Being normal: Stigmatization of Lord's Resistance Army returnees as 'moral experience' in post-war northern Uganda

Anna Macdonald, Raphael Kerali

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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The literature on Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) returnees in Acholiland, northern Uganda tells us that those who returned from the rebel group are likely to experience stigma and social exclusion. While the term is deployed frequently, ‘stigma’ is not a well-developed concept and most of the evidence we have comes from accounts of returnees themselves. Focusing instead on the ‘stigmatizers,’ this article theorises stigmatisation as part of the ‘moral experience’ of regulating post-war social repair. Through interview-based and ethnographic methods, it finds that stigmatisation of LRA returnees takes many forms and serves multiple functions, calling into question whether this catch-all term actually obscures more than it illuminates. While stigmatisation is usually practised as a form of ‘social control’, its function can be ‘re-integrative’ rather than purely exclusionary. Through the northern Ugandan case study, this article seeks to advance conceptual and empirical understanding of the manifestations and functions of stigmatisation in spaces of return, challenging the logic underpinning those interventions which seek to reduce it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766–790
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Issue number4
Early online date4 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Displacement
  • Uganda
  • reintegration
  • return
  • social repair

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