Journal Article

‘A Very Highly Political Job’: Human Rights Practice, ‘The Political’, and Practitioners' Dilemmas in Sri Lanka

Vijay K. Nagaraj and Shermal Wijewardene

in Journal of Human Rights Practice

Volume 6, issue 3, pages 399-421
Published in print November 2014 | ISSN: 1757-9619
Published online November 2014 | e-ISSN: 1757-9627 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhuman/huu018
‘A Very Highly Political Job’: Human Rights Practice, ‘The Political’, and Practitioners' Dilemmas in Sri Lanka

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This article focuses on narratives of dilemmas and tensions arising from the relationship between human rights practice in Sri Lanka and what we broadly term ‘the political’: a) human rights practitioners' relationships with political parties (party politics); b) their relationship with the state; and c) their espousal of ‘alternative politics’ or politics beyond parties. Drawing on interviews with practitioners, we plot schemas—interconnected and dynamically intersecting cognitive scripts through which practitioners frame their perceptions of human rights practice and its links with ‘the political’, including the element of dilemma. Our analysis indicates that a paradigmatic view of a dilemma-like relationship between human rights practice and ‘the political’ in Sri Lanka is not necessarily productive, for it risks obscuring the variegated nature of perspectives and tensions regarding this subject within the community of practitioners. The article underlines the importance of thick descriptions that draw on how practitioners narrativize practice in relation to ‘the political’ to understand how the politics in and the politics of human rights practice are constructed and instantiated.

Keywords: alternative politics; politics; the political; political parties; schemas; Sri Lanka

Journal Article.  10094 words. 

Subjects: Ethical Issues and Debates ; Human Rights and Immigration ; Human Rights ; Politics ; Social Movements and Social Change

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