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Palgrave Studies in Literary Anthropology

Secrecy and Responsibility in the Era of an Epidemic

Letters from Uganda

Authors: Mogensen, Hanne Overgaard

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  • A narrative ethnography combining fieldwork, letters of interlocutors, and auto-ethnography
  • Offers a fine-grained ethnography to explore how war, political turmoil, development aid, AIDS, and antiretroviral treatments have changed life in Uganda since the 1970s
  • Probes the ethical questions raised by ethnographic research and the potential violence of doing anthropology
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About this book

A narrative ethnography about a Ugandan woman and her relatives, this novelistic, fine-grained volume shows how global questions of responsibility and inequity travel in family networks and confront people with decisions about life and death. It is a story of existence under extremely challenging conditions, about belonging and marginalization, about the opacity and ambiguity of social relations, and about growing up in a country haunted by violence and civil war only to be later lifted by optimism and devastated anew by the AIDS epidemic. The story draws on long-term fieldwork and letters from the woman who takes centre stage in the story, while at once providing unique and privileged insight into the ethical challenges of a research method that demands personal involvement that is ultimately withdrawn for scholarly analysis. 

About the authors

Hanne Overgaard Mogensen is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen. She has published broadly on international health, poverty and access to health care in Africa, as well as on the moral world of anthropologists both inside and outside of academia.

Reviews

'This is a remarkable narrative ethnography of an anthropologist’s attempts to understand the complicated lives and deaths of people in Uganda that she has been close to for several generations now. Drawing from intensive fieldwork in East Africa since the 1990s, the author writes beautifully and incisively of the joys and sorrows of life, family, friendship, and existential hope and despair in situations of life-long poverty and precariousness. The story moves in compelling ways from biographical portraits, life histories, and letters  sent from afar to reflections on the damaging consequences of war and violence, and efforts to combat sickness and disease with medical treatments. Hanne Overgaard Mogensen writes in altogether honest ways of the ethical challenges of conducting ethnographic research with interlocutors in sustained and intimate ways, especially when the stakes are so high. For these reasons and more, the book marks a singular advance in the generative possibilities of narrative ethnography.' 

—Robert Desjarlais, Professor of Anthropology, Sarah Lawrence College, USA


‘This is a beautiful, sad, hopeful, thought-provoking book that reads like a novel and is one of the best texts I know on the intricacies of doing close-in ethnographic fieldwork. The elements of mystery, uncertainty and revelation woven into the author’s puzzlement and persistent attempts to understand give the story momentum. At the same time, the book provides rich empirical material about women’s livelihood strategies, partnership difficulties, childcare arrangements, hopes and disappointments within a carefully described setting of time and place. It is rare to find such rich ethnography together with such a superb account of how it was assembled. The book sensitively considers ethical dilemmas of doing fieldwork with people who are poor, sick and concerned to maintain control over knowledge about their lives. It will provide a superb basis for discussion of these issues.'
—Susan Reynolds Whyte, Professor of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Table of contents (14 chapters)

Table of contents (14 chapters)

Buy this book

eBook $69.99
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-3-030-47523-9
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $89.99
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-3-030-47522-2
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Immediate ebook access, if available*, with your print order
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.

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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Secrecy and Responsibility in the Era of an Epidemic
Book Subtitle
Letters from Uganda
Authors
Series Title
Palgrave Studies in Literary Anthropology
Copyright
2020
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG
eBook ISBN
978-3-030-47523-9
DOI
10.1007/978-3-030-47523-9
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-030-47522-2
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XXVIII, 246
Number of Illustrations
1 b/w illustrations, 1 illustrations in colour
Topics

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