UCL Anthropology


Vindhya Buthpitiya

Vindhya Buthpitiya

UCL Email: vindhya.buthpitiya.16@ucl.ac.uk
Websites: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/photodemos
Year of Start: 2016
Supervisors: Prof. Christopher Pinney (Primary), Dr. Tariq Jazeel (UCL Geography - Secondary) 
Subject: Material Visual and Digital Culture
Fieldsite: Colombo/Jaffna, Sri Lanka

PhD Research

Photography, citizenship and the Tamil Imagi-Nation in post-War Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's experience of war and the tensions in its aftermath were actively narrated by way of photography. Since the 1980s, the island's visual identity has been framed as a paradise-under-siege, while that of the Sri Lankan Tamil community has become synonymous with its shattering experience of conflict, dispossession, displacement, and tense relationship with the state. Thereby, in a post-war present still fraught with the causes, effects and identity politics of the conflict, how does this community seek to articulate everyday experiences of 'being Tamil'? What visual forms do these take, and what might they reveal about perceptions of citizenship, and interlinked grievances and aspirations?

My doctoral research seeks to understand the relationship between vernacular photography, experiences of conflict, and expressions of identity and citizenship among the Tamil community in post-war Sri Lanka. It will explore how photographs as material objects, and photography as practice might be used to articulate political sentiments and demands within the burdened context of 'peace' defined as an absence of war.

This research is part of a wider European Research Council-funded project 'Citizens of Photography: The Camera and the Political Imagination'. Through ethnographic research in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Nigeria, Greece and Nicaragua, PhotoDemos examines how photography makes available a form of citizenry and civil imagination by way of vernacular photographic practices of self-representation.

Research Interests

  • Conflict
  • Anthropology of the State/Citizenship
  • Identity Politic
  • Anthropology of Sri Lanka


V. Buthpitiya. Reconciling Rights, Responsibilities and Disjunctures: An Assessment of Sri Lanka's Post-War Development Drive (Law and Society Trust, Colombo, Sri Lanka 2013)

Presentations & Conferences

Forthcoming - Co-convenor of Panel: Participation and Guardianship: On the Ownership of Images in Movement at the Royal Anthropological Institute, the British Museum, and the Department of Anthropology, SOAS Conference 'Art, Materiality and Representation', June 2018 with Timothy Cooper (UCL). 

Education History

  • 2016-Present: PhD Candidate in Anthropology, University College London (UCL)
  • 2010-2011: MPhil in Development Studies, University of Cambridge
  • 2006-2010: MA (Hons) First Class in Social Anthropology, University of St. Andrews

Honours, Awards & Funding