Exploring the untold history of Mozambique’s female guerilla soldiers

A year of field studies among female war veterans in Mozambique gave Finnish ethnographer Jonna Katto not only essential material for her research, but also a deeper understanding of how the “national” history-telling differs from the self-perceived experiences of these women. Jonna is now in Uppsala to bring her dissertation to an end.

Jonna Katto is a PhD-student from the University of Helsinki. She’s almost at the end of her doctoral studies at the Department of World Cultures, hoping to receive her tohtorinhattu, ‘Doctoral Hat’, next summer. Her research is about female guerilla soldiers who fought in the Mozambican war of independence from 1964 to 1974.

– I did one year of field research in Mozambique, mainly in the northern rural province of Niassa, where I interviewed many of these women who are today subsistence farmers and grandmothers in their 60’s or older. The history of the liberation struggle becomes quite different when told by them instead of the predominantly male political elite in the capital city of Maputo.

The women who fought in Mozambique’s liberation struggle (1965-1975) are today in their 60’s or older.

Jonna’s research explores the testimonials of the Niassa women from this crucial period of Mozambique’s history. Their multilayered versions of the national history has later been retold and rewritten by men of power, who turned them into a homogenized national memory, serving their political purposes.

– Their history-telling is a narrative dominated by gender stereotypes, ideological motives and urban perspectives. My research looks at how national history is told from the perspective of the ex-combat women in the politically marginalized rural north, at a distance from the state apparatus and the official nationalist discourse.

Jonna Katto just arrived for a scholarship exchange with us at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, where she’ll be staying for a month. When asked about the main advantage of this scholarship she answers straight, without a shred of a doubt:

– The library! Already before coming here I’ve used the NAI Library’s resources a lot, through remote access to its databases as well as interlibrary loans. It’s an invaluable access for me in my research. And of course I’m also eager to discuss my research with the researchers here at NAI and get some helpful feedback, says Jonna Katto.

NAI’s study scholarships:

You can apply too – deadline is October 1st!

The Nordic Africa Institute encourages research and studies on Africa in the Nordic countries. We welcome master students as well as PhD students to apply for our scholarships.

Every year we grant a number of scholarships allowing students to come to us and use our library’s unique resources and take advantage of the expertise of our researcher teams. The study scholarships cover travel expenses and include a shared office and free accommodation in Uppsala for a full month.

The time to apply for next year’s scholarships is now – send your application no later than October 1st, here’s how you do it!

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