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Abstract

The increasing visibility of armed women in violent conflicts in the modern world has unsettled conventional beliefs of inferiority, weakness, innocence, and the resultant fragility and victimhood of women. Although in theory it is possible to conceptualize armed woman and violence as empowerment, in practice, the temporal realities that inevitably haunt any discussion of ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorists’ in conflict ridden polarized societies severely curtail the terminology available to frame militancy in general and the ‘terror’ it generates as ‘liberatory’. However, fictional and non-fictional literary work that were published in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s war (1983-2009) between the state forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) seem to push the boundaries of the discourse on women, violence, and terror. This paper analyzes the representation of armed women in The Seasons of Trouble (Mohan, 2014), Island of a Thousand Mirrors (Munaweera, 2014), Tamil Tigress (De Soyza, 2013), and Under the Shadow of a Sharp Edged Sword (trans.) (Jeyakumaran, 2016) with the assumption that the genres of auto/biography and fiction offer an alternative archive within which seemingly polarized ‘truths’ entrenched in nationalist conflicts can be explored in their nuanced complexity. This paper assesses how literary portrayals of female militancy vis-à-vis violence, empowerment, and victimhood challenge conventional history and narratives and, in doing so, contribute to expand the boundaries of our understanding of female militancy in times of violent conflict. In conclusion, this paper suggests that the location of violence and female militancy within an ambivalent space of agency in narrative literature may also entail an unsettling of conventional figurations of war in gendered terms.

Note on the Author

Thilini currently serves as a lecturer in English Language and Literature at the Open University of Sri Lanka. Previously, she served at the University of Kelaniya and General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University. Her research interests include gender, media, conflict literature, postcolonial literature, and cultural studies.

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