"Since When Did We Have 100,000 Tamils?" Media Representations of Race Thinking, Spatiality,and the 2009 Tamil Diaspora Protests

Daphne Jeyapal


Abstract. Beginning in mid-2008, the Tamil diaspora around the world organized in extraordinary activism against the escalating violence in northern Sri Lanka. Responses to the 2009 Tamil diaspora protests in Canada provide a unique case study to examine a contemporary moment of resistance, when race thinking and spatiality intersected within and beyond national borders. Using critical theories of representation, I conceptualize Canadian print media coverage of the protests as representations of a “strange encounter” with the other. I explore the media’s production of the other and its conflation of the Tamil protester-terrorist through constructions of space. I also examine how scale operates through underlying national values to conceptualize a precarious structure of belonging. Through these discursive moves, I demonstrate how the resulting figure of the “other,” the “outlaw,” and the “outsider” came to represent and delegitimize the racialized/ spatialized Tamil protest(er).

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