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Corrupt Peace? Corruption and Ethnic Divides in Post-war Sri Lanka

Camilla Orjuela, Dhammika Herath and Jonas Lindberg

Journal of South Asian Development, 2016, vol. 11, issue 2, 149-174

Abstract: It is widely recognized that corruption risks undermining state legitimacy, diminishing trust and reducing resources for reconstruction in the aftermath of war. This article aims to advance the understanding of corruption in post-war societies by examining how local experiences of corruption relate to ethnic and other divides in Sri Lanka, where a 26-year war was fought largely along ethnic lines. The article builds on 170 interviews carried out in 2009–2013, focusing on how ‘ordinary people’ perceive corruption and ethnic divides after the war. The article argues that ethnic grievances have less to do with local inter-ethnic relations than with relations between the state and minority groups. We find that state–citizen relations in the post-war period to a large extent have been shaped by practices and discourses of corruption. Although corrupt practices—or practices perceived to be corrupt—are prevalent in all parts of the country and affect all groups, they are often interpreted as instances of ethnic discrimination. However, it is not only ethnic identity that matters in relations between citizens and the (corrupt) state, but also socio-economic position, level of education, language skills, gender and social networks.

Keywords: Corruption; ethnic grievances; state–citizen relations; post-war peacebuilding; Sri Lanka (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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Handle: RePEc:sae:soudev:v:11:y:2016:i:2:p:149-174