The Mistakes That Make People

Reconceptualizing Power and Resistance in Rwanda

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 Brunel University London william.rollason@brunel.ac.uk
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Abstract

This article constitutes a critique of James C. Scott’s theory of everyday resistance and the use of these concepts in anthropology more generally. Its claim is that theories of power and resistance need to be analyzed in terms of local ideas about the nature of people in order to account for what happens in social life. This contention is based on ideas of personhood among motorcycle taxi drivers in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. Central to these ideas are the ‘faults’ or ‘mistakes’ that people ‘have’, which form the basis of social relations founded on ‘patience’ or ‘forbearance’. Because of these relations, people typically do not take the form of bounded individuals who can act as resistant subjects in Scott’s terms. Thus, we require a reconceptualization of notions of power and resistance based on Rwandan understandings of the person.

Contributor Notes

Will Rollason is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Brunel University London. He has conducted research in Papua New Guinea and Rwanda, focusing on the relation between sameness and difference in the context of sport, livelihoods, and politics. He recently edited a volume, Future Selves in the Pacific: Projects, Politics and Interests (2014), and he is currently developing a monograph on the motorcycle taxi business in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, the subject of a number of his most recent articles. E-mail: william.rollason@brunel.ac.uk

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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