Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Genocide lives in us : amplified silence and the politics of memory in Rwanda / by Jennie E. Burnet.

Publication | Library Call Number: DT450.435 B87 2005

This study is among the first long-term ethnographic projects undertaken in post-genocide Rwanda and documents the discourses of memory and their implications for conceptions of ethnic identity in the wake of the 1994 genocide. Coping with the consequences of war and genocide has brought into question basic assumptions about the world, about ethnicity, and about gender.Based on more than two years of ethnographic research conducted between 1997 and 2001 in nine of the twelve prefectures of Rwanda, this research examines the politics of remembering in post-genocide Rwanda and their impact on subjectivities. Research included surveys of women's organizations and cooperative networks, focus group interviews, individual interviews, and participant-observation in two communities. Framed within the methodologies of feminist anthropology, the monograph explores the dramatic transformations in Rwandan society primarily through women's experiences of violence, war, and genocide and through women's attempts to rebuild their lives.The study findings reveal contradictions between official, public discourses about Rwandan history and the lived experiences of Rwandan citizens. Understandably, the mass killing in the 1994 genocide lends itself to generalizations in public discourse where all Tutsi (whether they were inside the country or not) become innocent victims and where all Hutu (whether they participated in the genocide or not) become guilty perpetrators and killers. This powerful moralizing discourse creates an amplified silence where many Rwandans' experiences are excluded from public recognition. This amplified silence has shaped Rwandans' understandings of themselves, their place in the world, and their possibilities to change it.Yet, daily lived reality in post-genocide Rwanda brings into question the truths encapsulated in these totalizing discourses. The identities “Hutu” and “Tutsi” are not as clear cut as these discourses pretend. They are complicated by individual experience, regional differences, national politics, and a complex social history. Furthermore, this discourse does not take into account the living memory of the genocide embedded in everyday life. Despite this challenging ideological terrain, individuals and some women's organizations are finding their own paths to reconciliation. For individuals, reconciliation is a highly idiosyncratic process and relies on practices that move people beyond the essentialisms of ethnicity.

Burnet, Jennie E.
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:19:00
This page: