Development discourse and the Batwa of South West Uganda: representing the 'other' : presenting the 'self'.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis focuses on a group of former forest based hunter-gatherers, the Batwa of South West Uganda, whose livelihoods and situations have been dramatically affected through their recent interactions with non-Batwa peoples. Once inhabitants of the rainforests of South West Uganda, the Batwa today live in bonded labour arrangements with their local neighbours and exist as a despised and marginalised group, positioned on the margins of Ugandan society.
In the first part of this thesis, Global Powers, I seek to lay out the theoretical foundations for the marginalisation of the Batwa by discussing the more general marginalisation and representation of Indigenous Peoples. In the rest of the thesis, I move on to discuss two specific questions. In the second section, Local Realities, I ask why the Batwa have ended up in their current situation and I investigate the historical and social contexts of the south west of Uganda that have shaped their present predicament. In the third section, Current Interface, I ask why national and international interventions, aimed at helping the Batwa, have failed to achieve their stated aims, and in some circumstances deepened their present marginalisation?
The thesis argues that representations of, and knowledge about the Batwa are constructed from an epistemology that seeks to create a subordinate ‘Other’ in order to assert a dominant ‘Self’. As such, their marginalised position replicates the situation of similar ‘Exotic Others’ found throughout the world. Importantly this construction plays a crucial role in the progression and validation of distinct social ontologies that the dominant ‘Modern World’ holds as self evident and true to its own social reality.
As a result, the Batwa have only two futures which are presented to them by the dominant forces that regulate their situation. On the one hand, they are coerced to assimilate towards the identity of the dominant ‘Self’ and in doing so cast off the identity which the dominant ‘Self’ has deemed to account for their ‘Otherness’. Or on the other hand, if they choose to maintain those aspects of their identity which identifies them as the ‘Other’, they are ostracised and depicted as unfit for the ‘Modern World’.
I conclude this thesis by suggesting that the current predicament of the Batwa has been constructed by external forces and that Development discourse continues to construct this marginalised position. I also conclude that in positioning the Batwa as the ‘Other’, what is being asserted is the identity of a dominant ‘Self’. This relationship between the dominant ‘Self’ and the marginalised ‘Other’, whilst being declared as a distinct and exclusionary relationship, is in fact an intertwined and entangled relationship. Finally, I argue that a fundamental shift in the paradigm of the ‘Modern World’ is needed in order to allow the Batwa, and other Indigenous Peoples, to be seen not as ‘Exotic Others’ but as equal participants in an interconnected world where multiple ways of knowing and being are mutually supported and validated.
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