Title: Genocide ideology, nation-building, counter-revolution: Specters of the Rwandan state and nation
Name: Mark Geraghty
Year: 2011
Type: Dissertation Fellowship
Summary:

Mark Geraghty's dissertation ethnographically investigates the contradiction whereby the Rwandan state's on-going campaign against "genocide ideology" (ingengabitekerezo ya jenoside) — prohibited in law as "thoughts" of ethnic hatred which threaten the recurrence of genocide — appears to re-inscribe the very terms and divisions it sets out to erase. Though it appears as a utopian promise that installs a dystopian assumption about its citizens (i.e. that they are racist), the campaign against genocide ideology does suggest a new form of nation-building based on the attempt to effect a radical break with the past. Precisely what form of nation-building does such a project of 'purification' represent and what kind of nation-state can result from it?

The dissertation examines this state campaign, in part, as an iteration of the performative contradiction of the "New Rwanda" — its constitutive need for that which it was predicated upon eradicating; arguing that this founding negative injunction gave rise to a particular politics of paranoia. At the same time, it demonstrates how a series of specters from the history of the nation- state — tied directly to the destructive force of a democracy felt responsible for violent events once legitimated, and now subject to erasure, as the 1959 Revolution — developed into a pervasive anxiety about an ideology potentially concealed deep within every citizen. It analyzes how genocide ideology came to be generalized and dispersed as a criminal act across a complex set of social positions amongst ordinary citizens and how it came to operate through a number of key institutions, such as military-run "re-education" camps (Ingando), the prison system, and local-level genocide courts (Gacaca) which allowed ordinary citizens to try and sentence their own neighborsBased on four years of ethnographic fieldwork and archival research in Rwanda, this dissertation contributes to the theoretical and ethnographic literatures on the fraught efforts of nation-states to stabilize the performative founding violence upon which their regimes of law are based; where such political projects precisely demand a mastery of those quotidian iterative forms involved in the construction of everyday normalcy, particularly in the wake of catastrophically violent political transitions.

This research project was the winner of the Richard Saller Prize for the best dissertation across the Division of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago.