed in greater detail in upcoming chapters. These intense material experiences with the stuff of the sea, with this wall of water, combined with the sea’s centrality and otherwise dependability make its material considerations vital in understanding the responses of people living on the coast.  This chapter argues for the importance of understanding the sea as an actor with agency that shapes reality through its myriad relationships with others. The importance of these relationships is evidenced by the ocean’s frequent presence in cultural practices and perceptions, and its symbolism for many features of the human condition. Yet the ocean, I have explained, also challenges humanist assumptions of nature, place, and space, which are reflected in the ocean’s uneasy and contradictory fit with capitalism and nation-based forms of power. Social theories of the ocean have provided insight into the potentials that exist for political productivity and transformation when the space of the sea is given ontological prominence. Yet, posthumanist epistemologies caution against poststructuralist extremes that take discourse, performance, and narrative as the formative elements of society (Murdoch, 2006; Whatmore, 2002). In a social theory of the ocean that is in conversation with posthumanist epistemologies the ocean takes on greater weight due to the emphasis on the proliferation of material and discursive relations between humans and the sea. Conclusion My project in this chapter has been to lay the foundations for an alternative frame with which to understand Sri Lanka’s East coast. Privileging the ocean as an actor, I bring posthumanism into conversation with social theories of the sea to create a frame that explains the emergence of 
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 power through discursive and material relations (Latour, 1995). This frame contributes to posthumanist literature by drawing attention to a non-sentient natural element, deviating from recent focus on animals and technology as key subjects for posthumanist analysis (Conner, 2006; Jones and Cloke, 2008).  Nowhere is the significance of the ocean more evident than in Eastern Sri Lanka, where the ocean has both materially brought about destruction and provided sustenance, and has also been a locus of relations through which humans and nonhumans negotiate power and resistance, resilience and survival. In this chapter, I provided evidence to draw out three reflections on theorizing the ocean that are particular to my research site. First, I have shown that the sea occupies a central role in coastal residents’ daily lives, and hence integrally shapes both their physical and social environments, such that the sea becomes embodied as an actor.  Second, while for many the sea is thought of as a void or a space to be transcended (Steinberg, 2001), for the participants in my research, the ocean, at least near coastal areas, was understood as a place, with defining material characteristics that allowed them to predict its dynamic qualities. Finally, as discussed by others, yet contrary to many dominant tropes, for the residents of Batticaloa, the ocean was not inherently unpredictable or Other (Lambert et al., 2005; Connery, 2006; Westerdahl, 2005). However, unpredictability and volatility emerged with force as a result of the 2004 tsunami, changing the ways that people conceptualized and observed the ocean. Furthermore, the tsunami rearranged the coastal network, reconfiguring relations between human and nonhuman actors. In the coming chapters, I elaborate on the significance of understanding the ocean as an actor in Sri Lanka, taking a network-based approach to exploring the relations that have formed post-tsunami reality on the East coast.  
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 Chapter 3: (Re)configuring Sri Lanka’s coastal networks: Connecting the 2004 tsunami, climate change, and human displacement  In the previous chapter, I explained how the ocean can be conceptualized as an actor in Eastern Sri Lanka. Here, I turn to a more detailed analysis of the implications of this ontological shift. Keeping displacement as a central theme of this study, I explore how treating the ocean as an actor transforms understandings of the linkages between post-disaster reconstruction, armed conflict, and climate change. I engage in what Latour (2005) calls “collecting the collective,” tracing the ocean and its linkages to other actors on Sri Lanka’s coast. Again following Latour (2005), I disassemble groups of actors that are traditionally considered together, and allow different networks to emerge. Consequently, I emphasize connections that could not be presumed prior to engaging in this process. I begin this chapter by describing and theorizing changes fisherfolk and other coastal residents reported having noticed in the ocean after the tsunami as a way to explore networks of human and nonhuman actors and the ways that displacement results or is avoided. Next, I explore the ways people connected many of these changes to both the tsunami and climate change. Here, my main argument is that although scientists claim the tsunami did not cause climate change nor vice versa, the tsunami brought climate change into being by reconfiguring the coastal network. The tsunami changed myriad relations between humans and nonhumans and ushered in new regimes for conceptualizing and managing the coast, which restructure practices and perceptions of climate change. Finally, I discuss the ways this coproduction has been materially and discursively limited on the East coast due to the ongoing conflict, which has had severe consequences in this region. Throughout, I explain how treating the ocean as an actor aids 
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 in understanding some of the nuances of the environment-displacement relationship more generally. I consider responses to the tsunami at greater temporal distance than many humanitarian aid/emergency response analyses in two ways.14 One, my research took place nearly five years after the tsunami, when many tsunami-relief nongovernmental organizations  (NGOs) were leaving the area or significantly decreasing staff and services. Local people also were getting on with their lives, having adjusted at least to some degree to their new realities, within the context of further turmoil due to the war and its dramatic conclusion just before my arrival. Second, I asked questions that prompted the research participants to situate the tsunami in their thoughts about medium- and long-term prospects. My questions were oriented less around recovery and more around the present, prediction, planning, and the future, with its attendant hopes, fears, and expectations. Five years later, I asked less about what they had done and more about what they were going to do. Hence, topics like disaster preparedness, coastal conservation, and the futures of their children came up frequently. This longer-view approach is important because it shows a natural disaster not just in the moment of destruction and ensuing chaos but also as a part of a continuous story; not something that ends with the disappearance of the last relief worker but something that must be lived with in perpetuity.  This way of inquiring into the tsunami involves both remembering and looking ahead. Moreover, I incorporate an understanding of other temporalities involved. Perhaps the most salient are the temporalities of war. As I explained in Chapter One, war entails an intense focus on the present moment. It also can induce the perception of the impossibility of planning ahead 























































 14 For example, Oxfam International published its tsunami end of program report in December 2008 and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources published their post-tsunami evaluation in October, 2005. 
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 due to unknown outcomes or pessimism. At the same time, the effects of pervasive, long-term conflict(s) so keenly felt in Batticaloa involve an intimate and vital form of remembering. Yet, just as some sorts of planning for the future are extremely difficult to imagine, certain kinds of memory are also impossible – I was frequently struck by the reality of an entire generation unable to recall a time of peace. As I move through my analysis, I work with an awareness of these shifting temporalities and the effects they may have on questions of the environment and displacement. Additionally, temporality is closely liked to my analytical strategy in this chapter. Paul Virilo (1997) asserts that without a deep consideration of time, any understanding of ecology will be missing a crucial dimension. Here, I turn to Jasbir Puar’s approach to temporal methodology (2007). She explains that temporalities are not only multiple but also fluid, and a perception of time speeding up or slowing down is not trivial or inaccurate. Moreover, she seeks to enact a slowing or expanding of time in order to counter “political urgency,” what she cites as the conventional response to political, social, and I would add environmental upheaval (2007: xvi). I employ the same strategy with the tsunami, and climate change. I step back from the oft-professed urgency of aid and even adaptation, which focus mainly on immediate provision of basic survival needs, in order to allow the complexity of the networks to emerge. Coupled with this expansion and slowing down is a looking toward the future, or more accurately futures, keeping in mind that such futures are always-becoming, haunted by the present-past, undetermined and multiple. Moreover, they are hardly futures from which the past disappears; rather, like Puar, I attend to “the primacy of the past and our inheritance of the past: its hauntings, its demands, its present absences and absent presences,” leading us to “the ghosts of the future that we can already sniff, ghosts that are waiting for us, that usher it into futurities” (2007: xx). Building on the work of Avery Gordon, she states “haunting […] is also a 
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 methodological approach that keeps an eye out for shadows, ephemera, energies, ethereal forces, textures, spirit, sensations” (2007: xx).  Five years after the tsunami, people on the East coast may be said to be living in a heterogeneous settlement pattern, haunted by dispossessions, memories, and traumas of the past, as well as by the necessities of pursuing limited livelihood options. Some live in resettlement communities built by aid organizations distant from their pre-tsunami locations. Others have moved away from the shore and live with family members inland. Still others inhabit their former locations, either in houses built by NGOs, or in structures they have built themselves. Some have been further displaced by conflict that occurred after the tsunami. Other displacements, perhaps less visible, have also occurred. These include displacements of livelihood practices, forms of knowledge, and the displacement of certain discourses, all of which together show that neither the tsunami nor the conflict are discrete events. My aim here is to look at the ways that the environment, and in particular the ocean, has been enlisted to reinforce displacement schemes, but also the ways that ‘nature’ has necessitated staying in place, rebuilding at former locations. Hence, rather than seeing displacement as a condition forced upon powerless coastal communities by either state or natural forces, I see displacement, resettlement, and resistance as plural phenomena, the outcomes of networks of actors. Changes in the ocean: Social/natural junctures and the ocean at work Much of my research with fisherfolk in the Batticaloa district began with a rather simple inquiry into what changes they had noticed in the sea. I explained that this question could and should be taken very broadly, to note not just physical changes in the sea but also changes in the way people relate to the sea. I then proceeded to ask what they believed caused these changes, and what the results were in terms of effects on their lives. We also discussed the relative severity of 
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 different types of changes and both the ways that they mitigate the negative effects of these changes and plan and predict for them to occur in the future. With four groups of fisherfolk who belonged to Fishermen’s Cooperative Societies in Kattankudy, Mahiloovmunai, and Valaichchenai, I used a visual concept mapping tool to attempt to visualize their most complete understanding of the changes. This method, while pursuing a cause-and-effect line of reasoning, allows for connections and disconnections between multiple factors to be fully explored (Zaksek and Arvai, 2004). It also serves as a tool for collective visualization and manipulation of ideas. I used large pieces of paper so everyone in the group could participate and sticky notes so that the arrangement of concepts could be changed throughout the exercise. The activity was carried out in Tamil and interpreted into English for my benefit. Figure 7 is an example of a translated and digitized concept map created with fisherfolk in Valaichennai. Figure 7: Concept map created by fisherfolk, Valaichennai 
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 This general mode of inquiry and the concept mapping exercise were of mixed success. Overall, I found it difficult to veer away from treating the environment in terms of its ecological functions in this and much of my research. While some matters relating to the political situation and its effects on fisherfolks’ access to and use of the ocean certainly did arise, they tended to be downplayed and quickly repetitive, focusing largely on restrictions imposed by the army, and to a lesser extent the cutting of mangroves in the lagoon for security purposes, as mentioned previously. Certainly, there are many possible explanations for this, but I wish to highlight a few. For one, my reliance on (non-professional) interpreters may likely have limited the degree of nuance I was able to achieve in my questions and follow-ups. Another interesting possibility is that I was pegged early on as being interested primarily in ecological matters, and that the nature/culture binary, not to mention disciplinary boundaries, followed me into the field and restricted my line of questioning. Another reality of my fieldwork that must be mentioned is that it was haunted by what could not be said. While some of the participants in my research spoke quite frankly and with passion about their experiences with the conflict, harms they had suffered at the hands of the SLAF, and the political situation in Sri Lanka, pointing to the risks such utterances might present is vital. My stay in Batticaloa was peppered with stories of disappearances, usually believed to have been carried out by SLAF or paramilitary contingents, and countless other sources corroborate the stories of regular violence inflicted on Tamil civilians (cf. Trawick, 2006). The possibility of trauma, of being psychologically not disposed to discussing events related to the war was also present; Scheper-Hughes mentions a different kind of mental toll that takes place when the trauma is ongoing versus when it is isolated to a single event that passes and becomes memory (2008). Additionally, and quite importantly, the Sri Lankan participants were not alone in potentially being silenced by the political tensions during my study. I too was pressured to 
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 focus my inquiry around ecological elements to maintain my own safety and ability to continue working in the area, due to the visa issues discussed in Chapter One. Hiding under the guise of an interest in the “innocent” pursuit of ecological knowledge allowed me to keep a low profile whenever I felt threatened. Notwithstanding these enforced silences, the tensions and challenges that dogged my fieldwork had some degree of productivity as well. Despite the possible overemphasis on the ocean’s ecological functions, an initial focus on ecology did function as an opening for the expression of more contentious political issues. While it may have been difficult for me to start an inquiry with questions about the conflict for the reasons mentioned above, beginning with the ocean allowed for these issues to emerge in a less politically risky fashion. Furthermore, it allowed them to emerge in relation to the ocean, pushing the boundaries of the nature/culture divide, both in the fisherfolks’ conceptualizations and probably even more strongly in mine. This method was even more effective in aiding in an understanding of the relationship between the tsunami and alterations to the ocean potentially caused by climate change. It helped to locate ocean changes as the outcome of a network of interactions between different actors and as the products of various hybrid socio-natural processes.  The concept maps indicate the fruitfulness of this network-based conceptualization, although the cause-and-effect reasoning may be more mechanistic than Actor Network theorists would prefer. The perceived changes mentioned are discussed below. It should be noted that the concept maps themselves do not fully incorporate all details of the surrounding discussions. Although this is not always reflected in the final concept maps, many of the fisherfolk’s discussions about changes to the ocean began with their experiences of catching fewer fish in recent years. They believed this was due to a number of related causes, including the presence of fewer fish in the sea, their own lack of technology, education, and other resources, fishing 
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 practices of others, and the use of fisheries resources by more fisherfolk than in the past. Various other actors, including local NGO workers and the District Fisheries Inspector for the Department of Fisheries office in Batticaloa, largely corroborated the fisherfolks’ accounts of these factors and their causes. More specific causes of these changes included the use of harmful fishing methods such as dynamite fishing and the use of certain nets; damage to corals and mangroves that provide fish-breeding habitats; the activities of large fishing boats from other countries such as Japan and China that use floodlights and roller nets; the proliferation of fisherfolk after the tsunami due to aid provision; restrictions during the war; the collection of ornamental fish; improper and insufficient engines for the boats of small-scale fisherfolk; and changes in the winds and the currents. All of these are evidence of complex networks of human and nonhuman entities and reveal certain characteristics of the various tensions felt by fisherfolk in the East. They also provide further empirical insight into the various theorizations around the ocean discussed in the previous chapter.  On the whole, Tamil fisherfolk expressed a feeling of disadvantage and also of certain virtuosity in comparison to other people fishing in Sri Lanka’s coastal waters. Some pinned the detrimental practice of dynamite fishing on Sinhalese and Muslim fisherfolk. They also mentioned that during the conflict, Muslims benefited because Tamils were not permitted to trade with Sinhalese. The fisherfolk also claimed to be at a disadvantage compared to these other ethnic groups when it comes to the provision of credit. Regional geopolitical tensions are also apparent in their discussion of large boats from Japan and China with advanced technology coming to fish in Sri Lanka’s waters. While the idea of the ocean as a space of free movement creeps in on their realities, for the fisherfolk of Eastern Sri Lanka, the ocean is decidedly a space of territorial practice. 
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  Other spaces of the transnational economy, understood by the fisherfolk in a particular territorial configuration, involve the presence of divers and collectors of ornamental tropical fish. Both fisherfolk and the Batticaloa District Director for Sewalanka, a rural Sri Lankan development NGO, told me that divers scare the fish into the deep sea. The District Director explained that like hunters, the divers injure the fish, and that other fish “smell” the blood and flee to the deep sea. This analogy to the practices of land animals shows what Westerdhal (2005), Connery (2006), and others discuss; the sea is not wholly Other and what happens there may have parallels with what happens on land. Although some local fisherfolk dive for cuttlefish, most diving and fish-collecting activity occurs for an export-oriented market or by visiting tourists.  Tourism was another source of concern for the fisherfolk, and another place to see socio- natural hybrids. While much of the East bears the visible scars of the lengthy conflict, the beautiful sheltered bay of Passikudah, near Valaichchenai is potentially a desirable location for tourists and local fisherfolk alike; Figure 8 shows locals enjoying the beach.  During the conflict, this area saw heavy fighting and at the time of my study had only recently been de-mined. Near the beginning of my time in the East, I traveled through the war-scarred landscape largely devoid of human activity and came to swim in the warm turquoise waters of Passikudah; this was one of the most surreal experiences of my fieldwork. The fishermen I spoke with in the nearby town of Valaichchenai had tourism on their minds, and brought it up as soon as I had explained my interest in the ocean. Figure 8: Passikudah beach 
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 They described a shifting set of relationships between the local fishermen, the tourism board and other forms of governance, and national and international commercial tourism interests.  The last period of tourism at Passikudah was in 1985, before the conflict erupted.15 During this time there were three big beach hotels. However, authorities gave priority to fishermen. While the conflict was serious, there was no tourism and the coral was removed (most likely mined), which the fisherfolk claim has resulted in greater coastal erosion. 16 Now that the conflict is no longer serious, the fisherfolk reported that there are 29 foreign investors at Passikudah, and one square foot of property has a going rate of 265 rupees (~$2.50). The tourist businesses are permitted to develop the beachfront without observing the buffer zone regulations (also mentioned by Hyndman, 2007). The government asks the fisherfolk to stay away from tourist sites. The fisherfolk reported that they have attempted negotiations that would assure them the coastal territory that they require, but to no avail. They stated that there had recently been a meeting in Batticaloa with the Fisherman’s Cooperative Society, the District Secretariat, and tourism investors. The army asked them to move to another site where they used to not be allowed to fish, but the previous owner had died in a tsunami and an American had bought the property. The army said they’d give them 100 meters of beach but the fisherfolk state that this is not enough, and there are some big stones, which hamper their fishing practices. They have tried to go up the chain of authority to protest but have gotten no positive action. The tourist board also prevents the construction of barriers to protect the coast from wind and high waves. This narrative about struggles over tourism is interesting for the purposes of my study because it reflects a change in the ocean that goes far beyond ecological functioning, yet can be 























































 15 In contrast to some areas, the tsunami had less of an impact on tourism here because the conflict had already caused tourism to dissipate dramatically (Robinson and Jarvie, 2008). 16 It was a bit unclear who removed the coral, although at one point the fishermen said that it was “outsiders.”
 
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 seen to rely on the material characteristics and even agency of the ocean as it determines in part where fishing, tourism, and other activities can and cannot occur, hence shaping local politics. The account above regarding tourism, economic development, local livelihoods, and marine environments brings to light the variety of actors in the coastal network and the importance of their interactions in shaping outcomes. Through this network and its attendant interactions, we can better understand the shifting regimes of power and resistance at play on Sri Lanka’s East coast and the difficulty of identifying solutions. What is more, we can see tourism both as an actor and as a network of actors, shaping and shaped by social conditions (political stability, governmental agreements, etc) and physical elements (beautiful sheltered bay, presence of corals) alike. The ocean serves as an actor because not only does it rise up in the tsunami, provide a source of tourist attraction, and subject the coastline to erosion, but also its features determine where fisherfolk can safely and profitably exist, just as governmental policies do. The above narrative cautions against labeling tourism and other assemblages as intrinsically bad or good; current practices enforced by local governance and tourist industry actors stymie some efforts at coastal conservation but may encourage others. Finally, the shifting dynamics of coastal tourism demonstrate that the environment is involved in instances of human displacement in ways beyond simply forcing people to move due to negative environmental impacts. In this situation, the ocean and other elements of the coast are seen to be crucially involved in networks that result in the displacement of fisherfolk and, to different effect, tourists and tourism entrepreneurs. Alternatives to fishing and future expectations Although most of the participants in my study expressed the perception that they were catching fewer fish, they also noted the ways in which they were able to maintain their livelihoods despite these difficulties. They mentioned alternatives to fishing, such as farming rice paddy, making 
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 and selling jewelry, and selling food (usually done by the women) as ways to earn income when the fish catch was low, although they also stated that fishing was the only livelihood practice they knew. They also reported that they would raise the price of the fish so that they made the same amount of money. None of them wanted their children to become fisherfolk, preferring that they become educated so they could attain higher-paying and more consistent employment. However, none believed that fishing would end on the island or that all the fish would someday be gone. Some even expressed optimism when asked about the future: one man said that in thirty years, there would be more people in the area and they would be able to go further to sea to fish. Hence, despite the uncertainty present in the East, it was not as though the future was entirely unpredictable and fisherfolk believed there would be some consistency.  While people were certainly displaced from Sri Lanka’s East coast by the tsunami, when we consider the coast as a network of various actors it becomes apparent that they were also re- placed and en-placed. Many participants in my research cited an increased presence of fisherfolk after the tsunami, as they were given more boats by NGOs and even people who had previously not fished were given equipment. For example, members of the Tamil Fishermen’s Cooperative Society in Valaichchenai explained that in 1985 there were only ten boats in their collective. This number had increased to 37 boats in 2004 before the tsunami. After the tsunami, 38 boats were given to them and 20 more were bought by the fisherfolk. One group of fishermen in Kallady even jokingly stated that they called the tsunami the “golden tsunami” because some people became wealthy afterward due to aid provision. In addition, fisherfolk repeatedly mentioned needing to be near the ocean to pursue fishing, the only livelihood they knew how to do. They needed to see the ocean to know when it would be profitable and safe to go out in their boats, and they needed the convenience of being by the sea to go out throughout the day and maintain their boats and nets. Although many of the 
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 fisherfolk said they or their families felt fear of the sea after the tsunami, this fear was clearly overshadowed by the fear of poverty and even starvation. Perhaps coastal residents are affected by a phenomenon Albrecht and colleagues (2005; 2007) term “solastalgia,” which affects those who are closely connected to an environment that has changed drastically. Solastalgia is a psychoterratic condition, defined as “earth-related mental illness where people’s wellbeing (psyche) is threatened by severing of healthy links between themselves and their home/territory” (Albrecht et al., 2007: S95). In Sri Lanka, this ‘healthy tie’ may have been an existence by the sea with neither fear of tsunami nor displacement due to enforcement of the buffer zone policies. The main symptoms of solastalgia are emotional distress and feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness tied to the environment, allegedly quantifiable using an environmental distress scale (Higginbotham et al., 2006). 17  It is important to note that solastalgia affects those who remain in changed environments, not just those displaced, who might more aptly fit the label “homesick.” Other authors have written about the mental health impacts of the tsunami in Sri Lanka (cf. Weerackody and Fernando, 2009). While I have neither the background nor the intention to produce any sort of diagnostic, pointing to these psychological effects shows the complexity of a relationship between the environment and human displacement, because it is not just those who are physically displaced who are affected. Additionally, it provides evidence that the environment cannot be reduced to a ‘physical factor’ and that it is active in producing and maintaining humans’ sense of self. The tsunami and the co-production of climate change Perhaps one of the most curious overlaps in my research is between the tsunami and climate change. Science would have it that there is no overlap, that climate change did not cause the 























































 17 The potentially differing nature of feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness related to the environment in different contexts should be more fully theorized (for example, power over the environment may be less integral in non-Western contexts). 
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 tsunami nor vice versa. However, nearly all the fisherfolk with whom I spoke believed there were causal links. I don’t argue with the scientific evidence that shows them to be unrelated in terms of cause and effect– I don’t claim that it is bad science. However, I offer another perspective that integrates both the beliefs and practices of various actors on the coast, showing that when a network approach is used, the overlaps and commonalities become clear and we can make meaningful connections between the tsunami and climate change. From a relational perspective that goes beyond cause-and-effect logic, it can even be argued that they do bring one another into being. Climactic observations and predictions Most of the fisherfolk with whom I spoke said they noticed changes in the climate, and these changes seemed to generate even more conjecture and discussion than other changes affecting their fishing. Many reported changes in the rainfall pattern, including a delay in the start of the monsoon and unexpected rainfall events during the dry season, some quite heavy. The delay in rain, felt strongly during the year of my research, severely affects rice paddy cultivation. Many of the fisherfolk are also farmers and the change in rainfall can eliminate one of their most important alternatives to fishing. One group of fishermen in Valaichchenai also reported that it was now hotter than it had been in the past and that the heat lasts further into the day. Fisherfolk also reported various changes in the sea, affecting their intimate knowledge of coastal zones. They claim the sea has become rougher; yet the wind, which they relied on to bring good fishing, was delayed or didn’t come at all. The current has also changed, and is now unpredictable; it changes faster and moves in different patterns. Some fisherfolk in Valaichchenai reported that they now experience more extreme high tides, while others said the overall water level had decreased. These changes and uncertainties challenge their safety at sea and the security of their boats and even buildings on the shore. 
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  These changes generally correspond with the findings of the scientific community, based both on past observations and predictions, but much is unknown and uncertain in scientific reports on these phenomena. Although actual model-based predictions are far from precise, Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology reports that both more floods and more droughts are likely to occur in Sri Lanka, with greater rainfall variability already observed in Batticaloa (2008). Indeed, in one study that compared five climate models, more rainfall was generally predicted for the months of January and September, but decreased rainfall was predicted for November, during the North-East monsoon that brings precipitation to the East coast (Seo et al, 2005). This indicates that already wet areas will become wetter, and dry areas (including the East) drier. Monsoon patterns, ocean temperatures, currents, and other ocean and weather effects are also highly affected by El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events (Cruz et al., 2007).  However, climate models do not have consensus on expected changes to ENSO and related events (Preston et al., 2006). Global sea level measurements indicated an average rise in sea level of roughly 3.1 mm/year from 1993-2003 (Bindoff et al., 2007: 411). Sea level rise in the Eastern Indian Ocean is likely at or above average measurements due in part to large annual variations caused by ENSO (Bindoff et al., 2007). However, even the most advanced scientific methods do not result in much certainty with regards to sea level rise. Scientific sea level observational data, particularly on a national or sub-national scale, is difficult to obtain because of the technical specificities necessary for measuring sea level accurately and because of incomplete data sets (Bindoff et al., 2007). Predictions of sea level rise are even more imprecise and uncertain than observations. Even the most complex models include only two of three main sources of sea level rise; they incorporate thermal expansion and sea ice melt, but not runoff from melting ice on land. In the South and Southeast Asia region, the sea level is predicted to rise by 3-16 cm by 2030 and 7-50 
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 cm by 2070, but local effects will likely vary more greatly (Preston et al., 2006: 2). It is also predicted that sea level rise will cause an increase in wave height (National Communication, 2000), which may correspond with what fisherfolk have observed. In addition, their observations of receding shorelines are also in line with potential sea level rise effects, as one commonly-cited model indicates that the shoreline is likely to recede at “50 to 200 times the rise in relative sea level,” although local variation is likely to be quite high and dependent largely on the overall sediment budget of the coastal system (Nicholls et al., 2007: 324). 18 Relating climate change and the tsunami The fisherfolk who participated in my study offered some fascinating explanations for the connections between the tsunami and climate change, connections that the scientific community might disavow as ‘fish tales’, especially on a superficial explanatory level. For the fisherfolk, the tsunami was at least partially responsible for bringing climate change into being; often, they attributed the changes entirely to the tsunami. Regardless of causal links, the tsunami prompted them to take note of and create explanations for changes in the ocean. It introduced the potential for the ocean to be unpredictable and changeable. But it was not for only fishermen that the tsunami ushered in climate change as an actor in the coastal network. For NGOs, government agencies, and other actors on national, regional, and local levels, the tsunami, in collusion with other actors, reconfigured the coastal network in such a way that climate change became an urgent, necessary, and sometimes overly assertive actor. In addition, the non-random coincidence of observed ocean changes with the tsunami has helped to sustain the tsunami as a perpetual effect in the lives of coastal residents; hence, I suggest that climate change has played a role in 























































18
The sediment budget refers to the total amount of sediments entering and leaving the coastal system (Morton, 2004).
 
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 constituting coastal experiences of the tsunami. In this section, I explain some ways that these interactions occurred such that the tsunami and climate change co-created one another. Vital for my argument is an understanding of climate change as an assemblage. An assemblage indicates a collection of human and nonhuman actors, generating power and meaning from the material and discursive relations between them. As such, when I discuss climate change, I am not only discussing the changes to the Earth’s atmospheric composition that results in local material alterations, but also to the attendant discourses, institutional arrangements, and ways of thinking. Of course, there is great local variation in these matters, and a confounding of scale where the local and global become intimately intertwined, as discussed in more detail below. Thinking of climate change as an assemblage, in this case a relational set of events linked to the tsunami, will advance a deeper understanding of the interactions that constitute a relationship between the environment and displacement. Further, my work here builds on relational ontological arguments, which contend that meaning is created by interactions between different actors. These arguments extend to assert that meaning is also made by the interactions between different networks. My work on these issues also relies upon the assertion that fisherfolk and other impoverished coastal Sri Lankan actors are just as capable as the scientific community of making valuable observations and predictions. Although they may not have as sophisticated of instruments and may not follow the scientific method, the “data” that they obtain from living in proximity to, and dependent upon, the ocean gives them insight that can be considered legitimate even from a “scientific” perspective. At the same time, I find it important to mark the difference between the two, because treating them as the same ignores the politics of knowledge that have caused their contributions to be treated in vastly different fashions. However, I resist classifying fisherfolk as “local level actors.” Scale is not a static scaffolding with which other concepts can 
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 be supported but rather an ontologically constructed set of principles that hold no given “truth” (cf. Marston et al., 2005; Swyngedouw, 2007). Even more importantly, the construction of scale is not a neutral act; rather, it is a political process (Marston, 2000). The definition of discrete scales and the enrolling of actors at these scales are increasingly recognized as having both political roots and political implications, as well as material consequences (Bulkeley, 2005; McCarthy, 2005). While the structure of climate change negotiations and the production of adaptation and mitigation knowledge often reinforces conceptualizations of scale that serve to further disenfranchise those at the bottom of neoliberal development, climate change is also a field that has the potential to confound notions of scale. Not only do climactic effects work in ways counter to “trickle-down” models of hierarchical scale but issues of governance, regulation, and action also transcend traditional boundaries enforced upon environmental issues. In regards to environmental change, networked, hybrid, and polycentric theories of governance have gained popularity among geographers who focus on horizontal linkages and syntheses between various actors in rejection of strict hierarchical limitations and even build on Actor Network theorizations to directly address the politics of scale (cf. Rutland and Aylett, 2008; Betsill and Bulkeley, 2006). I take inspiration from these conceptualizations and similarly refuse to employ a hierarchical model of scale in my research, in which “local” actions would be nested within or subordinate to national and global effects. While I aim toward a “flat ontology,” where all actors would be considered with equal weight, I recognize that such an approach may be idealistic because hierarchical models are hegemonic, and understanding the scalar processes by which knowledge and politics are organized may be vital (Leitner and Miller, 2007; Marston et al., 2005). Rather, I draw on these studies to interrogate the process of scaling and expose the effects of scale on the outcomes of these relationships. 
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 Many of the fisherfolk who participated in my study believed the tsunami both caused and was caused by the climactic changes they were experiencing. Although they all knew an earthquake had caused the tsunami, some had explanations for how this earthquake was caused by climate change. The causes of climate change accepted by the scientific community were less commonly known, although not entirely unrecognized. For example, they did cite deforestation as a cause of climate change, and they recognized that carbon dioxide was also implicated, although the absence of fossil fuel consumption by cars and factories in the global North as an explanatory factor was conspicuous. What was evident was that the fisherfolk integrated the tsunami into whatever knowledge about climate change they had. From their perspective, changes to the climate occurred immediately following the tsunami. Moreover, they saw changes to the ocean caused by the tsunami, such as the destruction of corals, as related to other changes in the ocean that may have actually been caused by climate change. I argue they saw these changes as related because they are part of the same network. They also began to notice climactic changes after the tsunami because it introduced a possibility of volatility and unpredictability that had not previously been present.  A number of the fisherfolk’s explanations for the linkages between the tsunami and climactic changes may have roots in inequitable North-South relations, with worrisome political consequences. One common explanation for how the tsunami caused climate change was that the tsunami destroyed the trees and fewer trees result in less rain. This explanation may point to the continued influence of desertification discourses that saturated global environmental politics in the 1970s. In this view, which originated from colonizers of Africa in the 1930s, desertification is a problem affecting at least one quarter of the world’s land area and is caused by the misuse of local resources by local people, including the cutting of trees and the destruction of biomass (Adger et al., 2001). The desertification discourse has since been widely critiqued for its lack of 
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 basis in scientific reality and for perpetuating neo-Malthusian politics which lay the blame for environmental degradation on overpopulation and the world’s poor (cf. Stringer, 2009). However, this dismissal has not done enough to counter the narrative’s spread to Asia and the broadening of its scope to include climate change. Wherever it originates, the idea that the destruction of trees results in less rain and hence is a main source of climate change engenders local blame for a global issue, one that is mainly caused by the global North. Fisherfolk believed that they themselves, other Sri Lankans, or the tsunami, caused climate change by destroying trees. This tradition of blaming local practices for environmental change and degradation, rather than acknowledging overconsumption and mismanagement by the North, points not only to mis- education but also to prejudicial knowledge constructions rooted in the colonial era. This is one instance of many where we may be able to locate Southern understandings of climate change as a continuation of previous environmental knowledge constructed on the practices of colonial politics. Another worrying element of the explanations given by fisherfolk, and the more general blaming of climate change on the tsunami, is that it does not recognize fossil fuel use by North Americans and Europeans as significant drivers of climate change. My research suggests that fisherfolk do not have the knowledge necessary for holding these geopolitically more powerful nations accountable for the changes that more accurately are due to overconsumption in the North. Therefore, potential aid that Northern countries may give from the UNFCCC’s Adaptation Fund or other mechanisms related to climate change may be received with an attitude of supplication rather than justice. This reinscribes Sri Lanka’s position as one of required gratitude to Northern nations, a role which was strongly enforced when Sri Lanka became the recipient of record amounts of aid for tsunami relief and reconstruction (Korf, 2007). I elaborate on these dynamics below. 
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 The tsunami, climate change, and the dangers of aid Recognizing the dangerous potentials if climate change aid follows the patterns set up for tsunami aid is of great importance. As Hasbullah and Korf state, the tsunami “did not create a space of disjuncture, a rupture of ‘politics as usual’ or a space of opportunity for opening up politics towards inclusion” (2009: 248). This extension of exclusionary practices took place on a regional and national level, as the large donations and incentives to rebuild after the tsunami allowed the government to propagate its brand of Sinhalese nationalism, and since their emphasis was on fast and photogenic distribution of funds versus need-based, equitable relief and collaboration, international donors and aid agencies were complicit. Areas with high Muslim and Tamil populations were largely excluded from aid distribution and, even more harmfully, aid was tied to tactics of fear that led to increased discrimination against these populations and their geographic isolation (Hyndman, 2007; Hasbullah and Korf, 2009). It also served to reinscribe the global North in a hegemonic world order. Korf and others describe aid distribution methods and media coverage that served to further humiliate the victims by projecting them as “bare life,” without reserves of material or psychological resources, devoid of agency and reliant upon a benevolent, wealthy global North (Korf, 2007; Korf et al., 2009). Danger exists for the potential victims of the negative effects of climate change to be perceived in the same way as those affected by the tsunami in international aid practices. A perspective based on relational justice may help to reduce proclivities to portray those affected by climate change as hapless victims of nature, fortunate to receive Northern benevolence. I elaborate further in Chapter Four.  In this section, I have provided evidence for locating the tsunami in the same network as climate change on Sri Lanka’s East coast, as the two formed one another through their effects on the ocean. The tsunami was an important part of the coast’s “becoming,” both physically and as a space to be governed. The tsunami located the coast in the same networks of aid and 
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 development that govern the war and allowed for the securitization of conservation. The tsunami provided the impetus not just for reconstruction of buildings and provision of livelihood needs. It also was tightly tied to increased planning and the intensification of resources for long-term coastal management and conservation. The government carried out some of these efforts, although Sri Lanka was characterized by a weak national response to the tsunami (Ingram et al., 2006). However, bilateral or multilateral projects have been much more common, following suit with the international and transnational character of much of climate change practice. Coastal management and the buffer zone In the following sections, I describe how the tsunami instigated a new era of coastal management in Sri Lanka that has paved the way for more space and attention for climate change projects, after briefly outlining the history of coastal conservation in Sri Lanka, I explain in detail the buffer zone policy that was enacted following the tsunami. This legislative act and resulting experiences indicate the connectedness of perceptions of volatile environments and political motivations. Furthermore, the buffer zone policy serves as a departure point for the correlations between the tsunami and climate change that occurred at the levels of regional and national governance and extended to NGOs and intergovernmental organizations.  In a 2007 report for the FAO, the Director for Coast Conservation, R.A.D.B. Samaranayake, provides a useful historical overview of coastal legislation in Sri Lanka. The coastal ecosystem first gained increased attention from the national government in the 1960s. Coastal governance became bureaucratized in 1978 with the formation of the Coast Conservation Department (CCD), under the Ministry of Fisheries (later the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources). The Coast Conservation Act, No. 57 of 1981 introduced two important and related changes. First, it defined the coastal zone, as that area lying within a limit of 300 metres landward of the mean high water line and a 
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 limit of two kilometres seawards of the mean low water line and in the case of rivers, streams, lagoons or any other body of water connected to sea, either permanently or periodically, the landward boundary shall extend to a limit of two kilometres perpendicular to the strait baseline drawn between the natural entrance points thereof and shall include waters of such waterbodies. (Appendix 10, cited in Samaranayake, 2007: 180).   Second, the 1981 Act shifted emphasis from protection of the coast to management of the coastal zone, amplifying both the geographical extent of CCD control and the range of activities that fall under its jurisdiction. The Act, and subsequent amendment in 1988 established state ownership of beaches and gave the CCD authority over any activity that would affect the physical structure of the coast. It also called for the establishment and regular update of a Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), the first of which was created in 1990. The CZMP is currently the only piece of legislation that explicitly includes planning for climate change (National Communication, 2000). The CZMP is intended to be updated every four years, but evidence of recent updates is scarce.  The most notable piece of legislation introduced by the national government of Sri Lanka following the tsunami was the buffer zone policy. The buffer zone legislation mandated a “set- back” from the high water mark for habitation, ostensibly to protect populations as well as protect the coast from erosion and other forms of degradation (Le Billon and Waizenegger, 2007). Hence, housing reconstruction after the tsunami had to occur outside of the buffer zone, and people who had formerly inhabited the zone were resettled elsewhere, often on marginal lands, without much regard for social and economic dynamics (Boano, 2009). This is an example of how the environment, and the ocean more specifically, was conscripted to cause and exacerbate human displacement.  The buffer zone had deleterious social and political effects in the East, heightening violence and displacement and enlisting fear and derision as political tools. The buffer zone was set at 100 meters in the South of the island and 200 meters in the North and East, with no 
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 significant justification for such a discrepancy offered. These numbers appeared to be politically motivated, largely arbitrary, and not based on demonstrated success of such a policy in any other cases, and generated much discontent, both internally and from international sources, such as from former U.S. president Bill Clinton (Hyndman, 2007; Ingram et al., 2006). People in the North and East were particularly outraged at the significantly greater percentage of land rendered unusable, and the buffer zone was decried everywhere due to high population density on the coast (Hyndman, 2007). Furthermore, businesses could apply for relatively easy exemptions to the set back policy and tourist enterprises that had sustained less than 40% structural damage were allowed to rebuild and restart operation, which many did, usually to the detriment of the local environment (Ingram et al., 2006). As Hyndman points out, because hotels could be build within the buffer zone but homes could not, tourists were permitted to inhabit the coasts while Sri Lankans were not (2009). The buffer zone policy quickly became a political flashpoint. To demonstrate their sovereignty, the LTTE mandated a 400-meter buffer zone in the territories under their control. Leaders of the political party in opposition to the current governing body used the discontent over the buffer zone policy to obtain more votes (Hyndman, 2007).  The massive displacement caused by the buffer zone policy initiated the need for large- scale resettlement projects, bringing in many bilateral and multilateral donors and causing international aid to be an even more vital part of tsunami reconstruction (Korf et al., 2009). While aid was plentiful, resettlement happened unevenly and haltingly, and the buffer zone policy was cited as the major obstruction to more effective resettlement schemes (Ingram et al, 2006; Hyndman 2009). Given the coast’s history as a location of dispossession for Muslims and Tamils, the buffer zone policy served to evict them from the marginal lands to which they had been pushed by decades of violence and discrimination. Furthermore, suitable sites were often nearly impossible to identify, and Muslims and Tamils often felt in danger when settled further 
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 inland where Sinhalese settlements had been created during periods of Sinhalese nationalism in previous decades (Hyndman, 2007). As Hyndman states, “Many of those displaced by the tsunami in the hardest hit eastern districts of Batticaloa and Ampara had already been displaced by the conflict, in some cases repeatedly, to makeshift seaside homes that were swept away by the tidal waves” (2007: 365).  Ingram and colleagues show that it was not just people who were displaced by the buffer zone policy; “resource pressures were being displaced alongside the relocation of coastal communities and, thus, were threatening inland ecosystems” (2006: 609). They describe the ways that the buffer zone policy likely resulted in overall greater environmental damages to the island as a whole. The pressure to build over 90,000 homes for those dispossessed from the buffer zone led to the exploitation of the very resources that the policy was meant to preserve as a means of protection against future coastal disasters, including sand, coral, and mangrove timber resources (Ingram et al., 2006; Khazai et al., 2006). The locations of the resettlement communities were also often problematic from an environmental standpoint as they were sometimes located on wetlands prone to flooding or inside of forest reserves and wildlife migration routes (Ingram et al., 2006; Robinson and Jarvie, 2008). This facet of the tsunami response narrative shows the complexity of the relationship between the environment and displacement.  The harsh restrictions of the original buffer zone policy remained in place for nearly a year, until they were relaxed under a new presidency to adhere more closely to the Coastal Zone Management Plan of 1997, which, despite appearing to be based on environmental science, had not been strongly enforced before the tsunami (Hyndman, 2009). Under this policy, set backs ranged from 35 to 125 meters from the permanent vegetation line, accommodating variation in coastal properties (Hyndman, 2009: 93). However, the damaging effects of the harsh buffer zone 
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 policy have remained (Ingram et al., 2006). Ingram and colleagues point out that “the details of a new policy remain unclear to many affected communities, leaving continued confusion as to where building will be allowed and when it will proceed” (2006: 608). This uncertainty was evident in my research, as even several years after the policy adjustments coastal residents cited different limitations on where habitation was permitted in the same locations.  The buffer zone policy both took advantage of and exacerbated fear of the ocean generated by the tsunami. The ocean was enlisted to further displace marginalized Tamil and Muslim populations, to galvanize support for political parties, and to instill a tradition of government management of the environment. At the same time, it was the ocean’s unpredictability and powerful agency that allegedly instigated such controversial policy. Further, the economic value of the sea from tourism and industry uses mandated exceptions that further served to incite discontent, eventually causing the policy to be largely rescinded. The specificity of livelihood skills developed by those living on the coast, which made earning a living difficult for those resettled inland, also proved a way that the ocean as a social-natural hybrid confounded political decisions (Ingram et al., 2006).  The experience of the buffer zone policy also set some precedents and imparted some important lessons for potential environmental futures under climate change. Even though the policy was largely a failure, it demonstrated the degree to which fears over a volatile environment could be transformed into restrictive government practices. It also showed, however, that fears over hunger and poverty for fisherfolk were greater than fears of another tsunami or other coastal hazard (Ingram et al., 2006). The former Director of the Tsunami Reconstruction Unit explained that the failure of buffer zone showed that permanent resettlement schemes for displacement due to climate change would not work. Interviews with the fisherfolk on the East coast indicated similar sentiments. Not only did they express their need to be near the 
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 sea in order to fish, they also repeatedly discussed returning to and remaining in the coastal zone after the tsunami, despite their fears of another disaster. Climate change and the displacement of the East The buffer zone policy ushered in a new way of understanding the coast as an area to be governed, and put preparedness for environmental disaster and protection as a key factor on the political agenda. In this section, I show how this regime of coastal administration, where the political and environmental merge, has incorporated and been incorporated by climate change in relation to the tsunami, demonstrating another way that they bring each other into being. While the government-backed buffer zone policy created the biggest shock waves, bilateral and multilateral projects run by national and international NGOs also used the impetus of the tsunami to bring coastal conservation to the fore, often with decreasing negative effects of climate change as a highly touted rationale. However, these projects have not extended evenly over the coast and the motivations for their emergence in different areas demonstrate the codependence of environmental (or scientific) and political processes. The tsunami showed the importance of resilient ecosystems in protecting against all kinds of coastal disasters (Adger et al., 2005; Garcin et al., 2008; Venkatachalam et al., 2008). Resilient coastal ecosystems can include elements such as healthy coral reefs, mangrove forests, minimally eroded shorelines, and vegetation to break strong waves and winds (Venkatachalam et al., 2008). Although the tsunami was an exceptional event in many ways, many of the same factors that protect coasts and coastal populations from tsunami damage also provide protection from other kinds of coastal disasters and from the potentially more insidious effects of climate change. Fisherfolk and NGO officers alike in Batticaloa recognized the connections between protecting against coastal disaster and protecting against climate change. They may not have 
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 expressed it as the phenomenon of global climate change but they spoke of noticeable changes in sea currents, winds, rainfall and precipitation that they came to notice after the tsunami and that threaten coastal livelihoods and even lives. However, these links are largely not being made material in the East, with the exception of limited mangrove plantation programs (Figure 9). For many other parts of Sri Lanka, funding for climate change adaptation, vulnerability reduction, and ‘clean’ development has occurred at the happy intersection of post-tsunami funding and attention and increased funds and expertise available for projects related to climate change as the phenomenon gained footing in circles of international aid and development. Yet, the influx of climate change funding, knowledge, and expertise has barely reached the East due to the ongoing conflict. Coastal conservation has been attempted through the rebuilding efforts in the East, and some NGOs stress the importance of environmental sustainability; Sewalanka identifies it as a “cross-cutting issue” and the North East Coastal Community Development Project (NECCDEP) cites “sound development of natural resources” as one of its main goals. Both organizations, along with another local NGO called MANBRU, engage in the planting of mangrove saplings. However, these efforts have been often disrupted by the war, and NGO officers both in the East and in Colombo repeatedly asserted that a political solution is necessary before an environmental one. As a Colombo officer for the International Conservation Union (IUCN) put it, “the East is a completely different scenario.” He then went on to describe the East as unruly and explained that what he termed “humanitarian concerns” were necessarily taking precedence. The representatives of Sewalanka and NECCDEP with whom I spoke both stated that their Figure 9: Mangrove seedlings, Batticaloa 
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 organizations do not engage in any specific actions to prepare coastal residents for potential future risks and disasters. Evidence of projects that focus explicitly on climate change was only apparent during my research in regions of Sri Lanka other than the East. One project I visited in Bentota, a few hundred kilometers south of Colombo, focuses on mangrove production in an area that has become unsuitable for rice paddy farming due to saltwater intrusion, one of the most concerning effects of rising seas (Figure 10).  Not only do the mangroves on this plantation provide protection against coastal disasters and other ecological functions, they also produce a fruit called Kirala, which is processed into a cold drink by local farmers, many of them women, who lost their rice paddy farms due to the saltwater intrusion (Figure 11). The project was begun and is administered as the private venture of a government official who is also a leading expert on carbon trading in Sri Lanka. Hambantota, on the South coast of the island, is another location that has received much attention for both coastal and climactic change issues, although the connections between the tsunami and future climate threats have not been fully materialized. Yamane (2009) describes various actors in the district, such as an unusual drought in 2001; the agroecological map of Sri Lanka, on which everyone showed her Hambantota as located in the dry zone; Figure 10: Mangrove plantation, Bentota Figure 11: Processing mangrove fruit, Bentota 
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 and the presence of farmers who practice shifting, rain-fed (chena) cultivation, which is illegal and thought to have negative social and environmental effects. She explains that these actors have been enrolled in a network that produces the “facts” that Hambantota is the area of Sri Lanka most vulnerable to climate change and that the major threat it faces from climate change is drought. However, she points out that Hambantota has some of the best data and the largest concentration of NGOs and government and aid agencies in the country. Although it was one of the districts with the greatest tsunami damage, rebuilding was rapid compared to other areas in the country; 990 houses were built in Hambantota as of the end of August 2005, compared to only 31 in Ampara district, directly south of Batticaloa, the district that suffered the most tsunami deaths (Jayasuriya et al, 2005). Additionally, as Yamane points out, Hambantota is the current presidents’ home district, and he has done much to promote its growth. Due to this fortuitous combination of constructed high vulnerability and tremendous resources, Hambantota has been able to attract various climate change projects tied to drought prevention and recovery and development, such as a small grant project from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) that promotes small wind power units (GEF, 2000).  Yamane (2009: 2409) points out that “the representation of Hambantota as the archetypical hazardscape of the dry zone has effectively withdrawn attention from other regions in Sri Lanka that may be negatively affected by climate change.” She explicitly mentions the North and East provinces as areas that are neglected due to the conflict. While displacement is happening in the East and from the East, the devastating influence of the conflict has caused yet another displacement to take place. The displacement of the expert from the East has brought about a displacement of the East from climate change and development networks. Although being included in these networks has its downfalls, a dearth of information and attention due to neglect and lack of knowledge is possibly even more harmful (Yamane, 2009; Barnett, 2001). What is 
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 more, it is not as though the East has escaped the colonial and imperial harms of international aid; quite the contrary, these negative effects after the tsunami have been felt quite strongly, as has been widely discussed here and elsewhere. Therefore, it is hard to argue that being excluded from the international climate change system is to their advantage.  By recognizing the role of the ocean as an actor, the East has several opportunities to benefit. The material effects of climate change are likely to intensify in coming years (cf. Nicholls et al., 2007); so may NGO and governmental investment in climate change projects in the East as the heat of the conflict seems to be over. When the seemingly discrete categories of climate change and the tsunami are disassembled and new connections allowed to emerge, lessons from the tsunami and the conflict can apply to climate change, and there is evidence that this is already taking place. Many participants saw the tsunami experience as one of their greatest assets in dealing with future climate change. For example, the former Director of the Tsunami Rehousing Unit explained to me that the experience of the buffer zone showed that permanent displacement schemes will not work. Additionally, he pointed out that Sri Lanka was dealing with 300,000 displaced people at the time and he did not expect climate change to produce anything worse. Conclusion In the East, many of the fisherfolk said that if another coastal disaster happened, they hoped that NGOs would aid in relief. This is a justified anticipation given the lack of support Eastern coastal residents have experienced from the government; however, there is the risk that climate change aid may replicate the colonial and imperial patterns demonstrated in post-tsunami aid. Alternatively, my research has indicated fisherfolks’ knack for resisting displacement and adapting to uncertainty, which can be emphasized and built upon. On Sri Lanka’s East coast, the ocean is not a placeless void or asocial but rife with place-specific variation and as a central 
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 entity through which all discourses must pass, making it a key player in these local forms of knowledge that may aid in adaptation. In this chapter, I have shown that connections have already been formed using the ocean to impart experiential knowledge of the tsunami in order to aid in understanding climate change, although they may escape from the official rhetoric of NGO and governmental agencies. I arrived in Batticaloa prepared to discover that people were so concerned about disastrous effects of war and the tsunami that climate change did not even register as an issue; however, this was not the case. While the political situation may need to be addressed before climate change projects can be developed in the East, my study demonstrates that the connections allowing people to observe and grapple with the effects of climate change are already present. 
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 Chapter 4: Conclusion: Formative relationships and valuing vulnerability  At the outset of this thesis, I explained the problematic framing of the relationship between the environment and displacement. Most of these issues pertain to the reproduction of human-centric and Western-dominant power relations. They are reflected in the impossibility of defining environmental migrants due to a lack of understanding of a causative relationship between environmental change and migration, and the use of vulnerability as a mediating concept, denigrating the human-environment relationship and rooting the debate in colonial politics. In Chapters Two and Three, I explored the nuanced relationship between coastal residents in Eastern Sri Lanka and their ocean environment. I approached this relationship using a network logic, whereby I started with the ocean as an actor and followed its connections to other actors in the coastal network. Through the ocean, I was able to uncover some of the overlaps between the tsunami, armed conflict, and climate change as experienced by coastal residents. In this final chapter, I privilege the intricate relations between humans and nonhumans in order to address one of the goals I stated at the outset: an ontologically alternative paradigm for approaching the relationship between the environment and displacement. Living on after the tsunami The first point that I wish to reinforce is that the relationship between coastal residents and the sea is a persistent one, and that power has emerged through this relationship that creates resistance to displacement. Human abilities for recovery, resilience, etc, are important, but the persistence of the relationship between humans and their environments is often not mentioned in disasters or adaptation literature. In my research, the durability of the relationship between the ocean and the fisherfolk was highly evident. Indeed, the strength of this relationship had agency 
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 to keep fisherfolk from moving. Despite policies like the buffer zone, ample international aid for rebuilding elsewhere, the proximity of the conflict, and their own fears and painful memories, many coastal residents remain. As I mentioned previously, this may indicate that fears of poverty and hunger are greater than fears of future tsunamis and override the lure of other incentives to move away from the coast (Ingram et al., 2006). In my research, others stated reasons that go beyond cost-benefit analysis, for example to stay near the memories of loved ones who had died in the tsunami. An embodied connection between coastal residents and the sea kept them in place whether or not other options are available. As I discussed in Chapter One, much writing on the environment and human displacement is characterized by catastrophically high estimates of populations displaced or at risk of displacement. Yet, insufficient data aside, one must wonder how these estimates are obtained given that the definition of environmental displacement is not established, and that it is widely acknowledged that people rarely move solely as a response to environmental issues (Castles, 2002). Consider the possibility that instead of graphs and predictions about the number of people displaced by the environment, we were shown figures on the number of people who have not moved, despite having lived through natural disasters or inhabiting volatile environments. This staying in place eludes the focus of many studies on phenomena such as coastal disasters and environmentally induced migration (for important exceptions, see Henry et al., 2004; McNamara and Gibson, 2009). An analysis that gives agency to this relationship emphasizes both the centrality of ‘environmental’ actors such as the ocean in daily life, not just as parts of disasters, since it may well be that environmental actors necessitate a staying in place, as in my research. Further, such a focus simultaneously underscores the resilience and persistence of coastal residents instead of their vulnerability, weakness, and need for international assistance. While the fisherfolk that I 
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 spoke with faced hardships, they also had interesting ideas about ecology and preparedness; uncovering these contributions that took an approach that moved beyond treating the fisherfolk as victims. Rather than ask what makes people leave, I found that it was worthwhile to ask questions to reveal what makes them stay. This reorganizes such inquiry in a more ethical fashion, as my findings encouraged increased focus on the agency of the environment and the non-expert.  Emphasizing the durability of the relationship between coastal residents and the sea does not imply that this connection is unscathed by events such as the tsunami. Clark (2007) explicitly discusses that to live through the tsunami is to bear the remnants of the event, and of all the disasters and gifts that one has received. However, on a more instrumental level the weight of lasting memories of the tsunami experience are worth considering. Many of the participants in my research mentioned the tsunami experience as a benefit in knowing how to respond to potential future disasters. I do not wish to suggest that this knowledge be “tapped” in a way that views local residents as simply resources to be exploited. Yet perhaps survivors of past disasters can be looked to for leadership and resourcefulness in the face of future disasters, rather than even more vulnerable victims. Past experience is increasingly recognized as vital to climate change adaptation (cf. Tschakert, 2007). Living through the tsunami might mean valuable knowledge acquisition for climate change adaptation when the sea is seen as crucial actor in the networks of both coastal disaster and climate change. Increased understanding of what it means to live near a volatile coast, how to coexist with a changing sea, and what strategies may be effective in the face of coastal disaster can come from the tsunami experience and be vital to living through climate change. 
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 The impact of disaster, surprise, and uncertainty on the human-environment relationship While knowledge gleaned from experience is important, the radical influence of forces such as the tsunami, armed conflict, and climate change bears greater significance than simply providing material for lessons to be learned. All of the frames that I have analyzed altered and underscored relationships with both human and nonhuman actors. Furthermore, these relationships were not altered only for the people whose property or family members were affected, but for donors, aid agencies, academics, and even everyday consumers of media throughout the world, who watched the footage of the tsunami damage and felt themselves affected. For everyone, these forces invite questions: How does the environment affect us? What does it mean to be intimately affected by nonhumans? And how do we engage in relationships of care with near and distant others? In this sense, we are all living through the tsunami. Following Clark (2007), and building on Judith Butler’s arguments about the precariousness of life (2004; 2009), the answers to these questions that my research suggests imply a new way of considering vulnerability, with great potential for insight into the environment-displacement nexus. A relational approach to vulnerability For the fisherfolk participating in my study, their vulnerability, their sensitivity and exposure to the sea, caused them to experience great loss of person and property from the tsunami but also allows them to gain sustenance from the sea and to learn from living with it. A perspective that does not inherently denigrate vulnerability recognizes that people living by the sea, highly susceptible to its influence, may have, at the very least, some insight that scientists lack. This cannot be reduced simply to past experience, nor can it be included in models as simply “lessons learned”. As Harrison writes: “Vulnerability cannot be willed, chosen, cultivated, or honed […] rather, it describes the inherent and continuous susceptibility of corporeal life to the unchosen and the unforeseen - its inherent openness to what exceeds its abilities to contain and absorb” 
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 (2007: 427). It would not be accurate to expect that people living in high-rise housing near the tsunami, escaping intact, have similar insight into the experience as the people whose homes were washed away. Rather, increased receptivity to the environment may entail more ethical and effective was of living with the environment. To be sure, I am not suggesting that everyone put themselves in proximity to volatile environments without protection; indeed, such a suggestion would misconstrue vulnerability’s character as what cannot be anticipated or contained. Hence, my offering provides an analysis of what is (and what deserves more attention) rather than a provocation to what should be. In this section, I explore the implications of applying a relational perspective to notions of vulnerability, susceptibility, and adaptation that are suggested by my research.  In Chapter One, I explained how vulnerability has developed a negative connotation due to colonial, liberal, and human-centric power regimes that depend on a impenetrable, pre-formed human body as a primary locus of individual and national security.Yet, within a relational ontology, vulnerability is a necessary condition. Harrison (2007) offers a great retrieval of the position of vulnerability, and also connects it with living on, after activity has ceased, my first point in this section. He argues that by not fully theorizing what occurs when people stop engaging, and become exhausted or overwhelmed, theorists miss a large portion of what constitutes the human experience. While I believe Harrison’s attention to vulnerability is timely and his interjections extremely useful for theorizing embodiment, I find his characterization of vulnerability as a withdrawal from engagement not particularly fitting for my argument. Rather, in my research, vulnerability entails a certain type of engagement, a highly receptive and susceptible engagement. While vulnerability in my work corresponds to Harrison’s (2007) thoughts on excess and the capacity of being overwhelmed, my findings are contrary to his notions of vulnerability as exhaustion, passivity, or lassitude. It is precisely my point that 
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 fisherfolk did not withdraw from the volatile sea, but rather are constantly and dynamically engaged with it. While the tsunami can be seen as a one-time event, the fisherfolk believed it had long term or even permanent consequences, including a reduction in yield that even halted fishing in the years immediately following the tsunami; yet, they have continued their relationship with the sea as a necessity. This demonstrates both their own durability and the importance of a sensitive association with the environment for future existence. The tsunami provides an important lesson because it did not affect simply the coastal residents or others who suffered material damages, It also touched those watching and reading about the disaster all over the world. It altered aid practices and geopolitical relations. It even caused researchers to question how they engage with natural disaster. Hence, the power of the reconfiguration of relationships between humans and nonhumans that resulted from the tsunami has more than material effects. It not only reminds us of our common vulnerability to disaster, but also opens practices and politics to another kind of wounding (Clark, 2007). While repositioning the human-environment relationship at the fore has distinct ethical implications, recognition of common, intransigent vulnerability also includes something in addition, not just a righting of wrongs. As Butler (2009) and Harrison (2007) corroborate, this includes an element that cannot be expressed, because vulnerability and precariousness by their very definition cannot be fully recognized. However, with regards to precariousness, Butler argues that “it can be apprehended, taken in, encountered, and it can be presupposed by certain norms of recognition just as it can be refused by such norms” (2009: 13). This reverberates appropriately with my earlier arguments on uncertainty. The challenge is how to work with, and even suggest concrete policies and practices, that acknowledge characteristics, elements, and forces that we can never fully know (Butler, 2009). 
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  Clark argues that with a relational viewpoint on vulnerability comes the realization that “the embodied selves we are at any moment are indebted to the bodies around us, and to those who have come before us” (2007: 13). Events that cause massive disruption, such as the tsunami or considerations of what is known as catastrophic climate change, have the potential to lead to a glimpse of our common corporeality and even infinitude, which causes us to confront the ways we are bound up both with other humans and nonhumans (Clark, 2007). Importantly, he extends this recognition beyond relationships between humans to include relationships with the environment. As Butler puts it, “our very survival depends not on the policing of a boundary […] but on recognizing how we are bound up with others” (2009: 52). While Butler is referring here to political sovereignty, she extends this argument elsewhere in the same work to include the nonhuman. To realize that our existence is tied up with the existence of other humans is necessarily to recognize our similar indebtedness to nonhumans. Realizing these common bonds is different from an ethic of care purported by humanitarian advocates and environmentalists, where the incentive to help comes from a sort of extraneous generosity (Korf, 2009; Roy, 2006; MacGregor, 2006). I have explored this directive by advocating a break from historical patterns of aid in Sri Lanka to a perspective of justice in the case of potential future climate change aid. In a justice-based system of care, aid would be given for adaptation or recovery due to recognition that Northern countries contribute unduly to the causes of climate change and to many factors, including colonialism and economic policies, which make it difficult for Southern countries to adapt. However, climate change is not the only situation that deserves such an ethic. In the postcolonial present, conditions of unequal privilege based on historical contingencies abound in the face of every “natural” disaster, causing nature to be only one of the agents of suffering. Hence, a dual recognition is required: first, the acknowledgement that we are all vulnerable, and our survival is intimately tied to human and 
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 nonhuman others; and second, that historical asymmetries cause some to be more vulnerable than others (Butler, 2009). On one hand, as Korf (2009) explains, this type of ethics deviates from a regime of benevolence to one of prerogative, whereby “entitlements of those in need are placed side by side with the duties of those who are in a position to help” and likewise, “those who are in a position to help or give aid have to acknowledge their contingent privilege of being born into such conditions, which made this ability to help feasible in the first instance” (Korf, 2009: 375). This imperative, when blended with Clark’s (2007) observation that we are all the products of countless gifts, both given and received, leads to an ethic based on the co-constitution of all entities, human and nonhuman. Hence, we do not care for others, human or nonhuman, simply out of benevolence but because we recognize that our existence relies upon theirs in incalculable and multiple ways, beyond algorithms of social, political, or environmental justice. For Braun and McCarthy, reacting to disaster with such an approach could also reinvigorate citizenship by taking relationships with the state beyond the juridical to the material. This would help to provide all citizens with the necessary collectives that they need to survive, for example assemblages of documents, infrastructure, etc that are needed for evacuation (Braun and McCarthy, 2005). The implications of a relational approach are also significant for the provision of aid. With this double acknowledgement, that we are indebted in both unequal and incalculable ways, we can move, as Clark (2007) puts it, from giving responsively to giving responsibly, and even further, as Roy (2006) advocates, from responsible approaches to accountable ones. What does it mean to celebrate vulnerability in development and conservation practice? It entails practices and policies that attempt to improve relationships with human and nonhuman Others rather than protect against their incursions. Aiming towards these forms of governance would have many implications on Sri Lanka’s East coast. For example, the buffer zone policy would be discontinued as it is human-centric and discounts the vitality and value of relationships 
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 between the coast and those who live nearby. Alternative practices would recognize the inevitability and indeed benefits of being influenced by the environment and by others. Hence a reinvigorated multiculturalism (notwithstanding critiques of such policies) would also embrace, for example, cultures of the sea. Within such a viewpoint, the alternative conceptualizations of space that the sea allows, as I presented in Chapter Two, could emerge with greater vibrancy. For example, the ocean can present a staging ground for more communal ethics. Such an opportunity may also be advantageous for attempting to bridge the ethnic divides that presently plague Sri Lanka. Concluding remarks: Researching relationships I have argued above that to live through the tsunami entails an alternative approach to sensitivity and exposure, a reconceptualization of vulnerability’s central and necessary place in the lives of all sentient beings. In order to fully inhabit such a viewpoint, it is vital to consider the tsunami as an assemblage that extends beyond (yet fully materializes) the initial waves and incorporates what happened after and what continues to occur: examples include the massive amounts of international aid, the buffer zone policy and other conservation measures, and the use of the tsunami and its aftermath for political gain. By tracing the ways that the tsunami, and indeed the ocean, has been enrolled in these various networks, the importance of these relations in the co-creation of seemingly disparate “frames” becomes apparent. In Chapter Two, I explained how living through the tsunami resulted in a different perspective of the ocean for local inhabitants, where the ocean was imbued with greater potential for volatility. Accordingly, fisherfolk reported that in the last five years, they have noticed a range of changes to the ocean, which they attribute almost universally to the tsunami. However, this changed relationship to the sea has not always resulted in displacement; for many, the centrality of the ocean in their lives has not diminished. Rather, as I explained in Chapter Three, 
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 this importance of the ocean has allowed them to take note of and perhaps even preempt adaptation to variation consistent with global climate change, despite the fact that continued armed conflict has led to a displacement of the East from national and international climate change discourses.  A traditional environmental security response asserts that such an exclusion risks bioterrorism and further hampers the abilities of an already vulnerable population to deal with potential climactic damages (cf. Schwartz and Randall, 2003; Barnett and Adger, 2007). While there are certainly disadvantages to being excluded from formalized climate change networks, I see Sri Lanka’s East coast as a place of violence and fear but also of memory, sorrow, hope, and durability. In fact, connections between conflict and environmental displacement in my research have revealed that rather than conflict and trauma exacerbating environmental displacement, it may actually provide valuable lessons in reducing displacing effects. To apply this possibility, a nuanced view of war-afflicted populations must be adopted, that recognizes their strengths and abilities that happen on local, national, and intimate scales, their capacities for planning in the face of uncertainty, and treats them as much more than chaotic, violent, or even victimized groups.  To do research on and with the tsunami certainly entails recognition of the possible wrongs done by well-meaning outsiders. But, in keeping with a relational ontology, it is also to consider the multitude of gifts and receptions that make the world possible (Clark, 2007). It is to see that it is not just the tsunami but all economies and all societies that are characterized by giving and taking, between humans and nonhumans; what occurs not only during but also before and after an event like the tsunami is only possible as a result of all these exchanges. This approach, from a fully relational perspective, marks not only the formative function of the gift, but also the inevitability of the gift to go astray. It opens both the giver and the receiver to injury; it 
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 recognizes that they both are vulnerable. As Clark puts it, “for if generosity is truly an opening of oneself, then it also makes the one who gives vulnerable. The donor too must be prepared to feel hurt, to be chastened, criticized, even rejected. Only in this way might they – we – learn to give responsibly, as well as responsively” (2007: 17).  The formative power of the relationships between humans and nonhuman actors extends to the realm of academia. Researchers are vulnerable, not just to bodily harm but also to injury to the knowledge they produce. The power of disaster and of nonhuman actors actively forms understandings of the world. Relationships with nonhuman others do not act on pre-existing bodies of knowledge but are formative agents of these realities. For example, in my research, the force of the tsunami actively shaped my understanding of Sri Lanka’s East coast.  While climate change is not a sudden, unanticipated disaster in the sense of the tsunami, it similarly incorporates elements of uncertainty and the power of the nonhuman world to affect reality. The tendency with climate change is to pronounce it as a new and exceptional challenge, which is reinforced by an elite and exclusionary system of producing climate change knowledge (MacGregor, 2010). Part of my efforts here have been to counter this hegemonic inclination, to unravel some of the historical continuities and co-constitutions of climate change with other discourses and materialities of race, violence, sovereignty, conservation, and natural/social divisions that add, link, and sometimes disconnect actors in these networks. Yet how to trace these patterns and still maintain the centrality of uncertainty and formative vulnerability, to allow for surprise not as collateral but as constitutive? To this end, I have attempted to show the continuity of unknowability, insecurity, and non-mechanistic connections, rather than a steadfast march to reduce vulnerability and decrease uncertainty, in forming what comes to be understood as reality and even progress. As Clark writes, “if an intellectual response is indeed a reply to a summoning, then it is also, inevitably, a working in the dark. Not so much a pronouncing or a 
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 professing, as a dispossessing of one’s body of knowledge, a calling into question through coming up against the secrets and silences of alterity” (2007: 1134). By position the relations between human and nonhuman actors at the fore, I hope to bring some of this dispossession and alterity to the field of climate change, where they have largely been lacking.  There are numerous ways that my fieldwork could have been executed more ethically; an increased language capacity on my part and a more extended period of engagement are two that come to mind. Despite the limitations of my study and my inevitable complicity with often- violent Western models of knowledge acquisition, I have attempted to occupy a position that recognizes so-called “vulnerable” populations as influential and important actors in the interface between the environment and human displacement. In recognizing the power of this vulnerability in producing knowledge, I have attempted to apprehend my own vulnerability, intellectually and embodied, as a constitutive element of my research.  As I write this, hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil are spilling into the Gulf of Mexico and spreading to surrounding shores from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil leak. Although the ocean did not cause the disaster, it undoubtedly plays a role in who is harmed and how. Again, the capacity of the environment to cause damage to humans continues to surprise researchers, scientists, the media, and the general public. Yet it is not just environments’ capacity to do injury, but also to be injured, and in both of these instances to influence human politics, economies, and very survival, that continues to shock. We need to overcome what Clark observes as a “strange […] reluctance to credit our planet’s physical forces with making a real difference to human life” (2007: 4). In order to do so, we need to treat nonhumans as the social and political actors that they are.  To ethically approach the relationship between displacement and the environment, moving beyond causal relationships between environmental change and forced migration and de- 
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 centering discourses that persist with security-oriented inquiries into where “environmental refugees” will go and who will provide for them is of foremost importance. Vital instead is examining how has the environment been enrolled in networks of displacement, as a fully political actor, not just a factor. And we need to ask what kinds of displacement occur and to seriously consider the possibilities of epistemic displacement as well as migration. We need to ask what is lost and for whom? At the same time, we need to acknowledge that it is impossible to fully account for these networks, that at best we can only apprehend certain elements of these relationships, never fully moving to recognition, and that our only hope may be to be attuned to the haunting by the ties that connect us to human and nonhuman others (Butler, 2009). I do not wish to suggest that the environment and displacement not be considered together. While there are many dangers of the discourses generated by this relationship, it also presents opportunities for rethinking sovereignty and for better understanding humans’ relationships with other humans and nonhumans alike. Whether environmental displacement will occur as a result of climate change, and to what extent, is yet unknown. Although this makes policy decisions difficult or impossible, this unknown future presents the opportunity and indeed the necessity for more ethical considerations of uncertainty, which fully incorporate nonhuman actors as lively and political forces.  In conclusion, then, I turn a last time to the ocean. At this final stage, I look at the ocean as a site of possible contradictions and tensions, though not always oppositions. The ocean in many ways represents the unknowable, yet is experienced in intensely material ways. It is an entity of both space and place. It challenges the power of the nation-state yet also provides a field for extending sovereignty through territorial expansion. These contradictions are not fleeting but rather building blocks of historical global relations. Hence the ocean provides a model for how we can see Sri Lanka, as a place of violence and hope, destruction and durability. It also provides 
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 a model for how we can see the environment/displacement nexus, as at once dangerous and productive, offering both opportunities for isolationism and racialized exclusion and the chance to reinvigorate understandings of relationships between human and nonhuman beings. 
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 Appendix 1: Research ethics approval certificate     The University of British Columbia Office of Research Services Behavioural Research Ethics Board Suite 102, 6190 Agronomy Road, Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z3  CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL - MINIMAL RISK  PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: INSTITUTION / DEPARTMENT: UBC BREB NUMBER: Juanita Sundberg  UBC/Arts/Geography  H09-01109 INSTITUTION(S) WHERE RESEARCH WILL BE CARRIED OUT: Institution Site UBC Vancouver (excludes UBC Hospital) Other locations where the research will be conducted: Coastal communities in Sri Lanka - public gathering places and designated homes. Government offices in Sri Lanka. Non-governmental organization (NGO) offices in Sri Lanka.  CO-INVESTIGATOR(S): Jessica S. Lehman SPONSORING AGENCIES: N/A PROJECT TITLE: Ocean changes and coastal lives: A case study from Sri Lanka CERTIFICATE EXPIRY DATE:  June 2, 2010 DOCUMENTS INCLUDED IN THIS APPROVAL: DATE APPROVED:   June 2, 2009 Document Name Version Date Protocol: Research proposal N/A May 7, 2009 Consent Forms: NGO/Gov Consent  N/A May 26, 2009 Focus Group Consent N/A May 26, 2009 Questionnaire, Questionnaire Cover Letter, Tests: NGO/Gov Interview Script N/A May 7, 2009 Community Member Interview Script N/A May 7, 2009 Focus Group Discussions Questions  N/A May 7, 2009 Letter of Initial Contact: Letter of contact for NGO/Gov officers N/A May 26, 2009   The application for ethical review and the document(s) listed above have been reviewed and the procedures were found to be acceptable on ethical grounds for research involving human subjects.  
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  Approval is issued on behalf of the Behavioural Research Ethics Board and signed electronically by one of the following:  Dr. M. Judith Lynam, Chair Dr. Ken Craig, Chair Dr. Jim Rupert, Associate Chair Dr. Laurie Ford, Associate Chair Dr. Anita Ho, Associate Chair    


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