Identity Reconfigured: Karimojong Male Youth, Violence, and Livelihoods

Citation:

Stites, Elizabeth Howland. "Identity Reconfigured: Karimojong Male Youth, Violence, and Livelihoods" (PhD diss., Tufts University, 2013)

Author: Elizabeth Howland Stites

Abstract:

This dissertation examines internal violence among the once-unified Karimojong population of northeastern Uganda and argues that the intensification and increase of this violence over the past three decades is best understood through an analysis of both its gendered nature (i.e., male) and livelihood components. The dissertation uses primary data to review and discuss four hypotheses on the causes of violence associated with cattle raiding in pastoral areas: violence as linked to the acquisition of cattle for bridewealth, violence due to the collapse of traditional authority structures, violence as part of the competition over scarce natural resources, and violence as fueled by the commercialization of cattle raiding. This study finds that while elements of each of these hypotheses have some relevance for understanding violence among the Karimojong in the 1980s and 1990s, violence as experienced since 2000 is primarily a manifestation of the quest for respect, status and identity on the part of young men. Social, political and economic changes in Karamoja have gradually eroded the means through which males were able to establish and maintain a socially recognized masculinity; many of these changes were brought on by the very violence under examination. Faced with the erosion of traditional rites of passage marked by initiation and marriage, young men increasingly turned inward to their peer group in search of solidarity and worth. However, many of the means to establish and maintain status and reputation within the group themselves entail violence. Ultimately, this study finds that violence has become embedded within a cycle of maladaptive livelihoods and serves to perpetuate conflict, undermine the livelihoods base for the broader society, and upend the official and unofficial processes through which young men can achieve a normative masculine identity.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Masculinism, Livelihoods, Post-Conflict, Violence Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Uganda

Year: 2013

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