Accepted Paper:

Compliant Rwandans? State history as cultural resource in post-genocide Rwanda  


Laura Eramian (Dalhousie University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper asks what Rwandans do with the narrative of history imposed by the government besides adhering to it out of fear and coercion. It discusses four ways Rwandans might use imposed history as a cultural resource turned toward personal and collective visions, projects, and future aspirations.

Paper long abstract:

In the years following the 1994 genocide, scholars have criticized the Rwandan government's official account of national history and its restrictions on competing historical narratives. But what might Rwandans be doing with that state narrative besides conforming to it out of fear and coercion? I argue that to understand what sustains official, imposed narratives we must grasp not only their coercive aspects, but also how social actors put them to work for different reasons. I offer four possible forms of agency in which Rwandans might be engaged when they reproduce official history to show how - while forcibly imposed - government narratives are nonetheless cultural resources that people can turn to personal and collective visions, projects, and aspirations. This paper aims to develop a more robust understanding of how people respond to imposed narratives of nationhood and history, since it is important to attend not only to how people resist, but also how they conform to them.

Panel RM-SPK08
Talking like a state: political narrative in everyday life