Ugandan Youth and Creative Writing: New Perspectives on Conflict and Development

Principal Investigator

Dr Madhu Krishnan

Research Institution

University of Bristol

Project Summary

Since its independence in 1962, Uganda has been beset with a series of conflicts. Ranging from cross-border ‘spillover’ conflict from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the high-profile North/South conflict led by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, these incidents of violence and terror have characterised Uganda’s post-colonial history. Extant development studies suggest a link between deep-seated ethnic rivalries forged during the colonial era, uneven economic development, corruption in governance and the asymmetrical distribution of resources as key drivers of conflict in the country. While the main brunt of conflict has been carried by the north, Uganda as a whole has been beset by its effects. Young people have been made particularly vulnerable, both in the high-profile cases of child recruitment in conflict, including the sexual trafficking of young women and girls, and in the overall effects of unemployment, instability and political conflict across the nation as a whole.

While a number of high-level studies, development analyses and policy recommendations exist in the Ugandan context, these by and large fail to escape the pitfalls associated with development discourse, particularly as it pertains to the African continent, with the result of disempowering local populations and de-centring the everyday experience of conflict and its afterlives. The proposed research is a pilot study which seeks to redress these pitfalls by developing interdisciplinary methods to enable new understandings of conflict, its legacies and its impact among youth populations, using creative writing as a tool for self-expression and empowerment. The proposed research seeks to enable the agency of Ugandan youth, whilst minimising the risks of trauma associated with testimonial narrative through the leveraging of imaginative forms. At the same time, creative fiction offers the possibility for imagining other lives and other minds, and thereby presents the best potential for the development of empathetic identification across communal. This research exploits these characteristics, using youth-produced short fiction as the basis for teaching materials aimed at secondary-schools in Uganda which will use the empathetic potential of literary writing to develop cross-ethnic forms of solidarity and enable larger-scale dialogue around youth needs post-conflict. The research will use these writings as critical discursive material which will enable a re-consideration of development needs in Uganda, uncovering the submerged narratives and impacts of conflict’s legacy through the medium of expressive fiction. By re-centring young Ugandans as agents of knowledge this project foregrounds heretofore unheard voices and unseen development needs.


Throughout its lifecycle, this project will engage with a wide range of audiences, not the least of whom are the young people who will participate in the creative writing workshops. In addition to these young people, the project will engage widely with secondary school educators and officials to distribute the teaching materials which result. These will be trialled during a week of schools visits in Kampala near the end of the project, and stand to benefit a large body of young people in education. The project will also engage with policy makers and cultural NGOs by distributing a brief policy document which outlines the key insights garnered from close readings and analysis of the creative writing produced by the young workshop participants. Beyond this, the project will engage with broader publics through the creation and distribution of a literary anthology, web resource and a public launch event to be led in Kampala. Throughout the project, partners at the Centre for African Cultural Excellence and Centre for African Studies at Uganda Martyrs University will play key roles as collaborators, co-producers and mediators.

Contact Information

For further information, please email Madhu at