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Courses of Conflict: Transmission of Knowledge and War's History in Eastern Sri Lanka

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After three decades of armed confrontations, the Sri Lankan civil war ended in May 2009 with the military defeat of the liberation tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). To sustain the war for so long, mechanisms of knowledge reproduction were used legitimizing violence and assuring the conflict's transmission across the generations involved in it. Drawing on ongoing fieldwork in the island's Eastern Province, this article addresses the processes through which Sri Lanka's war-history has been taught and learnt, empirically linking the multiple sites of knowledge transfer. It suggests a trajectory moving from the institutional (policy and textbooks) to the defiant (specific schools and armed movements) spaces of transmission, while comparing the attitudes, memories of violence and transmission strategies of educators, students and former combatants. The data are embedded within the broader discussions on social change and the cultural reproduction of war, a process illustrated with the help of a new concept: semantic alliances.
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Keywords: Conflict; History; Sri Lanka; Transmission; War

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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