Cultural responses to conflict

Cultural responses to conflict

Day 2
11:00 – 12:45
Fortress Suite


This session will interrogate the ways in which we relate culture to conflict.

‘Culture’ is routinely deployed as both friend and foe. It can be a nationalist construct used to marginalise communities and an argument for retaining patriarchal structures. At the same time, it is the language in which we frame identity and self-determination. In organised mediations of conflict, culture has sometimes been overridden; in other instances instrumentalised to create impressions of reconciliation.

How then do we negotiate both the enabling and disabling dimensions of culture in situations of conflict? This session will explore varied forms of good practice in cultural responses to conflict, in the interconnected civil society arenas of politics, activism and the arts. It will consider forms of engagement that are able to offer alternative paradigms and facilitate change.

It will reflect on the potential of culture to transform and be transformed.



(CHAIR) Amjad Saleem

Amjad Saleem Commonwealth People's Forum 2015 speakerAmjad is a political analyst on South Asian issues (focusing mainly but not exclusively on Sri Lanka), with expertise in Humanitarian and Development Issues, Peacebuilding and Interfaith Dialogue. He is currently the Country Director of International Alert in Sri Lanka. He also currently sits as a thematic advisor looking at 'Meeting the needs of People in Conflict' for the UN initiated process, the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS). Amjad has sat as the UK representative of CSAC for the Commonwealth Foundation (2012-2014).

Kenneth Bush

Kenneth Bush is the Executive Director, and Al-Tajir Lecturer in Post-war Recovery Studies, in the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit of the University of York. He received his PhD in International Relations and Comparative Politics from Cornell University.

Throughout his career, Dr. Bush has worked within and between the worlds of research, policy and practice, inside and outside conflict zones. His work seeks to bridge the gap between Peace & Conflict Studies and Evaluation – in particular, through his work on Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment (PCIA), and on the ethical, political, logistical, and methodological challenges confronting evaluators in conflict zones. Dr. Bush was a founding professor of the Conflict Studies Programme at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. He has published, and taught courses, on: Evaluation, Methodology for Peace and Conflict Studies, Social Justice, Ethnicized Conflict; Peacebuilding; Post-Cold War Security; International Relations Theory; Conflict Management; Forced Displacement; Cultural Arts and Peacebuilding. Dr. Bush has worked with a broad spectrum of policy, development and humanitarian organizations in the Global North and South. His most recent book (with Colleen Duggan) is an edited volume entitled Evaluation in the Extreme – The Politics and Impact of Research in Violently Divided Societies (SAGE 2015).

Feryal Ali Gauhar

Feryal Ali Gauhar read Political Economy at McGill University, Montreal, trained as a television broadcaster in London, at the World Service in the Netherlands and as a Population Communications Fellow at the University of Southern California. She was also a Bill and Melinda Gates fellow at the Gates Institute, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University. She served as the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Population Fund from 1999 till 2003 when she resigned from the honorary post in protest against the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by NATO forces.

Feryal has taught Film history, theory and technology at the National College of Arts, and has run short courses for film journalists at the South Asian Film and Media Association’s school. She lectures at apex institutions (National Defence University, Administrative Staff College, Civil Services Academy, National Institute of Management) around the country on women and economic development, gender-based violence, the environment-poverty nexus, and cultural heritage management. Feryal has worked with the World Monuments Fund, New York, as coordinator for the Chilas Cultural Landscape Documentation project for the area in Gilgit Baltistan where the Diamer Basha Dam is to be built by the Government of Pakistan. She has served as Project Consultant for the Pak-German Archaeological Mission as well as for the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan. Feryal has led the team which wrote the cultural heritage management plan for Diamer Basha Dam and is currently engaged in upgrading and finalizing the plan for the US government.

Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng

Ruth-Ojiambo-Ochieng Commonwealth People's Forum 2015 speakerRuth Ojiambo Ochieng is the Executive Director of the Isis-Women International Cross-Cultural Exchange (Isis-Wicce), a women‘s transnational, vibrant well-established feminist organisation that values justice, fairness and mutual respect for humanity, and is based in Uganda.

Isis-WICCE derives her name from Isis the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge and creativity. Ruth is one of the key women leaders on the continent of Africa, and beyond, advancing the rights of women and advocating for peace and human security. With 20 years’ experience in development communications, and 15 years in her position of leadership as the Executive Director, she has initiated programs that have promoted women’s leadership in peace and human security. She has researched and documented women’s experiences of armed conflict in Uganda, Liberia, Nepal and South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Kashmir, and has coordinated the production of a ray of documentaries on Women, Conflict, and Human Security, which have been used by different development partners in training, advocacy and influencing policy.

T Shanaathanan

Thamotharampillai Shaanathanan is a visual artist living and working in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. His work in painting and installation explores notions of identity within situations of conflict.

T. Shanaathanan’s work has been shown widely in Sri Lanka and abroad, includingat the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver; Queensland Art Gallery, Australia; the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna, the October Gallery in London,and Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi. His work may also be seen in the artists’ book projects The One Year Drawing Project and The Incomplete Thombu, as well as the forthcoming ‘A-Z of Conflict’. (Raking Leaves).

Shanaathanan holds degrees in painting from the University of Delhi and a PhD from Jawarhalal Nehru University. He has published several scholarly papers on Sri Lankan art and practice and is currently Senior Lecturer in Art History in the Department of Fine Arts of Jaffna University. He is one of the founders of the Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design and is an advisor on Sri Lanka’s national curriculum for teaching art in schools.

Chandragupta Thenuwara

Chandraguptha Thenuwara (BFA/MFA/MPhil) was born in 1960, Sri Lanka. He is a senior lecturer and head of the department of History and Art Theory at the University of the Visual and Performing Arts Colombo. In 1993, He founded the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts (VAFA), an artist-run alternative art school. He studied painting at the Institute of Aesthetic Studies, University of Kelaniya (1978-1981) and Surikov State Art Institute, Moscow, Russia (1985-1992); MPhil at the Post Graduate Institute of Archeology (PGIAR), Kelaniya University(2006). Since 1978 he has exhibited widely in Sri Lanka and Abroad. His works are also included in the collections of the Queensland Art Gallery Australia, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum Japan, John Moore's University Art Collection Liverpool and Fine Arts Museum of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, Russia. His public monuments include the Seeduwa monument to the Disappeared and Monument to Neelan Thiruchelvam at Kinsey Terrace Colombo.

Chandraguptha Thenuwara is a leading Sri Lankan Artist whose work focuses on issues surrounding the impact of war in Sri Lanka. In response to overwhelming crisis Thenuwara has devised his own stylistic formulation, which he has called "Barrelism". Among his recent works there were drawing and painting series such as ‘This is not a White Van’, ‘This is not a White Flag’ and ‘Thorns’. His solo exhibitions Neo-Barrelism (2007), ‘Wall’ (2011), ‘Beautification’ (2013) and Monotony (2014), changed gallery space completely. His recent exhibition was ‘Electric Chair for Sale’ (2015).He was a President of the Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA) from 2014 January to January 2015. He is an active member of ‘Purawesi Balaya’ (Citizens’ Power) organization. He lives and works in Colombo.

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