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Peace in the wake of disaster? Secessionist conflicts and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami

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This paper explores the impact of ‘natural’ disasters on armed conflicts, focusing on the evolution of secessionist conflicts in Aceh and Sri Lanka following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Most studies suggest that ‘natural’ disasters exacerbate pre-existing conflicts. Yet whereas conflict did escalate in Sri Lanka within a year of the tsunami, in Aceh hostilities unexpectedly ended within eight months. Drawing on a comparative analytical framework and semi-structured fieldwork interviews in Aceh, the study points to the importance of spatial dimensions in explaining diverging political outcomes in Aceh and Sri Lanka, focusing on the reshaping of governable spaces following the tsunami.

Keywords: Aceh; Sri Lanka; conflict resolution; natural disaster; political geography; war

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography and Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z2, Canada, Email: 2: Department of Geography, University of Cologne, Albertus Magnus Platz, 50923 Cologne, Germany

Publication date: 2007-07-01

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