Abstract: For decades, Sri Lanka has been a laboratory for research and scholarship on ethnic conflict, liberal peacebuilding and civil war. Methodologically, this pre-war academic work laments the risks of applying simplified “episode based approaches” and narrow theoretical frameworks leading to adventurous interventions with meager appreciation of the complexities of state-society relations. Although this has contributed significantly to a better understanding of the conflict, most of the resultant explanations have, in the aftermath of the official (or rather military) ending of the civil war in May 2009, become largely questionable. This paper relies upon materials collected during fieldwork during the first quarter of 2009 and 2011. In it, I explore the relevant state-in-society dynamics that have contributed to the co-existence of negative and positive peace, limited war and total war and to assess the capacities for violent conflict reproduction during the period from 1994 to 2009. In this period, using a Clausewitzian (1780-1831) problematique, I disentangle the political shifts, repositioning of public opinions and various policy measures implemented to address conflict, war and peace, and to explicate possible trajectories of state transformation and state building. This paper shows that in Sri Lanka, war, peace and violent conflict are in essence a “continuation of domestic politics by other means” and “triumph of the hegemony of the right” at local and global levels. Specifically, post-civil war Sri Lanka harbors an enormous potential for violent social conflict reproduction that will influence the future state building process and trajectories of state transformation. This paper suggests that these processes will be ignited by a domestic politics dominated by long standing factionalism within the ruling class that uses conflict, war and peace as instruments to sustain their hegemony, for obscuring their lack of political legitimacy and their fear of responding to the country’s deep democratic deficit.

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ISS Staff Group 0
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Jayasundara-Smits, S. (2011). Conflict, War and Peace in Sri Lanka – Politics by Other Means?. ISS Staff Group 0. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/34768