Indirect Writing and the Production of History in Burundi: Official History and Woman as Mwami


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Makerere Institute of Social Research


Using Kirundi-language catholic newspapers in the 1940s-1950s, colonial archives, colonial and postcolonial texts, oral stories, this project studies how new historical narratives contributed to inventing, defining and supporting the political institutions and relations in a colonial Burundi through indirect writing: the co-authorship and collaborative form of indirect writing in which the colonizer sets the framework and the questions while the colonized provided the flesh. The privileging of dynastic history combined with hamitic hypothesis, produced new oral sources pitting ‘native’ Hutu against ‘non-native’ Tutsi. “mwami” became king in the historiography despite oral sources showing to be a gender-neutral term. The project decolonizes the precolonial historiography by studying overlooked power centres or multiple power loci that crafted the precolonial polity to reveal the historical production and the nature of gender and the political in the precolonial and how power operates in the production of certain narratives while silencing others.