Ilankai Tamil Sangam

28th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Evolution of the Eelam Tamil Diaspora

A Bibliography

by Sachi Sri Kantha

I present below the published research literature (in Western languages) on the Eelam Tamil diaspora, in chronological order... I do not claim that the list provided below is the most exhaustive. But, at least the 40 publications assembled here constitute the nucleus for an enlarged bibliography in the future.


I dedicate this compilation to the memory of Henry Alfred Ian (H.A.I.) Goonetileke (1922-2003), the foremost bibliographer of Ceylon, whose 85th birthday falls on January 5th.

If any non-Tamil (posthumously) deserves the ‘Maamanithar’ award, I have no hesitation in proposing Ian Goonetileke’s name as my first choice. His monumental five volume compilation, ‘Bibliography of Ceylon,’ is the most valuable asset we have now for initial literature search on Eelam’s past, its history and heritage.

Vol. I and Vol. II of this multi-volume bibliography appeared first in 1970. Vol. III followed in 1976. Vol. IV and Vol. V were published in 1983, and contained literary materials (which had appeared in print, upto December 1978) pertaining to Ceylon.

Entry number 5298 in Vol. V is special to me, since it refers to one of my three 1977 contributions in English to the political literature of the island. It was titled, ‘Tamil mandate for Eelam’, and appeared in the Colombo Tribune weekly of Oct.22, 1977. Initially I was a bit surprised at why Ian Goonetileke’s eagle eyes missed two of my other 1977 contributions which appeared in the Tribune. Subsequently, after I learnt about the travails Goonetileke faced at the University of Peradeniya (in his words, “forced to ‘retire’ involuntarily from the post of Librarian, University of Peradeniya, at the end of 1979), I could overlook his slip without any bitterness.

My intellectual debt to Goonetileke deserves a separate contribution and as such I end this dedication now.

A Front Note to the Bibliography

Sadly, the material content of volume 5 of Goonetileke’s ‘Bibliography of Ceylon’ , published in 1983, ends in the year 1978. However, the serious research literature devoted significantly to the Eelam Tamil diaspora begins in the aftermath of the 1983 anti-Tamil holocaust.

As such, I present below the published research literature (in Western languages) on the Eelam Tamil diaspora, in chronological order. Some of the pre-2000 year publications – i.e., before the internet and popular use of pdf transfer - were personally solicited from respective authors in various countries and obtained by me via post. Quite a few publications in this list of 40 papers also include information - some ephemeral, some mediocre, some pejorative and some of substantial worth - on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Gathering research papers which have included material on the LTTE was one of my primary objectives in collecting the published literature on the Eelam Tamil diaspora. Thus, I caution the prospective user to evaluate the validity of some of the claims advanced by the authors, and the inherent bias of the authors and some of their study subjects.

It may not be inappropriate to make a little mention on the pervasive bias in research of any kind. Edmond Murphy, in his ‘The Logic of Medicine’ (1976) defined bias as “Any process at any stage of inference which tends to produce results or conclusions that differ systematically from the truth.”

One of the popular reviews in bias was authored by David Sackett in 1979 entitled “Bias in Analytic Research” (Journal of Chronic Diseases, 1979; vol.32, pp.51-63). In this review, Sackett quantitated not one or two, but 35 types of biases “that arise in sampling and measurement.” I will not list and describe here what these 35 types of biases are. Certainly a few deserve mention, in the context of medical research studies conducted on the members of the Eelam Tamil diaspora and for cautioning prospective users of the published reports on the Eelam Tamil diaspora.

These biases include,

Hot stuff bias: “When a topic is hot, neither investigators nor editors may be able to resist the temptation to publish additional results, no matter how preliminary or shaky.” (i.e., refugees, asylum, child soldiers, LTTE and terrorism, are buzz words even for researchers who angle for research grants.) Probably due to this, the majority of the published papers relate to diaspora Tamils representing the population segment of some “hot stuff”. Though the evolving Tamil diaspora also consists of other population segments, such as technically qualified professionals, academics, self-employed taxpayers, graduate students and senior citizens, these groups have yet to become attractive for serious study.

Migrator bias: “Migrants may differ systematically from those who stay home” (i.e, those staying in the homeland).

Unacceptability bias: “Measurements which hurt, embarrass or invade privacy may be systematically refused or evaded” (i.e., for example, those individuals who bad-mouth the LTTE to ethnographers of their adopted countries, after they leave the island boundary, may hide information which hurt or embarrass their standing among the new evaluators of their behavior.)

I’d add two other notable biases. First is the Tamil language deficiency bias, of the principal investigator. In his 1979 list of 35 biases, David Sackett appears to have muted this bias under his category of, ‘One-sided reference bias’ – “Authors may restrict their references to only those works that support their position.” To diminish the Tamil language deficiency bias, some principal investigators have solicited the services of native Tamils, as revealed in the Tamil names provided in the author listing. Some (especially anthropologists and ethnographers) may have taken the trouble to learn at least spoken Tamil to overcome this bias. But in the published reports, not much detail is forthcoming on this issue.

The second is the Negative stereotype bias. I’d like to refer to this alternately as the ‘Veerappan bias of Western hacks’, in reference to the selection of obituary notices by the Economist (London) magazine. When the Tamil Nadu brigand Koose Muniswamy Veerappan (a negative stereotype for Tamils) was killed, the Economist’s editorial team published a full page obituary about his deeds in its Oct.28, 2004 issue. But, when Tamil Nadu’s diva of Karnatic Music, M.S.Subbulakshmi (a meritorious achiever amongst Tamils), died two months later, the same Economist editorial team was totally oblivious to her achievements.

Usually bibliographers prefer to use alphabetical order by authorship. Sure, it is convenient for retrieval purposes. But, I consider that the most satisfactory order to see the patterns of publication in any emerging field or theme is a chronological one. Additional merits of the chronological order include the easy spotting of who has ‘borrowed’ (or literally lifted chunks!) from previously published works, which themselves depended on dubious or biased original sources with fancy names such as the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna).

I do not claim that the list provided below is the most exhaustive. But, at least the 40 publications assembled here constitute the nucleus for an enlarged bibliography in the future.

I have one additional comment. Lately I have noticed that quite a chunk of what I have been contributing to two websites (the Sangam site and Tamil Nation site) since 2000 are being lifted verbatim by enthusiasts and inserted into the relevant Wikipedia entries on Tamiliana, without due credit to the author or the websites. I condemn this unethical academic bone-shifting in no uncertain terms. I would very much like to provide annotations for each of the items in this bibliography. But to prevent these bone-shifters from taking advantage of my labor, I refrain from providing such annotations now. But I’ll be pleased to answer the queries of any sincere scholar or student of Eelamiana, who wish to receive additional information.

Authors' listings (with family name first, followed by first name or initials as given) have been assembled as they appear in these 40 publications, and for convenience any titles following authors’ names have been omitted. When names are absent and/or substituted with pseudonyms or phrases chosen by the copy editors of the journals, these are indicated as such. Journal names (shown in italics) have been provided in full.


01. Sonderegger T.S., Holzer, B. and Frey, F.J.: [Medical problems in refugees from Sri Lanka Tamil]. Schweizerishe Medizinische Wochenschrift, Jan.12, 1985; vol.115, no.2, pp.59-62 (in German).

02. Gassner-Bachmann M.: [Medical problems in refugees from Sri Lanka Tamil]. Schweizerishe Medizinische Wochenschrift, July 9, 1985; vol.115, no.27-28, pp.950-951 (in German).

03. Kjersem Helge, Jepsen Soren, Larsen Leith and Black Finn: Salmonella and Shigella carriers among refugees from the Middle East and Sri Lanka in Denmark. Scandinavian Journal of Social Medicine, 1990; vol.18, pp.175-178.

04. Thonneau Patrick, Gratton Jean and Desrosiers Georges: Health profile of applicants for refugee status (admitted into Quebec between August 1985 and April 1986). Canadian Journal of Public Health, May-June 1990; vol.81, pp.182-186.

05. Godue Charles B, Gyorkos Theresa W: Intestinal parasites in refugee claimants – a case study for selective screening? Canadian Journal of Public Health, May-June 1990; vol.81, pp.191-195.

06. Harrel-Bond B.E. and Voutira, E: Anthropology and the status of refugees. AnthropologyToday, August 1992; vol.8, no.4, pp.6-10.

07. Lechky Olga: Toronto hospital takes leadership role in providing care for inner city residents. Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 15, 1993; vol.148, no.10, pp.1780-1784.

08. Wolf M and Tshohl P: [Epidemiology of individual front tooth gaps in exiled Tamilians]. Gesundheitswesen, October 1996; vol.58, no.10, pp.547-550 (in German).

09. Wolf Manfred: Missing front teeth in exile Tamils – an unresolved phenomenon. Social Science and Medicine, 1996; vol.43, no.7, pp.1057-1062.

10. Bunce Christina: Psychiatrists plan network to help asylum seekers. British Medical Journal, February 22, 1997; vol.314, p.535.

11. “14 Sri Lankan doctors working in Britain”: Sri Lankan refugees are not at risk of persecution. British Medical Journal, March 22, 1997; vol.314, p.905.

12. Pothalingam S: Ethnic cleansing is in progress. British Medical Journal, March 22, 1997; vol. 314, pp.122-123.

13. “a Sri Lankan born British citizen living and working in Britain”: Tamils have become soft targets. British Medical Journal, March 22, 1997; vol. 314, pp.122-123.

14. “a Sri Lankan working in Britain”: Comments are like those of white South Africans not so long ago. British Medical Journal, March 22, 1997; vol. 314, pp.122-123.

15. Forrest Duncan, Hinshelwood Gill, Peel Michael, Barclay Gordon and Summerfield Derek: Refugee Council’s assessment of human rights situation in Sri Lanka is accurate. British Medical Journal, March 22, 1997; vol. 314, pp.122-123.

16. Ratneswaren S “and 99 other Sri Lankan doctors”: Government denies legitimate rights of minorities. British Medical Journal, March 22, 1997; vol. 314, pp.122-123.

17. Rajayogeswaran V: Tamils are victims of unjust politics, not economic refugees. British Medical Journal, March 22, 1997; vol. 314, pp.122-123.

18. Fuglerud Oivind: Ambivalent incorporation Norwegian policy towards Tamil asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka. Journal of Refugee Studies, 1997; vol.10, no.4, pp. 443-461.

19. Silove D, Steel Z, McGorry P, Mohan P: Trauma exposure, postmigration stressors, and symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress in Tamil asylum seekers – comparison with refugees and immigrants. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 1998; vol.97, pp.175-181.

20. Blochliger C, Ries N, Gonon M, Loutan L, Mark K, Vetterli S, Tanner M, Hatz C and Junghanss T.: [Asylum seekers and refugees in the medical polyclinic: a comparison between Basel, Bern and Geneva polyclinics]. Sozial-und Praventivmedizin, 1998; vol.43, no.1, pp.29-38 (in German).

21. Den Dulk W and Nicholaas H.: [Family reunification and family formation of asylum migrants.] Maandstat Bevolking, September 1998; vol.46, no.9, pp.8-16 (in Dutch).

22. Silove D, Steel Z, McGorry P and Drobny J: Problems Tamil asylum seekers encounter in accessing health and welfare services in Australia. Social Science and Medicine, 1999; vol.49, pp. 951-956.

23. Schrijvers Joke: Fighters and survivors – Constructions of ethnicity, gender and refugeeness among Tamils in Sri Lanka. Journal of Refugee Studies, 1999; vol.12, no.3, pp.307-333.

24. Silove, Derrick: The psychological effects of torture, mass human rights violations, and refugee trauma – Toward an integrated conceptual framework. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, April 1999; vol.187, no.4, pp.200-207.

25. Steel Zachary, Silove Derrick, Bird Kevin, McGorry Patrick and Mohan P: Pathways from war trauma to post-traumatic stress symptoms among Tamil asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1999; vol.12, no.3, pp.421-435.

26. Hargreaves Sally: A body of evidence – torture among asylum seekers to the West. Lancet, March 2, 2000; vol.359, pp.793-794.

27. De Vries Jolanda: Mental health issues in Tamil refugees and displaced persons; counselling implications. Patient Education and Counseling, 2001; vol.42, pp.15-24.

28. Fuglerud Oivind: Time and space in the Sri Lanka – Tamil diaspora. Nations and Nationalism, 2001; vol.7, no.2, pp.195-213.

29. Meana Marta, Bunston Terry, George Usha, Wells Lilian and Rosser Walter: Older immigrant Tamil women and their doctors – attitudes toward breast cancer screening. Journal of Immigrant Health, 2001; vol.3, no.1, pp.5-13.

30. Steel Zachary and Silove Derrick M: The mental health implications of detaining asylum seekers. Medical Journal of Australia, 2001; vol.175, pp.596-599.

31. Gronseth Anne Sigfrid: In search of community – a quest for well-being among Tamil refugees in Northern Norway. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 2002; vol.15, no.4, pp.493-514.

32. Silove Derrick, Steel Zachary, McGorry Patrick, Miles Vanessa and Drobny Juliette: The impact of torture on post-traumatc stress symptoms in war-affected Tamil refugees and immigrants. Comprehensive Psychiatry, January-February 2002; vol.43, no.1, pp.49-55.

33. Suresh v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration). International Journal of Refugee Law, 2002; vol.14, no.1, pp.96-140.

34. Factum of the Intervenor United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) Suresh v. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration: The Attorney General of Canada S.C.C. No.27790 In the Supreme Court of Canada (On Appeal from the Federal Court of Appeal) between: Manickavasagam Suresh Appellant and The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, The Attorney General of Canada Respondents. International Journal of Refugee Law, 2002; vol.14, no.1, pp.141-157.

35. Silove Derrick: The asylum debacle in Australia; a challenge for psychiatry. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 2002; vol.36, pp.290-296.

36. Hyndman Jennifer: Aid, conflict and migration – the Canada-Sri Lanka connection. The Canadian Geographer, September 2003; vol.47, no.3, pp.251-268.

37. La John: Forced remittances in Canada’s Tamil enclaves. Peace Review, September 2004; vol.16, nbo.3, pp.379-385.

38. Early T.L. and Costa J.P: Case of Thampibillai v. The Netherlands. International Journal of Refugee Law, 2004; vol.16, no.1, pp.108-123.

39. Steel Zachary, Frommer Naomi and Silove Derrick: Part I – The mental health impacts of migration: the law and its effects. Failing to understand: refugee determination and the traumatized applicant. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, November-December 2004; vol.27, pp.511-528.

40. Kanagaratnam Pushpa, Raundalen Magne and Asbjornsen Arve E: Ideological commitment and post-traumatic stress in former Tamil child soldiers. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 2005; vol.46, pp.511-520.


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