Politics beyond institutions: The creation of new social imaginaries in post-war Sri Lanka

Grewal, Kiran K. 2018. Politics beyond institutions: The creation of new social imaginaries in post-war Sri Lanka. Social Alternatives, 37(4), pp. 55-59. [Article]

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While huge investments are currently being made in international intervention, democratisation and transitional justice programs all over the world, we can see that they are by and large failing. Violent conflict is growing rather than decreasing and even many societies that are supposedly 'post-conflict' continue to experience periodic eruptions of violence. Part of the problem inevitably lies in the failure to meaningfully address many of the structural inequalities that contribute to conflict. So too dominant articulations of history, tradition and culture can serve to legitimate ongoing exclusionary and discriminatory socio-political structures and practices. This has certainly been the case in Sri Lanka. A combination of bad socio-economic policy, the legacies of colonial and pre-colonial social hierarchies and powerful nationalist mythologies have fuelled endless violence since the establishment of the post-colonial state.

Mainstream responses to this violence have continued to focus on institution-building despite the failure of liberal democratic institutions to prevent violence and in some cases contributing to its perpetuation. Meanwhile, for vast sections of the population, for whom the formal public sphere is inaccessible and marginalising it is the realm of ritual, religious practice and traditional or popular art forms that provide space for comfort, relief from trauma and suffering and for social critique. Seeking to mobilise this arena, a group of community activists in eastern Sri Lanka have been trying to use these alternate subaltern sites to engage in projects of new myth-making. In the process they are offering interesting epistemological challenges to conventional knowledge production processes and conceptions of the political. They are also articulating new social imaginaries on which more radically democratic communities, discourses and practices may be built.

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1 September 2018Accepted
1 October 2018Published

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07 Dec 2020 10:58

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07 Dec 2020 10:58

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