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Mills, David Shane (1997) The nation's valiant fighters against illiteracy: Locating the cultural politics of 'development' in 1990s Uganda. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This dissertation is a partial account of the cultural politics of 'development' in contemporary Uganda, focusing particularly on educational institutions as sites of negotiation of modernity's gendered meanings. Utilising media representations and ethnographic research carried out in both Makerere University and in a rural secondary school, I describe how senses of the 'modern' are produced within colonial and postcolonial discourses on gender, education and the nation. Drawing on theoretical dialogues between cultural geography, social history and anthropology, I argue that historical and spatial relationships are often invoked to locate or contest the moral hierarchies that these understandings of 'progress' or 'development' depend on. By shifting position, perspective and scale, I attempt to make visible the relational production of multiple and cross-cutting Ugandan localities. Recognising the legacies of war, nationalism and religion that shape understandings of 'development' in Uganda today, this thesis is also an attempt at a 'history of the present', describing the way these turbulent pasts are retold and relived. After a brief introduction to anthropology's own troubled history of ethical debate, I discuss the influence of European ethnographies and 'Ganda' oral and textual narratives on Ugandan politics. I describe how, in the bitter aftermath of rural neglect and isolation stemming from the 1980s liberation war, monarchical idioms from Buganda's past have been suddenly reinvigorated within new Buganda nationalisms. Subsequently I interweave transnational and national media imageries with everyday lived experiences - rural school life, a speech day, urban popular music, staffroom gossip and university student romances - to create a sense of the multiple localities within which people create a sense of themselves as being both 'Ugandan' and 'modern'. Exploring the contested and political negotiations of culture in this way reveals both the material and symbolic aspects of the discursive practices of 'development'.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:13

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