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Child Soldiers

Tragically, violence and armed conflict have become commonplace in the lives of many children around the world. Not only have millions of children been forced to witness war and its atrocities, but many are drawn into conflict as active participants. Nowhere has this been more evident than in Sierra Leone during its 11-year civil war. Drawing upon in-depth interviews and focus groups with former child soldiers of Sierra Leone's rebel Revolutionary United Front, Myriam Denov compassionately examines how child soldiers are initiated into the complex world of violence and armed conflict. She also explores the ways in which the children leave this world of violence and the challenges they face when trying to renegotiate their lives and self-concepts in the aftermath of war. The narratives of the Sierra Leonean youth demonstrate that their life histories defy the narrow and limiting portrayals presented by the media and popular discourse.
Product Details

Table of Contents

Introduction: child soldiers, iconography and the (il)logic of extremes; 1. Children's involvement in war: the quandary of structure and agency; 2. Recipe for rebellion: civil war in Sierra Leone; 3. Negotiating power: research on and by child soldiers; 4. 'Becoming RUF': the making of a child soldier; 5. 'Being RUF': victimization, participation and resistance; 6. 'Put dey gon don': the unmaking of a child soldier; 7. New battlefields.

About the Author

Myriam Denov is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at McGill University. She holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge where she was a Commonwealth Scholar. Her research and teaching interests lie in the area of children and youth at risk, with an emphasis on war-affected children and juvenile justice.


'A captivating description of the abhorrent use of children as weapons in adult wars ... Myriam Denov sheds light onto the daily challenges faced by children on the battlefield. She has captured the complexities of the child soldier issue through the unbelievable stories of Sierra Leonean youth. After reading this book you will realise that inaction is no longer an option, we must act now to eradicate the use of child soldiers in the world!' Romeo Dallaire, retired Lieutenant-General and Project Leader of The Child Soldiers Initiative 'Denov's work provides a shining example of too-seldom used participatory research methodology that actively involves those who are the focus of study - in this case, former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Her lucid and scholarly exploration of processes of militarization and demilitarization is destined to become a prominent work among academics and practitioners in the field of child protection.' Susan McKay, University of Wyoming 'When children speak and adults actually listen they make us think. No one who reads this remarkable book about the making and unmaking of child soldiers in Sierra Leone will remain unchanged. Taking children out of war is simple compared to the task of taking war out of children and, as this book brilliantly demonstrates, it is a task for which we are all responsible.' Hon. Landon Pearson OC, Carleton University, Canada 'Child Soldiers is a remarkable insight into the inner workings of armed groups in Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 war. It is analytically sophisticated and based on solid and innovative field research. Denov's work challenges conventional wisdom and will be an indispensable component in debates about children's roles in recent conflicts. This book should become required reading for those interested in the study of child soldiers in civil wars.' William Reno, Northwestern University '... Myriam Denov successfully delivers on her objective of giving voice to the (often) voiceless and thereby provides the reader with the multi-faceted and paradoxical realities of Sierra Leonean former child soldiers ... Child Soldiers is a detailed sourcebook for both scholars and practitioners who deal with violence, children, and civil war. The former will find an empirically rich contribution to an ongoing debate; the latter get further critical information regarding children's experiences with, and the gendered dimension of, demobilization programmes.' Michelle Engeler, African Affairs 'A major strength of this book is the degree to which the findings stress the limited agency of children, even under extreme circumstances over which they have no control. ... Anyone interested in a nuanced and non-dogmatic view of the situation of child soldiers would be wise to read [this] book.' Children & Society

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