Children and Youth on the Front Line: Ethnography, Armed Conflict, and Displacement

Children and Youth on the Front Line: Ethnography, Armed Conflict, and Displacement

Children and Youth on the Front Line: Ethnography, Armed Conflict, and Displacement

Children and Youth on the Front Line: Ethnography, Armed Conflict, and Displacement

Synopsis

War leads not just to widespread death but also to extensive displacement, overwhelming fear, and economic devastation. It weakens social ties, threatens household survival and undermines the family's capacity to care for its most vulnerable members. Every year it kills and maims countless numbers of young people, undermines thousands of others psychologically and deprives many of the economic, educational, health and social opportunities which most of us consider essential for children's effective growth and well being.

Based on detailed ethnographic description and on young people's own accounts, this volume provides insights into children's experiences as both survivors and perpetrators of violence. It focuses on girls who have been exposed to sexual exploitation and abuse, children who head households or are separated from their families, displaced children and young former combatants who are attempting to adjust to their changed circumstances following the cessation of conflict. In this sense, the volume bears witness to the grim effects of warfare and displacement on the young.

Nevertheless, despite the abundant evidence of suffering, it maintains that children are not the passive victims of conflict but engage actively with the conditions of war, an outlook that challenges orthodox research perspectives that rely heavily on medicalized notions of 'victim' and 'trauma.'

Excerpt

This book is about young people – children and adolescents – who have grown up with armed conflict, social upheaval and massive loss. As such, it bears testimony to the grim effects of warfare on the young. War leads not just to widespread death, but also to extensive displacement, overwhelming fear and economic devastation. It divides communities, destroys trust, weakens social ties, threatens household survival and undermines the family's capacity to care for its most vulnerable members. Every year it kills and maims countless numbers of young people, undermines thousands of others psychologically and deprives many of the economic, educational, health and social opportunities which most of us consider essential for children's effective growth and wellbeing.

During the course of the twentieth century there was a significant growth in the frequency of armed conflicts internationally. This has left a terrible legacy at the dawn of the twenty-first century, in which political hostilities have become firmly entrenched in many parts of the world. Most modern conflicts occur within states and are associated with extreme inequity in the distribution of resources; repressive and unjust governance; failed development; burgeoning black economies fuelled by the trade in arms and drugs; sectarian strife and other massively destabilising forces. One of the chief characteristics of this kind of warfare is that the elimination of civilians is the prime military objective, with civilian casualties rising sharply in recent conflicts as a proportion of the total (Machel 2000).

The fact that most modern hostilities are internal presents a special risk to young people. Fighting takes place in homes, fields and streets, and . . .

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