UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

'I feel out of place' : children born into the Lord's Resistance Army and the politics of belonging Stewart, Beth W.


In the aftermath of nearly three decades of conflict in northern Uganda, children born into the rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) experience social, economic, and political exclusion. Thousands were born to mothers and often fathers who were abducted by the LRA and forced to marry inside the rebel group. The children are part of a global population of people born of sexual violence in conflict. This dissertation contributes to the small but growing body of work on this population called ‘children born of war.’ Using a child-centered methodology, this study is grounded in the everyday experiences of 29 children born into the LRA, with data collected at various points over a period of eight months between 2011 and 2016 in northern Uganda. The following research questions guided my inquiry: 1) How do the children experience their everyday social lives? 2) How do they make sense of their experiences? 3) What strategies and resources do they use or access to help navigate their everyday lives? 4) What macro and micro processes lend insight into or explain these experiences? To answer these questions, I developed a conceptual framework consisting of the ideas of a) the politics of belonging, inclusive of place-based, and b) nation-building and hegemonic masculinity. The findings point to the role of place-making in shaping the children’s social experiences. Careful examination of their everyday lives reveals the children’s efforts to negotiate the boundaries of their exclusion in effort to navigate toward better positions in life. Through drawings, journals, storytelling, and play, I interpret how the children make sense of their experiences and construct a sense of legitimacy despite their marginalization. By situating their experiences within current and historical political forces, their everyday experiences become intelligible as central to a local and national politics of belonging.

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