Academic journal article Military Review

MASKING TERROR: How Women Contain Violence in Southern Sri Lanka

Academic journal article Military Review

MASKING TERROR: How Women Contain Violence in Southern Sri Lanka

Article excerpt

MASKING TERROR: How Women Contain Violence in Southern Sri Lanka, Alex Argenti-Pillen, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2003, 240 pages, $49.95.

Masking Terror: How Women Contain Violence in Southern Sri Lanka, by Alex Argenti-Pillen, is a study of how discursive styles in social interaction serve to influence violence in southern Sri Lanka. Udahenagama (hill-garden village) is a pseudonym for a conglomerate of five neighborhoods where Argenti-Pillen conducted fieldwork with the support of a team of research assistants and interpreters. The primary audience for this book is for academics, mental health professionals, and humanitarian workers.

The methodology of the work draws on postmodernist approaches, which leads to a suspicion of modern knowledge, such as Western trauma methods and an acceptance of indigenous superstition at face value. This in turn leads to interesting conclusions, such as the distinction between modernist violence directed at a universal enemy and the traditional violence of Udahenagama, which is rooted in context and particularity. The significance of this conclusion is that ethnic hatred is not the source of violence in Sri Lanka (and perhaps other conflict zones); rather, the militarized state, created through propaganda campaigns and other means, is the setting for large-scale violence. Ultimately, however, this methodology might have more resonance with academics in research than with military practitioners in the field.

Argentiti-Pillen's exploration of discourse on violence in the five neighborhoods provides an opportunity to see indigenous natives as people in a context rather than as "exoticized others. …

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