restricted access 2. Remembering Genocide: Lived Memory and National Mourning
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­ 74 It is dif­fi­ cult to over­ es­ ti­ mate the phys­ i­ cal, so­ cial, emo­ tional, and psycho­ log­ i­ cal dev­ as­ ta­ tion of the 1994 gen­ o­ cide in ­ Rwanda. Rwan­ dan women found them­ selves in a hor­ rify­ ing sit­ u­ a­ tion: the hills, ­ fields, and ­ churches were full of­ corpses; hus­ bands, chil­ dren, broth­ ers, sis­ ters, par­ ents, cou­ sins, and neigh­ bors had been ­ hunted like ­ quarry and slaugh­ tered; women had lost all their ma­ te­ rial pos­ ses­ sions—their homes, cloth­ ing, farm­ ing im­ ple­ ments, and cook­ ing pots; govern­ ment build­ ings had been ­ looted and de­ stroyed. The harsh ma­ te­ rial re­ al­ ities of post­ gen­ o­ cide ­ Rwanda ­ created an en­ tirely new con­ text for kin and so­ cial re­ la­ tions. The ap­ prox­ i­ mately six mil­ lion ci­ vil­ ians who re­ mained in ­ Rwanda, in­ clud­ ing sev­ eral thou­ sand gen­ o­ cide sur­ vi­ vors who were phys­ i­ cally and psycho­ log­ i­ cally trau­ ma­ tized, had to pick up the­ pieces of their lives with lit­ tle as­ sis­ tance from inter­ na­ tional aid agen­ cies. In­ itially, the pop­ u­ la­ tion was in a state of shock as a re­ sult of the dev­ as­ ta­ tion. Many sur­ vi­ vors were ut­ terly in­ ca­ pac­ i­ tated by their men­ tal and emo­ tional­ states. A Cath­ o­ lic ­ priest, him­ self a gen­ o­ cide sur­ vi­ vor, de­ scribed his ar­ ri­ val 2 Re­ mem­ ber­ ing Gen­ o­ cide Lived Mem­ ory and Na­ tional Mourn­ ing Remembering Genocide 75 at a rural par­ ish in south­ ern ­ Rwanda: “The ­ bishop sent me here in No­ vem­ ber 1994 to give Mass. When I ar­ rived the ­ church was full of sur­ vi­ vors— women and chil­ dren. They were stay­ ing here. When I spoke to them, they­ didn’t even look up. They were empty—phys­ i­ cally and spir­ i­ tu­ ally. They had noth­ ing to eat, no soap to wash with, no­ where to live. I re­ al­ ized they could not re­ ceive Mass, not in the state they were in. They ­ weren’t even human any­ more.” While cul­ tural tra­ di­ tions of mourn­ ing may be im­ pos­ sible to prac­ tice in the wake of gen­ o­ cide, Rwan­ dans have im­ pro­ vised their own means to put aside their grief and go on liv­ ing. Some have moved to live in a new place to avoid re­ mem­ ber­ ing. Oth­ ers re­ mar­ ried or gave birth to new chil­ dren. By bur­ y­ ing them­ selves in the mi­ nu­ tiae of every­ day life, a life that ­ slowly re­ gained nor­ malcy with the pas­ sage of time, they suc­ ceeded at least par­ tially in keep­ ing their mem­ o­ ries and the neg­ a­ tive emo­ tions at­ tached to them— sad­ ness, anger, guilt, and ha­ tred—at bay. In a sense, Rwan­ dan women have­ crafted a form of col­ lec­ tive am­ ne­ sia ­ vis-à-vis the “events of 1994,” as many Rwan­ dans refer to them.1 Yet some­ times the un­ ex­ pect­ ed­ ness of every­ day life (the rec­ og­ ni­ tion of a mo­ ment in time, a place, a sound, an ob­ ject, an ac­ tion, or a con­ flu­ ence of these and other fac­ tors) ­ breaks ­ through this am­ ne­ sia and trans­ ports some­ one back to the gen­ o­ cide, to a place of vi­ o­ lence, fear, and ter­ ror. These re­ mem­ brances are em­ bed­ ded in every­ day life and thus im­ pos­ sible to con­ trol com­ pletely.2 One eth­ no­ graphic ex­ am­ ple il­ lus­ trates the in­ tru­ sion of lived mem­ o­ ries into every­ day life and how in­ di­ vid­ ual mourn­ ing be­ comes po­ lit­ i­ cal. Im­ mac­ u­ lée lost her hus­ band the same day the gen­ o­ cide ­ started in their com­ mu­ nity in south­ ern ­ Rwanda on April 21, 1994. Im­ mac­ u­ lée hid with her chil­ dren for sev­ eral weeks at a ­ neighbor’s house until she de­ cided to try to es...


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