Accepted paper:

Rendering them silent: global worker protests and political violence in Sri Lanka

Author:

Sandya Hewamanne (The University of Esse)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on a global factory worker protest in May 2011 in Sri Lanka, this paper argues that one form of political violence is rendering varied groups silent and invisible by using psychological and cultural violence such as threats, and co-option.

Paper long abstract:

Throughout history governments have used violence against their own citizenry. This took many forms—including physical, psychological, and cultural. Focusing on a global factory worker protest in May 2011 in Sri Lanka's Katunayke Free Trade Zone, this paper argues that one form of political violence is rendering varied groups silent and invisible by using underhand methods such as payments, threats, factions and co-option. In May 2011, global assembly line workers in Katunayake staged a massive political protest against a new pension scheme that sought to curtail their financial independence. The then government reacted by ordering a crackdown that resulted in one death and serious injuries to hundreds of other workers. It thereafter resorted to varied secret ways to silence political protests and demands for justice. The paper analyzes this case and argues that the disappointment and apathy among workers that resulted from such silencing cause workers' political voice just as much scarring as does physical violence or the destruction of property.

panel P27
Understanding poltical violence in South Asia