My dissertation, “Memory Abroad: Narrative and Discursive Practices Surrounding the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi,” is an interdisciplinary study of the social context of genocide representations, that is, how people talk about it. Through a focus on language and commemoration, I am examining narrative practices, attitudes, and processes of socialization among people of Rwandan heritage, including those born in Rwanda and those born in the Diaspora.
My research explores how those in the Rwandan Diaspora commemorate the genocide by discursively positioning themselves in agreement with or in opposition to Rwanda’s national narrative, as well as how they may socialize others, particularly those not in Rwanda during the genocide, into telling similar narratives. Although much has been written regarding how Rwandans within country have memorialized the genocide, we know much less about how those living outside of Rwanda are commemorating genocide and other national mass atrocities, and much less still about how particular Rwandan communities socialize their members into appropriate ways of representing the genocide.
I am approaching this topic through ethnographic fieldwork among Rwandan Diasporic communities and at commemorative events in Canada. I am employing critical discourse analysis to analyze my data, employing Jan Blommaert and Dong Jie’s (2011) notion of discourse as “language-in-society.” Thus, I interpret discourse as deeply situated in a “web of relations of power, a dynamics of availability and accessibility, a situatedness of single acts vis-à-vis larger and historical patterns such as genres and traditions.”
This is a critical contribution to the scholarship, because it seeks to learn more about what various narratives regarding the genocide mean to Rwandans themselves and may, in turn, work toward a new theoretical understanding of Diaspora.