Chrétien, Jean-Pierre. The Great Lakes of Africa: Two Thousand Years of History. Translated by Scott Straus (Zone Books, 2003). Chrétien has deep knowledge of the history, but is sometimes not very sympathetic to his reader, occasionally drowning them in references to hundreds of groups and regions that at times I found hard to follow. Still a very useful book though.
Cobban, Helena. Amnesty After Atrocity?: Healing Nations After Genocide and War Crimes. (Paradigm, 2007). Cobban compares the different approaches taken towards perpetrators of violence in Rwanda, South Africa, and Mozambique. Her analysis challenges the idea that we can rely unquestioningly on the framework of international human rights as exemplified by the Nuremberg trials.
Lemarchand, René. Burundi: Ethnic Conflict and Genocide. (Wilson, 2004). Not just the account of a small African country that most of us know little about, this book provides insightful analysis of the causes and effects of ethnic tensions and ethnic conflict. Even if one cared little about Burundi in particular, this book would still be a useful look at the processes of mythmaking, dehumanization, and the construction of social and cultural fault lines for political motives, which is instructive whether the topic is Burundi or the U.S. pursuit of the “War on Terr…more A useful look at the processes of mythmaking, dehumanization, and the construction of social and cultural fault lines for political motives in Burundi.
Arguing against essentialist/”primordialist” views of ethnic conflict, Lemarchand takes an instrumentalist approach that reflects on how the ethnic interpretations (or creations) of history are used as in rhetorical strategies for political gain.
Lemarchand traces the social divisions in Burundian society going back to the nineteenth century, when multiple cleavages existed (including regional and patrilineal groupings and the tensions within the monarchy that equaled or surpassed the importance of Hutu-Tutsi distinctions) to the post-colonial period when social distinctions were simplified and reified into a Hutu-Tutsi polarization. Lemarchand illustrates the political exigencies that led to that polarization, including competition within the Tutsi for control, the interplay of ethnic tensions between Burundi and Rwanda, especially over refugee populations, and the effect of massacres in creating emotionally-laden identities of the Hutu as le people martyr and the Tutsi as a minority at risk of being violently suppressed.
Niyonzima, David, and Fendall, Lon. Unlocking Horns: Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Burundi. (Barclay, 2001). A look at the conflict and a plan for reconciliation from a Quaker perspective.
Nolen, Stephanie. 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa. (Knopf, 2007). 28 stories of HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa that open your eyes to the dimension of the problem and also to inspiring individuals who are working to change it.
Toffolo, Chris. Emancipating Cultural Pluralism. (SUNY, 2003). An academic look at ethnicity and other “ascriptive identities” and attempts to theorize what a diverse society is and can be without the modernist paradigm that opposes individuality/modernity and community/tradition and values the former over the latter.