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Out of War draws on the author’s three decades of ethnographic engagements to examine the after-effects of the harms of a civil war whose legacy is experienced in both physical and psychological ways. The author examines the relationship among violence, temporality, trauma, and forms of knowledge. She also puts an emphasis on “war times”—on the different qualities of temporality. Questions explored are the persistence of pre-colonial and colonial figures of sovereignty re-elaborated in the context of war, and the circulation of rumors and neologisms that freeze in time (or “chronotopes”) collective anxieties. Above and beyond the expected traumas of war, the author explores the breaks in the intergenerational transmission of techniques of farming and hunting knowledge, and the lethal effects of remembering experienced traumas, and of forgetting local knowledge. In the context of massive population displacements and humanitarian interventions, the ethnography traces strategies of survival and material dwelling, and the juridical creation of new figures of victimhood, where colonial and postcolonial legacies are reinscribed in neoliberal projects of decentralization and individuation.
Mariane C. Ferme is Professor of Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley and author of The Underneath of Things: Violence, History, and the Everyday in Sierra Leone.