Basic informationFull name : Gerard Alexandre Philippe PRUNIER Date of birth : October 14th 1942 Place of birth : Neuilly-sur-Seine (France) Citizenship : French by birth and Canadian by naturalization Family status : Married with two children Languages : Fully trilingual in French , English and Spanish . Functional Swahili , German and Italian . Basic Arabic (Sudanese dialectal) , Russian and Amharic .
EducationPrimary : in Paris (1949-1954) Secondary : in Paris (1954-1961) leading to the French Baccalaureat First cycle of superior :
- Junior year abroad at HarvardUniversity (1962-1963)
- B.A. in Political Science (with a minor in History) at Sciences Po Paris (1961-1962 and 1964-1966)
- B.A. in Sociology . NanterreUniversity (1966-1969)
- PhD in African Studies . Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) . Paris . 1982 . Thèse : La question indienne en Ouganda (1894-1972) , published in book form by ERC Editions . Paris . 1990 .
Years of adventure
- A variety of odd jobs in Boston (Massachussetts) in 1962-1963 while a student at Harvard . I was there on a scholarship and had to work for personal money .
- Social worker in the slums of Caracas (Venezuela) with an American NGO (1963-1964)
- Teaching history in a Paris Secondary School (1966-1968) while studying at Nanterre
- Arrested during the Paris student riots in June 1968
- Military Service in the French Army (1968-1969) after the disciplinary cancellation of my cooperation assignment to Cameroun .
- Emigration to Canada after my release from the Army . Social Worker in Nelson (British Columbia ) working with mistreated children (1970)
- Teaching History in a UgandanSecondary School with CanadianUniversity Service Overseas (1971-1972) .
- Political Refugee in Tanzania (1972-1974) . I fled the Idi Amin Dada dictatorship in Uganda in the wake of the brutal expulsion of the Indian community during which I nearly got killed . I then worked at a variety of survival jobs in Tanzania
- Social worker for the City of Ottawa , working with emotionally disturbed teenage girls (1974-1976) .
- Farmer and logger in the Canadian Rocky Mountains (1976-1979) in a back-to-the-land social alternative project . Construction by hand of my own house in the Slocan Valley forest .
- Return to France following the failure of that utopian dream
- Running an aircraft spare parts import-export business in Paris to support myself while doing my PhD and immediate post-graduate work (1979-1984)
- Joining the French Socialist Party in 1981 and subsequently working (as unpaid militant) in association with the Africa Section of its International Secretariat , dealing with Eastern Africa . Sustained collaboration with the Presidential Africa Unit . Resigning in February 1994 following two years of growing disagreement with French policy in Rwanda .
- I was recruited in 1984 by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) . CNRS is a large French governmental multidisciplinary scientific research organization , doing research in all fields from marine biology to archeology and from sociology to nuclear physics . I belonged to Section 33 which dealt with the non-Western world (Africa sub-section) .
- In this capacity I worked teaching and doing research on Eastern and Central Africa for twenty-five years , spending a minimum of two to six months each year on the continent , travelling and working in Egypt , the Sudan , Uganda , Kenya , Ethiopia , Djibouti , Somalia , Rwanda , Burundi and the Kinshasa Congo . Following a general approach to the history and contemporary politics of the region , I tended to specialize in the analysis of conflicts and civil strife , trying to understand them not as isolated or pathological forms of social action but rather as socio-economic phenomena , re-inserting them in a longer-term historical perspective .
- Over that period and in the course of an ongoing process , I have published a large corpus of articles (around 180) and produced an almost equivalent number of confidential reports for a variety of readers .
- I also wrote and/ or edited several books (see bibliography) , initially in French and later in English .
- Between 2001 and 2006 I was detached to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to run the Centre Français des Etudes Ethiopiennes (CFEE) based in Addis Ababa .
- Upon being retired from CNRS in September 2009 (the French University system is a state system where retirement is mandatory at a fixed age) , I merged into an independent career path , doing consultations , teaching , lecturing and writing .
In her 1974 bestselling work Passages and in its 1988 sequel Men’s Passages (both Ballantine Books) , Gail Sheehy advises men of a certain age not to retire but to redirect . Prescient , wonderful but easier said than done . There are two directions I would like to explore beyond the reaches of my beloved Africa : literary writing and global social analysis .
Why literature ? Because it is the subjective expression of life . After spending so many years trying my best at being knowledgeably objective about a world that was not my own at birth (at twenty-eight when I first went to Africa and had to teach its history as part of a “cooperation program” , I was so abysmally ignorant of what I had to do that my students asked the headmaster for my dismissal) , I dream of letting myself go into the polymorphous complexity of the human experience I have been immersed in . Africa made my world bigger and as a result my world is bigger than Africa . Thanking Africa for what it gave me would also mean going beyond it , around it , over it , under it . Forgetting it in the subjectivity of experience .
Why global historical analysis ? Africa is the strangest , most isolated , best-and-worst continent . Ex Africa semper aliquod novi . Africa is the odd-man-out . Africa is the signpost of the way the world has turned . I want to go beyond and , in that beyond , assess what the world has become . Starting from Africa it took pre-historical man 600,000 years for homo sapiens to spread worldwide . Then it took homo faber 8,000 years to conquer the world stage of history . Homo industrialis is only 300 years old and trans-industrial man is heading into the unknown . Starting from the complexity of the present I would like to revisit les étapes de la pensée sociologique as Raymond Aron called them and , sailing from the coast of Africa and reaching into the planetary universal .
I might never fulfill these two complementary dreams . But they do lie today just over and beyond my everyday African horizon , not in contradiction but in completion of what I have done in the past .