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Entanglements of Modernity, Colonialism and Genocide: Burundi and Rwanda in Historical-Sociological Perspective

Palmer, Jack Dominic (2017) Entanglements of Modernity, Colonialism and Genocide: Burundi and Rwanda in Historical-Sociological Perspective. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This thesis explores two lines of critique of social theories of modernity by way of a historical sociological analysis of Burundi and Rwanda. Firstly, it engages with arguments about the Euro-/Western-centric assumptions which are suggested to have underpinned many conceptualisations of modernity. Secondly, it considers the notion that the processes of modernity move gradually, if precariously, towards more peaceable forms of cohabitation within and between societies. In doing so, it draws on and develops the theoretical framework of entanglement, which emphasises the existence of a variety of intertwined historical routes to and through modernity. Central to the analysis is a critique of both the idea that modernity entails a progressive ‘detraditionalisation’ or destruction of traditional societal forms, and the idea that tradition provides a repository of cultural resources upon which are founded distinct, plural ‘modernities’. In the case of Burundi and Rwanda, I argue that colonial modernity, in its indirect rule format, in important respects ‘solidified’ tradition in racial terms. In the transition to independence, the colonial legacy both enabled and delimited autonomous societal self-understandings and political movements. In the postcolonial period, the tension between the modern commitment to autonomy on the one hand and seemingly traditional legacies on the other has been realised in profoundly destructive and violent ways. I conclude that the historical experiences of extremely violent social conflict in Burundi and Rwanda are situated within a specific route to and through modernity. The original contribution of the thesis is twofold. Firstly, it presents a new substantive case study to the analysis of non-Western experiences and interpretations of modernity. Secondly, in doing so, it offers a theoretical contribution to debates concerning the multiplicity of modernity which have arisen principally in the paradigm of ‘multiple modernities’ and postcolonial sociology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Burundi, Rwanda, modernity, genocide, colonialism, entanglement, historical sociology, hermeneutics, social theory, area studies
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr Jack D Palmer
Date Deposited: 15 May 2017 12:09
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2017 09:44
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/16642

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