Alcohol as social glue: connecting and disrupting community level governance practices in western Uganda
Danse de Bondt (Tilburg University)
Paper short abstract:
Through ethnographic fieldwork in rural Kisoro, western Uganda, this paper lays bare the alcohol narratives and practices by which people understand, give meaning and discuss the governance of social, economic and political life in their community.
Paper long abstract:
Uganda is home to a variety of different ethnic groups, tribes and clan systems. British colonial heritage of a central state government system has severely disrupted these pre-colonial governance systems, resulting in a multitude of normative legal orders that co-exist, overlap and/or compete in governing social, economic and political relationships. In rural Kisoro, western Uganda, home brewing and sharing of beers is heavily embedded within local clan council systems. These practices are contrary to Ugandan state law, which distances governance policies from alcohol and sets strict rules on the production and circulation of alcohol. Nonetheless, in practice alcohol is routinely used by government officials as means of governing their locality and finding common ground with the people in the community. The drinks serve as a form of payment through which the exchange of services and goods are negotiated, they serve as fines when members of the community break rules and they serve as a form of arbitration, as through the sharing of alcohol quarrels are solved and relationships are (re)established. These practices raise questions on what role alcohol plays in connecting and disrupting community level governance practices in western Uganda. Based on nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in Kisoro district, this paper shows how people in their everyday life understand, give meaning to and act upon law and governance, and in doing so, re-establish social, economic and political relationships.