Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Arthur Stein

Abstract

Where questions of violence and nonviolence cannot be raised inside a polity, it becomes obligatory that social scientists undertake them from the outside (Paige 2002:92). And if we are to "transform our society from a psychology of killing and threats to kill to one that is life-enhancing and spiritually fulfilling," (Ariyaratne 1999:73) then social science research on nonviolence and unarmed peacekeeping is an imperative. With this in mind I investigated the Shanthi Sena (Peace Brigade), an independent unit of the Sarvodaya Sharamadana Movement in Sri Lanka, through a six week in-depth case study; a full description, understanding and appreciation of a long established -yet little known- creative, nonviolent movement for social change and reconstruction. Although this study was strictly exploratory in nature it endeavored not only to inductively generate relevant descriptive inferences and indicators, but also to highlight implications beyond the academic sphere.

My most important fund of historical, practical and experiential knowledge was the people of Sri Lanka, especially those of the Sarvodaya Sharamadana Movement and, more so, the Shanthi Sena. In an attempt to understand the Shanthi Sena in action I petitioned them for advice on constructing and exercising an inductive research strategy, employing participant observation and open-ended conversations: a study program and learning experience that provided authentic understanding of the Shanthi Sena's mission; a study that would be shared and hopefully utilized by the Shanhti Sainiks and villagers.

My methodological approach was extremely "soft:" I observed the Shanthi Sena in training, and, when it was appropriate, I participated with them. I also spent lots of time just observing the Shanthi Sainiks interacting among themselves and with the villagers. I constantly tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. The majority of my personal conversations were prompted by a question or an inquiry asked of me, such as: "You came all the way from the United States to study the Shanthi Sena?" The need for creativity at times mandated methodological improvisation.

The true foundation of any participant observation case study is the establishment of trust and respect, and, in humanistic measurement, its capstone.

This thesis summarizes and delineates the origin, philosophy, methods, and the present state of the Shanthi Sena and the Sarvodaya Sharamadana Movement. Through close observation of particular events and summary of historical detail, this thesis makes a contribution to an important topic that has been overlooked in the literature of peace studies, nonviolence, nonviolent training, and unarmed peacekeeping.

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