The Mistakes That Make People

Reconceptualizing Power and Resistance in Rwanda

in Social Analysis

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.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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