My name is Samantha Lakin and I am an advanced Ph.D. candidate at The Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University, USA. I currently serve as a Graduate Research Fellow at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. I was a Fulbright Scholar in Rwanda for the 2017-2018 academic year. I am most inspired by working with passionate academics, policymakers, public intellectuals, and the strong people living and coping in the aftermath of conflict, atrocities, human rights violations, and genocide. My current research documents and analyzes local perspectives of memory and transitional justice in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. I have held contracts in Lubumbashi, DRC, Burundi, Northern Uganda, Nigeria, and throughout the Great Lakes Region of Africa, although Rwanda remains my main field site.
My research focuses on access to justice in post-conflict settings, with specific knowledge and experience working in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa. My journey began as a Fulbright scholar to Switzerland in 2011-2012, 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 are still trying to bring the country back together. Therefore, my research focuses on memorial sites, spaces, and processes in Rwanda, looking at symbolic meaning and how they do or do not lead to diverse senses of justice. 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 Rwandan. However, researchers must find cross-cutting themes which can translate the perspectives of individuals and communities to government and decision-makers after understanding what they need in order to feel that justice has been achieved.
Since 2013 I have held contracts from the United States Embassy, Refugee Law Project, Aegis Trust, and other international NGOs in DRC, Northern Uganda, Burundi, and Nigeria, but Rwanda is my main field site. I hold a Master of Arts in International Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a B.A. from Brandeis University. I am also a public intellectual in post-conflict justice issues, where I speak, facilitate, and teach in academic and non-academic forums, including conferences, TedXFulbright, Talks@Google Cambridge, and I write often for academic and news outlets.
My research combines methods from anthropology, history, political science, and fits within the transitional justice framework. I work on issues of symbolic reparations, specifically around how memory and engaging in memorial sites and spaces can provide senses of justice, with a specific focus on understanding local needs and representing those needs to leaders and governments.