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A step "not" beyond ethnicity in Rwanda: Political mythology and social identity: Report from a Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Minor Field Study, October - December 1999

Andersson, Stefan (2001)
Sociology
Abstract
The aim of this work is to study present Rwandan social identities. The aim is made operational by posing the question; how are group identities produced and reproduced in Rwanda? In order to answer this the study uses the bourdieuesian notion of habitus, incorporated products of history that are active principles for unification of practices and representations, as the analytical concept of social identity. The work observes how identities practically reveal themselves in the narration of life stories by Rwandan students that are pursuing higher education; politics approached from below. Like many other studies on Rwanda the study sets out by those social identities social sciences traditionally divide the Rwandan social space into, what... (More)
The aim of this work is to study present Rwandan social identities. The aim is made operational by posing the question; how are group identities produced and reproduced in Rwanda? In order to answer this the study uses the bourdieuesian notion of habitus, incorporated products of history that are active principles for unification of practices and representations, as the analytical concept of social identity. The work observes how identities practically reveal themselves in the narration of life stories by Rwandan students that are pursuing higher education; politics approached from below. Like many other studies on Rwanda the study sets out by those social identities social sciences traditionally divide the Rwandan social space into, what is labelled ethnic groups; Hutus, Tutsis and Twas. Against the background of the genocide in 1994, where about one million lives perished during one hundred days, it is hard not to do so. In this work ethnicity refers to practices of social division, inclusion and exclusion of groups that are socially and historically constructed. Common to the notions of ethnicity, race and nation is the reference to socially constructed origins, imagined as the natural foundation for social divisions that ultimately have a political foundation. The signifier ethnicity is however problematic, therefor it must be analytically deconstructed and reconstructed. One such way to enter the social construction of ethnic identities in the Rwandan field is to take off from the present political knowledge. Thus, the study approaches the genocide with Foucault's notions bio-power and the "war of the races". Colonialism brought about a constitutive imaginary containing the reading of Rwandan history as a "war of the races". At the present, it is not possible to say what were the identities before colonialism in what is now Rwanda. Nevertheless, it is evident that social divisions in Rwanda were not racialised until a constitutive imaginary where the "Tutsis" were represented as a conquering "race" and Rwanda was created as a "Tutsi kingdom" was realised through colonial power. When social change and independence came it was in the name of an oppressed Hutu majority. Instead of a break with the constitutive imaginary displaying Hutu and Tutsi as essentially different "races" it was recuperation, with an inversion of roles within, it of the hierarchical order assigned to them as groups considered. In the aftermath of this "war of the races" - the genocide - it is not scientifically justifiable to speak of social identities in Rwanda in terms of ethnicit y without qualifying the use of it. The study treats ethnicity as a continuum where the meaning, intensity and salience vary. Habitus is engendered in the social world and it is the active principle for possible strategies. If the students in the material used "ethnic strategies" before the genocide it was so because it was made possible to do so, and impossible not to, in a social world containing ethnicity as a principal principle for inclusion and exclusion. One such instance where this was made manifest was schooling. During the genocide ethnicity as the principal for social division was made acute to all by imposing the right of life and death. By conceptualising an empirical identity, habitus, as a trajectory of subsequently held positions within a social field that is itself in constant change this work argues that "ethnicity" in the present state of the Rwandan field is the tension of rupture and recuperation of ethnicity in Rwanda. Inclusive to the social world is the perception social agents have of it All the students claim above all a Rwandan identity, denying the validity of this would be denying them a part of themselves. At the same time, many of the students do not deny that they also belong to one or the other group that are known as "ethnic groups". Further, the way identities practically reveal themselves in the narration of life stories points to different groups of identities in Rwanda, different trajectories of becoming Rwandan. These groups are engendered in the ethnic identities of the past in the sense that they overlap, coincide with and part from them. This does not imply that ethnicity resides as the principal principle for social identity in Rwanda. As its salience, intensity and meaning has changed it is no longer the same thing. The study points to a step beyond ethnicity, although it at the same time it does not step beyond ethnicity, both concerning the social identities in the present and the social sciences that aim at explaining them. Keywords: bio-power, ethnicity, genocide, habitus, Rwanda (Less)
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author
Andersson, Stefan
supervisor
organization
year
type
H1 - Master's Degree (One Year)
subject
keywords
Sociology, Sociologi
language
English
id
1355970
date added to LUP
2004-11-08
date last changed
2011-05-12 15:48:37
@misc{1355970,
  abstract     = {The aim of this work is to study present Rwandan social identities. The aim is made operational by posing the question; how are group identities produced and reproduced in Rwanda? In order to answer this the study uses the bourdieuesian notion of habitus, incorporated products of history that are active principles for unification of practices and representations, as the analytical concept of social identity. The work observes how identities practically reveal themselves in the narration of life stories by Rwandan students that are pursuing higher education; politics approached from below. Like many other studies on Rwanda the study sets out by those social identities social sciences traditionally divide the Rwandan social space into, what is labelled ethnic groups; Hutus, Tutsis and Twas. Against the background of the genocide in 1994, where about one million lives perished during one hundred days, it is hard not to do so. In this work ethnicity refers to practices of social division, inclusion and exclusion of groups that are socially and historically constructed. Common to the notions of ethnicity, race and nation is the reference to socially constructed origins, imagined as the natural foundation for social divisions that ultimately have a political foundation. The signifier ethnicity is however problematic, therefor it must be analytically deconstructed and reconstructed. One such way to enter the social construction of ethnic identities in the Rwandan field is to take off from the present political knowledge. Thus, the study approaches the genocide with Foucault's notions bio-power and the "war of the races". Colonialism brought about a constitutive imaginary containing the reading of Rwandan history as a "war of the races". At the present, it is not possible to say what were the identities before colonialism in what is now Rwanda. Nevertheless, it is evident that social divisions in Rwanda were not racialised until a constitutive imaginary where the "Tutsis" were represented as a conquering "race" and Rwanda was created as a "Tutsi kingdom" was realised through colonial power. When social change and independence came it was in the name of an oppressed Hutu majority. Instead of a break with the constitutive imaginary displaying Hutu and Tutsi as essentially different "races" it was recuperation, with an inversion of roles within, it of the hierarchical order assigned to them as groups considered. In the aftermath of this "war of the races" - the genocide - it is not scientifically justifiable to speak of social identities in Rwanda in terms of ethnicit y without qualifying the use of it. The study treats ethnicity as a continuum where the meaning, intensity and salience vary. Habitus is engendered in the social world and it is the active principle for possible strategies. If the students in the material used "ethnic strategies" before the genocide it was so because it was made possible to do so, and impossible not to, in a social world containing ethnicity as a principal principle for inclusion and exclusion. One such instance where this was made manifest was schooling. During the genocide ethnicity as the principal for social division was made acute to all by imposing the right of life and death. By conceptualising an empirical identity, habitus, as a trajectory of subsequently held positions within a social field that is itself in constant change this work argues that "ethnicity" in the present state of the Rwandan field is the tension of rupture and recuperation of ethnicity in Rwanda. Inclusive to the social world is the perception social agents have of it All the students claim above all a Rwandan identity, denying the validity of this would be denying them a part of themselves. At the same time, many of the students do not deny that they also belong to one or the other group that are known as "ethnic groups". Further, the way identities practically reveal themselves in the narration of life stories points to different groups of identities in Rwanda, different trajectories of becoming Rwandan. These groups are engendered in the ethnic identities of the past in the sense that they overlap, coincide with and part from them. This does not imply that ethnicity resides as the principal principle for social identity in Rwanda. As its salience, intensity and meaning has changed it is no longer the same thing. The study points to a step beyond ethnicity, although it at the same time it does not step beyond ethnicity, both concerning the social identities in the present and the social sciences that aim at explaining them. Keywords: bio-power, ethnicity, genocide, habitus, Rwanda},
  author       = {Andersson, Stefan},
  keyword      = {Sociology,Sociologi},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {A step "not" beyond ethnicity in Rwanda: Political mythology and social identity: Report from a Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Minor Field Study, October - December 1999},
  year         = {2001},
}