From Victim to Perpetrator and Back? Biographies of Former "Child Soldiers" in Uganda

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Artur BOGNER, Sociology of Development, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany
As Foucault and others have emphasized, it is impossible to understand the actualities of macro-violence or collective violence unless one takes seriously, and confronts, the concrete, bodily and sensorial, bloody and cruel aspects of this subject matter - in a detailed and palpable, virtually painful manner. The paper summarizes some findings of a research project on the life stories & life courses of former so-called child soldiers or abductees of the “Lord’s Resistance Army” in Uganda. The biographies of individuals who were abducted as children or adolescents by this Christian-millenarian and ethno-nationalist rebel group and forcefully recruited as fighters and/or “wives” (often in the context of very bloody raids on the homes of their families, relatives or neighbours) show central features of their experiential history, their life courses and their changing biographical self-interpretations. Amongst others the biographies show the necessity of a critical analysis, and empirical investigation, of the concrete relations between self-presentations and reality, or between narrated and lived lives. The same applies to the relations between practices and discourses among the civilians who were close to them before their abduction/recruitment and after their “return” from the rebels. I focus on varying blends or ratios of enslavement/subjugation and agency/autonomy, at various moments and in different phases of the lives of the former rebel fighters or abductees. At the same time the research shows the power and actual working of ethno-political belongings as discourses that shape the images of the self and the we-group, their history and the world.