Genocide Commemoration in the Rwandan Diaspora

01 September 2018 → 31 August 2020
European funding: framework programme
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • African literature
    • Theory and methodology of language studies not elsewhere classified
Other information
Project description

Following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, a significant Rwandan diaspora has become established in Europe. The genocide continues to hold a central place in the collective memory of these diasporic communities. This project seeks to build an understanding of the commemorative practices taking place among Rwandan communities in the diaspora, asking how living in exile impacts on cultural responses to the genocide, how these responses are shaped by the culture and politics of the host nation, and how effectively existing theoretical models account for the contexts of commemorative and creative practices when analysing expressions of trauma. In particular, it will examine how exiled Rwandans negotiate a transcultural space within which to share their memories in the host community and the process of cultural translation that this inevitably entails. Taking as its starting point Madelaine Hron’s Translating Pain (2009),1 this project will not only consider Rwandan responses to the trauma of genocide, but also how their experiences of exile are affected by this trauma. It will investigate the different commemorative forms (testimonial, visual, literary, performative) Rwandans adopt in order to convey the combined traumatic experience of genocide and exile, and how this pain is ‘translated’, in both linguistic and cultural terms, so as to reach their target audience in the host communities. As the 25th anniversary of the genocide approaches, this is a timely project that explores the impact of memory and commemoration on Rwandan diasporic communities living in Europe. It aims to identify new trends in commemorative culture in the Rwandan diaspora, to explore their specificity and what they can tell us about how genocide is remembered within a broader comparative, transcultural framework. It will lead to a deeper understanding of the ways in which exiled communities commemorate traumatic events, foregrounding how public acts of remembrance can be used to engage dialogically with the host community. 

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Executive Agency (REA). Neither the European Union nor the authority can be held responsible for them.