ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Protests and Counter Protests

Competing Civil Society Spaces in Post-war Sri Lanka

Harini Amarasuriya (amarasuriyaharini9@gmail.com) is with the Department of Social Studies, Open University of Sri Lanka, Colombo.

The value of civil society lies in that it provides a space for alternative views, debate, and dissent. Yet, this paper points out, civil society in post-war Sri Lanka is captive to the forces of local and global politics. While this has resulted in the emergence of new forms of resistance and dissent, it has also given rise to less palatable, illiberal, and dangerous movements such as the resurgence of radical Sinhala Buddhist activism. The tacit state approval granted to these movements has meant that state response to different civil society groups has been markedly lopsided. Thus, post-war Sri Lankan society has been subject to greater state control and an extreme polarisation of values and ideas.

Thanks to my colleagues, especially at the Open University of Sri Lanka and the Federation of University Teachers' Association, for many discussions on civil society activism that inspired this paper. I am also grateful for the comments I received at a Centre for Poverty Analysis symposium in 2014 for an earlier version of this paper. My special thanks to Vijay Nagaraj for his support in preparing this paper for publication.

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