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Being a Bush Wife: Women's Lives Through War and Peace in Northern Sierra Leone
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Arts, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology.
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study is about young Sierra Leonean women’s wartime and post-war experiences and the social processes involved in shaping both these experiences and the way they were articulated through war and peace. During the course of the Sierra Leone war (1991–2002), many thousands of girls and women were abducted from their homes by rebels or other fighters. An overwhelming majority of these girls and women suffered physical abuse, frequent rapes, and pregnancy as a result. Some were used as forced labour, and many were also subjected to forced marriage, becoming so-called ‘bush wives’, and some also became rebel fighters. The roles young women played in the war had a great impact on the way they were perceived and treated in post-war society. Based on anthropological fieldwork, the study examines war and post-war experiences of young Kuranko-speaking women in northern Sierra Leone who were abducted by the rebels. It throws light on how their stories of war and post-war were shaped by and given meaning by the women themselves, their families, and their communities, but also by those humanitarian institutions that populate and to some extent dominate many post-war societies. Several themes are discussed, such as notions of gender roles in war, livelihood options in war and peace, and how war and post-war experiences affect social and kinship relations. The study also inquires into the role of the humanitarian community in dealing with gender issues in war-torn settings. Wartime phenomena such as abduction, rape, and female fighters, as well as post-war processes such as demobilization, reintegration, and reconciliation are placed in a social context. The study shows that women’s experiences of these phenomena were articulated in relation to their social environment, and in particular to processes of gender, age, kinship, and socio-economic position.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Institutionen för kulturantropologi och etnologi , 2006. , 432 p.
Keyword [en]
Cultural anthropology, Sierra Leone, anthropology, war, rebel movements, female fighters, bush wives, women, rape, gender, experience, narratives, livelihood, demobilization, morality, reconciliation, Kuranko
Keyword [sv]
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-7074ISBN: 91-506-1887-3OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-7074DiVA: diva2:168613
Public defence
2006-09-22, Geijersalen 0011, ENG 21, Thunbergsvägen 3P, Uppsala, 13:00
Available from: 2006-09-01 Created: 2006-09-01Bibliographically approved

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