Emma Brunton

Research title: Transformations in women’s spiritual power from pre-colonial to early colonial Rwanda.

Research Summary

My research uses Rwandan oral traditions to assess how Rwandan women used regional religions to accrue and exercise power within their communities during the pre-colonial and colonial eras, and traces how this changed over time. It will look at how the arrival of European colonisers restricted, enhanced or otherwise affected women’s access to and ability to exercise spiritual power, as well as what other regional factors may have impacted women’s spiritual authority in the twentieth century. In doing so, a historically informed analysis of women’s spiritual authority raises questions which complicate current perceptions of gender norms in Rwanda and beyond.

I am broadly interested in gender history, African history, and oral history methodologies.


AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship, 2018-2021

Additional Information


  • Thomas Telford Prize in History (2016)



  • Co-presenter, ‘Writing Women Back into Rwandan History’, presented at Rwanda After 1994: Stories of Change, international conference, University of St Andrews, July 2018