Project Information: Living on the Margins

Principal Investigator

Dr Oliver Walton

Research Institution

University of Bath

Project Summary

This project aims to improve understanding of, and policy responses, to post-war transitions in Nepal and Sri Lanka by examining how key local actors from peripheral regions – or ‘borderland brokers’ – help to shape changing relations between centre and peripheral regions. It adopts an innovative analytical and methodological approach to documenting the life histories of these brokers – who include local businessmen, administrators, civil society leaders or politicians – by using literary comic strips to develop narratives that are co-produced by respondents and local artists.

As well as providing a novel approach for generating compelling accounts of brokers’ lives and the wider post-war transitions that they shape, the literary comics will also present unique opportunities to engage policy audiences and the general public. The project will therefore help to shape unfolding national and international policy debates relating to post-war transitions in Nepal and Sri Lanka on themes such as transitional justice, devolution, and post-war development.


The project is designed to influence key policy debates that are central to development policy and the ongoing post-war transitions in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Questions of state reform, transitional justice, and post-war development are highly salient in both countries, yet international NGOs, donors and local politicians often fail to engage constructively with the public on these issues.

A focus on borderlands and brokers also provides a radical challenge to the existing international policy consensus on areas such as post-war reconstruction and development, peacebuilding and statebuilding, and good governance. International policymakers have tended to suffer from ‘borderland blindness’, viewing problems through national frameworks, and neglecting subnational or transnational dimensions of conflict. National and international policy actors often engage with borderland regions through brokers or gatekeepers. This research will help these policy actors to understand more clearly the effects of these engagements, providing insights into which types of brokers are more likely to channel resources or open up spaces for the vulnerable.

Contact Information

For further information, please email Oliver at