Navigating Conflict Transitions : queer communities in Sri Lanka (1995-2018)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Issues facing persons with diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities, Expressions, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) have long been neglected in peace and conflict studies. Existing research on SOGIESC communities has tended to portray them as victims of violence in conflict-affected settings with little reference to their agential power. This thesis tells a different story of SOGIESC communities in conflict-affected settings by exploring how SOGIESC communities exert collective agency by navigating volatile post-war politics. Examining the trajectory of two leading SOGIESC organisations and an informal SOGIESC movement that emerged organically in 2018 in Sri Lanka, this thesis examines under what conditions or circumstances queer politics change in conflict transitions. Using a conceptual framework informed by the concept of social navigation and an approach that views conflict transitions as punctuated by open moments that provide constraints and opportunities for activist mobilisation, this thesis challenges the victim-centred notion of SOGIESC communities in conflict settings. It illustrates how SOGIESC organisations and movements can successfully navigate the volatile politics of conflict transitions to enhance the position of SOGIESC communities. The thesis makes two key contributions. First, it provides the first detailed empirical account of the SOGIESC movement in Sri Lanka. Second, it contributes to the nascent literature on the dynamics of queer politics in peace and conflict studies. The research finds that while the nature of the conflict transition shapes queer politics in Sri Lanka, this relationship is mediated by other factors such as the wider character of the regime and the regime-civil society relationship. The thesis also finds that leadership is critical in determining the trajectory of SOGIESC communities during conflict transitions.
Date of Award12 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorOliver Walton (Supervisor) & Joe Devine (Supervisor)


  • Conflict Transitions
  • Sri Lanka
  • Queer

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