Activity: Talk or presentation types › Invited talk
Presentation of written conference paper:
In Sri Lanka social status plays a heightened role in social relations. The inverse of status is shaming or humiliation (lajja) enduring as an undercurrent of social
interactions complete with the anxiety of being shamed publically (lajja-bhaya).
There is a fear of social disapproval in transgressing the norms of sexual, ‘proper’ behaviour expected of the category of person. In a study by Samarasekare,Davies & Siribaddana the jeopardising of social status due to mental illness was identified as being a proclivity of ‘high society’ urban Colombo families. Lajjabhaya is magnified by populist interpretations of Buddhist notions of kamma and cultural beliefs about demonic possession especially when the impairment is assumed to be ‘mental’ in orientation. Biographical disruption by virtue of disability (either at birth or later in life), impacts on the performance of kinship and lajja relations. The personal experiences of the disabled person and their family interfolds into this context; even when they ‘do not have the words’ (mama vacana nǣ) to communicate the depth and incomprehensibility of pain caused by lajja-baya. Compounding these experiences are diverse, often inaccurate understandings (folkloric and doctrinal) of the concept of kamma which shapes social welfare policy and the social inclusion of disabled people. This paper outlines contested notions of kamma attributed to Theravadan
Buddhism, its application to disabled people and social policy and legal responses in Sri Lanka. The presentation points to preliminary research into the operation of Lajja-Baya (Shame) by disabled people and implications for citizenship and civil society activism.