Ethnicised Politics: Patterns of Interpretation of Rwandans and Burundians

  • Carla Schraml Institut für Soziologie, Philipps Universität Marburg


Following Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (1991) this study focuses on taken-for-granted notions, i.e. knowledge (defining ethnicised politics asexclusion
interpreted with reference to ethnic categories). This represents a departure from the conventional academic discussion of ethnicised politics, which focuses
on exclusion inherent to the structures of political systems when seeking to explain violent conflict aligned along ethnic cleavages. The study compares two
neighbouring countries, Rwanda and Burundi, where different institutional models have been introduced to overcome ethnicised politics following comparable
episodes of ethnic violence. Whereas the Rwandan system avoids political representation based on ethnic categories, the Burundian system prescribes ethnic
quotas. Semi-standardised interviews with twenty-two Rwandans and twenty Burundians conducted between September 2007 and May 2008 investigated ethnicised
politics as patterns of interpretation (i.e. knowledge). The study found that notwithstanding the different political institutional systems in Rwanda and
Burundi (both aiming to overcome ethnicised politics), exclusion in both systems is interpreted with reference to ethnic categories, i.e. politics are ethnicised
in both countries. This result points to the importance of conceiving ethnicised politics as historically produced knowledge, i.e. patterns of interpretation.
Focus: Prejudices and Intergroup Differentiation – Within and Between Cultures