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Childhood Deployed

Childhood Deployed: Remaking Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone

Susan Shepler
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Childhood Deployed
    Book Description:

    Childhood Deployedexamines the reintegration of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Based on eighteen months of participant-observer ethnographic fieldwork and ten years of follow-up research, the book argues that there is a fundamental disconnect between the Western idea of the child soldier and the individual lived experiences of the child soldiers of Sierra Leone. Susan Shepler contends that the reintegration of former child soldiers is apoliticalprocess having to do with changing notions of childhood as one of the central structures of society.For most Westerners the tragedy of the idea of child soldier centers around perceptions of lost and violated innocence. In contrast, Shepler finds that for most Sierra Leoneans, the problem is not lost innocence but the horror of being separated from ones family and the resulting generational break in youth education. Further, Shepler argues that Sierra Leonean former child soldiers find themselves forced to strategically perform (or refuse to perform) as thechild soldier Western human rights initiatives expect in order to most effectively gain access to the resources available for their social reintegration. The strategies dont always workin some cases, Shepler finds, Western human rights initiatives do more harm than good.While this volume focuses on the well-known case of child soldiers in Sierra Leone, it speaks to the larger concerns of childhood studies with a detailed ethnography of people struggling over the situated meaning of the categories of childhood.It offers an example of the cultural politics of childhood in action, in which the very definition of childhood is at stake and an important site of political contestation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6019-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Acronyms
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Jerihun was the site of an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp between Bo and Kenema in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. When I arrived there in 2001, the camp was fairly new, having only been in operation for about six months. It was designed as a transit camp for Sierra Leoneans returning from refugee camps in Guinea, mainly Kono people who had been away from their villages for ten years. The camp housed several thousand IDPs in small stick and mud huts built by the occupants themselves. They were completely supported by international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). All of their...

  8. 1 Youth in Sierra Leone
    (pp. 21-54)

    When we in the West think about child soldiers, we tend to do so with our Western notions of what childhood is and should be.¹ We think we know what “child” means (under eighteen years of age, innocent, moving through developmental stages, at school, and not at work) and we think we know what “soldier” means (an adult, well trained and disciplined, fighting for a cause or a state), but these words mean something different from our expectations in the context of the civil war in Sierra Leone. For a number of reasons, Sierra Leoneans understand child soldiering quite differently...

  9. 2 Child Protection Deployed
    (pp. 55-80)

    One Sunday morning in late March 2000, I took the government bus to Bo, the capital of Sierra Leone’s Southern Province, and found someone to give me directions to the interim care center (ICC) for former child soldiers. I knew the center was cosponsored by Christian Brothers (a local NGO) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC, an international NGO) and that it was located on the eastern edge of town. Late March is the very beginning of the rainy season, and big black clouds were threatening. The breeze was a welcome change from the heat of the previous months. When...

  10. 3 Learning “Child Soldier” across Contexts
    (pp. 81-100)

    The “Auto Biography” below was given to me by a worker at Children Associated with War (CAW), a Sierra Leonean child protection NGO based in Freetown and active in, among other places, my field site Pujehun. He wanted to show me some of the good work his NGO was doing with ex-combatants.

    My name is Aiah Kungbana. I was born on the 20th May 1977, in Koidu Town, Kono District in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. I come from a family of six with three brothers. My father Sahr Kungbana was both a farmer and a miner and my...

  11. 4 Informal Reintegrators, Communities, and NGOs
    (pp. 101-130)

    Rogbom is a small Temne village on the road to Freetown in Koya chiefdom. Anyone entering or leaving Freetown must travel along the main highway near Rogbom. Freetown was strongly defended by the army and by international forces. Therefore, the people of Rogbom were kept out of the war except during times when Freetown was attacked. They emerged relatively unscathed from the junta and the intervention in 1997. The war really affected them in 1998 and 1999 in the buildup and the aftermath of the January 6, 1999, invasion of Freetown. In the last months of 1998, the RUF was...

  12. 5 Distinctions in the Population of “Child Soldiers”: RUF and CDF, Boys and Girls
    (pp. 131-156)

    According to the Western definition, RUF and CDF children, boys and girls, were all child soldiers: they were all exposed to the trauma of war. Yet in postwar practice they are positioned and treated quite differently by their communities and by NGOs. Westerners have sought to include all “war-affected” youth under the protective umbrella of their interventions, but some distinctions resist that inclusion. In this chapter I show that RUF and CDF children have vastly different access to the child soldier identity, and that boys and girls have vastly different access to the child soldier identity. This state of affairs...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 157-166)

    This book has been about children deployed in battle, but more centrally it has been about the deployment of the global ideals and modern techniques of childhood. Throughout, I have focused on differentiation in the population of child soldiers in Sierra Leone. One reason for this was simply to describe the complexity in a field where the conventional wisdom frequently universalizes the experiences of all child soldiers. But a more important reason was to begin to demonstrate some of the political effects of those differentiations and make clear that the techniques behind the creation of “child soldier” as a postwar...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 167-184)
    (pp. 185-202)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 203-208)
    (pp. 209-209)