Religious dynamics of Sri Lankan Hindu Tamils in Paris

constructions of the self and the Other

  • Anthony Goreau-Ponceaud University of Bordeaux, UMR 5115 LAM, "Sciences Po" Bordeaux


Since the 1980s, refugees from Sri Lanka have been living in France and make up the largest Hindu group. In recent years, this migration, and more generally the South Asian migration, has radically transformed the French social landscape leading to questions about how Hinduism and Hindus define ‘Others’ and interact with them, and what these exchanges reveal about Sri Lankan Hinduism. In a context of dramatic growth in religious diversity, Hinduism represents not only a minority religious tradition but also a challenge to French laïcité. A new visibility/invisibility dialectical relation has also become a major issue. Although the presence of the religion may be discreet and hidden, religious processions make a powerful impression, such as Ganesh Chaturthi organised by Sri Manicka Vinayakar Alayam every year in the streets of Paris. Moreover, such transformations born from the increased visibility of Sri Lankans are often perceived by other Tamils who settled earlier in France (from Pondicherry, from the Caribbean and from Indian ocean islands) as an intrusion of ‘newcomers’, threatening their identity and integration process in French society. I will discuss the changing dimension of religious questions in an urban environment by exploring immigration, religion and space. Between the local (the street, the ‘quartier’) and the global (transnational migration nexus), I will analyse space as a medium of social connections which sheds new light on the reconfiguration of religion. Through the study of the internal multiplicity of Tamil immigration and of the localisation of places of worship, I explore the development of Sri Lankan Hinduism in Paris and its metropolitan region. I will also show how Hindus negotiate their status and sometimes transform their practices to be accepted by the host state.

How to Cite
Goreau-Ponceaud, A. (2018). Religious dynamics of Sri Lankan Hindu Tamils in Paris. The South Asianist Journal, 6(1), 30. Retrieved from