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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The discursive dimension of the Sri Lankan conflict
by Olesen, Morten Sylvest, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2009, 234; 3348436
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation analyzes the disagreement over the right vision for Sri Lanka's future between Sinhalese nationalists, Tamil separatists, and federalist supporters. It is based on over two years and seven months of ethnographic fieldwork among all three parties from May to July of 1998 and again September 1999 to May 2002 in Sri Lanka. It situates their discord in the southwestern quadrant of the island which was tangibly more socially and economically developed and less directly affected by war and so experientially separated from much of the corporeal conflict at the heart of the disagreement. It lays out the fact that the history of this discord precedes the armed dimension of conflict. Existing ethnographies of the conflict are critiqued for failing to reflect upon the fact that their unanimous point of view on the conflict essentially constitutes a political position that willy-nilly implicates the discipline in the conflict. Indeed, the Sinhalese nationalist position defined itself against not only the Tamil separatist project, but also the West and herein included both my local federalist informants and me, the visiting Westerners. Our presence and participation in the debate reminded them in deeply hurtful ways that their version of a future Sri Lanka was inferior to a Western template. The dissertation concludes that since the figure of “the West” and its federalist and anthropologist representatives provoked Sinhalese nationalist discourse on and response to the Sri Lankan conflict, we shared part of the responsibility for the continued entrenchment of the basic disagreement at the heart of the conflict itself.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Daniel, E. Valentine
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Conflict, Fieldwork, Reflexivity, Representation, Sri Lanka, Violence
Publication Number: 3348436
ISBN: 978-1-109-04147-7
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