• Mostar bridge, Sarajevo
  • Victims of genocide, Nyamata memorial, Rwanda
  • Parade of coffins, Srebrenica, Bosnia
  • Mountain gorilla twins, Rwanda
  • Mosque, Sarajevo, Bosnia
  • Altar, Nyamata memorial, Rwanda
  • Remembering the dead, Srebrenica, Bosnia
  • Rural life, Rwanda
  • Victims of genocide, Srebrenica, Bosnia
  • Prisoners at work, Rwanda
  • Pigeon square, Sarajevo, Bosnia
  • VIctims of genocide, Ntarama, Rwanda

New Publication: ‘Rwandan Women No More: Female Génocidaires in the Aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide’ in Conflict and Society

December 14th, 2015

Murambi wood carvings

I’m pleased to announce my article, ‘Rwandan Women No More: Female Génocidaires in the Aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide‘ has just been published in the new anthropology journal, Conflict and Society: Advances in Research. Part of a special section that explores the ethical, methodological, and theoretical insights that can be gained from applying ethnographic methods to the study of perpetrators of political violence, this article examines Rwanda’s admittedly dynamic gender norms as they pertain to the alleged criminal activities of Rwandan women during the 1994 genocide.

Since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the current government has arrested approximately 130,000 civilians who were suspected of criminal responsibility. An estimated 2,000 were women, a cohort that remains rarely researched through an ethnographic lens. This article begins to address this oversight by analyzing ethnographic encounters with 8 confessed or convicted female génocidaires from around Rwanda. These encounters reveal that many female génocidaires believe they endure gender-based discrimination throughout their post-genocide legal journeys for having violated taboos that determine appropriate conduct for Rwandan women. However, only female génocidaires with minimal education, wealth, and social capital referenced this gender-based discrimination to minimize their crimes and assert claims of victimization. Conversely, female elites who helped incite the genocide framed their victimization in terms of political betrayal and victor’s justice. This difference is likely informed by the female elites’ participation in the political processes that made the genocide possible, as well as historical precedence for leniency where female elites are concerned.

As always, I’m grateful for the hard work of the editorial team at Conflict and Society — Ronald Stade, Erella Grassiani, and Alexander Horstmann — as well as the anonymous reviewers and participants in the 2013 AAA panel and 2014 ‘Approaching Perpetrators’ workshop who provided helpful feedback on early drafts of this article. Extra special thanks go to the Rwandan women who are the subject of this article, for sharing their narratives with me.

Special Section of new journal, Conflict and Society, on ‘Approaching Perpetrators’

December 14th, 2015


Congratulations to Ronald Stade, Erella Grassiani, and Alexander Horstmann on the launch of the new anthropology journal, Conflict and Society! As part of its inaugural issue, they have published a special section that includes several excellent papers from the workshop I co-organized in May 2014 with Tal Nitsán on ‘Conflict and Society, Volume 1 (2015)‘. The following is a brief excerpt from the introduction I wrote for the special section:

“The rationale for this special section of Conflict and Society lies in anthropology’s relatively recent and steadily growing application to the study of political violence in its various manifestations, from everyday instances of subtle structural violence to more overt cases of war and mass atrocities. In the late 1990s, Carolyn Nordstrom’s (1997) work among soldiers and ordinary civilians whose lives had been intimately affected by Mozambique’s civil war and Antonius Robben’s (1996) work among survivors and perpetrators of Argentina’s Dirty War enabled an important shift among ethnographers. Whereas in the past ethnographers typically focused on violence and warfare in substate and prestate societies, Nordstrom and Robben emphasized the foundations of political violence in complex state societies. Their work led to the emergence of a small cohort of ethnographers—among them Philippe Bourgois (2003), Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1997, 2002), and Neil Whitehead (2002, 2004)—specialized in what was soon termed “the ethnography of political violence”. Read the rest of this entry »

New(ish) Publication: ‘The Limits of Oral History’ in the new edition of Perks & Thomson’s The Oral History Reader

December 8th, 2015


Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson have just published the 3rd edition of their eagerly anticipated The Oral History Reader. The new edition includes several time-tested favorites found in previous editions, such as Paul Thompson’s ‘Voice of the past: Oral history’, Alessandro Portelli’s ‘What makes oral history different?’, Ann Stoler and Karen Strassler’s ‘Memory work in Java: A cautionary tale’, and Kathleen Blee’s ‘Evidence, empathy, and ethics: Lessons from oral histories of the Klan’. However, it also contains a host of new contributions, such as Steven High’s ‘Mapping memories of displacement: Oral history, memoryscapes and mobile methodologies’ and Sean Field’s ‘Imagining communities: Memory, loss and resilience in post-apartheid Cape Town’. And I’m pleased to announce that the final chapter is excerpted from my 2011 Oral History Review article ‘The limits of oral history: Ethics and methodology amid highly politicized research settings’. It’s truly an honour to have been selected to contribute to such a meaningful and essential oral history text. I’m grateful to Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson for their hard work in bringing this new edition together, and look forward to using it in my ‘Oral History Theory and Practice’ and ‘Advanced Oral History’ classes.

Call for papers: OHA Panel on “Seeking Asylum: Oral History, Law, and Refugee Crises”

November 30th, 2015


Call for Papers

Seeking Asylum: Oral History, Law, and Refugee Crises

For the submission to the

OHA Annual Meeting on ‘Traditions, Transitions and Technologies from the Field’
October 12-16, 2016
Long Beach, California
Renaissance Long Beach Hotel

Organizers: Katherine Fobear (Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia) & Erin Jessee (Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde)


Working Abstract

In 2015, the United Nationals Human Rights Commission reported that displacement and forced migration has reached the highest level ever since the 1980s. With the recent influx of refugees in Europe and North America, what is the role of oral history and oral historians working with refugees? Oral histories on refugees have brought to surface the experiential knowledge of forced migration and resettlement for refugees and their families. However, there has been little work reflecting on the use of oral history in the asylum process, and the multiple and conflicting roles that oral historians play in assisting refugee claimants and working with displaced populations. Read the rest of this entry »

Call for chapter abstracts extended: Edited volume on “Approaching Perpetrators”

October 5th, 2015

Prisoners at work, Rwanda

Approaching Perpetrators: Insights on Ethics, Methods, and Theory

Deadline extended: October 31, 2015

Editors: Kjell Anderson, Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies,

& Erin Jessee, University of Strathclyde


Although much has been written about the causes of genocide and similar mass atrocities, there are still significant gaps in our knowledge of perpetrators. While a range of studies have emerged over the past few decades that examine perpetrators’ motives and actions as represented in legal transcripts or through the narratives of survivors, for example, there is a relative paucity of studies that emerge from firsthand qualitative fieldwork with perpetrators themselves. Our volume will address this gap by bringing into conversation for the first time a selection of chapters on perpetrators of genocide and related mass atrocities based entirely on qualitative field research. As such, this volume will explore the personal, social, economic, political and historical contexts through which people from a range of backgrounds become perpetrators, and the theoretical insights that can be gained from engaging with perpetrators’ narratives, facilitating a more nuanced understanding of how genocide and related mass atrocities take shape within societies. Read the rest of this entry »


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