Accepted paper:

Identity-dynamics among Sinhala Youth in post-war Sri Lanka

Author:

Katharina Frauenfeld (University of Marburg)

Paper short abstract:

Youth perceptions represent a significant indicator for the general condition of a society. Thus, this paper seeks to shed light on the dynamics of collective identity of Sinhala youth, its implications for intergroup relations and the building of lasting and stable peace in post-war Sri Lanka.

Paper long abstract:

Sinhala and Tamil youth have figured prominently in Sri Lanka's post-independence politics and violent conflicts. Not only originated the LTTE from the student movements in Jaffna, also the Sinhala South has seen two violent Marxist youth uprisings in the 70s and 80s. In light of the significance of youth in Sri Lanka and the end of the civil war between the government forces and the LTTE, this paper seeks to shed light on the collective identity of Sinhala youth, and its implications for peacebuilding in post-war Sri Lanka. Youth can play a pivotal role in post-war societies, both as drivers of conflict, or potential peace constituencies. In the Sri Lankan context it is generally taken for granted that mostly the ethno-political conflict and the three-decade long civil war have shaped the collective identity of Sinhala youth in an exclusivist and conflictive manner vis-à-vie the Tamil minority. Recent developments in Sri Lanka and the emergence of new lines of conflict between the Sinhala majority and the Muslim minority point in a different direction. This paper is based on a systematic study of collective identity among Sinhala youth from different social backgrounds using Social Identity Theory. How Sinhala youth cognitively structure their social environment (value system, ideology, attitudes, prejudice and stereotypes) bears not only important implications for intergroup relations in post-war Sri Lanka. Moreover youth perceptions represent a significant indicator for the general social condition and can be indicative for the possibility of stable and lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

panel P27
Understanding poltical violence in South Asia