Accepted paper:

Teachers as kin? State formation, kinship ties and the role of deception in Uganda


Claire Elisabeth Dungey (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is concerned with the relationship between kinship and state formation in Uganda. I focus on how children are taken away from their parents to go to school and the role of secrecy and deception. In particular, the paper analyses the transformation of kin-relations in relation to this.

Paper long abstract:

In Uganda relations are historically linked with ethnicity and clan membership. These relations are deeply embedded in hierarchical understanding of 'purity' and 'impurity'. In schools, often sponsored by the state, these relations are attempted 'cancelled' where children are discouraged from speaking about ethnicity and discriminating against so-called 'inferiors'. Teachers aim to transform students into citizens of the state who should love their country and civilize their own parents. In Kisoro, teachers speak about themselves as 'parents'. Moreover, they claim to possess 'better morals' than some homes and encourage some of the children to break with their kinship ties. Further, non-governmental organisations sponsor some of the children and also take on the role of 'parents'. They pay children pocket money, bring them to the hospital, organize transport and pay the 'real parents' money in compensation for taking the children away. I demonstrate how one can view this as an intersection between kinship and state but not as distinct opposed realms, as the 'real' parents often want their children in school and claim their benefits from schools and organisations. Some of them deceive the NGOs into believing that they like the idea of schooling in order to claim benefits. Relations are often characterized by the intimate sphere of secrecy and deception. By deceiving about behaviors that are perceived to be improper by some, school children appropriate the values taught by state-like institutions as well as homes. Relations are hence kin-like and non-kin like according to the circumstances.

panel P054
Kinning the state - state kinning: reconnecting the anthropology of kinship and political anthropology