Accepted paper:

"Life is better here now": gendered wellbeing after war and economic decline in eastern Uganda


Liz Ravalde (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines gender differences in conceptualisations of well-being among Kumam people in eastern Uganda, arguing that women while cattle wealth is often central to male notions of well-being, for women well-being centres much more on the moral, spiritual and domestic spheres.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among Kumam people in Kaberamaido District, Uganda, this paper questions the notion that economic decline is necessarily a central feature in people's conceptions of their own well-being. Following sustained cattle raiding from neighbouring peoples, the five year-long Teso Insurgency, and the collapse of the local cotton industry, since the 1980s the Teso region of eastern Uganda has seen a severe decline in economic fortunes. However, I argue that while for Kumam men notions of well-being are often tied to cattle wealth and the social status that comes with this, for many Kumam women economic decline has had little impact on their ability to pursue and achieve a notion of well-being which, firmly embedded in local cosmology and cultural practices, is much more focused on the domestic, spiritual and moral spheres, areas which have been little affected by eastern Uganda's recent economic decline. I thus suggest that as the social and cultural dimensions of well-being come under increasing scrutiny in social anthropology, there is a need not only to focus on alternatives to economic wealth, but, in doing so, we must take into account the gendered differences in the ways in which people seek to pursue and achieve a sense of well-being.

panel P21
Invisible hands: alternate modes of prosperity, wealth and well-being