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Update from Uganda

October 23, 2011
Makerere University

Makerere University Main Building

I have now been in Uganda about a month, working on my dissertation research.  It has been pretty productive– far more so than Turkey:  a combination of the language barrier in Turkey, the lack of a central Irish Pub where helpful academic and development workers congregate and share ideas and contacts, and the general eagerness of Ugandan bureaucrats to listen to my plea and help me if they can.  I located very useful reports and data sets from the development community, and acquired a bunch of local books (super cheap here– like $3 a book).  I’ve also joined MISR as an affiliate and the Makerere University Library.  Finally, I’ve applied for a Ugandan research permit, which has been approved by UNCST and is now with the Office of the Presidency awaiting their approval sometime in the next month.

I spent the first week or so at Backpackers, which is pretty far away from the center of town (40 min by boda boda, a motorcycle taxi in Uganda).  But I met some great people there, both Ugandan and Muzungu, and managed to find a more permanent place to live while in Kampala.  I’m living in Ntinda. I’ve also been catching up with friends.

With Nicole back in the States and me having been to Uganda last summer, I’ve pretty much been grinding out work.  Drafting interview questions, reading background material, locating reports in various libraries, selecting rural districts to visit and research, and making tentative contacts at Ministries while I wait for research approval.  I’ve been watching a lot of soccer in the afternoon and evenings.   And I joined Kabira Country Club (a necessity since my living arrangements are very Spartan, and because Nicole required that I get in shape in return for her approval to go to Uganda for another three months).

A big chunk of my time here is going to suck.  I am taking digital photographs of Ugandan newspaper articles from 1986 to 2000, filling a gap in the quantitative documentary record.  It should take me about 3 weeks to complete this effort, in a dark, dusty, barely-organized, mosquito-ridden Makerere University library basement.  Blah.

Once that is complete, contingent on approval from the Office of the Presidency, I will go ‘upcountry’ and interview local government stakeholders across Uganda.  They will hopefully be able to fill some gaps in the historical record on local governance and insurgency/counterinsurgency.  While these won’t be full ethnographies, I will be cross-checking problematic claims made in other primary and secondary sources.  I was originally going to do this by motorcycle, but Nicole and some friends talked me out of this adventure.  Boo.


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