At the time of writing (7th May 2020) Sri Lanka has officially recorded nine deaths from Covid-19, which is a very small proportion of the population. Malathi de Alwis is a socio-cultural anthropologist based in Colombo. She joined me to offer some context for the government's handling of the pandemic and the idea of curfew; the impact of migrant workers from Sri Lanka returning home; and the radicalization of victims of Covid-19.
And we chat about Malathi's research into disappearance, the uses of maternalism in political protest, and the importance of remembering.
One of Malathi de Alwis's most recent projects is The Archive Of Memory: http://historicaldialogue.lk/link/archive-of-memory/
The Archive uses 70 narrative fragments to reflect on each year since Sri Lanka gained its independence from Great Britain, each tied to a specific physical object. 'They recall turning points in our history through mundane, everyday objects as well as unique artifacts and souvenirs. Such an exercise not only entails the collection of oral histories but also looks at objects as aide-mémoire or mnemonic devices.'
I spoke with Malathi de Alwis on Wednesday 6th May 2020.