Constructing identities : the transition of the Hutu/Tutsi dichotomy in Rwanda

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2006-01-01
Authors
Begley, Larissa
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Abstract

Eleven years ago the world witnessed the violent and systematic attempt by government-sponsored organizations and militias of a small African country to cleanse its lands of an entire section of its populations. Approximately one million people were killed during the hundred-day genocide in Rwanda. Neighbors killed neighbors, as ordinary civilians became both victims and killers. There is much debate surrounding the origins of the Hutu/Tutsi identity. This dichotomy has been constructed, reinforced and contested by those competing for political domination and legitimization. This paper will explore theories relative to identity formation and the origins of the Hutu/Tutsi dichotomy. Using participant observations and formal and informal interviews, my research was concerned with the processes of reconstructing identities based on class, race and nationalism in Rwanda. It is my hypothesis that the rigid "ethnic" divisions that facilitated the Rwandan genocide were once fluid social categories that became static under colonial rule and were manipulated for political purposes in the post-independence era. [Keywords; Rwanda, genocide, identity, ethnicity, nationalism].

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