Cultural Identity and the New Homestead: A Case Study of a Resettlement Village in Sri Lanka

Ms Nirodha Dissanayake4

4University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

The connection between cultural identity and place is well documented, not least, in the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture and cultural geography.  Resettlement, planned or otherwise, is a disruptive process that can compromise cultural identity and attachment to place necessitating adjustment to a new geophysical and cultural context. This paper focuses on the impact of resettlement in Sri Lanka through the case study of a resettled agricultural community in the Dry Zone in the context of the Mahaweli Development Project.  How did a community of resettlers adjust to life in the new settlement in an environment that differed geographically, culturally and economically from the original settlement? Drawing on fieldwork observations and interviews with local residents, the paper identifies tactics to build familiarity in the new resettlement as a coping mechanism. Acknowledging, the wider context of resettlement and the drivers for this process as well as considerations of ethnicity and conflict, the paper considers the adjustments and adaptations that are constructed through the built environment. Focusing on the design of individual houses, the paper examines how the resettlers materialised their cultural identity in the domestic homestead through adaptations to the architecture and interventions in the landscape that differs from the indigenous character and style of the new location


Nirodha K M Dissanayake, a PhD Candidate at the University of Adelaide, South Australia comes from a multi-disciplinary background, including, agriculture, landscape and urban design. Her current research interests are regional re-settlements and housing and their social-political-economic context.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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