ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Gender, politics and resistance in transitional societies: a case study of postwar Sri Lanka


Quinn Tara - University of Utah, Peace and Conflict Studies, Salt Lake City, United States


03 – Changing Forms of Gendered Participation in Politico-ideological Movements in South Asia: Histories, Networks, (In)Visibilities


Women’s participation in public or private protests (also sometimes referred to as ‘overt’ or ‘covert’ forms of resistance) has often been linked to livelihood concerns, such as access to state benefits, agricultural land and affordable food, or clean drinking water. But in postwar contexts, their contributions to and shaping of political movements tackling structural injustice often goes uncredited or under-represented in mainstream peacebuilding narratives. My research examines the women-led protests in postwar Sri Lanka regarding access to land. Using ethnographic research methods and focusing on rural locales far from the central transitional justice discourse in Colombo, it explores how local women protesters formed relationships with certain civil society groups and local politicians (including running for office themselves in local elections) to try to achieve their ends. In doing so, they challenged the nature of these land protest movements (unfolding across the country in 2015-2018), and the patriarchal norms dictating how (mostly male) civil society workers and politicians would treat them. Thus, my research seeks to understand how the transitional justice ‘moment’ in Sri Lanka addressed issues of justice for those attempting to regain lost land, particularly among women protesting the state occupation of land as they navigated complex administrative, political and civil society networks.