In Idi Amin’s Shadow
Women, Gender, and Militarism in Uganda

By Alicia C. Decker

Finalist for the 2015 Aidoo-Snyder Prize

“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

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.

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.

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In Series

New African Histories

Related Subjects

African History · Gender Studies · Colonialism and Decolonization · Uganda · African Studies



Retail price: $32.95, S.
Release date: Sep. 2014
256 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights: World


Retail price: $80.00, S.
Release date: Sep. 2014
256 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights: World


Release date: Nov. 2014
≅ 256 pages
Rights: World

Additional Praise for In Idi Amin’s Shadow

“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

“[In Idi Amin's Shadow] should appeal to historians of postcolonial Africa as well as those who study military dictatorships and those interested in gender studies. It is clearly written and although Decker does not shy away from describing the violence inflicted on Ugandans and others, she does not either indulge in gratuitous detail. The combination of a narrative history of Amin’s regime alongside the focus on gender and violence and the many illustrations should make it useful for undergraduate teaching.”

Journal of African Military History

“A subtle, important, theoretically innovative, and elegantly written study that centralizes feminist thinking and shows why it matters.”

Feminist Africa

In Idi Amin’s Shadow is the first book to extensively explore women’s lives in the ‘shadows’ of military rule in 1970s Uganda. Decker’s book presents an engaging, accessible and welcome examination of women’s ‘complex and sometimes paradoxical relationship to Amin’s military state,’ showing how the state’s use of violence offered opportunities as well as threats for women.”

Africa at LSE