I am an anthropologist of South Asia specialized in the culture and history of Catholic Sri Lanka. The project I am currently working on is a multi-sited ethnography of Catholic clergy who travel between Sri Lanka and Italy. In particular, my research is interested in the forms of religiosity that emerge in transnational contexts and the encounter of different world Christian traditions.
South Asian priests – who are appointed to serve the needs of Catholics working in Europe – are presented with a number of theological and cultural questions that challenge the traditional roles and expectations of clergy in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, problems that arise when Christian traditions from different geographic origins intersect, cease to be the exclusive concern of theologically oriented debates and become an issue of everyday interest to Catholic laity. With transnational migration, Catholics from diverse national, ethnic and racial origins, are required share religious rituals, festivities and places of worship with people who otherwise they would not engage with in such intimate interactions.
Sri Lankan Catholic priests working in Italy negotiate tensions and misunderstandings that arise between Italian and Sri Lankan Catholics, as they strive to build common grounds for multi-ethnic religious participation. My research work therefore focuses on how Sri Lankan Catholic laity and clergy come to understand their religion after experiencing firsthand the different ways of being Catholic that exist beyond the borders of their nation.