What to read on Burundi

Burundi is a fascinating place.  It’s one of the few nations that survived the transition from pre-colonial polity to Westphalian state with its original territory mostly intact, which could be a history lesson all by itself; its pattern of ethnicized access to resources and resultant political violence is just as heartbreaking as Rwanda’s; it’s utterly beautiful.  (Check out the second photo here.) And it’s an excellent case study in the ways in which our Western gaze towards Africa is pulled towards the topics we find it easy to understand: natural resources & wildlife, unusually large-scale or savage violence, apartheid, piracy.  Lacking much by the way of resources and unique fauna, its civil war somehow deemed less interesting than the Rwandan genocide, and (happily) free of “whites only” signs and pirates, Burundi is turned into a blank spot on our imagined map of Africa. This came through quite clearly when I was researching post-conflict ethnic reconciliation in Burundi for my independent study last semester.  There’s nowhere near the richness of the literature on Congo or Rwanda.  That said, there are still a few good books to start with.  (I’ve continued updating this list, most recently in June 2015.  In retrospect it’s a major problem that there aren’t any works by Burundian or other African authors on this list.  I’ll prioritize those works for a future update.)

5 thoughts on “What to read on Burundi

  1. Hi
    interesting blog. It looks like you’ve pretty much got the essentials on Burundi covered. It is rather underresearched – especially the micro level – but there’s some more to be found (also in English). You could look at Stef Vandeginste (Transitional justice and consociationalism), Dominik Kohlhagen (land & law), Bert Ingelaere (transitional justice from an anthropoligical perspective). I also found the works on precolonial history of Catherine and David Newbury quite interesting.
    Tomas Van Acker


  2. could it also be that non-anglophone countries get less attention from the anglo academic world and press? do you have any french sources to suggest?

    i agree about uvin’s book. it is really good and it’s one of very few books that has made it onto my “to read again” list.


    1. Yolanda, I think you’re totally right about the anglophone/francophone issue. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to look at French literature for my thesis – I couldn’t devote as much time to the project as I would have liked because I was taking 5 other classes, and I read pretty slowly in French.

      What other books do you have on your “to read again” list?


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