The Ethics of Stability: Rebuilding Rwanda After the 1994 Genocide
WENDEL-DISSERTATION-2016.pdf (96.89Mb)(embargoed until: 2025-11-01)
Wendel, Delia Duong Ba
MetadataShow full item record
CitationWendel, Delia Duong Ba. 2016. The Ethics of Stability: Rebuilding Rwanda After the 1994 Genocide. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractAfter conditions of mass violence, spatial rebuilding processes take on added significance as restorative projects with exceptional challenges. This is the premise of this dissertation, which is situated in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide to explore peacebuilding practices that were imagined, realized, and challenged in the rebuilding of houses, settlements, and civic space. A spatial perspective is especially relevant to this country in Central Africa, where a small territorial area, extreme population density, and livelihoods based on small-hold farming intersect with landscapes of traumatic memory and disputes related to post-genocide cohabitation. With spaces central to lived experience, economy, and political order, the Rwandan government and its partners designated architecture and planning to do peacebuilding work. The breadth of this engagement is exemplified in the four sites of inquiry that guide this study, which include: genocide memorials, rural villages, a roof modernization program, and a local radio drama’s fictional spaces of conflict and peace. In nine chapters, this dissertation explores spatial forms of peacebuilding after mass violence—to restore self and home, develop new relationships of neighborliness, address memories of violence, reestablish forms of governance, and imagine national futures—and the ruptures and conflicts that these rebuilding processes produce.
The dissertation’s central argument is that an “ethic of stability” drives government peacebuilding strategies and that this ethic requires spatial production for activation and fulfillment. The concept refers to the conflation of nation building and peacebuilding in Rwanda, where what constitutes “peace” has been interpreted through state objectives. It also addresses the ways in which the four projects that comprise this study produce peace and state through stabilizing, spatial practices. In each site of inquiry, the ethics of stability is manifest in the government’s work to fix genocide narratives by preserving human remains in sites of killing (memorials); de-volatilize interpersonal relationships in cohabitation and economic development strategies (new villages); represent peace as aesthetic uniformity and national unity (roof program); and imagine past violence as land conflicts to envision alternative futures (radio drama’s fictional spaces). These relationships identify peacebuilding in a wide range of spatial strategies to achieve sociopolitical change, redefine societal values, and modernize and develop. They also reveal ethical dilemmas in regards to residents’ lack of choice, state enforcement, and the use of exceptional post-genocide policies to manage everyday life. Both aspects of these peacebuilding projects remind us that peace is not merely achieved through instrumental strategies for sustainable coexistence; it is, at the same time, a set of moral values and codes of conduct that is shaped by cultural environments. This dissertation explores the aspirations and contradictions of the ethics of stability in Rwanda by exploring planned, imagined, and lived spaces through a combination of spatial, ethnographic, survey, and historical research. It has been motivated to identify the spatial modes by which peace is approximated. In the process, the study has also raised questions regarding the role of development in peacebuilding processes and revealed a series of local challenges to rebuilding national community after mass violence.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37366105
- FAS Theses and Dissertations