The Sri Lankan conflict is now almost thirty years old. It is certainly one of the best examples of a « clash of identities », between two peoples that are divided by religion and language. Sri Lanka illustrates both the limits of an analysis of armed conflicts based upon the sole concept of « identity » and the difficulties to move towards a peaceful settlement once they started. Analyses based upon the concept of « identity » are not fully operational because they do not really take into account the fact that, beyond the clash of identities, some actors need to exacerbate tensions in order to strengthen their positions within their own group. The difficulties of a peaceful settlement once this process has started derive from the fact that it is in the very interest of those who lead a community to prolong the confrontation, since they get their legitimacy from it.