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Killing neighbors: Social dimensions of genocide in Rwanda: 

Killing neighbors: Social dimensions of genocide in Rwanda Lee Ann Fujii PhD Candidate, GWU Africanist Summer Fellow, WWICS


Roadmap Research question Methodology and fieldwork Characteristics of the violence Process model for participation Findings Conclusion

Research question: 

Research question How do neighbors become genocidal killers of neighbors? Question applied to Rwanda Helps to explain how genocide could have occurred at all No mass participation, no genocide

Puzzle of participation: 

Puzzle of participation Not rational for masses to participate Benefits accrue mainly to leaders Not in any individual’s self-interest Ties should preclude neighbor violence Reciprocal ties = social capital Social capital => greater cooperation More difficult to kill intimately More difficult to kill someone one knows More difficult to kill at close range

Features of genocide in Rwanda: 

Features of genocide in Rwanda Elite-organized and led but mass implemented Killers were ordinary farmers Hutu men b/w 30-40 Married with children Many with Tutsi relatives and friends No special training in mass killing Killers knew their victims

Characteristics of violence: 

Characteristics of violence Killers killed at close range Machetes, hoes, clubs Killers killed in groups Groups were large (15-50) Killers killed out in the open During daylight, in front of others Killings took ritualized form Chants, costumes, audience Hunting, encircling, burying


Approach Most approaches focus on elites v. masses Proposed approach Micro-level Disaggregates “the masses” Looks at vertical and horizontal relations Process-oriented Views genocide as process, not event Assumes changing, not static, motives and identities Subjective Looks at process from inside out


Methodology Archival research and document search 9 months of fieldwork in Rwanda 2 research sites One village + prison in the north (Ruhengeri) One village + prison in the south (Gitarama) 80+ respondents Purposive sample Spectrum of participants/actors: killers, rescuers, bystanders, resisters et al. 230+ intensive interviews Strategy of repeat visits With ever smaller sample at each round

Main participants: 

Main participants Profiteer: Leads and organizes genocide Collaborators: Denounce victims Joiners: Go along with what others are doing

Process model for Joiners: 

Process model for Joiners Initiation Pull of social ties Continuation Constitutive power of group acts Exit Response to external change (e.g., escalation/de-escalation of war)

Initiation stage: 

Initiation stage In conditions of insecurity or uncertainty People go along with what others are doing Existing ties pull people in same direction People see few options or feel powerless to do otherwise Avoiding the pull requires conscious act of refusal

Initiation in Ruhengeri: 

Initiation in Ruhengeri Rumor circulates that neighbor is hiding ibyitso Group of 15 plans day of attack At appointed day, group encircles house, throws rocks on roof Man comes out brandishing machete One in the group kills man instantly

Initiation v. Resistance: 

Initiation v. Resistance Stefan No conscious decision Just ended up at neighbor’s house Edouard Believed what he heard Wanted to protect against the threat Gustave “I refused to do anything that had to do with politics. They asked me to do night patrols but I refused.”

Continuation stage: 

Continuation stage In group contexts, people engaged in specific practices and acts of killing Whistle, chant, encircle, watch, dig holes Acts of killing constituted group as social actor called Interahamwe Interahamwe identity adhered only to groups Only in group (killing) contexts Killings make groups and groups make killings

Killing v. Not killing: 

Killing v. Not killing Groups killed, individuals did not When in groups, impossible to save When alone, killers did not kill Olivier “True” Interahamwe Involved in nearly every killing Accused of having Tutsi wife and harboring Tutsi Helps Tutsi boy escape killers


Findings Participation was socially embedded in set of dense ties Profiteers, Collaborators, Joiners, victims, and rescuers came from same families Joiners and victims were friends Joiners worked in groups of friends

Findings (cont.): 

Findings (cont.) Ties could help, but mostly a liability While some individual Interahamwe helped Tutsi friends Same person might also kill a stranger Rescuers rescued anyone, including strangers While some Hutu families helped Tutsi family members, Collaborators often came from inside the family Danger of ties Source of local knowledge, personal motives Source of momentum for joining in Very difficult for victims and Joiners to “escape” these


Conclusion Participation occurs through process of social interaction, not instrumental calculation Social ties not only shape “neighborly” violence, they also facilitate it

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