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Politics of Innocence: Hutu Identity, Conflict and Camp Life

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Volume 30

Forced Migration

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Politics of Innocence

Hutu Identity, Conflict and Camp Life

Simon Turner

194 pages, maps, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-691-7 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (July 2010)

ISBN  978-0-85745-609-0 $29.95/£23.95 / Pb / Published (February 2012)

eISBN 978-1-84545-845-4 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


Turner’s ethnography of camp dynamics offers a detailed analysis of the tension between humanitarian constructions of refugees and refugees’ own subjectivities. Through the analysis of the politics of innocence, Turner helps to elucidate a familiar debate, and to articulate the dilemmas related to the transformation of identities in exile  ·  Journal of Refugee Studies

"[This book] an important contribution to studies of forced migration and refugees as it illustrates the application of the complex theoretical underpinnings of refugee studies in ethnographic research. Simon Turner successfully combats the notion that refugees are a homogenous group and, in his compelling text, reveals the complex lived realities of Burundian Hutu refugees in Lukole Refugee Camp"  ·  African Conflict & Peacebuilding Review

"Turner’s book offers fascinating insights into the daily realities in a refugee camp hidden under the bureaucratic model imposed by the relief agencies. In the UNHCR staff’s blueprint the camp is an a-political, homogeneous space and refugees are innocent victims who have to be empowered. Turner shows – with the help of both vivid ethnography and seminal interpretations - that reality is strikingly different."  ·  Pieter Geschiere, University of Amsterdam

"This work represents a major contribution to the understanding of camp life in refugee contexts. Given the limited number of texts in English on the Burundi conflict and refugee contexts, this work will be of considerable significance. It is the first to engage with the recent post-1994 refugee population on the ground and based on original material that is derived from primary research in a refugee camp."  ·  Patricia Daley, Oxford University


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.

Simon Turner is a senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies. He has worked on the conflict in Burundi, doing ethnographic fieldwork among refugees and the Diaspora in East Africa and Europe. He has published on masculinity, Diaspora and conflict, sovereignty and public authority, and refugee relief work.

Subject: Refugee and Migration StudiesPeace and Conflict StudiesDevelopment Studies
Area: Africa


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