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Durham University

Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Dr Maurice Said

Said, M. (2014). Suicide and shame in southern Sri Lanka: Networks of dependency. South Asia Research 34(1): 19-30.

Author(s) from Durham


This article shows how successful youth suicides and attempted suicides in the south of Sri Lanka are utilised as tools against an oppressive and limiting kinship structure. The majority of youth suicides in southern Sri Lanka appear to be aimed at disempowering close kin and publicly challenge the moral authority of the kin network, resulting in cleavages in the local distribution of power and status. The forms of suicide imbue the victim’s family with shame, thus questioning and challenging the ‘boundedness’ of the family unit. Using three contrasting case studies involving a domestic argument between a young man and his spouse, a young couple from rival families, and a young woman in a post-tsunami camp, this fieldwork-based research illustrates how youth suicides bring to the fore internal tensions in the family.