27 August 2020

New book release: Letters from Uganda

Literary anthropology is gaining ground in these years. The latest example is a new book in Palgrave Macmillan's anthropological book series dedicated to experimental forms of writing: ‘Secrecy and Responsibility in the Era of an Epidemic: Letters from Uganda’, written by Hanne Overgaard Mogensen, associate professor at the Department of Anthropology.

Since the mid-1990s, Mogensen has carried out a number of field works in eastern Uganda, where she developed close relationships with the family she lived with during the initial one-year long fieldwork.
The book focuses on the life of one woman in particular, Kate Abbo. Thanks to the long-standing relationship, Mogensen has had a privileged insight into the lives of Abbo and her sisters at a time when Uganda was trying to put civil war and social unrest behind it, but also became the epicenter of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Based on interviews and correspondence over twenty years, Mogensen tells a story of existence under extremely challenging conditions that places itself somewhere between creative non-fiction and autoethnography. Mogensen calls this narrative ethnography because she maintains her own position as a narrator, even though she makes room for Kate Abbos' own narratives to appear. The form provides space to report on how insights have arisen over time and what human relations they depend on.

Read more about the book on the homepage of the publisher: Secrecy and Responsibility in the Era of an Epidemic: Letters from Uganda


This remarkable narrative ethnography attempts to understand lives and deaths of people in Uganda. The author writes beautifully and incisively of joys and sorrows, family, friendship, and existential hope and despair. The story moves in compelling ways from biographical portraits and letters to reflections on the consequences of war, violence, and sickness. It marks a singular advance in the generative possibilities of narrative ethnography.

Robert Desjarlais, Professor of Anthropology, Sarah Lawrence College, USA