Social Dynamics in Militarised Livelihood Systems: Evidence from a Study of Ugandan Army Soldiers


Lautze, Susan. 2008. “Social Dynamics in Militarised Livelihood Systems: Evidence from a Study of Ugandan Army Soldiers.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 2 (3): 415-38.

Author: Susan Lautze


This article discusses intra-familial tensions and related implications of fraught relationships for government soldiers’ livelihoods systems in war-affected areas of northern Uganda. While anthropologists have long recognised households as dynamic zones of contestation, development practice continues to perceive households as the central dwelling of cooperative families. Heads of household are assumed by humanitarian organisations to be benevolent representatives of the family, but this may conflict with the realities of compound-level tensions, leading to a loss of access to resources by the most vulnerable. The concept of livelihood units may be a more correct focus than the notion of households, but the former can be difficult to measure. Analysts must therefore take care to study households not only as units of analysis but also as units to be analysed. Relative wealth and poverty are shown here to exist under the same roof because soldiers and others practice inter- and intra-household discrimination. No family can be maintained on a private's salary, and some soldiers require additional aid from their families in order to support themselves in barracks. The itinerant lifestyle and stresses of frequent relocation of army families produce distinct social, health and financial liabilities. Soldiers’ wives and children were among the least healthy of all in the study, and the relations between soldiers’ wives and mothers were often characterised by bitter discord. Such micro-cleavages contrast with the expectations on the part of government and the international community regarding the need to forgive those who pursue violent, militarised livelihoods in northern Uganda.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Development, Economies, Gender, Women, Men, Health, Households, Livelihoods, Militarized Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Uganda

Year: 2008

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