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'Those People Up There': Spiritual Insecurity and Social Suffering in Northern Uganda

Wednesday, 06 March, 2013

Dr. Rosalind I.J. Hackett, Professor of Religious Studies, will be presenting at the Center for the Study of Social Justice colloquium series on the topic of social suffering and spiritual insecurity in Northern Uganda.

Marginalization has been identified as a root cause of the twenty-year civil war in northern Uganda between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda (1986-2006).  It also accounts for the failed development and social reconstruction projects in the post-conflict phase, thereby sustaining the ongoing social suffering (or "social torture") of the Acholi people in particular. Strategies of marginalization are dependent upon negative framing, either through official channels, the mass media, or local and international non-governmental humanitarian reporting. This presentation interrogates the religious and spiritual dimensions of this framing, whether through depictions of LRA leader Joseph Kony's possessing spirits or mystical powers, viral American videos that posit solutions in terms of good versus evil, calls by traditional leaders to halt rising suicides through ritual appeasement of local avenging spirits, or born-again attributions of local epidemics to witchcraft.  In sum, it will be argued that knowledge of the religious field is critical to understanding the dynamics and outcomes of marginalization in this war-affected region.





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