Uganda: a Communocratic Society

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Uganda: A Communocratic Society
Brianna L. Brown
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
30 April 2012

"Africa is fundamentally communocratic. The collective life and social solidarity give it a basis of humanism, which many peoples will envy. These human qualities also mean that an individual cannot imagine organizing his life outside that of his family, village or clan. The ability of intellectuals or artists, thinkers or researchers, is only valid if it coincides with the life of the people." ~Ali Mazrui

A group of fourteen recent college graduates are preparing to spend one year in Jinja, Uganda building and establishing two orphan and widow homes as missionaries, through a Christian non-profit organization. Their hope is to spend one month in construction, employing locals to build. The next eleven months will be spent in two teams, seven in each home. Each team will train four widows in the basics of running a household, educate them in basic math and reading, and connect them with a Church community. They will also place twenty orphans in each home and set each child up with a sponsor who will provide meals and schooling. This group highly values acculturating themselves to the Ugandan culture. Their goal is to provide a better life to forty-eight Ugandan women and children, not to Americanize them. This research is a compilation of the essentials to awareness and cultural competence for a group planning to live in Uganda. This group should be aware of the force of interpersonal communication patterns as it primarily informs the crucial elements of cultural difference that will affect them while in Uganda. According to the Lustig, “The face-to-face verbal and nonverbal coding systems that cultures develop to convey meanings and intentions are called interpersonal communication patterns” (42). These patterns will be the primary lens through which this research is presented.

Interpersonal Communication patterns primarily presents itself through the collectivistic norms of the culture. On speaking about Africa, a leader in political independence wrote:
Africa is fundamentally communocratic. The collective life and social solidarity give it a basis of humanism, which many peoples will envy. These human qualities also mean that an individual cannot imagine organizing his life outside that of his family, village or clan. The ability of intellectuals or artists, thinkers or researchers, is only valid if it coincides with the life of the people. (Mazrui)

If a decision benefits the group while presenting disadvantage to the individual, what is best for the group always prevails. However, the individual is taken care of by the group, which fosters compliance. Individuals are obliged to and dependent on the group as they find belonging within it (Lustig).

Ugandans share the belief that man should participate in the group. This belief then shapes their value of saving face (which I will further explain later on) in order that the group be seen as “good” (regarded as peaceful, modest, and graceful). Their value of good shapes their expectations about how one should dress, prepare for and participate in meals, and handle conflict. In turn, these expectations are fulfilled in their physical practices, both verbally and nonverbally. This team of missionaries’ primary concern in going to Uganda has less to do with their actual project and more to do with how to begin and maintain relationships with the people in Jinja. If their relationships are formed in accordance with how a Ugandan would form a relationship, the local people will have no problem supporting the mission.

Every function of Ugandan society is shaped by the idea that one’s own actions will affect the group at large. This is exemplified by the interpersonal communication pattern of saving face. Face...
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