BETWEEN REALITY AND REPRESENTATION: Women’s Agency in War and Post-Conflict Sri Lanka

During two decades of armed conflict in north east Sri Lanka, women have carved new spaces of agency and new roles as armed combatants, principal income generators or heads of household in the absence of men folk. Will they be pushed back ‘into the kitchen’ with a return to peace, also often indexed as a return to the pre-war gender status quo? This article focuses on women’s agency in post-conflict Sri Lanka, where a peace process has been ongoing for two years, and asks if and how a return of peace may affect women’s empowerment. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and analysis of the political economy of armed conflict, the article suggests that, contrary to nationalist imaginaries, the structure of the ‘new war’ in Sri Lanka may not permit a return to a pre-war gender status quo.

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