Theses Doctoral

The Art of Reconciliation in Rwanda

Shepard, Meredith

Although scholarship on human rights has burgeoned within literary studies in recent years, that scholarship primarily engages literature as an outlet for trauma and witnessing, rather than restoration and recovery. "The Art of Reconciliation in Rwanda" instead reflects upon the recuperative capacities of art to fuel State-led reconciliation programs. Concentrating on Rwandan literature, theater, film, and memorial sites following the 1994 genocide, I theorize the many literatures of reconciliation in terms of three distinct genres: transfiguration, trial, and memorialization. Existing debates about reconciliation within Rwanda have furthermore been dominated by social science and ethnographic research that wrongly reduce reconciliation to ethnic identity, thereby presuming that survivors, bystanders, and perpetrators only possess conflicting views over the national project to unify. But as the artworks I discuss differently indicate, Rwandan reconciliation has exceeded such formulaic categories to manifest in overlapping genres and vectors of identification that transcend ethnic divides. In my dissertation, genre thus offers a route to both creating and perceiving the “commonality within difference” so crucial to successful reconciliation politics.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Slaughter, Joseph R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 10, 2019