Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Politics of Innocence

Politics of Innocence: Hutu Identity, Conflict and Camp Life

Simon Turner
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 194
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Politics of Innocence
    Book Description:

    Based on thorough ethnographic fieldwork in a refugee camp in Tanzania this book provides a rich account of the benevolent "disciplining mechanisms" of humanitarian agencies, led by the UNHCR, and of the situated, dynamic, indeterminate, and fluid nature of identity (re)construction in the camp. While the refugees are expected to behave as innocent, helpless victims, the question of victimhood among Burundian Hutu is increasingly challenged, following the 1993 massacres in Burundi and the Rwandan genocide. The book explores how different groups within the camp apply different strategies to cope with these issues and how the question of innocence and victimhood is itself imbued with ambiguity, as young men struggle to recuperate their masculinity and their political subjectivity.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-845-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. 1 The Troubled Nature of Innocence
    (pp. 1-24)

    On 21 October 1993, Burundi’s first democratically elected Hutu president, along with other prominent politicians from the leading moderate ‘Hutu’ party, was abducted and later killed by Tutsi officers from the Burundian army. Within hours the news spread throughout the country, and rumours spread like wildfire about an imminent massacre of the Hutu by the Tutsi-dominated army. From hilltop to hilltop in this small, rural and densely populated country in the middle of Africa, it was rumoured that the army was planning a massacre like the one in 1972 where hundreds of thousands of Hutu were killed in Burundi’s silent...

  5. 2 Histories of Conflict
    (pp. 25-42)

    In Lukole, the past was evoked in order to explain the violence that forced people to flee Burundi so as to establish clarification and cosmological order. The various ways of imagining Burundi that were reflected in these narratives do not tell us much about what ‘really’ happened in Burundi, and rather reflected present concerns in the camp. However, the narratives did not crystallise out of thin air but drew on a repertoire of discourses on the nature of Burundian society, constructed through historically located power struggles. It is the aim of this chapter to uncover the historical emergence of the...

  6. 3 The Biopolitics of Innocence
    (pp. 43-64)

    Lukole was in many ways an exceptional space. Around 100,000 people with very different backgrounds had been crammed into this small area in the Tanzanian bush, where they were taken care of by high-profile international organisations and subjected to a number of extraordinary rules and regulations. They were not allowed to involve themselves in politics, leave the camp, or work or barter their food rations. They were given food and water and healthcare free of charge irrespective of whether they used to be a minister, a peasant or a street kid in Burundi. They were kept alive and healthy and...

  7. 4 Camp Life and Moral Decay
    (pp. 65-84)

    In this chapter, we shift from the aerial view of the planner and the bureaucrat to the pedestrian view of the refugee. We examine the ways in which the refugees interpreted being treated as an undifferentiated mass by the Tanzanian authorities and international relief agencies, how they interpreted their new environment and their new rulers, and how they contrasted this with life in Burundi. We explore their representations of the camp as a place of social and moral decay, and how they conjured up a picture of an idyllic harmonious past in Burundi. It is not a story about life...

  8. 5 ‘Big Men’ and ‘Liminal Experts’
    (pp. 85-106)

    Let us briefly recall the image of Lukole seen from the air in a UNHCR six-seater aeroplane, revealing the humanitarian bureaucrat’s dream of red macadam roads making a neat grid, straight lines of blue and whiteblindés, and the fenced compounds of the humanitarian agencies. We saw how the camp made up not only a tightly organised but also a tightly confined space. However, even from the air one could spot the cracks in the bureaucrat’s dream. Footpaths, made by the movement of thousands of pairs of usually bare feet, wound their way through the camp, breaking the strict geometry...

  9. 6 Rumour and Politics
    (pp. 107-130)

    Refugee agencies may have been trying to void the camp of politics and create bare life, helping and empowering the camp’s population, but Lukole remained saturated with politics. In this chapter we explore the local dynamics of establishing public authority and creating political subjectivities through complex interactions of political rivalry, violence and rumours. In this process, political competition not only divided the camp between Palipehutu and CNDD, it also delineated an emerging political field, in part defined by political imaginations from Burundi and in part by local power struggles, converting local power struggles into national political issues and vice versa....

  10. 7 Innocence Lost
    (pp. 131-158)

    In spite of refugees in Lukole trying to inhabit the space that they had been allocated and turn Lukole into a lived place, they never completely embraced the camp. It always remained an in-between experience, a ‘nonplace’ (Augé 1995) between an idyllic past and a glorious future. This past and future took place somewhere else than here, namely in Burundi. Lukole was neither completely the bureaucratic dream of the UNHCR nor totally recaptured by the refugees. Neither did it ever quite make sense to either part: it evaded total symbolisation and remained precariously balanced in between. When dealing with their...

  11. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 159-164)

    I set out to explore how competing historical narratives and everyday politics combined in people’s attempt to (re)create moral order in a world that was circumscribed by bureaucratic governmental action, a world where politics and history were relegated to the margins of society and the inhabitants were meant to act as innocent victims without a past. This world was at once extremely bureaucratic and tightly managed while simultaneously being full of rumours, myths, politics and historicity, as people inhabited the camp through everyday strategies.

    If refugees are constructed by the international community as ‘bare life’ (Agamben 1998) because they are...

  12. Postscript: What Happened to the Camp?
    (pp. 165-168)

    It is more than a decade since I was in the camp and much has happened in Burundi, and hence in Lukole, since then. The Arusha peace accords that were signed in August 2000 paved the way for peace, democratic reforms and reforms of areas such as the army, the judiciary, and the media. After a transition period, Pierre Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, was elected president in 2005 and the last international peacekeeping troops left the country according to plan on December 31 2009. Despite devastated infrastructure and economy, a GDP of only 341 dollars per capita - ranking...

  13. References
    (pp. 169-176)
  14. Index
    (pp. 177-186)