Deconstructing Notions of Resilience

Diverse Post-Conflict Settings in Uganda

The idea that there are socio-cultural-ecological systems which function to make people more or less able to recover from crises has intuitive appeal, and is of great importance for policy design. While the notion of resilience of people in extreme circumstances is not new, in the last few years it has become a humanitarian/development meme. The image it conveys is of tightly knit, mutually supportive communities sharing diverse assets and consequently able to recover quickly from shocks or conflict. Where it is lacking, a range of strategies can be deployed to restore or build future resilience. However, resilience is a fuzzy concept which can obfuscate deeply problematic issues in aid delivery, be co-opted by problematically normative agendas, and used to disguise the reiteration of ineffective interventions or the shifting of responsibility onto victims of war and crisis.

Over a period of 36 months beginning in April 2017 this research will explore how people negotiate and experience and understand their own coping strategies and resilience, as well as their perceptions of how external forces and interventions contribute or detract from these. Drawing upon historical and anthropological approaches, extensive fieldwork will be undertaken in three post-conflict settings in Uganda: pastoralist Karamoja; areas affected by the LRA insurgency; and West Nile, which hosts and has hosted multiple waves of refugees from South Sudan. The project is headed by Professor Tim Allen with Dr Ryan Joseph O’Byrne and Julian Hopwood (PhD candidate, Ghent) as Co- Investigators. The outcomes will include a literature review of resilience in international development, five academic journal papers, five working papers, a regularly updated blog, and a final summary paper drawing together major findings.



Principal investigator: Tim Allen

Professor Tim Allen is the inaugural Director of the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Tim has expertise in the fields of complex emergencies, ethnic conflict, forced migration, local conceptions of health and healing, controlling tropical diseases, humanitarianism and development aid. Much of his field research has focussed on East Africa.

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Co-investigator: Julian Hopwood

Julian Hopwood has spent much of his time in Acholiland, northern Uganda since 2006. His research has focused on the reintegration of former combatants in the LRA insurgency, and he is undertaking a doctoral degree at Ghent University on Acholi land.

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Co-investigator: Doctor Ryan Joseph O’Byrne

Dr Ryan Joseph O’Byrne holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from University College London (UCL). Based on 16 months ethnographic fieldwork in the South Sudanese community of Pajok, his PhD research explored the contemporary and historical entanglements between customary cosmologies and evangelical Christianity in Acholi-speaking South Sudan. Ryan is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa, where he is undertaking research into the migration experiences of South Sudanese in Uganda. The focus of his IGA-Rockefeller research is on how the dynamics of forced displacement and return migration link to diverse indigenous manifestations and negotiations of resilience and, in turn, how these effect and are effected by resilience programming.