Based on more than a decade of intensive fieldwork, Genocide Lives in Us provides a unique grassroots perspective on a postconflict society. Anthropologist Jennie E. Burnet relates with sensitivity the heart-wrenching survival stories of ordinary Rwandan women and uncovers political and historical themes in their personal narratives. She shows that women’s leading role in Rwanda’s renaissance resulted from several factors: the dire postgenocide situation that forced women into new roles; advocacy by the Rwandan women’s movement; and the inclusion of women in the postgenocide government.
Honorable Mention, Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize, Women’s Caucus of the African Studies Association
Fujii argues that ethnic hatred and fear do not satisfactorily explain the mobilization of Rwandans one against another. Fujii's extensive interviews in Rwandan prisons and two rural communities form the basis for her claim that mass participation in the genocide was not the result of ethnic antagonisms. Rather, the social context of action was critical. Strong group dynamics and established local ties shaped patterns of recruitment for and participation in the genocide.
This web of social interactions bound people to power holders and killing groups. People joined and continued to participate in the genocide over time, Fujii shows, because killing in large groups conferred identity on those who acted destructively. The perpetrators of the genocide produced new groups centered on destroying prior bonds by killing kith and kin.
While recognizing the necessity of pursuing accountability for mass atrocity, the book argues that a maximal approach to accountability for genocide may undermine the promotion of core objectives of transitional justice. Taking on one of the key questions facing practitioners and scholars of transitional justice today, the book suggests that the pursuit of mass accountability, particularly where socio-economic resources and legal capacity is limited, may destabilize the process of rule of law reform, endangering core human rights norms. Moreover, the book suggests that pursuing a strategy of mass accountability may undermine the process of democratic transition, particularly in a context where impunity for crimes committed by the victors of armed conflicts persists. Highlighting the ongoing democratic deficit in Rwanda and resulting political instability in the Great Lakes region, the book argues that the effectiveness of transitional justice ultimately hinges on the nature and success of political transition.