Mathilde Kaalund-Jørgensen defends her PhD thesis at the Department of Political Science

PHD defence


Sensing Violence, Doing War – In the Postcolonies. Organised armed violence in frontline Uganda and Sudan.

The thesis

The thesis can be loaned from the Royal Danish Library.

Time and venue

Wednesday 21 February 2024 from 14:00-17:00 at Centre for Health and Society, Øster Farimagsgade 5, DK-1353 Copenhagen K., room 2.0.63. Kindly note that the defence will start precisely at 14:00.

Assessment committee

  • Kristian Søby Kristensen (Chair), University of Copenhagen
  • Frank Emmanuel Muhereza, Makerere University
  • Marta Inïiguez de Heredia Sunye, University of Madrid


This dissertation challenges conventional understandings of war through showcasing concrete modes of warfare (war doings) outside of what is considered war in localities in Sudan, Uganda, and east-Africa. Further, the dissertation also challenges the modern understanding of armed violence beyond being just an instrument of war and a means of conflict management. The dissertation shows what organised armed violence does to institutions, societies, and people in postcolonial Africa: the new forms of rule created by the ordering capacity of armed violence; the creative capacity acting beyond human intentions; and the mobilisation of people in unexpected ways.

New armed orders were made possible in part by organised armed interventions that were not considered war such as disarmament in Karamoja, Uganda, peace interventions in Darfur, Sudan, peace enforcement missions in east-Africa, and conflict resolution through coup d’état in Sudan. These new armed orders could neither be ascribed to traditional rule, nor only to violent postcolonial structures, but rather followed their own militarist-capitalist logic, a third rule, based on accumulation, ordering, secrecy, distancing, and militarised conflict resolution to name a few. Through regional peace enforcement missions organised armed violence also ordered an east-African region around warfare. Regional interventions strengthened the political economies of interveners and constructed an epistemic hierarchy between peace enforcers such as Uganda’s army and theatres of war and lack such as Darfur.

Different ways of doing and governing arising from pastoralist communities, active students, and traditional authorities etc. nevertheless continuously challenged the dominant armed orders making seemingly stable armed orders insecure or fracturing completely. Fractures of the subtle stable armed orders revealed themselves as open warfare or a destabilisation of the violent rights underpinning seemingly legitimate interventions.

The generative capacity of armed violence materially, socially, and politically is inconclusive, why it cannot be simply a means. The inconclusive, open, and ambivalent outcome challenges the Western urge for closure, management, and resolution. Armed violence has the capacity to foster further militarism or the exact opposite, while the liberating effect by those taking up arms rarely comes to show.

Using multi-sited ethnography, the dissertation contributes to re-bridging the gap between Critical Security Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies by bringing war and armed violence back into the former from a sociological perspective and applying a critical postcolonial lens to the latter. The dissertation builds on 131 interviews, observations, and field studies in different localities, embassies, and training grounds in postcolonial Africa including Karamoja in Uganda, Darfur and Khartoum in Sudan, and Nairobi in Kenya.