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Living with Bad Surroundings: War, History, and Everyday Moments in Northern Uganda (The Cultures and Practice of Violence) [Paperback]

by Sverker Finnström
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 20, 2008 0822341913 978-0822341918
Winner, Margaret Mead Award, 2009 (American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology)

Since 1986, the Acholi people of northern Uganda have lived in the crossfire of a violent civil war, with the Lord's Resistance Army and other groups fighting the Ugandan government. Acholi have been murdered, maimed, and driven into displacement. Thousands of children have been abducted and forced to fight. Many observers have perceived Acholiland and northern Uganda to be an exception in contemporary Uganda, which has been celebrated by the international community for its increased political stability and particularly for its fight against AIDS. These observers tend to portray the Acholi as war-prone, whether because of religious fanaticism or intractable ethnic hatreds. In Living with Bad Surroundings, Sverker Finnström rejects these characterizations and challenges other simplistic explanations for the violence in northern Uganda. Foregrounding the narratives of individual Acholi, Finnström enables those most affected by the ongoing "dirty war" to explain how they participate in, comprehend, survive, and even resist it.Finnström draws on fieldwork conducted in northern Uganda between 1997 and 2006 to describe how the Acholi--especially the younger generation, those born into the era of civil strife--understand and attempt to control their moral universe and material circumstances. Structuring his argument around indigenous metaphors and images, notably the Acholi concepts of good and bad surroundings, he vividly renders struggles in war and the related ills of impoverishment, sickness, and marginalization. In this rich ethnography, Finnström provides a clear-eyed assessment of the historical, cultural, and political underpinnings of the civil war while maintaining his focus on Acholi efforts to achieve "good surroundings," viable futures for themselves and their families.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This subtle, sensitive, and sophisticated ethnography adds enormously to our understanding of contemporary northern Ugandan society..." Mark Leopold --Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"At times poetic, often philosophical, Finnström brings the reader to a new level of insight into war and its effects on the lived realities of affected persons..." Erin K. Baines --African Studies Review

Living with Bad Surroundings . . . [is] a very good book, perhaps the best written on northern Uganda since the 1970s. It will be an ideal text for courses dealing with Africa and the local realities of modern armed conflicts.” - Tim Allen, Times Literary Supplement


“[An] insightful, compelling ethnography. . . . Finnström has important things to say about ethnographic intimacy, the phenomenology of fieldwork, and the universality of culture as human existence. The book offers a fine example of the merits of local, detailed ethnographic knowledge for understanding civilian life in a warzone, as well as glimpses of the emotional connections an anthropologist forms with
informants and collaborators.” - Catherine Besteman, American Ethnologist


“I recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the problematic side of Africa. It reads more like the writing of a good and thoughtful war correspondent rather than a traditional social scientist. It what is useful and appropriate for understanding the world of contemporary northern Ugandans whom the author clearly liked and cared about.” - T.O. Beidelman, Anthropos


“Finnström’s analysis of the factors involved in the devastating conflict in Northern Uganda between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a valuable contribution to the literature on contemporary armed conflicts. . . . Finnström’s careful examination is essential for students, scholars, and practitioners who want to understand the political, economic, historical, cultural, and religious complexities involved in ay armed conflict.” - Joanne Corbin, African Studies Review


“This is a moving, politically engaged and penetrating study. It has . . . page-turning qualities. . . . If you are going to read just one book on northern Uganda, this is the one to go for.” - Tim Allen, Africa


Living with Bad Surroundings is a lucid, compelling, in-depth, and detailed exploration of the vexed position of youth in poverty-stricken Africa; a painstaking and authoritative account of one of the most refractory and long-running wars on that continent; and a demonstration of how imperative it is to complement historical and political-economic explanations of Africa’s conflicts with ethnographic perspectives that encompass local symbolic reality, local readings of history and tradition, local expectations and desires, and local understandings of power, morality, and reconciliation.”—Michael Jackson, author of In Sierra Leone


“Riveting. Powerful. Evocative. Anthropology at its best. Sverker Finnström is a gifted researcher and writer: in his hands the Acholi become a lens for understanding very twenty-first-century forms of violence and survival. This is a book about one of the more destructive and bitter wars on the African continent and its global connections. But it is also a book about hope, about facing and overcoming crises—of every culture being all cultures in the opus of experience, of mango trees surviving the tides of war and global ignorance. About sorrow and laughter and moments of coevalness in northern Uganda and beyond.”—Carolyn Nordstrom, author of Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World

From the Publisher

"Riveting. Powerful. Evocative. Anthropology at its best. Sverker Finnström is a gifted researcher and writer: in his hands the Acholi become a lens for understanding very twenty-first-century forms of violence and survival. This is a book about one of the more destructive and bitter wars on the African continent and its global connections. But it is also a book about hope, about facing and overcoming crises--of every culture being all cultures in the opus of experience, of mango trees surviving the tides of war and global ignorance. About sorrow and laughter and moments of coevalness in northern Uganda and beyond."--Carolyn Nordstrom, author of Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World

"Living with Bad Surroundings is a lucid, compelling, in-depth, and detailed exploration of the vexed position of youth in poverty-stricken Africa; a painstaking and authoritative account of one of the most refractory and long-running wars on that continent; and a demonstration of how imperative it is to complement historical and political-economic explanations of Africa's conflicts with ethnographic perspectives that encompass local symbolic reality, local readings of history and tradition, local expectations and desires, and local understandings of power, morality, and reconciliation."--Michael Jackson, author of In Sierra Leone --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Product Details

  • Series: The Cultures and Practice of Violence
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (February 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822341913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822341918
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sverker Finnström is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology, and the Chair of the Swedish Anthropological Association. He is based at the Dept of Cultural Anthropology & Ethnology, Uppsala University, where he holds a senior lectureship. Starting from 1997, and with a focus on young adults coming of age in the shadows of civil war, he has conducted recurrent fieldwork in Acholiland, northern Uganda, where the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and other groups have been fighting the Ugandan government.

He has authored "Living with Bad Surroundings: War, History, and Everyday Moments in Northern Uganda" (Duke University Press, 2008), for which he was honored with the 2009 Margaret Mead Award, offered jointly by the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.

Finnström is co-editor (with a contributed chapter as well) of "Virtual War and Magical Death: Technologies and Imaginaries for Terror and Killing" (Duke University Press, 2013).

He is also a contributing author to the following anthologies, available on Amazon:
"War, Technology, Anthropology" (Berghahn Books 2012)
"The Lord's Resistance Army" (Zed Books, 2010)
"Localizing Transitional Justice" (Stanford University Press, 2010)
"Crisis of the state" (Berghahn Books, 2009; pbk 2012)
"No peace, no war" (Ohio University Press/James Currey, 2005)
"Navigating youth, generating adulthood" (The Nordic Africa Institute, 2006)

For more information and online papers, visit Finnström on academia.edu:
http://uppsala.academia.edu/SverkerF
Or visit Uppsala University:
http://www.antro.uu.se/en/staff/sverker-finnstrom/

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepares your heart November 27, 2013
By Liza
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Helped prepare me for what to expect when arriving to Uganda as I worked with children with multiple disabilities. Especially those affected by famine and the war in Somalia.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meant for academics May 5, 2011
By ColHil
Format:Paperback
Living with Bad Surroundings is ultimately a very comprehensive text that will supply the very dedicated and interested reader or scholar with almost everything they might want to know about the conflict. If this is you, I very much recommend the book. For those who are hoping for a brief background in the conflict, or perhaps more of a day-to-day account of Finnström's life in Acholiland (which, unfortunately, is fairly lacking), this is not an appropriate read; it is rather dense and not for the casual reader.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative May 31, 2009
Format:Paperback
I bought this book (and many others) shortly before moving to Kitgum for four months. This was my favorite; I found this book to be interesting, informative, and unbiased.
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