Children and Youth on the Front Line

Children and Youth on the Front Line: Ethnography, Armed Conflict and Displacement

Jo Boyden
Joanna de Berry
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Children and Youth on the Front Line
    Book Description:

    War leads not just to widespread death but also to extensive displacement, overwhelming fear, and economic devastation. It weakens social ties, threatens household survival and undermines the family's capacity to care for its most vulnerable members. Every year it kills and maims countless numbers of young people, undermines thousands of others psychologically and deprives many of the economic, educational, health and social opportunities which most of us consider essential for children's effective growth and well being.

    Based on detailed ethnographic description and on young people's own accounts, this volume provides insights into children's experiences as both survivors and perpetrators of violence. It focuses on girls who have been exposed to sexual exploitation and abuse, children who head households or are separated from their families, displaced children and young former combatants who are attempting to adjust to their changed circumstances following the cessation of conflict. In this sense, the volume bears witness to the grim effects of warfare and displacement on the young.

    Nevertheless, despite the abundant evidence of suffering, it maintains that children are not the passive victims of conflict but engage actively with the conditions of war, an outlook that challenges orthodox research perspectives that rely heavily on medicalized notions of 'victim' and 'trauma.'

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-189-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Acronyms
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxviii)
    Jo Boyden and Joanna de Berry

    This book is about young people – children and adolescents – who have grown up with armed conflict, social upheaval and massive loss. As such, it bears testimony to the grim effects of warfare on the young. War leads not just to widespread death, but also to extensive displacement, overwhelming fear and economic devastation. It divides communities, destroys trust, weakens social ties, threatens household survival and undermines the family’s capacity to care for its most vulnerable members. Every year it kills and maims countless numbers of young people, undermines thousands of others psychologically and deprives many of the economic, educational,...

  6. Part I: The Contexts of War
    • 1 Separated Children: Care and Support in Context
      (pp. 3-22)
      Gillian Mann

      It is currently estimated that approximately one in every three-hundred children around the world is displaced by war and political violence (Machel 2000). This amounts to at least twenty million children, approximately one million of whom have been separated from their families (Djeddah n.d.). In Rwanda alone, by the end of 1994, more than 100,000 children had become orphaned or had lost contact with their parents as a direct result of the war (Machel 1996). The numbers in other countries are equally high: it is estimated that by 1992 the war in Mozambique had left nearly 200,000 separated children, and...

    • 2 Cultural Disruption and the Care of Infants in Post-war Mozambique
      (pp. 23-42)
      Victor Igreja

      This chapter aims to describe the ways in which prolonged and multiple exposure to civil war and drought in the Gorongosa district of Sofala Province, Central Mozambique, influenced not only the psychological wellbeing of affected populations but also the wider stability and integration of families and communities. Quite apart from the destitution and profound discontinuities within the social order created by such exposure, it became increasingly difficult to perform the ceremonies and rituals that had long regulated life from birth (madzawde) to death (ntsanganiko) (Igreja 2003). In this way, armed conflict deprived the people of Gorongosa of vital social and...

  7. Part II: Vulnerability and Resilience among Adolescent Girls
    • 3 The Sexual Vulnerability of Adolescent Girls during Civil War in Teso, Uganda
      (pp. 45-62)
      Joanna de Berry

      Between 1987 and 1992 the Teso region of north-east Uganda was in the grips of civil war. An insurgent group called the Uganda People’s Army (UPA) fought against the forces of the newly established government of Uganda, the National Resistance Army (NRA). The UPA had widespread support amongst the civilian population in Teso, and in seeking to curb the insurgency the NRA tried to cut off links between the militants and the local people. They did this by moving rural communities out of their homes and placing them in settlement camps, which were guarded by barracks of army soldiers. Land...

    • 4 A Neglected Perspective: Adolescent Girls’ Experiences of the Kosovo Conflict of 1999
      (pp. 63-84)
      Aisling Swaine and Thomas Feeny

      After nearly a decade of non-violent opposition to repression by the Serbian administration, an armed wing of the Albanian Kosovar liberation movement was formed. With both ethnic groups claimharging right to Kosovo’s territory and administration, Kosovo was plunged into violence. Severe clashes and a summer-long offensive in 1998 between the two factions resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 people from both communities, prompting intervention by international actors. In March 1999, after negotiations for peace broke down, NATO intervened and began strategic bombing raids on Serbian targets. Serbian offensives in Kosovo subsequently intensified, leading eventually to thousands of Albanian Kosovars...

  8. Part III: What is a Child?
    • 5 The Use of Patriarchal Imagery in the Civil War in Mozambique and its Implications for the Reintegration of Child Soldiers
      (pp. 87-104)
      Jessica Schafer

      Definitions and understandings of childhood in the West, which inform the concepts used by development agencies, are essentially age based. They assume that a child is someone under the age of 18, and is vulnerable, dependant and innocent. Implicit in this definition is the assumption that all those below 18 share these characteristics. Hence, the label ‘child soldier’ is applied to anyone under the age of 18 who bears arms.

      In the rural and urban areas of Manica province, Mozambique, where this research was carried out, the study sample indicated that almost half of both the RENAMO and FRELIMO fighters...

    • 6 Girls with Guns: Narrating the Experience of War of FRELIMO’s ‘Female Detachment’
      (pp. 105-129)
      Harry G. West

      Just as Africa is a continent on which youth constitute a demographic category of tremendous and increasing importance, because of the troubling number of military conflicts in Africa today it is also a continent on which a large percentage of the world’s ‘children at war’ are to be found.² Children at war and, particularly, ‘child soldiers’, feature prominently in international media coverage of Africa, especially when journalists wish to portray a chaotic continent plunging headlong into anarchy. Even if such media accounts and images often sensationalise and exoticise Africa, they not only play on the anxieties and suspicions of their...

    • 7 Children, Impunity and Justice: Some Dilemmas from Northern Uganda
      (pp. 130-142)
      Andrew Mawson

      The use of children as soldiers is a growing phenomenon that has become a focus of advocacy and programme intervention by both human rights and humanitarian non-governmental organisations. Such interventions fall broadly into two strands. The first involves efforts to keep children out of conflict. This is exemplified by campaigning for an optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to raise the minimum age of recruitment or participation in hostilities to 18 years. The second involves direct intervention to provide assistance to former child soldiers. Many of these programmes emphasise the psychosocial needs of children...

  9. Part IV: Children’s Narratives
    • 8 Children in the Grey Spaces Between War and Peace: The Uncertain Truth of Memory Acts
      (pp. 145-166)
      Krisjon Rae Olson

      This chapter grows out of a need to make sense of truth and reconciliation in the aftermath of civil wars. These are armed struggles which make brother indistinguishable from stranger, family from a state of conflict. Such wars, marked by extermination and exodus which do not end with political treaties, both reveal and define the disquieting space in which we continue to live. I am particularly concerned with the ways in which acts of routine violence, practised on and by children between declared periods of war and peace, are treated within society. The following analysis examines the shifting narratives of...

    • 9 Beyond Struggle and Aid: Children’s Identities in a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Jordan
      (pp. 167-186)
      Jason Hart

      Conflict and displacement tend to encourage a discourse of monolithic and bounded identities. This may be especially true in the case of the young. As children’s lives and bodies become objects for both political debate and humanitarian intervention, so the most immediate, most apparently pertinent or most expedient characteristic is taken up and stressed as singularly important. Young Hutu refugees in Tanzania, Bhutanese children in Nepal and Palestinians in Jordan are rendered as little more than that.

      The rhetoric of political leaders and of international humanitarian agencies engaged with refugee children tends to give scant consideration to difference between individuals...

  10. Part V: Research Methodology and Methods
    • 10 Researching Young People’s Experiences of War: Participatory Methods and the Trauma Discourse in Angola
      (pp. 189-208)
      Carola Eyber and Alastair Ager

      Young people’s experiences of armed conflict and displacement have formed a focus of research within the discipline of psychology for many decades. Psychologists and psychiatrists have conventionally studied the effects that these experiences have on children’s emotional wellbeing, as well as the factors that mediate these effects: for example, the presence of a caregiver, or the age and personality of the child. A dominant trend in such research has been to take vulnerability rather than resilience as a starting point, based on assumptions about the difficulties which children and young people have in coping with the distressing experiences of armed...

    • 11 Fluid Research Fields: Studying Excombatant Youth in the Aftermath of the Liberian Civil War
      (pp. 209-236)
      Mats Utas

      Methodology is a rather neglected topic in studies of under-age combatants. Research in this field generally employs a quantitative approach and is based on short-term fieldwork in which encounters with respondents are often limited to one, or at most a few, and interviews are generally carried out with a tape recorder. Moreover, research is often done from within aid organisations. These approaches normally yield responses in victim modes and tend to conceal many important aspects of lived experience (see, for example, Brett and McCallin 1996; Fleischman and Whitman 1994; Goodwin-Gill and Cohn 1994). That is to say, respondents display what...

    • 12 Anthropology Under Fire: Ethics, Researchers and Children in War
      (pp. 237-258)
      Jo Boyden

      As one of the most horrifying and momentous experiences known to humankind, war is of major theoretical and empirical interest to many scholars in the social sciences. International relations, economics, sociology and political science have been at the forefront of research in this field. Anthropologists, however, have tended to neglect the topic of war. In so far as the normal condition of human society is taken to be one of order, stability and equilibrium, anthropology tends to regard armed conflict as an atypical and calamitous state that, as such, merits little theoretical or empirical scrutiny. This outlook can be attributed...

  11. Postscript
    • 13 ‘Where Wings Take Dream’: on Children in the Work of War and the War of Work
      (pp. 261-266)
      Pamela Reynolds

      Many shifts occur in the nature of war and the character of childhood. The patterns of change in both require vigilance and critical attention. With regard to war, forms that have been established to define and confine conflict easily fall away; thus the twentieth century witnessed a proliferation of ‘nontraditional’ wars. With regard to shifts in the conceptions of childhood, a similar level of vigilance is called for as fixed ideas of childhood can obscure children’s experiences. Such an idealised view was expressed by G. W. Bush, the forty-third president of the United States, when, talking about the importance of...

  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 267-270)
  13. Index
    (pp. 271-276)