Power and Stratification in Rwanda: A Reconsideration

The main conclusion drawn in this paper is that traditional Rwanda did not form a single social aggregate, but rather an amalgam of two distinctive societies interacting with each other in different ways and at different levels. Traditional Rwanda can best be thought of as a mixture of two distinctive types of situations – a situation of optimum functional integration, characterized by a caste structure; and a situation of ‘ethnic coexistence’. Neither one of these situations remained static. Absorption of the Hutu communities into the caste structure of the Tutsi invaders was an almost continuous process, involving a partial loss of cultural identity for the absorbed group, and its reintegration into a new system of social action. Max Weber’s distinction between ‘caste structure’ and ‘ethnic coexistence’ provides a key to an understanding of the evolving patterns of relations between Hutu and Tutsi. This distinction is fundamental to an understanding also of contemporary issues. Notes.

Title:Power and Stratification in Rwanda: A Reconsideration
Author: Lemarchand, Ren
Year:1966
Periodical:Cahiers d’tudes africaines
Volume:6
Issue:24
Pages:592-610
Language:English
Geographic term:Rwanda
Subject:traditional polities
External link:https://doi.org/10.3406/cea.1966.3083
Abstract:The main conclusion drawn in this paper is that traditional Rwanda did not form a single social aggregate, but rather an amalgam of two distinctive societies interacting with each other in different ways and at different levels. Traditional Rwanda can best be thought of as a mixture of two distinctive types of situations – a situation of optimum functional integration, characterized by a caste structure; and a situation of ‘ethnic coexistence’. Neither one of these situations remained static. Absorption of the Hutu communities into the caste structure of the Tutsi invaders was an almost continuous process, involving a partial loss of cultural identity for the absorbed group, and its reintegration into a new system of social action. Max Weber’s distinction between ‘caste structure’ and ‘ethnic coexistence’ provides a key to an understanding of the evolving patterns of relations between Hutu and Tutsi. This distinction is fundamental to an understanding also of contemporary issues. Notes.