Title: Migration and the Local Structuring of National Means of Violence and Displacement in Post-Colonial Mozambique's Civil War
Name: Stephen C. Lubkemann
George Washington University; and
Watson Institute for International Studies
Brown University
2110 G Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20052
Year: 1998
Type: Dissertation Fellowship

I conducted a study of the ways in which wartime violence and displacement in the Mozambican civil war (1977-1992) was shaped by gendered and other forms of local level social struggle rather than merely by the agendas and actions of national parties to the conflict. This study was based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork and ethno-surveys conducted with three groups of displaced Mozambicans: those who remained within the district of Machaze, others from the same district who fled to the provincial capital of Chimoio, and yet a third group from this area that sought refuge across international borders as illegal aliens in the peri-urban townships in South Africa.

This study specifically challenges predominant conceptualizations and definitions of displacement that tend to reserve the term to refer to forced migrants. The study demonstrates how those who never moved at all suffered greater rupture in their social networks and life-strategies than those who were able to migrate out of the district. By introducing the concept of "displacement in place" this work attempts to re-theorize the notion of displacement as a condition related to the experience of structural violence rather than to movement per se. This approach suggests that humanitarian actors need to rethink how they determine and distribute need in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

This study also shows how gendered patterns of wartime demographic distribution cannot be explained solely through reference to the macro-political dynamics of the country's fifteen year civil war. Rather, wartime and post-conflict migration patterns were highly responsive to culturally specific and historically rooted processes of social struggle within households, extended families, and local communities. In particular, gendered divisions of labor and culturally-specific forms of inter and intra-household conflict played an important role in determining why different individuals fled while others stayed behind, who else fled with whom, when they left, and where the went during the war.

Moreover, this study examines how such local and culturally defined conflicts played a crucial role in directing and shaping military violence during the conflict. It explains how local actors successfully appropriated the means of violence of military factions in order to serve ends that were unrelated to the political or strategic agendas of national parties to the conflict. This study introduces the concept of "fragmented wars" to describe the variation in the meanings and dynamics of violence that result from high levels of local influence in shaping wartime violence. It explores how such social fragmentation of violence produced different patterns of wartime displacement in different areas of Mozambique.

Finally, this study shows that the ongoing conduct of such "micro-political" struggles in a wartime environment can fundamentally alter the balance of power and thus the rights and roles that define key social relations. In turn these changes can lead to social differentiation in displacement experiences. It specifically highlights the changes that occurred in gender relations within marriage as a result of the transnationalization of polygyny. It demonstrates how initial gendered patterns of wartime migration allowed Mozambican men to diversify the risks to their own life strategies by taking multiple wives in multiple locations. Meanwhile this change disempowered Mozambican women who lost important labor benefits, social leverage, and authority because they lost access to co-wives and leverage over husbands. The dissertation based on this work was completed in 2000. Several pieces have been published as a result of this work including articles in the Journal of Refugee Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, Selected Papers on Refugees and Immigrants, and, Afriche e Oriente; along with book chapters in several volumes including Patronage and Partnership (Kumarian Press, 2001); Humanitarian Action: Social Science Connections (Watson Institute, 2000); and Categories and Contexts (Oxford, forthcoming in 2004). The author is currently working on several other articles as well as a full length monograph based on this study.