Current Institutional Affiliation
Program Coordinator, Los Angeles Hospital Based Violence Intervention Consortium

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of California / Davis
Psycho-pharmaceuticals and Traditional Medicine in Acholiland: Emerging Forms of Therapeutic Citizenship In Postwar Northern Uganda

Today in the Acholi region of post-conflict northern Uganda, international peacebuilding initiatives intersect with national health reforms to make generic psychotropic drugs, like benzodiazepine—an anti-anxiety drug, an important part of the care that government hospitals and NGOs provide for one of the highest rates of “war-related” mental illness recorded in clinical history. The recent influx of psychotropic drugs raises questions about why and how these medicines are made available to affected Acholi as well as how different Acholi engage these biopsychiatric technologies as they grow to complement and compete with other popular forms of care. Underscoring the recent extension of these drugs within new trends of humanitarianism and understandings of citizenship, my project will examine contemporary encounters between Acholi and psychiatric medicines and how they unfold within larger assemblages of medical expertise, humanitarian aid, and traditional Acholi healing practices. Situated in Gulu district, the launch site of several major international mental health initiatives, I will investigate the social, political, and medical networks that constitute the region’s mental health care, focusing on how psychotropic drugs circulate through these networks, and how they shape the strategies by which different actors deal with the mental health crisis there. At stake is the question of the kind of person and community that is reconstituted through the heterogeneous practices and resources that an international concern for Acholi mental health assembles, and the relationship that is emerging between Acholi, the state, and NGO agencies, as psychotropic drugs come to mediate efforts to repair the social and psychic life of Acholi society.