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Graphic Violence: Representing the Rippling Effects of Conflict through Narrative, Illustration and Photography

Benjamin DixPhotographer and Author of The Vanni

Charles HalliseyYehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures, Harvard Divinity School

Chair: Jennifer LeaningFXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Benjamin Dix, former liaison officer between LTTE leadership and the United Nations prior to the latter’s 2008 evacuation from Sri Lanka, documented the events leading up to the UN departure from the island nation and the subsequent destruction of the largely Tamil community from the Vanni region. Criticizing the systematic failure of the international community to act against the targeting of citizens from Sri Lanka’s Northern Province as they moved from the Vanni toward the Indian Ocean coast, Dix, alongside Harvard Professors Charles Hallisey (HDS) and Jennifer Leaning (HSPH), discussed the national and global implications of the Sri Lankan civil war’s legacy through the context of Dix’s graphic novel.

The novel, aptly entitled The Vanni, documents the experiences of Sri Lankan conflict survivors who have experienced human trafficking, torture, family separation, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other misfortunes. Dix’s work bridges the fictional and non-fictional by using graphic artistic representation, telling the story of a Tamil man named Antony who illegally travels to the United Kingdom to seek asylum for himself and his family. Relatable and educational, The Vanni allows readers unfamiliar with the Sri Lankan context to identify with the civil war that ravaged the island nation for over 25 years, as well as view human tragedy in a new and sobering light.

Written by Lauren Nelson, M.Ed. Candidate, HGSE

Video of the event:

More information on The Vanni available here.