Ambiguous Hopes: An Ethnographic Study of Agricultural Modernisation in a Rwandan village

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


Since 2006, Rwanda has been implementing policies to modernize the agricultural sector, with the aim of moving from small-scale subsistence farming to modern, market-oriented farming. Under these policies, small-scale farmers have been compelled to abandon their traditional farming practices and adapt to monocropping of state-approved crops on consolidated land.
This dissertation, based on 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a Rwandan village, describes how agricultural modernization policies have been implemented and the famers’ reactions to it. Although policies are implemented in a top-down manner, and although the the state-imposed monocropping has resulted in poor yeilds and increased hunger, my informants did not show any overt, or even covert resistance to these policies. This dissertation aims at understaning why.
Looking beyond James Scott’s theory of ‘hidden resistance’ and ‘hidden transcripts’, I have found that rather than evading or resisting state policies, villagers endeavoured to be included in the modernization plans. My argument is that the societal hierarchy, in combination with the prevailing norms to aspire not to be poor and to strive to develop, can help us to understand this ambition to be part of a project that made their lives miserable and even precarious.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Anthropology


  • Rwanda, poverty, cooperatives, subsistence agriculture, policy implementation
Original languageEnglish
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Steven Sampson, Supervisor
  • Turner, Simon, Assistant supervisor, External person
Award date2019 Oct 4
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-7895-269-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2019-10-04 Time: 10:15 Place: Edens hörsal, Allhelgona kyrkogata 14, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Johan Pottier Title: Professor Affiliation: SOAS University of London ---