Author Archives: Mariane C. Ferme

About Mariane C. Ferme

Associate professor of anthropology at UC-Berkeley. She is the author of The Underneath of Things: Violence, History and the Everyday in Sierra Leone (California, 2001), a study of gender symbolism and secrecy in Mende everyday life in relation to a history of violence embedded in material culture, social relations, and strategies of political empowerment. She is working on a book on the ways in which the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone opened spaces for reimagining figures and sites of the political, and she is also the author of articles on political cultures, electoral politics, citizenship, and the state.

“Archetypes of Humanitarian Discourse”: Child Soldiers, Forced Marriage, and the Framing of Communities in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone

Transitional justice initiatives that sought to remedy the atrocities committed during the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone articulated particular notions of rights-bearing individuals and collectivities. This article critically examines assumptions about rural life and communities of belonging emerging from such initiatives and about the agency of women and children in particular. The signature indictments at the Special Court for Sierra Leone—for child soldier conscription and forced marriage—contributed to their establishment as archetypal figures in the discourse of humanitarian justice in ways that belied actual trial testimony. In particular, court arguments surrounding the forced marriage question highlighted the sometimes contradictory relationship between human rights and humanitarian law.