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Epicenter research project

This project has been completed, and the website is therefore no longer being updated.

Trauma, Spirits and Contagion in Northern Uganda

Trauma, Spirits and Contagion in Northern Uganda

This pilot study explores the spread of mental trauma, conceptions of spirits (cen and Jouk) and contagion in Northern Uganda. After two decades of violent conflict including abductions, rape and ‘bad death’, the return to everyday life is challenged by problems. The violence and unburied corpses that characterized the conflict are experienced to cause spiritual contamination and call for cleansing rituals to avoid the effects and spread of evil spirits (cen). In bio-medical conceptions these disturbances are described as PTSD and are regarded as consequences of and spreading with war. The epidemic pattern appears to spread with knowledge and treatment options. Yet this study also seeks to explore how trauma is conceptualized in local language and understanding and how trauma is related to ideas about contagion, pollution, transmission, and inter-subjective connections. It explores the politics of PTSD diagnoses and treatment programs, and questions how we conceptualize modes of transmission when a disease appears with the ‘communication of a framing’. Fieldwork will be done in Northern Uganda (2013-14) as case studies of families and individuals experiencing PTSD, depression and cen. Visits to health centers, NGOs and local healers who diagnose and treat these problems.

Contact Researcher

Lotte Meinert



+45 8716 2171


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