Stories of ‘Born-Again’ Women in Uganda: Epistemic Violence, Visceral Faith, and Subversive Performances of Subjectivity
Between 1986 and 1991, missionaries “pioneered” the Hope Land base of the international missions organization: Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Situated just outside of Jinja, Uganda, the Hope Land base’s vision is “to be a training center, running schools accredited by YWAM’s University of the Nations,” and to be “committed to discipling men and women, while equipping them with the professional skills necessary to serve and reach the world for Christ”. Run by a small group of leaders, the British directors of the Hope Land base oversee a community of international and national students and staff, who live “To Know God and Make God Known”. Using data collected in qualitative interactive interviews with Ugandan women, I discuss the lives of a diverse group of ‘born-again’ Christian women whose lives have been influenced, in some way, by the work of YWAM in Uganda. Using a discussion of global coloniality, with particular attention given to the coloniality of power and the coloniality of knowledge, I consider the ways that hegemonic epistemic violence has worked to produce the ‘born-again’ conversion experiences among the women. Inspired by Mahmood (2005) use of Foucault’s Modes of Subjectivation and Techniques of the Self, I examine the ways that ‘born-again’ women continually work towards their own Christian discipleship, through actively transforming their own moral and ethical selves. Finally, using Bhaba’s concept of Colonial Mimicry (1994), I present evidence that argues that the YWAM missionaries use strategic ambivalence to perpetuate their work in Uganda. I argue Ugandan women resist the missionaries metonymizing gaze, and engage in subversive behaviors with these missionaries, as a means of perpetuating their access to the material benefits provided by YWAM. This project relies on women’s stories as articulations of unique knowledges. It acknowledges that in a neocolonized postcolonial world, asymmetries of power result in violent epistemic interventions that produce subjects and subjectivities marked by hegemonic ways of knowing. Despite this, this thesis finds that those subjectivities actively experience their own visceral responses to the Christian God, and as such, produce their own conceptions of God and their own ways of knowing about the world.