Decolonizing knowledge at the Burundi Research Network

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Place de la Révolution, Bujumbura

The Africa at LSE blog has a great write-up of the recent meeting of the Burundi Research Network, which was held in Nairobi.  While it might seem surprising that it wasn’t in Bujumbura, this was still an improvement over previous meetings, which were all held in Belgium.  Some key points:

Extensive knowledge about Burundi is a fruit of the colonial enterprise, predominantly written by Western scholars. The decolonisation of knowledge hence challenges Westerners to recognise how Burundian or African scholars contribute to epistemic frameworks, with the aim of decentralising and decolonising knowledge produced about Burundi not only theoretical but pragmatic.

Since the first BRN conference in 2015, to which only a few Burundians were able to attend and contribute, the network made progress in opening this space to Burundian scholars, comprising 42 of the 52 authors selected to present their work. With immigration politics in Europe increasingly exclusionary and travel costs disproportionate (if not extortionate), organising a conference in Nairobi facilitated access for Burundians.

When I was writing my MA thesis on Burundi back in 2011, I noted that all of the literature that I was able to find on the country in English was by foreigners.  I’m sure I missed a lot by not looking for works in French or Kirundi, of course.  Anyway, it’s great to see more support for Burundian researchers here.

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