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Fought after a decade of armed struggle against colonialism, the Mozambican civil war lasted from 1977 to 1992, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives while displacing millions more. As conflicts across the globe span decades and generations, Stephen C. Lubkemann suggests that we need a fresh perspective on war when it becomes the context for normal life rather than an exceptional event that disrupts it. “Culture in Chaos” calls for a new point of departure in the ethnography of war that investigates how the inhabitants of war zones live under trying new conditions and how culture and social relations are transformed as a result. Lubkemann focuses on how Ndau social networks were fragmented by wartime displacement and the profound effect this had on gender relations. Demonstrating how wartime migration and post-conflict return were shaped by social struggles and interests that had little to do with the larger political reasons for the war, Lubkemann contests the assumption that wartime migration is always involuntary.
His critical reexamination of displacement and his engagement with broader theories of agency and social change will be of interest to anthropologists, political scientists, historians, and demographers, and to anyone who works in a war zone or with refugees and migrants.