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Neither obedient nor resistant: state history as cultural resource in post-genocide Rwanda*

  • Laura Eramian (a1)

Abstract

Following the 1994 genocide, scholars have criticised 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 of reprisal? I argue that to understand what sustains official 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 engage 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 desires. The article 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 resistance, but also conformity to them.

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The author would like to thank Lindsay DuBois, Mervyn Horgan, Fuyuki Kurasawa, Saara Liinamaa, Peter Mallory and the members of the Canadian Network for Critical Sociology for conversations and comments on this work.

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Neither obedient nor resistant: state history as cultural resource in post-genocide Rwanda*

  • Laura Eramian (a1)

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