Higher Powers draws on four years of collaborative fieldwork carried out with Ugandans working to reconstruct their lives after attempting to leave behind problematic alcohol use. Given the relatively recent introduction of biomedical ideas of alcoholism and addiction in Uganda, most of these people have used other therapeutic resources, including herbal aversion therapies, engagements with balubaale spirits, and forms of deliverance and spiritual warfare practiced in Pentecostal churches. While these methods are at times severe, they contain within them understandings of the self and practices of sociality that point away from models of addiction as a chronic relapsing brain disease and towards the possibility of release. Higher Powers offers a reconceptualization of addiction and recovery that may prove relevant well beyond Uganda.
“Higher Powers brings into view novel social technologies to treat addiction. China Scherz, George Mpanga, and Sarah Namirembe’s captivating narrative offers insights that translate well beyond Uganda, as overdoses and toxic drug markets ravage disrupted communities across the globe.” — Helena Hansen, author of Addicted to Christ: Remaking Men in Puerto Rican Pentecostal Drug Ministries
“A brilliant, innovative, and significant contribution. Through evocative ethnographic writing and profound theorizing, the authors illuminate a rich and nuanced assemblage of overlapping worlds that come to life on the pages as one reads. This unique and compelling work will deeply resonate within anthropology and far beyond.” — Lauren Coyle Rosen, author of Fires of Gold: Law, Spirit, and Sacrificial Labor in Ghana
“Carefully observed and lucidly theorized, Higher Powers is an engaging ethnography of alcohol, alcoholism, and recovery in Uganda that offers a detailed portrayal of distinctive ways of thinking about and acting on addiction.” — Jacob Doherty, author of Waste Worlds: Inhabiting Kampala’s Infrastructures of Disposability
China Scherz is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia and author of Having People, Having Heart. George Mpanga and Sarah Namirembe are independent researchers living in Kampala, Uganda.
Scherz, C et al. 2024. Higher Powers: Alcohol and After in Uganda’s Capital City. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.176
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