Xenia Tashlitsky

Political Science

When Xenia Tashlitsky chose to study separatism with mentor Professor Petracca, she hypothesized that modern separatist movements would match traditional models of legitimization, which posit that secessionists will seek to prove their monopoly on force and recognition by key international actors. But when confronted with real-world separatists’ online statements, Xenia concluded that instead of power, Sir Lanka’s secessionists attempt to establish their powerlessness. Through rejecting this hypothesis, Xenia learned that sometimes being wrong is more instructive than being right—if you succeed in answering the question of why? Xenia is an inaugural class member of the UCI School of Law, opening August 2009. triangle.gif (504 bytes)




The Internet’s sprawling sphere of influence and small cost of use allows modern movements for state secession to access relatively large audiences at reasonably little expense. As Sri Lanka’s strongest active militant movement, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is employing the Internet to sketch the political map of the island around the Tamil minority in the northeastern area of the state. To understand how the LTTE caters the claims on its website to the legitimization of its cause and the success of its movement, I analyzed approximately 1,800 news stories from the group’s online archive, as well as several other LTTE, state and scholarly sources. Some scholars speculate that the message-making strategies of secession-seeking movements should appeal to arguments for political power. However, my study suggests that the LTTE instead appeals to assertions for political powerlessness tailored to an increasingly international audience. Because separatist sites are both unprecedentedly current and uniquely first-person, my research offers a new approach to analyzing the legitimization of modern social movements in an increasingly Web-based world. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                

Mark Petracca

School of Social Sciences

At all levels of governance, in virtually all parts of the world, the World-Wide Web is being utilized to inform, challenge, and potentially alter political life. Xenia's thesis seeks to document, analyze, and understand the use of the Internet by the Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to enhance the international legitimacy of this secessionist movement. Contrary to scholarly expectations, Xenia's research finds that appeals from the LTTE to the international community for independent recognition are characterized by claims of powerlessness which have yet to produce the desired result among key international actors. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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