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Role-Shifting in Atrocity Crimes: The Case of Rwanda


29 Sep 2021, 5:00pm





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This lecture explores the potentially problematic delineation between victims/survivors, bystanders, and perpetrators of genocide. Drawing on over a decade of oral historical research on the 1994 Rwandan genocide—in which approximately 800,000 civilians, most of whom were Tutsi, were murdered by Hutu Power extremists— Dr Jessee shows how many Rwandans’ experiences were more complex than the victim/survivor, bystander, and perpetrator categories permit. She argues instead for considering genocide-affected people as “complex political actors”, at least as a starting point for engagement. Doing so facilitates understanding of the extensive role-shifting that can occur amid mass atrocities as people negotiate survival, and may more effectively support initiatives aimed at promoting social repair by correcting the sometimes harmful overly-simplistic narratives that arise about genocide-affected people from all sides of the conflict.

Wall of Names – victims of the Rwandan genocide

Erin Jessee is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Glasgow, where she uses oral historical and ethnographic methods to engage with people’s diverse experiences of genocide and related mass atrocities, particularly in Rwanda. She is the author of Negotiating Genocide in Rwanda: The Politics of History, co-editor of Researching Perpetrators of Genocide,  and has published articles with Medical History, Memory Studies, Oral History Review, History in Africa, and Forensic Science International, among others.

This event is held as part of the Holocaust and Genocide Research Partnership event series.