The University of Wisconsin Press
African Studies / Anthropology / Human Rights / Women's Studies
Genocide Lives in Us
Women, Memory, and Silence in Rwanda
Jennie E. Burnet
Women in Africa and the Diaspora
“A profoundly empathetic and comprehensive narrative that goes to the bottom of Rwandans’ everyday struggles triggered by a contextual and inevitable urge to face their own violent past.”
—Aloys Habimana, Rwandan human rights lawyer
In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, Rwandan women faced the impossible— resurrecting their lives amidst unthinkable devastation. Haunted by memories of lost loved ones and of their own experiences of violence, women slowly rebuilt their lives and traversed dangerous emotional and political terrain to emerge as leaders in Rwanda today. This clear and engaging ethnography of survival tackles three interrelated phenomena—memory, silence, and justice—and probes the contradictory roles women played in postgenocide reconciliation.
Based on over a decade of intensive fieldwork, Genocide Lives in Us provides a unique grassroots perspective on a postconflict society. Anthropologist Jennie E. Burnet relates ordinary Rwandan women’s heart-wrenching stories of survival with sensitivity and uncovers political and historical themes in their personal narratives. Allowing the silenced voices of ordinary women to be heard, Burnet sheds light on women’s incredible resilience. She concludes that women’s leading role in Rwanda’s renaissance emerged from the dire post-genocide situation that forced women into new roles, from advocacy by the Rwandan women’s movement, and from the inclusion of women in the postgenocide government.
“The most important contribution of this fine study is Burnet's conceptual breakthrough exploring the role of 'amplified silence.' Where the power of official discourse prevents many from mourning their losses, such silences speak loudly to those aware of them.”—Catharine Newbury, Smith College
Jennie E. Burnet is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Louisville. Her research focuses on women’s roles in peace-building and democratization and on the long-term consequences of gender-based violence in conflict.
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Of related interest:
State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence
Edited by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf“This rich array of careful scholarship provides a valuable, multifaceted view of a country still struggling with the aftereffects of genocide and civil war. It offers an important corrective to the naively rosy picture of Rwanda that too often prevails in the American media.”—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost
LC: 2011045391 DT
302 pp. 6 x 9 11 b/w figures, 3 tables
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"The stories of life in postgenocide Rwanda presented in this book are deeply touching and challenge the dominant discourse that portrays Rwanda as a simple story of successful postconflict rebuilding. This book is essential reading for anyone with interest in Rwanda and in the legacies of violence, gender, society, memory, and transitional justice."
—Timothy Longman, Boston University
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Updated November 5, 2012© 2012, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System