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Reassembling Rwanda - call for papers

February 25, 2013

Reassembling Rwanda: State building, conflict transformation, and unintended consequences

Editors: Pritish Behuria (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London) & Peer Schouten (School of Global Studies/University of Gothenburg)


Rwanda has long been one of Africa’s ‘aid darlings’, both a favorite for Western donors because of historical guilt and because the Rwandan government has displayed a significant commitment to utilizing aid towards development initiatives, as highlighted by the strides made towards their attainment of a number of Millennium Development Goals. Central to the external presentation of the Rwandan government’s development efforts to reassemble Rwanda is the idea that state building in Rwanda can be effectuated ‘top down’—with Singapore serving as an obvious model. Recent events are increasingly bringing to the fore underlying tensions that are not borne out by formal government efforts, challenging not only stability in Rwanda but also broader prevailing assumptions regarding the development model adhered to.

Aim of the volume

This edited volume aims to shed light on the developmental challenges that face contemporary Rwanda by bringing together a wide range of in-depth qualitative case studies that each articulate the tension between top-down state building, development policies, or conflict transformation on the one hand, and a broader range of unintended consequences of these same policies on the other. While studies exist that address these concerns, this volume is unique in aiming to place such tensions in a broader historical and multidisciplinary perspective. It goes beyond dominant understandings and critiques of contemporary Rwanda by linking post-genocide challenges to longer standing historical patterns in terms of the opposition between state building (conceived of a formal and explicit governmental efforts) and state formation (understood as broader, possibly informal, patterns of prevailing governance). In this way, this series of essays hopes to anchor scholarly analysis in deep contextual understanding. This approach is especially important given the emerging consensus that historically, failed top-down reform efforts have often resulted in violent resistance and regional instability.


We invite country and regional experts from different social science disciplinary backgrounds to submit an abstract of no more than 500 words detailing their proposed contribution. Individual contributions should aim at addressing contemporary political, economic, and social developments in Rwanda by combining theoretical sophistication with empirical rigor. We particularly invite contributions explicitly focusing on the interface between state building and state formation. Individual submissions can address—but need not be limited to—one of the following concerns:

  • The relationship between security and liberty in contemporary Rwandan government policy;
  • State-society relations;
  • Historical sociology of Rwandan state formation, for instance the relation between war-making or the organization of security and state formation
  • The case of Rwanda in light of classical and modern development theories (Huntington, modernization theory, world systems theory, Ferguson, Scott, anti-development approaches, Lewis & Mosse...);
  • Rwanda’s political economy in light of political and international relations theory, for instance the evolution of government-private sector relations or shifting elite bargaining processes;
  • Population growth, poverty, economic governance and agricultural reform;
  • Discussions of national autonomy versus regional embeddedness of understanding developments in Rwanda, for instance in relation to neighboring countries of the Great Lakes Region;
  • Civil-military relations
  • Rwanda’s relationship with, and reliance on international relations to donors or the East African Community

Abstracts should be submitted to Pritish Behuria ( no later than July 15, 2013. Acceptance notices will be sent out July 30. Upon acceptance, full papers should be finalized December 30, 2013. The editors intend to bring together contributors for a full-day workshop with the aim of streamlining contributions and ensuring coherence of the volume.