Volume 27, Issue 2, 2017
“Peace Resides in the Stomach”
Cultural Linguistic Interpretation of Burundi’s Intractable Conflict
Applied linguists and anthropologists tend to agree on the interplay between language and culture in the study of society; yet, language and culture are seldom evoked to understand crises in human relations, such as interethnic wars. Drawing from some examples of naming practices and proverbs, this paper will analyze Burundians’ perceptions of peace (amahoro) or peace-related concepts, such as calm (umutekano), or unity (ubumwe). Two major theories, i.e., Galtung’s theory of negative and positive peace, and Danesh’s Integrative Theory of Peace, provide the framework for the discussion. Critical discourse analysis is applied to the content of folkloric genres, namely proverbial uses and (children) name choices to demonstrate that: (1) Burundians as a society do not have a culturally grounded peace expectation, (2) Rather, Burundian society has been built on the core principle of sharing and hospitality, which are also at the core of harmony and peace; and (3) a climate of mutual distrust and suspicion has always prevailed in Burundi regardless of ethnic rivalries. The conclusion supports the proposition that, as predicted in the nation’s folkloric literature, the restoration of peace and harmony cannot happen unless the practices of sharing and hospitality are reinstated and respected.