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Child Soldiers in Context. Biographies, familial and collective trajectories in northern Uganda

Project leader: Dieter Neubert;

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rosenthal (University of Göttingen)

Project collaborator: Artur Bogner

Project description

The objective of the project is to reconstruct reintegration processes and biographies of former child soldiers and underage abductees of the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army including their interdependencies with family biographies and the local histories in northern Uganda's recent war zone. In contrast to previous research, data gathering and analysis shall focus on embedding biographical self-presentations of child soldiers in the contexts of their familial histories and the histories of their local social settings, interpreting them within these diachronic contexts. The methodological design of the study is based on the principles of sociological biographical research complemented by the dimension of family histories that receives growing  attention in this field of study. One focus is on the interaction between self-interpretation and interpretation by others, self-thematisations and collective discourses.

The main instrument of data gathering will be narrative interviews on their biographies and family biographies with former child soldiers and members of their families. Ideally these should include at least three members from each family belonging to three different generations. This method of data collection has been tested in a pilot study on the spot and also in the neighboring province. Based on these data case reconstructions should be able to capture, in diachronic fashion, the significance of familial pasts and family-biographical work for the life trajectories and biographical self-interpretations of child soldiers before and after demobilization.

Biographical/family-biographical interviews shall be supplemented amongst others by interviews and group interviews with other informants, usually from their local milieus, including members of state and non-state organizations involved in the reintegration of child soldiers.

A further aim is to combine biographical and family-biographical case reconstructions with analysis of the relevant discourses inside and outside of families and their historical change. Theoretical sampling of cases and interviewees will be guided amongst others by the visible interpersonal, including intergenerational, conflicts and tensions between diverse interpretations concerning e.g. the transition from rebel-fighter to civilian status and from adolescence to adulthood.

We plan comparisons to the findings and data of our previous project on the post-conflict process in the adjoining area of West Nile with regard to local developments and the reintegration of former rebel soldiers (mostly of older age) in this region. Thereby it is hoped to reach conclusions for improving practical efforts at supporting as well as methods of research and counseling in the context of the reintegration of former child soldiers, both in more general terms and with regard to specific circumstances in northern Uganda

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