Life Goes On: Psychosocial Suffering from war and healing pathways in northern Rwanda.


Otake, Y; (2017) Life Goes On: Psychosocial Suffering from war and healing pathways in northern Rwanda. PhD thesis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17037/PUBS.04645469

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Abstract

This thesis explores the ways in which local communities in Musanze, northern Rwanda, heal psychosocial suffering from the war period between 1990 and 2000 in the context of limited humanitarian aid. Employing a narrative approach, it unpacks experience of psychosocial suffering, elaborates the ways in which communities heal themselves, and describes the meaning of ‘healing’ in the light of local views of morality, life and death. Qualitative analysis drew on participant observation, in-depth interviews, and focus-group discussions based on ten months of ethnographic fieldwork, which built on prior life and work experience in the field over two years. Findings first describe local conceptualizations of psychosocial sufferings. These fell on a spectrum constructed by the degree of social disconnection reported by participants and how far their thoughts and memories were oriented towards a wounded past. A key element of suffering was the literal ‘unspeakability’ of many wounds due to politically-sensitive circumstances. This related to difficulties in making sense of what they have experienced. Narratives of healing pathways described a common theme of leaving the past behind and going forward to the future through participation in different communities, including church-based groups, traditional mutual-saving groups, and neighbourhood relationships. In the context of the unspeakability of many wounds, communities provided alternative ways of healing from ‘speaking’ of wounds directly. These include: allowing members to make sense of their sufferings through religious and traditional activities, everyday-life practices, and life-event ceremonies. The thesis highlights that, in this setting, healing is not conceptualized as ‘recovery’ as assumed by Western theories, but rather, as a trajectory of ‘life goes on’: that is, that time continues into the future. In this emic experience of healing, the focus is not on traumatic time but on time ‘being lived’ as part of life, and a series of lives handed over from generation to generation, through sharing everyday life and significant life events. In other words, healing can take place through social connection in a wider time-scale than trauma.

Item Type: Thesis
Thesis Type: Doctoral
Thesis Name: PhD
Contributors: Green, J (Thesis advisor); Cairns, J (Thesis advisor);
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Health Services Research and Policy
Funders: Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Programme, British Council Japan Association,, Japan Student Services Organization, Japanese Association of Qualitative Psychology (Award for an emerging scholar)
Copyright Holders: Yuko Otake
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/4645469

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