In the Place of Sorrow: Storytelling, Sociality, and Survival in Post-Genocide Rwanda and Its Refugee Camps
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CitationBrower, Lowell. 2019. In the Place of Sorrow: Storytelling, Sociality, and Survival in Post-Genocide Rwanda and Its Refugee Camps. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractHarabaye ntihakabe. Harapfuye ntihagapfe. Kera Habayeho… [It happened, but may it never happen again. There was death, but may it never return. Once upon a time…] So begins the customary Rwandan igitaramo storytelling event: a transformative communal ritual through which Kinyarwandaphone storytellers and their audiences are telling tales, performing poems, and wielding words to change their worlds. In their oral-literary compositions and storytelling performances, Rwandans are breaking silences, confronting traumas, exhibiting eloquence, leveling critiques, negotiating ethics, demonstrating belonging, producing unprecedented publics, building alternative archives of experience, enacting everyday social repair, conveying otherwise inexpressible sentiments, and sometimes, even if only temporarily, imagining together what it might mean “kubana neza [to live together well]” after genocidal violence, forced displacement, and profound social rupture. Based on over 2,000 Kinyarwanda oral narratives collected during intimate “ethnogra-folkloristic” fieldwork conducted in 36 post-conflict communities, this work offers “palimpsestic translations” of particular storytelling events, highlighting the powers, potentials, politics, and poetics of storytelling twenty years after the 1994 Jenoside Yakorewe Abatutsi [Genocide Done to the Tutsi]. In seeking to illuminate the resurgence of communal storytelling in “The New Rwanda,” this work focuses on how storytellers are reviving and revising a host of ancient verbal genres, including imigani miremire tales, ibiteekerezo legends, and ibyivugo praise poems, in response to a host of contemporary post-conflict challenges, including peaceful coexistence after communal violence, reconstruction after existential devastation, rehabilitation after forced migration, and survival after mass atrocity.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41121330
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