The Discursive Construction of Peace in Post-War Sri Lanka

(In collaboration with Wageningen University, Netherlands)

Principle researcher: Goerg Frerks

Co-researcher – Nadia Augustyniak and Chulani Kodikara

Duration: December 2012 – December 2015


Conflict and peace are as much a battle between competing discourses as a fight between armed groups. It is as much carried out verbally as physically, in the media as on the battlefield. Discourse determines ‘which conflict’ and ‘whose conflict’, and ‘which peace’ and ‘whose peace’ we are talking about. It is the assumption underlying this research that discourse is highly important in the immediate post-war situation, as it is here that peace is made durable or the seeds are sown for a recurrence of war.

With the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on 17 May 2009,0 the Government of Sri Lanka has adopted a particular discursive representation of the past struggle, the earlier enemy and the future of Sri Lanka. That discourse seems to leave at the moment little room for dissenting voices and counter discourses, but this notwithstanding alternative voices can be heard. This study wants to build on the earlier work by Georg Frerks and Bart Klem to look into the current discourse of the government as well as other alternative or subaltern discourses with regard to peace prevailing in Sri Lanka.

The main questions addressed in this study are the following:

1) How is post-war ‘peace’ in Sri Lanka conceived and how do the different stakeholders look at the interventions contemplated by the government and other interventionists?

2) What discursive strategies, practices and representations do these different stakeholders use with regard to post-war ‘peace’ in Sri Lanka?

3) Which counter-discourses have emerged in response to the hegemonic discourse by the government?

4) How can discourse analysis help design strategies to deal with post-war peace building and conflict transformation?

The study aims at filling important empirical knowledge gaps, work with a discursive analytical framework analysing Sri Lankan materials and at improving policy practice. it is intended to start with a first phase focusing on the discourses used by the government.

The study will last from December 2012 till December 2015. The first phase from December 2012 till December 2013 will concentrate on the government’s discourse and might also be used to expand the project and seek additional funding. The second  and third phase focus on other stakeholders and will also be used to carry out a small survey, next to the qualitative work done earlier.