How to capture birds of freedom: picturing Tamil women at war

Vindhya Buthpitiya*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the uses of images of women fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during and after the Sri Lankan civil war (1983–2009) to explore the contrasting mobilizations of visual representations of Tamil women cadres, focusing on the cultivation and framing of contradictory nationalist imaginaries by competing ethnic and state actors. In northern Sri Lanka, portraits of gun-bearing women fighters were wielded to signal revolutionary possibilities for the future of the Tamil nation-state as well as to inform the political socialization of its hopeful citizens. Meanwhile, images of Tamil women cadres were cast as gendered and ethnicized threats by the Sri Lankan state in what constituted a calculated form of visual ethno-political othering and weaponization. This article reflects on the ways in which such appropriations exacerbated the political precarity of and the denial of victimhood to Tamil women.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTrans Asia Photography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023


  • Sri Lanka
  • War
  • Ethnic conflict
  • Ethno-Nationalism
  • Tamil
  • Photography
  • Civil War
  • Nationalism


Dive into the research topics of 'How to capture birds of freedom: picturing Tamil women at war'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this