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Ethnicity without labels?

Ambiguity and excess in “postethnic” Rwanda

Laura Eramian

Following the 1994 genocide, the government of Rwanda embarked on a “deethnicization” campaign to outlaw Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa labels and replace them with a pan-Rwandan national identity. Since then, to use ethnic labels means risking accusations of “divisionism” or perpetuating ethnic schisms. Based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork in the university town of Butare, I argue that the absence of ethnic labels produces practical interpretive problems for Rwandans because of the excess of possible ways of interpreting what people mean when they evaluate each other's conduct in everyday talk. I trace the historical entanglement of ethnicity with class, rural/urban, occupational, and moral distinctions such that the content of ethnic stereotypes can be evoked even without ethnic labels. In so doing, I aim to enrich understandings of both the power and danger inherent in the ambiguous place of ethnicity in Rwanda's “postethnic” moment.

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Neutral evaluators or testimonial connoisseurs? Valuing and evaluating reconciliation in post‐genocide Rwanda

Laura Eramian

Countless reconciliation initiatives – state and non‐state, local and international – have emerged to redress the legacies of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Based on fieldwork with two Rwandan peace‐building organisations, this article takes an ethnographic perspective on how these organisations measure or evaluate ‘how reconciled’ Rwandans are. Organisations’ measurements of reconciliation are based on testimonies they collect from genocide survivors and perpetrators. They read ‘indicators’ into these testimonies to quantify the progress of reconciliation in a given region, but their process of deriving those numbers from testimony is never clear. I argue that organisation staff do not only stake their expertise on ‘objective’ measures of reconciliation that manage the ambiguities of testimony, but also on their performance of gifted subjective intuition to discern ‘authentic’ testimony from that which conceals ongoing enmity. As such, anthropological understandings of modern evaluative practices must take seriously both subjectivity and objectivity as potential sources of power and authority. In the end, evaluating reconciliation may not only be driven by organisational or political demands to produce metrics, but also by organisation staff's search for confirmation of their own worth in the post‐conflict recovery project and for signs that violence will not erupt in Rwanda again.