'You can do anything with a temple': Religion, philanthropy, and politics in South London and Sri Lanka

Sidharthan Maunaguru, Jonathan Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Our title quotation is taken from an interview with the chief trustee of a leading Hindu temple in south London, and captures the curious mixture of philanthropy, politics, and individual ambition that has emerged around Sri Lankan Tamil temples in the diaspora. During the long years of civil war, temples became centres of mobilization for the growing Tamil diaspora, and were often accused of channelling funds to the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and its various front organizations. Since the end of the war, in 2009, the same temples now support orphanages and other good works in Sri Lanka, and their efforts are starting to be emulated by temples in Sri Lanka itself. At the heart of our article is a dispute between the UK Charity Commission and the chief trustee of a London temple, who is accused of misuse of temple funds and ‘failure to dissociate’ the temple from a terrorist organization. A close reading of the case and its unexpected denouement reveals the difficulties of bounding the zone of philanthropy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-213
Number of pages28
JournalModern Asian Studies
Volume52
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2018

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