In Idi Amin’s Shadow (Paperback)

Women, Gender, and Militarism in Uganda (New African Histories)

By Alicia C. Decker

Ohio University Press, 9780821421185, 256pp.

Publication Date: September 2, 2014

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (9/2/2014)

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Finalist for the 2015 Aidoo-Snyder Prize

In Idi Amin’s Shadow is a rich social history examining Ugandan women’s complex and sometimes paradoxical relationship to Amin’s military state. Based on more than one hundred interviews with women who survived the regime, as well as a wide range of primary sources, this book reveals how the violence of Amin’s militarism resulted in both opportunities and challenges for women. Some assumed positions of political power or became successful entrepreneurs, while others endured sexual assault or experienced the trauma of watching their brothers, husbands, or sons “disappeared” by the state’s security forces. In Idi Amin’s Shadow considers the crucial ways that gender informed and was informed by the ideology and practice of militarism in this period. By exploring this relationship, Alicia C. Decker offers a nuanced interpretation of Amin’s Uganda and the lives of the women who experienced and survived its violence.

Each chapter begins with the story of one woman whose experience illuminates some larger theme of the book. In this way, it becomes clear that the politics of military rule were highly relevant to women and gender relations, just as the politics of gender were central to militarism. By drawing upon critical security studies, feminist studies, and violence studies, Decker demonstrates that Amin’s dictatorship was far more complex and his rule much more strategic than most observers have ever imagined.

About the Author

Alicia C. Decker is an associate professor of women's studies and African studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is the coauthor, with Andrea Arrington, of Africanizing Democracies: 1980 to the Present. Her scholarly articles have appeared in the International Journal of African Historical Studies, Women's History Review, and the Journal of Eastern African Studies, among others.

Praise For In Idi Amin’s Shadow: Women, Gender, and Militarism in Uganda (New African Histories)

“In eight engaging chapters … Alicia Decker traces the complex relationship between Amin’s regime and Uganda’s women, from the early years when women hailed Amin as a liberator to the darkest period when they hoped and prayed for a Tanzanian army invasion. … The question of how Idi Amin’s regime reorganized gender norms is a crucial one for the book. Decker explores the innovations in gender performance that followed Idi Amin’s rise to power. …This is of course just one of the many rich discussion points that the book gifts the reader with. The book makes a substantial addition to the field of African History. It would work well for courses or discussions on military history, military rule in Africa, women and gender courses, feminist history, postcolonial studies, and Cold War studies.”—Canadian Journal of History

“Alicia Decker uses an array of evidence from oral, visual, and written sources. The result is an impressive compilation of case studies that illustrate the different aspects of women’s experiences and the intricate world they navigated.”—Nakanyike Musisi, coauthor of Decentralisation and Transformation of Governance in Uganda and coeditor of Women in African Colonial Histories

“Focusing on the lives of women who survived his rule, Alicia Decker's meticulously researched and crisply written study explains not only why but how Amin’s brutality reached the level it did. This is a particularly important contribution, because Ugandan women have been considered marginal to this sociopolitical history. … Throughout the book she demonstrates the methodological and ethical challenges of conducting historical research on a period that still engenders fearful memories, and the book’s appendix and the section titled ‘Methods and Sources’ provide valuable guidelines for future research.”—African Studies Review

“Decker’s study is a fine contribution to histories of militarism in Africa, African gender studies, the study of the state in Africa, and scholarship on Uganda in the 1970s in particular. …[she] provides an excellent example of the possibilities of feminist history writing by placing gender and militarism side-by-side in her study; she also offers a lucid and highly sought-after account of everyday lived experience during an era that continues to be characterized by an architecture of silence in Uganda today.”—Journal of African History

“Unlike most previous publications on Amin that mainly focus on political aspects, this work is a sociopolitical history highlighting the experiences of ordinary Ugandans in general and women in particular. … [It] is an excellent, pioneering masterpiece and Decker [should be] commended for producing such an insightful, readable book.” —International Journal of African Historical Studies

“Allen supports his provocative thesis—that the Indian Ocean has not been accorded a proper place in slave studies—with an eloquent and masterful command of both secondary and primary source material. …Allen’s research is an important contribution to the Indian Ocean region…The significance of this book is signaled by its being the first in a series of publications on Indian Ocean history by Ohio University Press.” —Slavery & Abolition