- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide

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Two-week recap

By Professor Thomson on January 31, 2013

This purpose of this post is to keep everyone abreast of our classroom discussions and assigned readings. I’ll recap the main points from the last two weeks of class every two weeks as a reference point and to keep everyone focused on the trajectory of our course.

We started with discussion of the two dominant narratives in the American press about Rwanda – that of a economic miracle and that of an oppressive human rights regime. We discussed that there was definitely truth in both versions of these narratives while noting the ways in which the Rwandan government seeks to suppress negative comments about its human rights record. We also acknowledged that a middle ground perspective is best when thinking about Rwanda as there is surely truth in both narratives and the wholesale rejection of either side is not analytical fruitful. The issue thus becomes one of how do we evaluate what we learn about Rwanda through study of the academic and non-academic literature?  This question is a core issue as we move forward to examine the sustainability of Rwanda’s post-genocide reconstruction and reconciliation.

Our theoretical frame is drawn from Straus and Waldorf’s “Seeing like a post-conflict state” which in turn draws on the four theoretical points found in James Scott’s “Seeing Like a State” (Yale, 1998).  Using the lens of seeing like a post-conflict state sets out the structural conditions in which post-genocide reconstruction and reconciliation has evolved while highlighting the various points of pressure (oppression?) in post-genocide policies.  Central here if you don’t already know is some additional research on what is an authoritarian state and what kind of administrative/bureaucratic structure is needed to pursue the “high modernist” ideology of regimes that seek to order human society in the ways that the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has done since the 1994 genocide.  We peeked behind the post-genocide ideology of ethnic unity to look at the various regional, class, gender and kin relations in which Rwandans are enmeshed. In other words, we de-emphasised ethnicity as an explanatory variable to look more deeply at individuals as individuals rather than as simply “Hutu” or “Tutsi.”  Everyone was assigned a socio-economic role in our social ties game in which most of you were either poor or destitute peasants. This sense of social hierarchy will pervade our course.

To begin to get behind the various state-led practices and policies of post-genocide economic growth and human rights repression, we talked today about the importance of careful historical research.  An ability to understand the politics of the genocide and of history that favour Rwandan political and economic elites at the expense of the lived experiences of the peasant masses.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment!