'There is Confusion": The Politics of Silence, Fear and Hope in Catholic and Protestant Northern Uganda

Henni Leena Alava

Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandlingMonografi

Sammanfattning

This study explores how the Catholic and Protestant (Anglican) Churches have influenced the negotiation of societal co-existence in the aftermath of over two decades of brutal war in northern Uganda. Drawing from a total of nine months of ethnographic fieldwork between 2012 and 2016 that focused on a Catholic and a Protestant parish in Kitgum town, this study provides a historically grounded ethnographic analysis of the relationship between mainline churches and politics in Acholiland. It argues that churches, as socially, politically, and materially embedded institutions, have performed as sites of, and provided individuals and communities resources for, narrative imagination.

The two churches were at the forefront of the Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative (ARLPI), which gained global acclaim and local respect for its efforts to draw the international community’s attention to the war, and to convince the warring parties to embark on peace talks. Yet the churches, which have been deeply entangled in Ugandan politics since the country's independence, were themselves hard-hit by the war and, as this study shows, their political and societal role in its aftermath has been complex.

First, rather than being the monolithic actors they are often perceived to be, churches are deeply woven into networks of ethnicity, kinship, party politics, government, patronage, and friendship, and the criss-crossing lines of division that cut across society also run through the churches themselves. Second, although public church events function as platforms for performances of statehood, they also provide arenas for genuine political debate and critique of Uganda’s ruling government. Third, while churches have taken part in forging a powerful and at times healing utopian vision of a peaceful future in post-war Acholiland, this utopia lends itself to entrenching boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, both within the churches, and within society.

To make these claims, the study draws analytical tools from debates in the anthropology of hope and of the good, in political theology, in studies on political narratives and utopias, and in multidisciplinary research on Christianity and politics in Africa. The thread followed throughout is the Acholi concept of anyobanyoba, ‘confusion’, which emerges as both a sense of ambivalence and uncertainty, and as a state of affairs within a community. By analysing public church events at which elaborate political narratives are woven, as well as quotidian moments in which silence, fear, and hope are encountered and expressed, the study highlights how ‘confusion’ diminishes the possibilities of crafting hopeful imaginaries for a less violent future – yet also the multiple ways in which confusion and violence are addressed.

The notion of confusion is also employed as an epistemological and ethical device. Acknowledging the challenges of studying violence and its aftermath; the futility of claims to absolute knowledge in situations characterised by uncertainty and silence; and the difficulty of transforming the experiences of others into text in an ethically uncompromised way; the study advocates scholarship that embraces hesitance and experimentation rather than certainty and disciplinary rigidity. In a world increasingly framed by oppositional extremes, there is a need for research that, instead of seeking clear-cut answers, asks questions that provoke recognition of complexity and confusion, and explores the ways in which communities and individuals orientate themselves towards the future in the face of them.
Originalspråkengelska
UtgivningsortHelsinki
Förlag
Tryckta ISBN978-951-51-3615-2
Elektroniska ISBN978-951-51-3616-9
StatusPublicerad - okt 2017
MoE-publikationstypG4 Doktorsavhandling (monografi)

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