Emotional Governance as a Challenge for peace-building in multi-ethnic, multi-religious states: Sri Lankan Case

Abstract Submitted to Young Scholar’s Conference on Asian Studies in a Globalized World to be held from 4th – 6th March, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand 


Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ hypothesis that has been revived in the wake of the 11 September 2001, explains that the causes for the contemporary conflicts in ‘New Nations’ are inevitably based on civilisation, ethnicity, religion or race (1998:13-30 ). Reiterating his argument and differentiating the ‘Old Wars’ and ‘New Wars’ dichotomy, scholar Mary Kaldor (1998: 69-89) further explains how ‘identity’ and ‘globalisation’ places significant influence on such conflicts. In these conflict situations, cultural identity therefore is one of the key concepts and is an ideological apparatus that is likely to be mobilized by political interests than as a social datum (Azard, 1990). Hence, it is believed that social movements in most such ‘New Nations’ are politically motivated to mobilize around racial, religious or ethnic identity for the purpose of claiming power (Kaldor, 1998:69-89). While communal discontent and deprivation of basic human rights as a result become key causes for such conflicts, it is important to note that weak structures within such state unavoidably make political capacity further preventing from responding to and meeting, the needs of various constituents in those ‘state-nations’ keeping such conflicts further live. (Azar, 1990:11).


It is believed that any government in general is involved in policy making and adopting good governance principles (based on seven attributes of good governance) to satisfy rational choices of its citizenry. However, this paper will argue that in a context where a state is experiencing these new type of conflicts based on culture, religion, ethnicity or race, where cultural identity is mobilized more by political interests than as a social datum and where social mobilisations are politically motivated around racial, religious or ethnic identity for the purpose of claiming power; deviates from rationale actions and adopts slander approaches that constitute emotional governance practices more strategically (Richards, 2007:5). Emotional governance therefore for the purpose of this study is identified as a deliberate and sophisticated attention through mass-mediated communications to the emotional dynamics of the general public by the politicians to gain petty objectives against another race, ethnicity, religion or culture.


Ethno-political conflict in Sri Lanka consequence due to lack of political consensus on the structure of the state since independence (De Silva, 2001: 437-469) that underwent many phases of a conflict will be taken as the case study to test the above context of emotional governance in multi-ethnic and multi-religious states that face ‘new wars’. In that regard, the most crucial period of the Sri Lankan conflict: 2006 to 2009 will be analysed in detail to understand how Journalism and Politics have been used as emotional labour in governance during the conflict in general and the last phase of the war in particular. As a result whether emotional governance can be identified a critical factor in intensifying the Sri Lankan war during 2006 to 2009 against the LTTE and in the conflict at present, falsifying the rational-choice making of the citizens in such conflict situations. Finally, it is understood that most ‘new nations’ which experience political conflicts based on ethnicity, race, religion or culture tend to be following the approach of emotional governance and consequence characterized by incompetent, parochial; fragile and authoritarian governments that fail to satisfy basic human needs of all the nationalities.

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