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Hospitality: Becoming ‘IDPs’ and ‘Hosts’ in Protracted Displacement
Downloaded from at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2, 2011

Department of Geography, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
MS received June 2009; revised MS received May 2010

The paper engages with Jacques Derrida’s writings on ‘hospitality’ to discuss how, in a situation of protracted displacement in Sri Lanka, policy categories interact with local categories to make particular understandings of ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) and their ‘hosts’. Using the notions of conditional and unconditional hospitality, the paper first shows the political and ethical principles underpinning local and international humanitarian discourses and practices for dealing with internal displacement. Second, the paper analyses how the two categories of IDPs and hosts emerge, are negotiated and redefined by looking at the hospitable engagements between the two groups. The paper analyses how hospitality operates and governs the relationship between IDPs and hosts and consequently shapes particular identities and rights. The paper concludes by indicating the need to encompass both different international humanitarian approaches and local approaches in dealing with internal displacement. Keywords: hospitality, hosts, displacement, Sri Lanka

Introduction Categories are necessary to comprehend the world, but how we categorize has profound social and political implications for people associated with the categories and for ways in which people relate to each other. This paper engages with Derrida’s writings on ‘hospitality’ to discuss how, in a situation of protracted displacement, policy categories interact with local categories to make particular understandings of ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) and their ‘hosts’. The paper goes beyond the familiar stories of disruption, loss and marginalization crucial for our understandings of displacement and discusses the emergence and working of the categories ‘IDPs’ and ‘hosts’. Forced migration, the forcible movement of people from one place to another, represents a ‘throwntogetherness’ (Massey 2005) of people who will have to relate to each other. ‘Hospitality’ is applied to understand how, when ‘thrown together’ as a result of displacement, individuals and groups

Since then I have visited and spent time with the people there every year. Zetter 1988. The fourth section analyses how the hosts’ welcoming attitude changed to make hospitality more conditional and the fifth section follows this process by discussing in particular how negotiations between the two groups impact on identities and rights. I set out to achieve three aims. Second. Practising hospitality takes place between the ethics and politics of relating to others. 2011 . I have again been involved more actively as a member of the Citizens’ Commission for the northern Muslims which aims to document the impact of their displacement and to voice the heterogeneous experiences of displacement within the group. I move on to explain Derrida’s theorizing on hospitality before introducing the role of Muslims in Sri Lanka and the displacement of the Muslims from the north of Sri Lanka in 1990. The third section shows the ways in which the local and the international discourses operated in the process where the people in Puttalam welcomed the northern Muslims into their homes. see debates in 1999 in Forced Downloaded from http://jrs. The particular case of protracted displacement used to analyse these processes is the Muslims expelled from territories controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in northern Sri Lanka in 1990. In engaging with hospitality. Van Hear 1998. In the first section of the paper I discuss the different policy approaches to internal displacement and hosts. I first visited the area in 1994. The International Humanitarian Discourse on ‘IDPs’ and ‘Hosts’ Policy categories1 are much discussed in forced migration studies (Bakewell at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. First I seek to introduce the ethics and politics of different policy approaches to internal displacement—notably what I term the UN/ Brookings approach and the ICRC approach. Sri Lanka. In this paper I analyse the relationship of hospitality between Muslim hosts and Muslim IDPs in Puttalam. Since early 2009. and how people became hosts and IDPs. The work presented here is part of a long term engagement with the protracted situation of displacement that the Muslims from northern Sri Lanka have experienced.000 expelled Muslims are still living as IDPs in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka where they were welcomed initially by both Muslim and Sinhalese residents of the area. In this engagement I have worked with people within the groups of both ‘hosts’ and ‘IDPs’.2 Cathrine Brun transform into ‘hosts’ and ‘guests’. but the research started as a PhD project in 1997 with fieldwork in several periods from 1997 to 2001. The paper concludes by indicating the need for an approach that encompasses different international humanitarian approaches and local approaches alike for dealing with internal displacement. Black 2001. and the third aim is to analyse how these categories operate and govern the relationship between IDPs and hosts and consequently shape particular identities and rights. I aim to show how the policy discourses and practices with regard to internal displacement interact with local discourses and practices so as to understand the emergence and changing meaning of ‘IDP’ and ‘host’ categories. The majority of the approximately 75.oxfordjournals.

Cohen. Less prominent in these discussions are the ways in which the policy categories operate and interact with local discourses. the problem of applying policy categories as analytical categories in research. the relationship between the refugee and the IDP category and. de Wind and Adelman and McGrath in JRS in 2007). people in need of assistance and protection among the host population would Downloaded from http://jrs. notably in relation to assisting and protecting other vulnerable groups who have not moved but may stay together with those labelled IDPs and may be in need of the same protection and assistance as IDPs. the other school takes a more inclusive approach as its starting point. strategies and categories. some contradictory views on the application of the IDP category can be found. The discussion between these two schools of dealing with people forced to move. independence and neutrality. the ICRC will give priority to those with the most urgent needs. However. Of particular concern here is that the separate identification of IDPs is at odds with the humanitarian principle that assistance should be determined by the needs and needs alone. the ICRC is critical of working with internal displacement as a separate humanitarian category. The ICRC approach rests in the ethical principles of the humanitarian imperative of impartiality. I identify in this section two approaches to internal displacement and their limited dealing with the so-called ‘hosts’. is an important starting point for the remainder of this paper: one school advocates the need for IDPs to be a separate category. The second approach may be termed the ‘ICRC approach’. By and large ‘internally displaced persons’ has been accepted as a category in our research and practice today. It may be possible to identify two main views and schools in this at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. On one side is the UN/Brookings-Bern Project successful advocacy for internal displacement as a separate category and the formulation of the Guiding Principles for Internal Displacement.‘IDPs’ and ‘Hosts’ in Protracted Displacement 3 Migration Review and between Hathaway.2 In this paper I concentrate on the latter and in order to understand such interactions between international humanitarian policy discourses and practices and local discourses and practices.4 Borton et al. regardless of whether they have been forced to move or not (Contat Hickel 2001. (2005) support this approach and point to the practical difficulties on the ground in separating IDPs from other vulnerable groups. Based on humanitarian principles and realities in the field. On the ground. 2011 . Krill 2001). IDPs consequently need special assistance and protection. the ICRC does not distinguish between IDPs and other civilians affected by conflict—at least in principle. It is possible to identify two key discussions here: first. but who have not crossed an internationally recognized boundary.3 The main line of reasoning for this view is that there is a need for a separate category of ‘internally displaced people’ because forced migrants are very vulnerable and their experiences differ from those of people who are not forced to move. in situations of armed conflict and internal disturbances. In the ICRC approach. second. Contat Hickel warns against the discriminatory nature of the IDP approach because of the specific mechanisms set up to respond to the need of one single category.oxfordjournals. Rather.

2011 . Friese 2004. IDPs and the meeting between hosts and IDPs. ‘the local people’ or ‘the surrounding population’. He terms this an ‘unconditional hospitality’ which he describes as the ethical dimension of hospitality. recreated and manifested on the ground in interplay between different understandings. Hospitality: Ethics and Politics of Relating to Others The arrival of forced migrants—in this case IDPs—in a new place represents a ‘throwntogetherness’ in which individuals and groups have to relate to one another in new ways. there are few attempts to understand how the categories of IDPs and hosts are created. Derrida’s discussion of hospitality is influenced by readings of Kant. the immigrant. practices and discourses of hosts. According to Benhabib (2006). the deported. ‘Hosts’ as a category has received limited attention in forced migration studies and policies and is taken for granted as a category that comes into existence when IDPs or refugees arrive. but hospitality can also more generally be the manner in which we relate to ourselves and to others. there is not much work on how the hosts play a role in shaping the category of IDPs. integration and cosmopolitanism. Ramadan 2008. His work has inspired others to use hospitality to unsettle the taken for granted relationship between host and guest in the context of migration and the welcoming and reception of migrants in practice and policies (Critchley and Kearney 2001. It is the fundamental act of ethics and of receptivity to the other. Levinas and the phenomenology of the stranger developed by Simmel (Benhabib 2006). to look explicitly at the heterogeneity and meanings of this category for people defined as hosts. conversations. Derrida seeks to advocate a set of cosmopolitan rights for asylum seekers. ¸ Derrida’s writings on hospitality concern the foreigner in general. It is the two latter points I discuss here. about ethics. 2000. refugees and immigrants that goes beyond state authority and legislation (Derrida 2000).oxfordjournals. However. hospitality comprises both an anthropologically and culturally limited encounter with the other. There are limited attempts to include hosts in policies and programmes dealing with forced migrants. In a number of essays. lectures and texts. Derrida discusses how we can understand the relationship between the stranger—the other—and the host in the context of immigration. And finally. Derrida and Dufourmantelle 2000). Deutscher 2007. and an ethical encounter with the other. It is hospitality that makes no demand on the other and Downloaded from http://jrs. in Derrida’s understanding. ‘Hosts’ are often called upon as an important category by referring to Chambers’s (1986) statement that hosts tend to be thought of as a single entity summarized as ‘host communities’. at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. few attempts have been made first. Hospitality is.4 Cathrine Brun potentially be assisted. Rosello 2001). the stateless or the displaced person (Derrida 2001: 4). 2001. Dikec 2002. the exiled. Second. Derrida discusses this relation as ‘hospitality’ (1997. but there is no discussion in either of the schools about who the hosts are and what the meaning of ‘hosts’ would potentially be in situations of internal displacement.

formulating categories for indicating who should have the right to support or the right to stay does not make sense. Here it is a more universal understanding where rights to assistance are not based on where you are and who you are. However.oxfordjournals. These ethical principles of unconditional hospitality towards the other underpin the discourse and practices advocated by the ICRC. assistance for people forced to move within their own country becomes a question of having crossed a local boundary. It implies a total welcome where the relationship between hosts and guests becomes unsettled and where a host would abandon possessions and cede mastery of the home. Second. This is. The tension between politics and ethics is a classic tension in humanitarian ethics and Derrida formulates them as two contradictory and equally justified imperatives. Derrida introduces the law of conditional hospitality. The starting point for conditional hospitality is the rights and entitlements associated with the category. the hospitable do possess things. In unconditional hospitality. Together with unconditional hospitality. It is unrealistic because we have to have things to be hospitable at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. The two notions of hospitality must co-exist. the Downloaded from http://jrs. there is no choice between the one or the other. as mentioned above. being defined as an internally displaced person and consequently being granted a predetermined set of rights. conditional hospitality could be represented by the UN/Brookings approach to internal displacement with the accompanying Guiding Principles formulated to protect and assist IDPs. Derrida tackles the dilemma inherent in unconditional hospitality by introducing the double law of hospitality (Derrida 2005). and the things remain theirs. It involves judicial principles and institutional arrangements and is based on the distinction between host and guest with a locational right at the centre. In conditional hospitality. Unconditional hospitality—the total welcome— would require the right of refuge for all immigrants and newcomers (Critchley and Kearney 2001). Derrida used the two understandings of hospitality to separate political from ethical constraints. The notion of unconditional hospitality is an uncomfortable and rather unrealistic understanding of hospitality. a formidable challenge because of their difference. While unconditional hospitality is the ethics of hospitality.‘IDPs’ and ‘Hosts’ in Protracted Displacement 5 welcomes the other without knowing in advance who or what the other might be (Derrida 2001). It is the movement of people and the status that determines their right to protection and assistance. that internal displacement becomes an institutional responsibility. conditional hospitality denotes a particular right to a particular place. In the humanitarian discourse of internal displacement as discussed above. as Derrida states himself. and it is between the two that decisions must be taken (Derrida 2005). The consequence of a conditional hospitality is first. 2011 . conditional hospitality is the political dimension of hospitality: the right to welcome and be welcomed. It is in the power of the institution—like the humanitarian community or a government—to decide who is entitled to be welcomed and defined as an IDP and to decide who belongs to this category.

power and inequalities. Third. However. of categories. but that we should rather acknowledge the need for the two approaches to relate more to each other. there is tension between conditional and unconditional hospitality in the interplay between international humanitarian and local discourses and practices. the categories ‘IDPs’ and ‘hosts’ do not make sense. governing the relationship between self and other (Westmoreland 2008). or the established groups. as mentioned above. but also ethically between people in need of protection and assistance and others. the institutional responsibility is much stronger in conditional hospitality where it is subject to regulative forces. In the case I turn to now. the Other is less obvious as it is Muslims being welcomed by Muslims. on the other hand. Second. would welcome newcomers based on a feeling of responsibility for at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2.oxfordjournals. Again. it should not so much be that we select one or the other. Hospitality as an encounter with the Other shapes identities of individuals and groups and the relationship between them. but there is a need to differentiate not only institutionally and legally. In order to bring hospitality into this discussion. who should welcome. these two approaches to internal displacement do not take place in a vacuum. Unconditional hospitality comes under pressure in the relationship with the enemy as Other. but in interplay with the concrete situations where displacement takes place. In an unconditional hospitality. Downloaded from http://jrs. whose responsibility is hospitality? In this context. Here a challenge is the problem. The politics and ethics of hospitality do not exclude one another. With reference to the UN/Brookings and the ICRC approach to internal displacement then. I first want to address the question of how hosts become hosts and guests guests.6 Cathrine Brun two forms of hospitality are always there. even in this case the relationship between the two forms of hospitality is not clearcut. Unconditional hospitality. hospitality requires having something to be hospitable with. Analysing relations between forced migrants and their hosts through hospitality must include understandings of structure. Ramadan (2008: 665) shows how war reveals starkly the limitations of unconditional hospitality as an ethic for our relations with the Other. hospitality is fundamentally about ethics and a way of understanding the encounter with the stranger. and the necessity. is a more universal responsibility in our dealings with others where the hosts. 2011 . Hospitality takes place between the hosts and the guests.

In Sri Lanka ‘Muslim’ is an ethnic category and identity. Partly as a result of this they have come within the shadow of Sri Lanka’s dominant ethnic discourse of Tamils and Sinhalese (Ismail 1995). Their geographical distribution is a major determining factor of the diversity of their culture. Both interviews show the importance ethnicity has gained in Sri Lankan society since independence. Muslims of the north and east are primarily cultivators and poor farmers living with the Tamil community (Knoerzer 1998). Muslims of the south and west tend to be a wealthier and more urbanized group living with the Sinhalese community and involved in trade and commerce (O’Sullivan 1999). Sinhalese and Tamil ethnicities refer to origin. they share many of the same cultural traditions and they speak the same language. I was struck by the similarities with my conversation with a northern Muslim displaced by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the relationship between Tamils and Muslims in northern Sri Lanka in the early 1980s. but Muslims do not always share the cultural grammar with the Tamils and Sinhalese. 2011 When reading the interview with Sivanandan5 about his life in Colombo in the 1940s. they now tend to speak the language of the majority group at the place where they live. religion. There is a distinction between Muslims in the south and west and Muslims in the north and east. In the north and east in particular. Only our religion was different. Although traditionally speaking Tamil. we didn’t think of Muslims and Tamils as different. their histories have been very different and these differences have become . 7 Downloaded from http://jrs. however.‘IDPs’ and ‘Hosts’ in Protracted Displacement at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. but in our minds there were no divisions (from an interview in 1998 with a northern Muslim living as an IDP in Puttalam). however. economy and their political behaviour (Nuhman 2007).oxfordjournals. are defined as an ethnic group based on religion. Muslim politics have been dominated by politicians from the south and west who found that their political interests were best met through participation and integration with the majority Sinhalese parties—not with the Tamils (Knoerzer 1998. the Muslims in Puttalam District (north-western Muslims) are distinct from both southern and western and northern and eastern Muslims.6 language and territory.7 they have played a relatively major role in Sri Lankan politics nationally by often supporting the majority Sinhalese political initiatives such as the Sinhala-only language reform in 1956. O’Sullivan 1999). Additionally. While Muslims represent a small minority of approximately 7 per cent of the population. Muslims and Sri Lankan Tamils have intersecting histories with many commonalities. At the same time. There were no divisions between us at that time. Sri Lankan Muslims. Muslimness and Spatial Politics in Sri Lanka What were your first memories in the sense of being a Tamil in the south? ‘I had no sense of being a Tamil’ No sense? ‘I had no sense at all of being a Tamil’ (Sivanandan 2009: 82).

and provided the displaced with clothes and food. The Meccans who migrated with him Downloaded from http://jrs. loss of house and belongings. Its charismatic leader. the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC) was established in 1981.oxfordjournals. Mobilizing on the basis of Muslim identities. and the flight on foot through the jungle and by boat in rough seas during monsoon rain played its part in constituting the northern Muslims’ identities as IDPs. 2011 . culture and institutional practices. With increasing emphasis on a separate homeland for Tamils in the north and east from the 1970s. these categories were formed and maintained as an interplay between people’s experiences. gardens and schools for shelter. The majority of the displaced arrived in Puttalam District in the North-Western Province. often with support from the government. Violence culminated in 1990 with the LTTE killing Muslims praying in mosques in eastern Sri Lanka. Ashraff. Two discourses in particular were instrumental in forming the categories: the discourse on Muslim ethics and ideals of generosity and hospitality. H. The government also played a part in divide and rule strategies between Tamils and Muslims. A complex web of alliances and of sympathies and antipathies developed in the north and east. Becoming Internally Displaced and Hosts 75.000 Muslims were expelled by the LTTE from the northern areas under their control in October 1990 (Hasbullah 2001). and finally expelling Muslims from their homes in the north. M. a political party. practices. The Discourse on Islamic Ethics and Ideals The Prophet went into exile at Medina in AD at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. Muslims in this area felt the need to state their own identity and claim their rights as Muslims. During the 1980s Tamil militants became rougher in their dealings with Muslims (Hoole 1993). The local people in Puttalam—particularly the Muslims but also the Sinhalese and Tamils—welcomed the Muslims from the north into their homes. The SLMC has not been able to keep its national strength since 2000 and Muslim politics have again become more regionally based. Experiences of expulsion.8 Cathrine Brun more articulate during the conflict. a key date because it constitutes year one of the Muslim calendar. Some Muslims continued to support and join the LTTE until 1990. There were increasing tensions between Muslims and Tamils on issues of land. The war between the LTTE and the government forces started in 1983. identity and support of the LTTE in the north and east. and an increasing number of Muslims operated on their own behalf. M. led the party to become a national Muslim party till his unexpected death in a helicopter accident in 2000. and the humanitarian discourse on internal displacement. other Muslims supported other militant groups. Although there is much variation in the way the categories of IDPs and hosts are performed. In this process the local population became hosts.

Additionally. their closeness to each other. . . rehabilitation and development. . It has been shown by several authors that granting asylum and refuge constitutes a moral and legal obligation in Islam (Elmadmad 1991. The principle of zakath refers to compulsory almsgiving in deference to the rights of the poor and refugees. In the context of the northern Muslims’ arrival in Puttalam.‘IDPs’ and ‘Hosts’ in Protracted Displacement would be called the Muhajirun (literally ‘migrants’). .] The simplicity of their lodgings. and the role of the host community was often referred to by the northern Muslims with immense gratitude. .’ Thanks to the ease of exchange among the Muhajirun and the presence of the at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. as it were. whatever the reason for his or her flight. what is important is that the Islamic obligations to receive and assist the displaced eased the phase of reception.8 The significance of the Prophet Mohammad’s flight from persecution in Mecca and reception in Medina was often mentioned as an important dimension of the arrival and reception of the northern Muslims in Puttalam. 9 Downloaded from http://jrs.oxfordjournals. Muhammad had recourse to some rituals that created fraternal links: each Ansari was to accept a Muhajir as ‘brother. the Islamic value of welcoming strangers was presented as an important act of generosity.’ for whom he was to be. [. Muzaffar 2001). supporters). All ethnic groups assisted the northern Muslims when they arrived in Puttalam. The Islamic discourse of unconditional hospitality is close to the ICRC approach of unconditionality—it requires a total welcome and no separation between different categories of need. Still. and thereby positioned themselves as hosts and displaced in Puttalam. Friese 2009). and their closeness to the mosque gave a democratic dimension to the Islamic community that makes us all dream—dream about that lack of distance between the leader and ‘his people. the integration of the Ansar and all the other new converts proceeded with rapidity. 2011 Principles of hospitality are shared by the Abrahamic religions (Derrida 2002. Elmadmad shows how obligations of welcoming guests in Islam also encompass the obligation for all Muslims to grant asylum and protection to any person who asks for it. People compared the displaced people with the ‘Muhajiruns’ who had to flee. responsible for ‘helping him to conquer the feeling of uprootedness’ (Mernissi 1991: 30 and 111). the role of almsgiving—‘zakath’—should play a key role in financing refugee relief. However. To accelerate the amalgamation of Medinese and Meccans. His new adherents. as Muzaffar shows. But the Islamic discourse of hospitality was mainly pursued by local Muslims and concerned the obligation by Muslims to assist their Muslim brothers and sisters.]. [. the host population was essential for the survival of the IDPs. would be called the Ansar (auxiliaries. Elmadmad 2008. Derrida (2005) shows that the Islamic obligation means compulsion. despite the language of unconditionality dominating the stories from Puttalam. and the locals who received them with the ‘Ansaris’. and provided a basis for rebuilding the lives of the northern Muslims and for local integration processes. recruited from among the tribes of Medina. For the first month. In the following I focus mainly on this relationship between the local Muslims and the displaced Muslims.

.] the host. for example Jayatillake 2003). The term came into common usage through the myriad of institutions. The UN/Brookings group subsequently came in and worked actively and successfully to make the IDP category known in Sri Lanka. the IDP category has become very persistent. From an Unconditional to a Conditional Welcome [. . together with UNHCR which also worked to disseminate knowledge about the category and the Guiding Principles to all levels of the government administration ( at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. Today. 2011 . the hosts to a large extent withdrew their assistance. Hasbullah and Korf (2009) show from the post-tsunami work in eastern Sri Lanka how the state initiatives and humanitarian agencies largely replaced local initiatives. This is not a unique history in Sri Lanka. committees. the acronym ‘IDP’ is a term commonly used by politicians.oxfordjournals.] must be assured of his sovereignty over the space and goods he offers or opens to the other as stranger (Derrida 2000: 14). As well as this.10 Cathrine Brun The Humanitarian Discourse A second discourse to influence the formation of the ‘IDP’ and ‘host’ categories in Puttalam was the humanitarian discourse. he [. the Sri Lankan government embraced the IDP category and utilized it as an opportunity to control people’s movements and regulate people’s access to various rights and entitlements (Brun 2003). he who offers hospitality must be the master in his house. UNHCR played a key role in this process. shelter and basic services. the term internal displacement was used in the country before it became an internationally recognized term. The ICRC was a major actor in humanitarian operations in war affected Sri Lanka and assisted people displaced by the war and living in LTTE controlled areas. However. Along with this process. .9 In 1993. Downloaded from http://jrs. . Francis Deng’s first country mission following his confirmation in 1993 as representative of the UN Secretary-General was to Sri Lanka (Weiss and Korn 2006). nongovernmental and multilateral—and researchers working with and writing about displacement. Most people thought the displacement would be temporary and that people could return to their homes shortly. and the agency’s involvement in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s and 1990s contributed to shape the agency’s policy in engaging with IDPs elsewhere. After the first month when the hosts took the most active role in providing relief for the northern Muslims. These various initiatives paved the way for the established understanding of ‘IDP’ in Sri Lanka. the humanitarian community moved into Puttalam to assist with establishing welfare centres (camps). In the case of the northern Muslims. newspapers and people in general. ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ has become a well established term and category in Sri Lanka. providing food. organizations—governmental. The IDPs became much more the responsibility of the humanitarian community than the hosts. In fact. it was the UN/Brookings-Bern approach that came to dominate the discourse and practices dealing with people displaced by the war.

‘IDPs’ and ‘Hosts’ in Protracted Displacement 11 Hospitality is often taken for granted as something we do to be good to others. Here. The act of hospitality performed by the Puttalam Muslims. Derrida demonstrates how. to offer hospitality—to be ¸ able to welcome someone into your home—one has to have control and ownership of a place. It requires the right to a particular place and it involves power and inequality in the relation between the host and the guest. but all students sitting their O-level exam in Puttalam. Health services have not improved in relation to the population increase which has put existing government health services under pressure. This welcoming did not take place in a historical and socio-political vacuum. Together with what will often happen when guests overstay and hosts become tired of being at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. resources and businesses in the Puttalam area. it is an ambiguous notion full of contradictions (Dikec 2002). they were very quick in organizing themselves and advocating for their interests based on their common identity as displaced when realizing the entitlements involved in the IDP category. These factors were further strengthened in 1994/1995 with the change of government. however. the welcome changed towards a more conditional hospitality. the IDPs appear almost stronger than the hosts. as discussed here. The Muslims in Puttalam have a history of longstanding negotiations over control of land. Muslims still speak Tamil here and there are ongoing negotiations—sometimes violent—between Muslims and Sinhalese about the control of resources and territories (Brun 2008). At the same time. university quotas did not increase for the area. The arrival of the northern Muslims represented a manifestation of the Muslim control over the two divisions of Puttalam and Kalpitiya which before their arrival had about 45 per cent Muslims. which increased the pressure on land in the area. The residential pattern is ethnically segregated and there is limited communication between Muslims and Sinhalese people in the area. the strength of the guests played an important part. a most significant reason for the move towards conditional hospitality was the sidelining of the hosts in the process. indicated the control over and right to Puttalam as their place. of government administration and businesses. landless hosts living on state owned land near the IDP camps felt their homes were under threat because their right to stay on the land was not clearcut in the first place. Another dimension was the competing for local resources in health services and university quotas.oxfordjournals. As a group. The challenges experienced by the hosts varied according to their resources and status. The initial welcome was framed as unconditional. Downloaded from http://jrs. 45 per cent Sinhalese and 10 per cent Tamils (Brun 2008). Since the 1950s—and particularly after the change in language policies in 1956—there has been a Sinhalization of the area in terms of landownership. For example. With the developments that took place after their arrival. The new government policies enabled the displaced people to buy land and receive support to build permanent houses in Puttalam. However. 2011 . The humanitarian operations made the ‘host category’ invisible and largely irrelevant beside the IDP category as a humanitarian label.

local people would formulate restrictions on IDPs going fishing. It was a conditionality closely related to the political dimension and demographics that could potentially have overturned the ethnic balance between Muslims and Sinhalese in the area. First.oxfordjournals. Hosts are today considered the legitimate local citizens of the area. the category means that when labelled ‘IDP’.org/ at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. they still express their identity as hosts—and in particular the meaning of being in their own place. Groups may come to identify themselves with categories initially formulated by others (Jenkins 2008). An IDP belongs to the place where he or she fled from and this has implications for the access to rights and entitlements at the place where he or she is living as displaced. ‘IDPs’ and ‘hosts’ are categories used as organizing principles in the society. compete for university places in this area. but is only a guest and temporarily present at the place of refuge. which again led to the displaced Muslims establishing their own mosques and further segregation between the two groups. And in terms of access to local power and influence. For the local people of Puttalam. despite the economic development that seems to have taken place after their arrival (Brun 2008). The perceived group strength of the IDPs and the feeling of being sidelined as hosts by the humanitarian agencies changed the local Puttalam people’s understanding of being hosts. Downloaded from http://jrs. which has been an important motivation for many northern Muslims to keep identifying themselves with the category. the local mosque societies played a key role in preventing IDPs from sitting on local Mosque Trustee Boards. Derrida shows how welcoming someone into your home can challenge your sovereignty over that place. the IDP category has several meanings of varying importance for the internally displaced themselves.12 Cathrine Brun including children of the IDPs. a forced migrant is entitled to certain assistance and protection during displacement. an internally displaced person is ‘out of place’ and does not belong to the place where he or she stays as an IDP. Feelings of losing control over their homes made it necessary to reassert control. the categories of IDPs and hosts were shaped and are changed by people’s experiences and practices as well as the intervention by outside humanitarian actors and institutions. and having the right to restrict outsiders’ access to resources in the area. In this context. The third meaning of the category ‘IDP’ is the right to return and assistance upon return. and for the humanitarian agencies. In the case analysed here. people in Puttalam have become more attentive to what they feel are negative impacts of the settlement of the northern Muslims. for example. Second. 2011 . including government institutions. the language of unconditionality turned to conditional hospitality. determining access to resources and influence over institutions. In terms of livelihoods. In this process. Over time. The interaction of local practices and discourses of dealing with displacement and the international humanitarian practices and discourses made the two categories of ‘IDPs’ and ‘hosts’ social groups in Puttalam. they represent a group that the IDPs must live in peace with.

Despite the northern Muslims and the Puttalam Muslims sharing ethnic identities. the hosts became increasingly tired of being hosts. However.) hospitality should be neither assimilation. The case discussed here represents stories of a hospitable community that opened their homes for people in need. In some ways the negotiations have clearly brought the two groups closer. 13 Hospitality is a response to the arrival of an Other and governs the relationship between the host and guest. Being hosts implies a temporary relationship and when the guest does not leave. . Two decades on. However. For example. In fact the hospitable engagements resulted in a number of boundary markers becoming more explicit: the troubled relationship between Muslims and Sinhalese in the area as discussed above. the relationships between Muslims and Tamils in the north. has to be re-invented at every second. . This process of making the Other was expressed by hosts through the reassertion of control over their homes as indicated above. some are still in camps. Some live on small plots of their own land. The maintenance of the identity as guest becomes an important boundary marker to the host. it is something without a pre-given rule (Derrida 1997: no page number available). 2011 . That’s why it has to be negotiated at every instant. acculturation. nor simply the occupation of my space by the Other. and the decision for hospitality. most still have the status of internally displaced people. the various regional identities of Muslims in Sri Lanka and the relationship between local and international humanitarian discourses of assistance to those displaced by the war. Middle East influences have increased a common Muslim identity and Downloaded from http://jrs. After the war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government came to an end in May at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. the northern Muslims became the Other when they became the guests in Puttalam.‘IDPs’ and ‘Hosts’ in Protracted Displacement Negotiating Muslimness and the Right to Stay and Leave (. as elsewhere. People in the area maintain very strong identities as IDPs and hosts. has to be invented at every second with all the risks involved. most northern Muslims are still living as IDPs in Puttalam. the best rule for this negotiation. the attitude towards the guest tends to change. the arrival of the northern Muslims also reinstated their regional identities as Muslims—different from the northern Muslims. and hospitality is a very general name for all our relations to the Other. However. the arrival of the northern Muslims was a symbol of the war in the north coming closer. could they trust people who had lived with the war. and it is very risky. many people will not return and most families will continue to have connections with Puttalam and pursue translocal strategies between the north and Puttalam. this will be a long process. and for the Puttalam Muslims. when displacement became protracted. The feeling of difference was clearly based on the differing histories.oxfordjournals. what kind of violence did they bring with them? There was also much negotiation about being Muslims—about Muslimness. Hospitality. some northern Muslims began to return to the north. for the Puttalam Muslims.

People labelled IDPs can more easily be controlled and their citizenship rights more easily denied. Conclusions: Hospitable Engagements and the IDP/Host Categories As stated in the introduction to this paper. Living as guests with conditional hospitality resulted in the northern Muslims failing to become full local citizens in Puttalam. The arrival of the northern Muslims in Puttalam started as a hospitable relationship where an unconditional hospitality was prominent.14 Cathrine Brun women among both groups dress more like each other and more often use the hijab. The arrival of the northern Muslims in Puttalam represented a threat to the Muslimness of local Muslims who would often state. 2011 . the northern Muslims are seen as being closer to Tamils. When hospitality is only conditional. The northern Muslims on the other hand would proudly announce their Tamil language as the pure Tamil in contrast to the Puttalam Muslims’ Tamil. traditions and culture. the particular interplay between the humanitarian and the local perspectives on internal displacement has created a situation where the northern Muslims are still living as guests in Puttalam with a conditional hospitality. While some are happy to return. in referring to Tamil practices and customs. that ‘this is not our culture’ and as such distance themselves from the northern Muslims. Negotiations still continue that from time to time result in violent encounters between northern Muslims and local Muslims (Brun 2008. there has been an increasing consciousness among the displaced of losing out in comparison with their hosts in areas of education. formulating categories always has individual and social implications for those assigned to them. Categories are used to bring order into a situation when institutions may not have means to assist everyone in need. The discussion of hospitality creates an understanding of Downloaded from http://jrs. livelihoods and influence over local institutions. There has been limited political will on the part of local politicians. unconditional hospitality is no longer prevailing in Puttalam. As I have shown. many feel that after almost 20 years in Puttalam. However. returning to the north is like being displaced again. In Derrida’s double imperative of hospitality. When relations of hospitality are no longer operating between unconditional and conditional hospitality. the relationship with the Other takes place in the tension between conditional and unconditional hospitality. however. sharing their customs.oxfordjournals. but when the war is over. ‘IDPs’ becomes an isolated category that can be separated from the hosts. IDPs are granted assistance and refuge based on locational rights. although they are entitled to do so. the northern Muslims are stripped of agency and basic rights— they no longer have a choice of where to live as full members of society. Over time. While the hosts felt the need to reassert control over their homes. Still. Thalayasingam et at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. 2009). they are understood as out of place—they need to return. politicians among the northern Muslims and the national government to make northern Muslims local citizens in Puttalam. categories are necessary for comprehending the world.

and for both understandings to prevail in the assistance of internally displaced and their hosts. should form the basis of protection and support. Thinking of internal displacement as hospitable engagements requires the inclusion of hosts as active participants in the displacement process. Later a conditional hospitality became dominant with the humanitarian community and the government taking more responsibility and as a result making the hosts irrelevant. The arrival of the northern Muslims in Puttalam became a space of hospitable engagements (Ramadan 2008). In this context.‘IDPs’ and ‘Hosts’ in Protracted Displacement 15 the principles underpinning humanitarian categories and how humanitarian practice is developed and implemented in the interplay with local perspectives of dealing with displacement. labels based on a locational right (belonging to particular places within the country). but as Derrida notes the element of compulsion also makes Islamic hospitality conditional. A key question becomes whether within a nation state. Elmadmad (2008) argues that the gap between theory and practice is deep in the Muslim world. First. where no Muslim states today actually practise Islamic principles. we need Downloaded from http://jrs. the Muslim obligation to be hospitable was presented as an unconditional hospitality. In the process. and how these two forms of responsibility should interact. In the early stages of the displacement. such as the IDP label defined by the UN/Brookings approach. and above all. Second. to continue negotiations that can open up new understandings for how to deal with displaced populations. it seems naı¨ ve to think that such universal categories—like the ICRC approach and Islamic hospitality—may be less political. Allowing for the negotiations between conditional and unconditional hospitality. regional Muslim identities were negotiated and strengthened and the categories of IDPs and hosts were established as social categories and identities. Along the same lines. the hosts pursued an unconditional hospitality grounded in the principles of Islam and their identities as Muslims. we need the two humanitarian approaches to internal displacement (the UN/Brookings approach and the ICRC approach) to talk more to each other. requires opening up the different approaches to internal displacement. But my argument here is that the two international humanitarian approaches to internal displacement need to engage more actively with the local ways of dealing with displacement. In Puttalam. A key question relates to responsibilities: responsibilities of institutions in dealing with internal displacement. the general responsibility we all have towards others. From Derrida’s discussions of hospitality we can learn that hospitable engagements should take place as a double imperative of unconditionality and conditionality. She still argues for using the Islamic principles of hijra (forced migration/ asylum) and hospitality for developing refugee law and protection. The categories of IDPs and hosts do not simply represent a binary relationship between two groups of people. Both unconditional and conditional hospitality were present in the way people related to each other as IDPs and hosts. 2011 at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2.

org/ at Universiteit van Amsterdam on December 2. Nicholas Van Hear for inspiration and Ajmeer Khan and family and Mahomoda and family who have always welcomed me back to Puttalam. and impute predictability to a complex human world (Jenkins 2008). Sivanandan grew up in Sri Lanka. Subadra Hudson. 3. 2. I would also to thank V. He left the country in 1958 and later became the director of the Institute of Race Relations in London. 5. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at IASFM in Cairo in January 2008 and a workshop on critical approaches to internal displacement at Refugee Studies Centre. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement set out in one document the international human rights obligations that are binding through international treaties and how these obligations are applicable in situations of internal displacement. it is believed that Sri Lanka’s population of approximately 18 million consisted of 74 per cent Sinhalese. due to the severity of their needs and their often greater vulnerability. 7. Ushantini. A category is a class whose nature and composition is decided by the person who defines the category. objects and phenomena into categories for comprehending and understanding the world.16 Cathrine Brun to engage with the way people themselves deal with displacement in order for people to get back on their feet and become full members of their societies.oxfordjournals. As I show in this paper. 4. Qur’an 8: 70–71 and 59: 8). Oxford. according to Hoffman Downloaded from http://jrs. the constitutive nature of those categories. for example. Categorization is a basic process of arranging people. G. Most Sinhalese are Buddhists and most Tamils are Hindus. In that census. A category. 2011 . as discussed by Aeschlimann (2005). 6. categorization of individuals and populations in social sciences and among policy makers contributes to constituting people as subjects—and objects—of assistance and protection. Principles of welcoming refugees and giving zakath are referred to in the Qur’an (see. 8. in June 2008. but a large proportion of both groups are also Christian (mainly Roman Catholics). according to Jenkins. This is in conformity with the principle of impartiality. which requires that the ICRC act on the basis of needs and vulnerability. 1. 19 per cent Tamils (Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils) and 7 per cent Muslims. Categorization is a routine and necessary contribution to how we make sense of. A. Anees for research assistance. However. IDPs may be the object of more attention from the ICRC than the resident population. According to Carr (2009). but rather aim to focus on the emergence and consequently. Often. they remain soft law and as such are non-binding. There has not been a complete census in Sri Lanka since 1981. A. I am not in this paper concerned with looking at the causality of the categories and their nature as analytical categories. See Wendt (1999) for a discussion on the difference between causal and constitutive nature of categories. Acknowledgements I would like to thank the two reviewers for their constructive and very generous advice on the first draft of this paper. may be contrasted with a group. defined by the nature of the relations between its members. The ICRC is often directly involved in assisting IDPs.

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