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Social Torture: The Case of Northern Uganda, 1986-2006

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Volume 4

Human Rights in Context

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Social Torture

The Case of Northern Uganda, 1986-2006

Chris Dolan

338 pages, 17 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-565-1 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (April 2009)

ISBN  978-0-85745-291-7 $34.95/£27.95 Pb Published (February 2011)

eISBN 978-1-84545-912-3 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Dolan succeeds in putting the multiple problems of life in the camps, resp. the protected villages, in the context of the dynamics of regional and national conflict and violence. His exploration of different groups of actors illustrates the complexity of his topic, which is certainly not only of interest  for Uganda experts but opens up new perspectives for a more general discussion of the longevity of violent conflicts and humanitarian aid in crisis areas  ·  Peripherie

The depth, breadth and scholarliness of Dolan’s account sets it apart from other work on northern Uganda… Dolan provides an important counter narrative and a unique factual record demonstrating that all actors in northern Uganda – not just the LRA – have blood on their hands. Beyond having written an excellent book, Dolan’s real triumph will be if this counter narrative reaches beyond Social Torture’s presumably academic audience. One can only hope that ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will read this book.”  ·  H-Africa

“This book will engage, engross and enrage; it aims to drive analysis and policy makers to rethink their approaches to such conflicts.”  ·  Choice


As Director of the Refugee Law Project at the University of Makerere, Kampala, Uganda, Dolan offers a behind-the-scenes, cross-disciplinary study of one of Africa's longest running and most intractable conflicts. This book shows how, alongside the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army, government decisions and actions on the ground, consolidated by humanitarian interventions and silences, played a central role in creating a massive yet only very belatedly recognized humanitarian crisis. Not only individuals, but society as a whole, came to exhibit symptoms typical of torture, and the perpetrator-victim dichotomy became blurred. It is such phenomena, and the complex of social, political, economic and cultural dynamics which underpin them, which the author describes as social torture. Building on political economy, social anthropology, discourse analysis, international relations and psychoanalytic approaches to violence, this book offers an important analytical instrument for all those seeking entry points through which to address entrenched conflicts, whether from a conflict resolution, post-conflict recovery or transitional justice perspective.

Chris Dolan has worked extensively with a range of organizations in Africa, Europe and South East Asia on issues related to conflict, forced migration, governance, gender & sexuality. He is Director of the Refugee Law Project at University of Makerere, Kampala, Uganda.

Subject: Anthropology (General) Refugee and Migration Studies
Area: Africa


List of Tables, Charts & Diagrams
List of Illustrations
List of Acronyms
Map Of ‘Protected Villages’ in which Fieldwork Was Conducted

Chapter 1. Introduction

  • The Mainstream Discourse of Today’s Wars
  • Building Blocks of a Counter-Narrative
  • Impacts Actors
  • Benefits and Functions
  • Justifications
  • Elaborating a Model of Social Torture
  • Overview of the Book

Chapter 2. The Research Process

  • Institutional Setting
  • Working in a ‘War Zone’
  • Conceptual Challenges
  • Horizontal Segmentation or Vertical Linkages?
  • Acknowledging Peoples’ Agency
  • Ethical Considerations
  • Methods Adopted
  • Composition of the Research Team
  • In-Depth Key-Informant Interviews
  • Audio-Visual Data
  • Media Monitoring
  • Research Integrated with Programming – The Use of Focus Groups
  • Dealing with Findings
  • Discussion and Conclusions
  • Subjectivity and Objectivity

Chapter 3. An Overview of the Situation in Northern Uganda

  • Introduction
  • The Build-Up to War
  • Phase I (1986 to 1988)
  • Phase II (1988 to 1994)
  • Phase III (1994 to 1999)
  • Phase IV – Amnesty for ‘Terrorists’ (2000 to 2002)
  • Phase V – Operation Iron Fist and Its Aftermath (2002 to 2003)
  • Phase VI – November 2003 to June 2006
  • Phase VII – June 2006 Onwards
  • The War As People Remember It
  • Discussion
  • Some Concluding Questions

Chapter 4. Reconsidering the LRA–Government Dynamic

  • Introduction
  • The LRA’s Ambiguities
  • Composition
  • The Extent of Civilian Support
  • Links with the Lord's Resistance Movement
  • The Role of the Media in Creating Ambiguity
  • The LRA’s Modus Operandi
  • Administration and Control
  • Survival and Proxy Warfare
  • LRA Motivations and Politics
  • Politics of Rejection
  • The 1994 Peace Talks
  • Discussion
  • Further Nuances and Characterisations – Local Context
  • Refining the Characterisations – Comparative Experiences
  • An Appraisal of the Government’s Initiatives
  • Conclusions

Chapter 5. Protection As Violation

  • Introduction
  • Part I – Formation and Organisation
  • Physical Layout and Shelter
  • Administration
  • Mchaka-Mchaka
  • Part II – Subsistence in the Camps
  • Access to Land
  • Reductions in Hunting
  • Other Alternatives to Agriculture
  • Group Formation
  • Food Aid
  • Problems with Distribution
  • Demonstration Sites
  • Calls To Allow People To Return Home
  • Block Farming
  • Part III – Access to Education
  • Universal Primary Education (UPE) Drop-Outs
  • Teacher Motivation
  • Secondary Schooling
  • Part IV – Access to Health Care
  • Part V – Access to Protection
  • When Was the LRA the UPDF?
  • People’s Responses
  • Discussion and Conclusions

Chapter 6. Protection As Debilitation

  • Introduction
  • Physical Debilitation
  • Psychological Debilitation
  • Suicide
  • Heavy Drinking
  • Cultural Debilitation
  • Burial and Funeral Rites
  • Breakdown of Restorative Justice
  • Dance and Song
  • External Interventions, which ‘Diluted’ Culture
  • Changing Military–Civilian Relationships
  • Discussion
  • Signs of Resilience?
  • Conclusions

Chapter 7. Protection As Humiliation

  • Introduction
  • The Hegemonic Model of Masculinity
  • What Women Are (Supposed To Be) Like
  • What Youth Are (Supposed To Be) Like
  • What Men Are (Supposed To Be) Like
  • Masculine Roles
  • The Gap between Model and Reality: Inability To Fulfil External and Internalised Expectations
  • Acquisition of Knowledge
  • Marriage Provision
  • Physical Protection
  • Further Threats to Sense of Masculinity
  • ‘Gender’ Discourse and Practice
  • Militarization
  • The Impact of the Emergence of a Hegemonic Model
  • Domestic Violence
  • Increased Male Vulnerability to Violence
  • State Benefits from the Hegemonic Model
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions

Chapter 8. Social Torture and the Continuation of War

  • Introduction
  • Impacts and Methods
  • Further Symptoms of Torture Actors
  • Humanitarian Missions and Mandate
  • Failures in Assistance and Protection
  • Benefits and Functions
  • Economics
  • Psychological
  • Political Justifications for Action and Inaction
  • Justifying Action
  • Justifying Inaction
  • Discussion
  • Low Intensity but Wide Impact
  • Geographically Extensive and Time-Indifferent Multiple Actors
  • Multiple Functions
  • Social Torture Acquires Its Own Momentum
  • Social Torture Is Justified in Public Discourses, which then Become Instruments of Social Torture
  • Conclusions

Chapter 9. Conclusions

  • Social Torture Offers a Counter-Narrative to the Mainstream Discourse
  • Greed–Grievance
  • Social Torture Goes beyond the Convention Against Torture
  • Social Torture Suggests the Need for More Comprehensive Interventions



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