Socializing Children: Kin and Christian Churches in Uganda

Researcher: Catrine Christiansen
The project was established in 2002 and ended in 2005

The research project addresses the connections between childcare and sociality for children not living with their biological parents. Focus is given to children living either with relatives/foster parents in households, or in institutional settings. Analytically the focuses are on notions of children, childcare, and childhood, relations and reciprocity between care-giver(s) and care-recipient(s), and the social consequences of (church) organisations providing assistance that was until recently a matter of kinship. A particular effort is made to initiate dialogue between pedagogical and anthropological knowledge about childcare and childhood in the North and in the South as well as bridge the gap between research and applied work.

Project description
Raising children to become productive and socialised adults is no longer exclusively a domain of the extended family in contemporary Uganda. First of all, AIDS has taken its heavy toll on the young and middle-aged caregivers, straining family support systems to the utmost. The impact on the demographic structures has left a disproportionate number of children orphaned and surviving relatives are expected to stretch their meagre resources to provide these children with care. Secondly, the formalisation of education and employment has removed the training of skills and means to provide a livelihood from the familial sphere into public ones. Thirdly, marital arrangements are changing and relations between parents appear to be becoming unstable. Thus, a considerable number of children are born out of wedlock, or experience their parents’ divorce.

The disintegration of familial units has removed contemporary child-care patterns from the personal or familial sphere to public concerns about the organisation and stability of future civil societies. In this context, it is important to bear in mind the perceived vitality of familial relations in African social networks for a person’s well-being and aspirations. If children are not socialised into familial systems, what social relations will then make up their essential networks and means to provide them with a future living? In Uganda many organisations, especially Christian churches, have enhanced support to children. Knowledge on the influences of this expanded child-care – provided by caregivers not belonging to the extended family – on the children’s long-term well-being, social networks and orientations is very limited. What are the long-term consequences of churches taking over such vital elements of socialisation?

This research addresses the connections between child-care and sociality for children not living with their biological parents. The children in focus live either with relatives/foster parents in households or in institutional settings. These are the two main settings for child-care in Uganda and the adult care-givers are commonly either relatives or Christian employees. Based on these assumptions, this approach provides an analysis of long-term connections between the care given and the children’s social relatedness. Analytically the focuses are on notions of children, child-care and childhood, relations and reciprocity between care-giver(s) and care-recipient(s). Furthermore, it gives particular focus to the social consequences of (church) organisations providing assistance that was until recently a matter of kinship.

The research methods are ethnographic fieldwork and local mappings, although the analytical perspective moves beyond the local social setting to the broader national or regional context. Theoretically the research is situated both within anthropological debates on relatedness, vulnerability and sociality, and within recent social science debates on children and childhood. A particular effort is made to initiate dialogue between pedagogical and anthropological knowledge about child-care and childhood in the North and in the South. An additional effort is made to bridge the gap between research and applied work.


Seminars and Conferences
'Dealing with HIV/AIDS: Ugandan Experiences'
2 December 2003, Uppsala, Sweden
NAI Research Forum with Maria Bergvall, film producer, Stockholm, Sweden, Lotte Meinert, Institute of Ethnography and Social Anthropology, Århus University, Denmark and Beatrice Muwa, HIV/AIDS coordinator for Plan International, Uganda.
Chair: Catrine Christiansen, The Nordic Africa Institute

'AIDS is a Four Letter Word'
3–5 October 2003, Nordic Africa Days, Uppsala, Sweden
Workshop organisers: Catrine Chistiansen & Bawa Yamba

'Converting Double-Hearts and Single-Bodies: Charismatic Healing in Eastern Uganda'
13 March 2003, Uppsala, Sweden
Public Lecture by Catrine Christiansen in March 2003 at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden. The lecture was also held at the Institute of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark in April 2003.


Publications

2003
'Reflections on the Changing Patterns of Care for Orphans', Codesria Bulletin, 2003, no. 2,3 & 4: 94-98.

Forthcoming 2004
'Rearing the Future Society of Uganda: Childcare in the Era of AIDS', in: Peripherie-Zeitschrift für Politik und Ökonomie in der Dritten Welt.

'Conditional Certainties: Ugandan "Savedees" Struggling for Health and Harmony'. Chapter in an anthology edited by Liv Harem, Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden.


Catrine Christiansen is an anthropologist trained at the University of Copenhagen. In her research she has focused on changes in beliefs, personhood, social networks, and health seeking behaviour brought about by conversion from mainline to charismatic Christianity among Samia Christians in Uganda. Her principal research interests include health, religion, kinship and social change. She has been employed at the Nordic Africa Institute since September 2002.

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