Securing Youth: Humanitarian Futures in Post-Conflict Uganda

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The dissertation considers how young people in northern Uganda navigate post-conflict life through participant observation, interviews, and ethnographic focus groups with youth working as security guards, current and formerly incarcerated youth, and young people seeking employment in South Sudan. It offers a detailed, sustained view into the everyday practices young people undertake to envision a future after prolonged civil conflict despite intense social, political, and economic constraints. I worked extensively with individuals who occupied different positions of vulnerability and security in order to investigate how these categories overlapped and intertwined in their daily lives. By doing so, the research makes broader interventions into theories of youth and of post-conflict recovery including how individuals encounter post-war legal authority, how humanitarian interventions impact intergenerational and familial relationships, and what strategies young people employ when the resources and opportunities afforded to them through the expansive humanitarian network that once surrounded them leaves the region, or transforms into something else entirely. I argue that the constraints young people face, coupled with the state’s attempt to securitize them as a potentially destabilizing political and economic force, generate impossible predicaments which often require them to take on increasingly dangerous risks, which in turn open them up to further securitization in a cycle that leaves young people unable to build anything but fraught futures despite being the future of the nation. A central aim of my research was to destabilize the "post" in post-conflict, not only to point to the ways in which conflict has afterlives (which is well treaded territory in anthropology) but also to disrupt the clean temporality the term presumes. I argue that young people do not take the “post” as a new dawn from which to build possibility, but instead draw on their past experiences to make sense of the present despite the uncertainty of the future. Building on other recent scholarship, my research interrogates the durability of the "post" as a way of opening up pathways which young people (and others) draw on to make sense of their daily lives.





Sebastian, Matthew Ryan (2021). Securing Youth: Humanitarian Futures in Post-Conflict Uganda. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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