Democratic Backsliding in Sri Lanka


Cocktail umbrellas and refugee camps, serene Buddhist monasteries and soldiers in combat fatigues – Sri Lanka is a country of paradoxes. When the country became independent in 1948 it was a strong candidate to prove that the transition from colonialism to democratic sovereignty could indeed be successful. Today, after 30 years of civil war and with conflicts yet to be resolved, the country is on the brink of qualifying as a failed state. With the exception of a short interlude from 2015 to 2019 political power has since 2005 been in the hands of the Rajapaksa family. In this period, Sri Lanka has gone through a process of militarization and ethnocratization, and has redefined its international relationships, building strong ties with China. Particularly since Gotabaya Rajapaksa was installed as President in 2019, governance increasingly rests on patronage and personal associations. In this episode Kenneth Bo Nielsen is joined by Professor Øivind Fuglerud from the University of Oslo, to analyze and discuss Sri Lanka’s democratic backslide.

Øivind Fuglerud is a professor at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, and also the keeper of the ethnographic collection from Pakistan, India, Bangaladesh and Sri Lanka at the museum.

The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.

We aim to produce timely, topical and well-edited discussions of new research and developments about Asia.

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Kenneth Bo Nielsen

Kenneth Bo Nielsen is a social anthropologist based in Oslo, and one of the leaders of the Norwegian Network for Asian Studies.

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