Today I had the pleasure of talking to Dr. Henni Alava, postdoctoral researcher at Tampere University, on her fascinating new book published by Bloomsbury as part of the New Directions in Anthropology of Christianity book series: Christianity, Politics and the Afterlives of War in Uganda: There is Confusion (Bloomsbury, 2022).
Alava’s work sheds critical light on the complex and unstable relationship between Christianity and politics, and peace and war. Drawing on long-running ethnographic fieldwork in Uganda’s largest religious communities, Henni Alava maps the tensions and ironies found in the Catholic and Anglican Churches in the wake of war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda. The book describes how churches’ responses to the war have been enabled by their embeddedness in local communities. Yet it is also in the churches’ embeddedness in structures of historical violence that religious faith nurtures peace liable to compound conflict.
At the heart of the book is the Acholi concept of anyobanyoba, translate as ‘confusion’, which depicts an experienced sense of both ambivalence and uncertainty, a state of mixed-up affairs within community and an essential aspect of politics in a country characterized by the threat of state violence. Foregrounding vulnerability, the book advocates ‘confusion’ as an epistemological and ethical device, and employs it to meditate on how religious believers, as well as researchers, can cultivate hope amid memories of suffering and on-going violence.
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