South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Constructing Reconciliation: The Role of Construction Labourers in Post-War Sri Lanka 

Friday, July 6
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

Since the end of the bloodied war that led to the termination of the Liberation Tamil Tigers for Eelam (Sri Lanka), the post-war Sri Lankan state embarked on large-scale infrastructure development in former conflict-afflicted regions of the country – Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka. The panacea for Sri Lanka’s political predicaments and ethnic conflict were premised on economic development, infrastructure, and connectivity. Within this rationale, road building and infrastructure took center stage and continues to do so, where the construction of a network of roads and highway connectivity dominate Sri Lanka’s political vision for the future. The road infrastructure windfall within post-war areas of Sri Lanka, one assumes, would also draw on construction firms and workers from the region – fitting in with the economic fundamentalist views to Sri Lanka’s political problems. Instead, using fieldwork evidence for Northern Sri Lanka, this paper examines the demography and regional profile of construction laborers. Building roads, it appears does not necessarily draw on a likely pool of surplus labor within the region; instead, they constitute of recruits from various parts of Sri Lanka – including workers from the dominant ethnic group. A neglected constituency in the post-war polity, what is a place of construction laborers play in crafting a vision of political reconciliation? What tensions do they negotiate as laborers and is this a space for reconciling or perpetuating ethnic cleavages?

Kanchana Ruwanpura

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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2 - Constructing Reconciliation: The Role of Construction Labourers in Post-War Sri Lanka 



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