The focus of this book is on the first-generation Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Berne, Switzerland. During the Sri Lankan civil war, tens of thousands of Tamil refugees migrated to Switzerland. For decades, they hoped for a return to their desired own state Tamiḻ Īlamand strove to preserve their social ties and home ‘culture’. At the core of their identity was the Tamil language. They essentialized their values as part of the patriotic project of an independent ‘Tamil’ state. Swiss ‘culture’ was seen as incompatible with Tamil ideals. The second generation, socialized in the host country, tended to adopt both ‘cultures’. After the defeat of the Tamil Tigers and the end of the war in 2009, the vision of a return to the homeland was shattered. Ten years later the first-generation Swiss Tamils have little desire to return to a country where all their relatives have left or died, and where the situation is seen as unsafe. The elderly Tamils seem prepared to spend their old age in the Swiss exile, the homeland of their children.
Damaris Lüthi is an associated researcher for South Asia at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Berne, Switzerland.
Johanna Vögeli studied Social Anthropology at the University of Berne and has a post in development cooperation.
Marie-Anne Pinheiro-Fankhauser studied Social Anthropology at the University of Berne and is a lecturer at the Berne University of Applied Sciences.