Of Tigers, Ghosts and Snakes: Children's Social Cognition in the Context of Conflict in Eastern Sri Lanka

Date: Oct, 2007
ODID Working Paper No. 151
Author(s): Jo Boyden (QEH)

This paper is based on field research with Tamil children and adolescents in the war-affected district of Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka. It examines young people's experiences of conflict in terms of their social worlds and their relations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), finding both to be permeated with ambiguity and dissonance. According to established understandings of social cognitive development this would suggest a significant threat to children's social perception, awareness and skills. Yet, it is found that these children and adolescents hold unexpectedly secure values of sociality. In light of this evidence, the paper raises various questions about the adequacy of current theoretical perspectives on social cognition from psychology and anthropology. In particular, it re-evaluates the common emphasis upon the critical importance of mutuality and durability in the socio-cultural dimension for effective cognitive development

ODID Author(s)