Please join me as I present preliminary dissertation findings
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As we turn the page on 2018 and begin 2019, I am excited to continue diving deep into my research and writing my dissertation, analyzing issues of the construction of victimhood in post-genocide Rwanda, writing an ethnography of kwibuka (commemoration), and looking at historical and current issues of peace and justice as represented through memorial spaces.
I want to also reflect on a few key accomplishments, and especially thank those who have helped me reach these goals.
- I was one of the emerging scholars awarded the 2018 Royal Air Maroc Student Travel Award from the African Studies Association. I thank Tim Longman, Erin Jessee, Jennie Burnet, Yolande Bouka, and Catharine Newbury for their support, specifically within the ASA.
- At the ASA, we also had the space to reflect on the legacy of my late professor Lee Ann Fujii. It was not easy, but I was thankful to have been able to compose my thoughts and share the ways in which Lee Ann impacted students like me. Her loss leaves a huge hole in my heart. I am thankful that other scholars and mentors have slowly been filling that Lee Ann sized hole.
- I am pleased to announce that I received the Next Generation Award from Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation (PON) for research titled “Convening Justice: A Comparative Study of Stakeholder Negotiations on Transitional Justice Policy in Rwanda and the African Union.” Please stay tuned for more information on this research!
- I thank Mr. Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, for his continued support and guidance during my dissertation writing process.
- I thank Dr. Eric Ndushabandi, the Director of the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace in Rwanda, for his continued partnership.
Happy New Year to everyone, may we all know joy, happiness, and satisfaction from our efforts. We are not obliged to finish the work, nor are we free from ignoring it.
I am also excited to announce the following presentations in 2019:
February 4, 2019, Yale University’s Genocide Studies Program
“Peace and Compromise, Idealism and Constraint: The Case of the Arusha Peace Accords in Rwanda and Burundi”
Location and Time TBD
February 11, 2019, Walter Rodney Seminar Series at Boston University
African Studies Center, 232 Bay State Road, Room 505 12:15pm to 2pm
March 7, 2019, World History Workshop, University of Cambridge, UK
“Cultures of Memory and Meaning in Tradition and Post-Genocide Rwanda”
14:30 to 16:30, Old Divinity School, University of Cambridge (Sir Arthur Quiller Couch Room of St. John’s College Cambridge)
All are welcome to attend these events! I would love to see you there!
It has been a challenging period returning from the Fulbright in Rwanda and beginning to write my dissertation in the U.S. I am thankful to colleagues including my dissertation advisor Dr. Ken MacLean (Clark University), my committee member Dr. Julia Viebach (Oxford University), and to Dr. Catharine Newbury (Smith College, Professor emerita) for agreeing to join my committee after the sudden passing of my mentor Dr. Lee Ann Fujii.
I also extend special gratitude to Dr. Erin Jessee, Dr. Annie Pohlman, Dr. Tim P. Williams, Dr. Timothy Williams, Dr. Yolande Bouka, Dr. Eric Ndushabandi, Tameisha Henry, Ameya Naik, Felix Manzi, Jean Damascene Ndaborira, Jerome Irankunda, Alexandra LaRosa, Mac Hamilton, my husband Ben Sacks, Linda and Don Lakin, Zach and Susie Lakin, and countless friends and colleagues for helping me jump into the writing process.
On October 11, 2018, I had the privilege of interviewing General Romeo Dallaire, who led the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda during the genocide, and who is now a thought leader on human rights and atrocity prevention. We spoke about true meanings of human rights, the challenges of garnering political will to intervene in atrocity situations, and the ability of youth to garner support for humanity via “sovereignty of the individual.”
I was also honored to present research on symbolic violence at the Oral History Association annual conference at Concordia University in Montreal. I was pleased to share the floor on a panel titled “Narratives of symbolic violence: Finding meaning amid unspeakable violence” with Dr. Erin Jessee, Dr. Annie Pohlman, Dr. Yolande Bouka, and Dr. Leyla Neyzi. We spoke about symbolic forms of violence in Turkey, Namibia, Rwanda, and Indonesia.
Please keep an eye on this space for more updates, where I’ll be speaking and teaching, etc.
From July 10-13, I had the pleasure of conducting the first partnership briefing with the US Mission to the African Union (USAU) and the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), Addis Ababa University, in Ethiopia. My trip coincided with the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and also key moments in peace negotiations in South Sudan.
On the evening of July 11, we joined together at the residence of the United States Ambassador to the African Union, Mary Beth Leonard, with 15 South Sudanese representatives of civil society. We sat around a large table, in front of a roaring fireplace, warming the cool, rainy season night. It was reminiscent of a parlor or salon meeting, or a fireside chat; we discussed transitional justice and processes in Africa, how civil society can help in ensuring peace in South Sudan, based on examples (or lack of examples) in other African countries and contexts.
On the morning of July 12, we gathered at IPSS, with 60 guests in attendance, representing various diplomatic missions, defense attaches, ministries of foreign affairs, civil society, NGOs and international NGOs, and students. I presented on Transitional Justice in the Great Lakes Region of Africa: Theory and Practice. The questions posted touched on the example of the transitional justice process in Rwanda, and provided recommendations for states including DRC and South Sudan. Finally, I was interviewed on AfroFM, the only English radio station in Addis Ababa, for the show Real Talk USA. It was an exciting event, and I thank the USAU, Ambassador Leonard, and IPSS for hosting me.
The week of April 7 seems like a distant blur to me, a week that began the period of Kwibuka, commemorating the 1994 genocide that targeted Tutsi people in Rwanda, a period that has been the primary focus of my research in Rwanda since 2013. I started by attending the national commemoration at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, moving to Nyanza-Kicukiro and the ETO, Kinigi in Musanze, Ntarama where a friend buried his uncle who had been killed during the genocide, whose body was found this year. Then to Notre Dame school, Ndera, and Mbuye. Interviews conducted on memory culture in Rwanda before genocide in different sites led me to being exhausted and overwhelmed. And as tired as I was, my mind kept turning to my Rwandan friends and colleagues, who suffered through the genocide personally. All I could do was hopelessly check in on them and their mental health, knowing I could not provide much support but trying nonetheless. I hope they will forgive my inability and, at times, and my lack of comforting words or actions.
Some lessons learned from this difficult period of fieldwork are highlighted in this article I wrote for The Conversation.
Also, I thank the United States Ambassador to Rwanda, Peter Vrooman for joining our community to remember at Ndera Memorial Site at Caraes Hospital, Kigali.
I was pleased to present research, participate, and help organize this Interdisciplinary Symposium with esteemed scholars from South Africa, Zimbabwe, DRC, Germany, Slovakia, and Rwanda, which took place from 4-6 April in Kigali, Rwanda. It was hosted by the Research Chair in Historical Trauma and Transformation (Stellenbosch University), in Collaboration with the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP; Rwanda), the Centre for Ethics (University of Zürich), and the Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit (University of South Africa; South African Medical Research Council), hosted an Interdisciplinary Conference in Rwanda.
Healing the traumatic wounds and divisions of societies in the aftermath of mass violence and conflict, and the problem of the transmission of historical trauma across generations—these are probably the most urgent questions of the 21st century. Few topics stake a more compelling claim on Humanities and Social Sciences research than the legacies of tragic historical pasts—the impact of genocide, colonial oppression and other mass atrocities not only on individuals and groups that experienced the traumas directly, but also on their descendants, and the descendants of perpetrators and implicated others under oppressive regimes. This international symposium brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars and young researchers working in the area of historical trauma, and aims to promote comparative and transnational research on the transgenerational hauntings of historical trauma. Scholars will examine the connection between historical trauma and memory, and illuminate how this relationship has been represented in different cultural contexts, and how it plays out in the lives of descendants of victims of genocide and other forms of political violence in societies that have a history of gross human rights violations. Taking a multidisciplinary approach (including film and literature), the symposium aims to set an agenda for exploring new intellectual frontiers within the buzzing hub of scholarly debates on historical trauma. Its objective is to deepen understanding of the transgenerational repercussions of traumatic pasts in a range of cultural contexts, to explore how different disciplines represent this transgenerational phenomenon, and through a comparative lens, to contribute to new knowledge production in this area of research. Our starting point is that engaging in this comparative reflection is more essential than ever, to advance scholarship and to create a new archive in an area dominated for far too long by the Holocaust as a reference point for understanding the long-term impact of genocide and other forms of gross human rights violations.
Liliane Pari Umuhoza, a university student at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, and Rwandan genocide survivor, channeled her energy as an intern at Survivors Fund (SURF) last summer (2017) to work with women who were raped during the genocide. Please read the article below, watch the 5-minute video, and share with all who are interested. I’m proud to call Liliane my sister and friend. Komeza cyane, Lili!