Jacob Katumusiime holds a Bachelor of Arts with Education–First Class, a Master of Philosophy, and an Interdisciplinary PhD in Social Studies from Makerere University. He is a recipient of the SSRC’s Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa (Next Gen) 2021 Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship and the 2023 Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Jacob was also a 2023 Guest Researcher at the University of Bergen’s Department of Government in Norway. He has taught in secondary schools in Uganda and tutored at Makerere University, Uganda. His research interests include religion and politics, social movements, political violence, decolonization, and postcolonial studies. He critically engages the different debates in his areas of interest by utilizing both media and scholarly platforms. Jacob’s research vision is of historicizing and theorizing breakaway religious movements in postcolonial Africa. He hopes to not only reshape research and scholarship on religion but also teach the next generation of social scientists in Africa. 

Photo by Ssekamatte Joseph

Next Gen: Please describe the central argument of your doctoral dissertation. What is its main contribution to knowledge in your field?

Jacob Katumusiime: I set out to reflect on the agency of breakaway religious movements in postcolonial Africa. To do this, I historicized the emergence of a breakaway religious movement in Uganda’s Catholic Church – the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God (MRTCG), popularly known as Kibwetere’s movement – and also sought to make sense of the religious movement’s mass violence, often remembered as the 2000 Kanungu Inferno. The study built upon decolonization as a methodology and an interdisciplinary approach that drew upon aspects of anthropology, historicism, and political science. My doctoral dissertation, titled “Beyond Religio-Cultural Violence: A Historico-Political Re-contextualization of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God,” contends that the religious movement arose from multiplicities of the history of political marginalization within institutions of the nation-state. The conception of “multiplicities of history” is aimed at emphasizing that rather than formed from different histories, the MRTCG emerges from different stories within the same history of political marginalization. The same power structures produce the many narratives from which the history of the MRTCG and its violence is mobilized. I observe that the breakaway religious movement was a product of the colonial politicization of ethnicity, religion, and political parties. The study also argues that the MRTCG’s violence erupted within the context of Uganda’s regulation and criminalization of religious movements. In reflecting on the agency of breakaway religious movements in postcolonial Africa, the study calls for historicization that focuses on their interaction with institutions of nation-state power.

How did the Next Gen fellowship program impact your doctoral journey?

I am indebted to the Next Gen Fellowship Program for metaphorically carrying me on their shoulders during my doctoral journey. I was beginning to lose confidence in my ability to continue my doctoral research project when I received the Next Gen Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship. The fellowship boosted my confidence in the possibilities of the research, and I could sense that my faculty also believed in the project. If there were doubts and fears about the direction of the research, Next Gen mentorship inspired and showed me that something interesting might come out of the research. The Next Gen award also came amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were all grounded and unable to navigate the field. Through the fellowship’s online workshops and funding, I was equipped with the skills and financial resources to navigate the field during the lockdown. Later, when I received the Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship, it eased the writing journey because I was able to still go to the field and fill data gaps, and also honed skills acquired during the writing and dissemination workshop, where I received constructive feedback on the written draft of my dissertation. This encouraged me to reach the finish line. Some of my close scholarly networks and contacts were established and expanded through the Next Gen workshops. I mean it when I say that I am greatly indebted to the SSRC’s Next Gen Fellowship award.

Now that you have completed your PhD, what are your plans for the future?

I am hoping to contribute to both the scholarship in my field and the transformation of society. One of the lessons I have come to appreciate from Next Gen is that our research is not only about contributing to knowledge production, but also about improving the local realities and livelihoods of our research communities. Of course, I am presently aware that my greatest contribution might be through mentoring the next generation of social scientists, whom I hope will also go on to drive tangible change within their different fields and societies. Wouldn’t it then be right and proper to say that my plan is to hope for progressive change by promoting knowledge, mentorship, and service to society?

Jacob Katumusiime at his PhD Graduation with his mother, Kyarimpa Naome, and his Clergy Family Friend, Rev. Joy Bemereire.
Photo by Ssekamatte Joseph

What advice do you have for upcoming doctoral students?

I prefer to use a Christian analogy here. To the Christian, salvation is not an event but a journey. It is a journey with a cocktail of experiences, the most popular of which is falling, often understood as backsliding, and then rising up again. To all upcoming doctoral students, I want to encourage them that, like salvation, a doctorate should be approached as a journey. Just as the pursuant of salvation is expected to read the sacred text with commitment, the doctoral student should write something daily on their PhD dissertation. Even when the doctoral student might sometimes not have something to write, let them at least open their laptop or walk around with their notebook. The doctoral student’s trials are not far from those of the pursuant of salvation because they, too, may fail to read their sacred text consistently; this does not take away their Faith. Just like the pursuant of salvation is already a Christian, the doctoral student is already a scholar worthy of the name. Therefore, whatever encounters or challenges that may come along the journey, whether good or bad, the goal should remain to complete the PhD – or. like the Makerere University students always exclaim, ‘the Graduation Ground is the Goal.’

 

 

Jacob Katumusiime’s Publications

Jacob Katumusiime (2024). Reading Mahmood Mamdani in a Decolonizing World. On the Subject of Citizenship: Late Colonialism in the World Today. Politikon. https://doi.org/10.1080/02589346.2024.2335034.

Jacob Katumusiime (2023). “Beyond Culturalist Conceptions of the 2000 Kanungu Inferno: Decolonization Perspectives.” MISR Review (Number 6). (156-199). Accessible: https://bit.ly/492GFVx.

Jia-Hui Lee, Laura A. Meek, and Jacob Katumusiime (2023). Contested Truths Over Covid-19 in East Africa: Examining Opposition to Public Health Measures in Tanzania and Uganda. African Studies Review (ASR), Vol. 66(4). https://doi.org/10.1017/asr.2023.69.

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