Archive: ‘Mass Atrocities’



New book review: André Guichaoua’s From War to Genocide: Criminal Politics in Rwanda, 1990-1994

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Genocide Studies and Prevention has just published my latest review of André Guichaoua’s From War to Genocide: Criminal Politics in Rwanda, 1990-1994. Translated from the original French by Don Webster, From War to Genocide is an excellent addition to the English-language literature on Rwanda. Guichaoua draws upon an impressive range of evidence collected by the Office of the Prosecution for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as part of its efforts to hold accountable those individuals with primary criminal responsibility for the 1994 genocide. As the former lead expert witness for the prosecution at the ICTR, Guichaoua had unprecedented access to these materials, which he then supplemented with his own interviews and related fieldwork among Rwandans who were not complicit in the genocide but had been close to Presidents Juvénal Habyarimana (r. 1973-1994) and Théodore Sindikubwabo (r. AprilJuly 1994), the interim President who ruled briefly following Habyarimana’s assassination. The outcome is a comprehensive overview of the civil war and genocide in Rwanda and one that speaks to several key debates among experts on the conflict: most notably, the question of which parties to the conflict were most likely responsible for Habyarimana’s assassination. Another potential point of controversy in Guichaoua’s book is his discussion of whether the genocide was the inevitable outcome of a long-term plan on the part of the Habyarimana regime, or the result of a last ditch effort on the part of the interim government to eliminate all Tutsi civilians in order to undermine the predominantly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front’s likely support base, in the increasingly likely event that they won the civil war and became the new ruling party of Rwanda.

Taken together, From War to Genocide offers a thorough overview of the rapidly shifting political climate in Rwanda during the civil war and genocide grounded almost entirely in primary sources (many of which are available online at the book’s website) and Guichaoua’s extensive knowledge of Rwandan politics.

New position: Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow in History at the University of Glasgow

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

I’m excited to announce that this July, I’ll be moving to a new position in History at the University of Glasgow. I’ve accepted a three-year contract as a Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow, and will be launching a new research program on Armed Conflict and Trauma. I’ll be continuing my work on Rwanda, but in addition will be focusing on a new research project: “Toward an Oral History of Mass Atrocities: Beyond Trauma and Healing in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Canada.” I’ll continue to work closely with the Scottish Oral History Centre as a Research Associate, and will also be developing new international research networks and collaborations. My email address after 1 July 2017 will be erin.jessee@glasgow.ac.uk.

New Book Review: Listening on the Edge edited by Mark Cave and Stephen Sloan

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

In advance of the next issue of Oral History Review, the journal has published my review of Mark Cave and Stephen Sloan’s new edited volume Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis (2014) online. To summarize, Listening on the Edge is essential reading for anyone engaged in the practice of oral history in conflict and post-conflict settings, and is particularly valuable for its ability to provoke readers to think through some of the particular ethical and methodological challenges of this kind of research, as well as the potential insights and benefits that it might produce. In the review, I provide a brief summary of each of the volume’s chapters, but this by no means does justice to their importance for the field, nor does it serve as an adequate substitute for a full and careful reading of the volume as a whole. Taken together, I argue that “Listening on the Edge advances the literature on the practice and ethics of crisis oral history by taking readers through the various negotiations that are often inherent in this work. Among its most important contributions, it offers insights on working with witnesses of traumatic events; the necessary distinctions between the often overlapping fields of oral history, psychology, and journalism; the dangers of vicarious trauma and other forms of emotional distress for the interviewer(s); and the necessity of bringing multiple experiences into conversation to reconstruct and comprehend how crises affect peoples’ lives. In doing so, the volume clearly demonstrates the many benefits that can emerge from applying oral history methods and theory to the study of crises, while simultaneously exploring the subfield’s potential pitfalls and limitations. That each chapter is grounded in interview excerpts, bringing interviewees’ voices into conversation with the oral historians’ analysis, is a particular strength of this volume.”

Keynote presentation: “Beyond victims and perpetrators: Complex political actors surrounding the 1994 genocide in Rwanda”

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

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Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the University of Marburg Centre for Conflict Studies conference “On Collective Violence: Actions, Roles, Perceptions.” It included three jam-packed days of presentations by scholars and practitioners approaching the study of collective violence in different settings from a range of (inter)disciplinary backgrounds. In addition to being expertly organized by Kristine Avram, Melanie Hartmann, Miriam Leiberich, Philipp Schultheiß, and Timothy Williams, the overall format of the event resulted in many excellent papers and fruitful conversations between those in attendance. (more…)

Call for papers: IAGS Panel on “Genocidal Symbolic Violence”

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

IAGS

Call for Papers: Panel on “Genocidal Symbolic Violence”

For submission to the IAGS Biennial Meeting, ‘Justice and the Prevention of Genocide’, 9 – 13 July 2017, Brisbane, Australia

Organizers: Dr Erin Jessee (Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde) and Dr. Annie Pohlman (The University of Queensland)

Since the 1990s, a growing range of scholarship within comparative genocide studies has analysed the role and function of various forms of excessive and often spectacular torture, mutilation and execution that have been observed during genocides around the world. Some of the earliest studies examined acts of ‘excessive’ violence (Feldman 1991; Malkki 1995; Sutton 1995; Taylor 1999; Boose, 2002) to consider how and why such acts were perceived to be necessary during genocide. These early studies gave rise to analyses of the culturally-specific ‘vivisectionist’ logic that is actively communicated through the extreme forms of violence inflicted upon the bodies of perceived enemies (Appadurai 1998), prompting scholars such as Jacques Semelin (2007) to question whether understanding the symbolic meaning inherent in ‘orgiastic violence’ is potentially ‘the key’ to understanding genocide and related mass atrocities in different settings. (more…)

 

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