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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"The land grows people" : indigenous knowledge and social repairing in rural post-conflict Northern Uganda Gauvin, Lara Rosenoff


This dissertation examines how individuals and communities “move on” after two decades of war and mass internal displacement in rural Acoliland, Northern Uganda (~1986-2008). Based upon fieldwork from 2004 to 2012, it explores the multi-generational angst regarding youth’s disconnection from, or disinterest in, tekwaro (Acoli indigenous knowledge) in the conflict and post-conflict years. Attending to the ways that everyday inter-generational practices engendered by a return to the land activate a range of social relationships and engagements with tekwaro, I assert that these interactions re-gather different generations in the rebuilding of social, political, and moral community. I first re-narrate the history of one rural sub-clan, and explore how ngom kwaro (ancestral land) is their prime idiom of relatedness. Detailing experiences of displacement during the recent war, I acknowledge the tic Acoli (livelihood work) necessary for survival upon their return to the land as a vital framework for inter-generational engagement. I then consider adults’ and elders’ preoccupation with the decline of woro (respect) and cuna (‘courtship’ processes) within the IDP (internally displaced persons’) camps. Exploring how cuna affects relations and their organization, I examine contemporary cuna processes as important frameworks for inter-generational interaction. I finally consider how the responsibilities and relationships activated through kin-based communal governance organizations (sub-clans, lineages) are key to understanding both tekwaro and relatedness, and examine the creation of one sub-clan’s written constitution as another significant framework for inter-generational negotiation, participation, and engagement. I emphasize that these engagements with tekwaro work to elaborate and re-elaborate relatedness, and thus serve as important practices of social repairing, grounded by communal stewardship of the land. Rather than addressing specific transgressive violences experienced during the war years, the results of this research suggest that social repair–the striving for the restoration of sociality–implicitly concerns resistance of the seeping, inscribing, relational effects of those violences. Rather, a return to the land, and the system of land tenure itself, provokes inter-generational participation that serves to make and remake relatedness, orienting social relations away from the fragmenting, unprecedented, Acoli-on Acoli violence (Oloya 2013) experienced during the years of war and displacement.

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