Institutt for sosialantropologi

Moving in spaces: young women’s aspirations towards an Acholi post-war sociality in Northern Uganda


By: Anne Katrine Flem Nogva

Supervisor: Post doctor Bjørn Enge Bertelsen

Northern Uganda has gone through more than 20 years of insurgencies and unrest. On the ground, the war may be understood as a fight between the government army and the Lord’s Resistance Army in which the civilians were caught in between.

What began as a political opposition with spiritual dimensions, eventually led to the displacement of some 1,8 million people, most of them from the Acholi ethnic group. It is on this background that I seek to answer how Acholi sociality – shorthandedly defined as everyday interaction in frames of collectively agreed upon norms in order to form groups or society – is reconstituted after longlasting war. More specifically I ask: How do young Acholi women’s everyday practices reconstitute Acholi sociality?

I argue that, as transformers of commodities and bodies and contributors to the ‘moving of things’, young women reconstitute Acholi sociality through garden work practices and cooking. Amongst others, women are collectively creating Acholi bodies by practicing ‘extended nurturing capacities’. In contrast to war times, they are able to nurture beyond their household and thus also to display fertility and engage in different forms of circulation – both important aspects of peace.

In particular, I argue that a revival of activities that enhances voluntary movement and fertile circulation is crucial to reconstituting Acholi sociality. Furthermore, reconstituting sociality is a process in which different actors voice diverging and sometimes conflicting discourses on what ‘society’ and ‘person’ should be. The existence of differently positioned discourses on ‘society’ and ‘person’ – be it of the traditional communal, international NGOs or the state – leaves open spaces for negotiation. In the open spaces forms of belonging and ideals of ’person’, ’woman’ and citizen are contested and how to morally practice ‘person’ is up for negotiation.

The overall aim of this thesis is not to provide an account of Acholi society or to make generalising statements on the concepts of ‘war’ and ‘peace’. Rather, it is an attempt to explore different dimensions of young women’s everyday life, in their aspirations towards peace, in order to provide a contextualised understanding of what peace may come to mean to particular people in particular places, and in which ways do people act it out in their own sociality.