My name is Samantha Lakin and I am a PhD student at The Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University, USA. I am most inspired when I travel. I am most intellectually stimulated when I am exploring and analyzing ways to best help survivors of mass human rights violations engage in psychosocial healing and rebuilding post-conflict lives.
My research focuses on access to justice in post-conflict settings, with a specific knowledge and experience working in Rwanda and East Africa. My journey began as a Fulbright scholar to Switzerland, where I researched the clandestine rescue of Jewish children to Switzerland during WWII, to escape Nazi persecution. Conducting oral history testimonies with 70 survivors of the Holocaust showed me what is possible when asking questions of past history and memory.
I was then offered a position in Rwanda, where I supported the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, Kigali Genocide Memorial, Aegis Trust, in documentation and preservation. In Rwanda I discovered incredible stories of resilience, honest stories about the atrocities that occurred during the 1994 genocide, and how traditional justice mechanisms have not done enough to bring the country back together. Therefore, my research focuses on memorial sites, spaces, and processes in Rwanda, looking at symbolic meaning for psychosocial healing for survivors. How do symbolic reparations and memorials help survivors reenter society and best confront their past? Through the interviews and conversations I conduct, a common theme arises: feeling a sense of justice is a personal thing, it is different for each survivor. However, researchers can translate these needs to government and decision-makers after speaking with local Rwandans, and truly understanding what they need in order to feel that justice has been achieved.
My research combines methods from political history, political science, and fits within the transitional justice framework. I aim to work on issues of reparations, social psychological healing for survivors and all members of society, with a specific focus on understanding local needs and representing those needs to leaders and governments. I have also conducted field work in Israel-Palestine, Ethiopia, and Armenia, and have worked on and published about cases of justice of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and South Africa. I hope to continue developing skills and expertise to conduct research and advise stakeholders in the Great Lakes and East African region.