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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The systemic impacts of war : child soldiers and artists in Mozambique, a cultural and structural analysis Teves, Sandra


Between 1976 and 1992 a vicious armed conflict raged in Mozambique. This history provides essential background for the thesis that explores the impact of armed conflict on individuals who were under 18 at the time. These include former child soldiers and others who have dealt with the experience of war by transforming weapons into art. Eleven years after a peace accord was signed in Mozambique, former child soldiers and artists were interviewed to explore their experiences. Understanding the Mozambican conflict and its impact on young people requires an examination of international frameworks. The thesis examines the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the limits of a 'rights-based perspective'. The use of children in war requires an understanding of the nature of 'new wars'. The argument is made that conditions created by global institutions and other global factors are as important to understanding the current problems former, child soldiers face, as is their historical experience. The Turning Arms into Ploughshares (TAE) project is a disarmament initiative that exchanges weapons for development tools. Study participants were related to this project. The thesis provides a structural analysis of macro conditions influencing their lives. While attention is paid to global considerations, the role of cultural practices and impacts on healing and reconciliation are noted. The thesis uses a critical cultural studies perspective, based on the work of the Frankfurt School (Adorno, Horkemier, Marcuse and Fromm). Five themes explore the experience and problems confronting former child soldiers and young artists. These are: (1) Education, War and Lost Social Opportunity, (2) Marginalization and Meaning, (3) Exchanging Guns: why bother and for what? (4) Being and Becoming: Healing and Recovery and (5) Art and the Culture o f Hope. The conclusion addresses approaches to social work practice in international settings and the importance of considering global and historical factors when working with children affected by war and living in post-conflict settings The work cautions against overemphasizing the uniqueness of individual experience and failing to pay adequate attention to needs all human beings have in common, and structural realities increasingly affecting all children, worldwide.

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