Ruptures of War: Shame and Symbolic Violence in Post-Conflict Acholiland

David L. Davenport


Up until 2006, conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government disrupted lives of people living in northern Uganda. The conflict has challenged ethnic identities, particularly that of the Acholi. Moreover, the disruptions of war have challenged the way my Acholi informants define themselves as human beings and members of society. In the following ethnography, I argue that not only have my informants experienced symbolic violence undermining their sense of honor and worthiness at the hands of the Ugandan government and the LRA, but that the shame they feel after the conflict also commits symbolic violence against themselves. The struggle for honor, dignity, worthiness, and legitimacy has been internalized, and they inhabit psychologically both the position of the dominant and the dominated. For my informants, shame is an undermining force that rattles the way they make sense of their world, affirm their identities, and justify their existence.

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