Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Independent Scholar
Website URL
Rwanda, gender, women, monarchy, power, politics, sexuality, intimacy, kinship, labor, LGBTQ
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

I’m a historian who specializes in the history of Rwanda from the eighteenth century through the abolition of the monarchy in 1960. I am primarily interested in how power intersects with gender and intimacy–this leads to analysis of the institutions of monarchy and kinship, but also how intimate relationships between individuals and groups create the foundation for state-building.

Currently, I am working on three main projects. The first is a monograph based on my dissertation research that explores the interplay between institutional and intimate politics in the Rwandan monarchical court between 1770-1960. I explore dynamics of elite marriage, motherhood, eroticism, and kinship through the lives of Rwanda’s queen mothers, or umugabekazi, and how they negotiated gendered expectations with the realities of institutional power and personal political ambitions. At its heart, this project is about how women used patriarchal norms to gain power, and how those norms could be used as a double-edged sword.

The second is a series of graphic novels based on Rwandan oral traditions collected by Jan Vansina and his research assistants in the 1950s and early 60s. These oral traditions include origin myths, epic poetry about battles, cattle raids, and the intimacy of the warrior class, and historical narratives that span the lives of kings, queens, warriors, sorceresses, and sometimes even individual cows.

Third is a new project that explores dynamics of male intimacy in the Great Lakes region over the last 500 years. I am especially interested in how the institution of blood brotherhood varied across societies, how it was expressed differently based on class and culture, and how these kinds of relationships intersected with institutional politics, particularly within highly-centralized monarchical states.

Recent Publications

Web-Based Publications 

Blog post, “Queer Terminology: LGBTQ Histories and the Semantics of Sexuality.” NOTCHES: (re)marks on the history of sexuality.

Blog post, “#BurundiSyllabus: Context for the Current Crisis.” The Africa Collective.

Blog post, “Umutoni: Why Histories of African Homosexualities Matter.” NOTCHES: (re)marks on the history of sexuality.

Refereed Journal Articles

“‘Tomorrow She Will Reign’: Erotic Capital and the Making of a Queen Mother in Rwanda,” Gender and History (29:1, 2017), 124-40

“Good Kings, Bloody Tyrants, and Everything In Between: Representations of the Monarchy in Post-Genocide Rwanda,” with Erin Jessee, History in Africa (41, 2014), 35-62

Book Reviews 

2018 (forthcoming), Linda M. Heywood, Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen, AFRICA

2014, Susan Thomson, Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda, Canadian Journal of Development Studies /Revue canadienne d’études du développement

2013, Jennie E. Burnet, Review of Genocide Lives in Us:  Women, Memory and Silence in Rwanda, Oral History Forum Special Issue, “Confronting Mass Atrocities,”

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
Expertise by Chronology
17th century, 18th century, 19th century, Early Modern, Modern, 20th century
Expertise by Topic
Colonialism, Family, Gender, Politics, Sexuality, Sexual Violence, Women