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Re-constructing the past in post-genocide Rwanda: an archaeological contribution

Giblin, J.D.; (2010) Re-constructing the past in post-genocide Rwanda: an archaeological contribution. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

A particular version of Rwanda’s pre-colonial Iron Age past was constructed during colonial rule and influenced by a racial world-view. This ethnicised and racialised past was used by successive Rwandan rulers to divide the population along newcomer/latecomer lines and eventually became a central tenet of the propaganda that contributed to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. More recently this racial presentation of Rwanda’s past has since been successfully deconstructed by social historians such as Mamdani (2002), Chrétien (2003), Eltringham (2004) Vansina (2004 and Newbury (2009), and has been shown to be a heavily biased construction based on colonial values. Yet, the ethno-racial presentation of the past continues to be problematic for history education in Rwanda. This thesis follows on from the work of these authors. It suggests that archaeology can usefully engage with contemporary political contexts, involving the deconstruction and reconstruction of Rwanda’s pre-colonial past in a climate of reconciliation. Following this introduction this thesis explores the concept of ethnicity in relation to Rwandan archaeology before reconsidering the tangible evidence for the Iron Age in Rwanda through a critical review of the existing literature. Furthermore, through the application of a politically aware and sensitive theoretical and methodological framework, this thesis explores non-ethno-racial historical narratives in pre-colonial Rwanda through a new body of archaeological data generated during twelve months of recent fieldwork in southern, central and northern Rwanda. Finally this thesis concludes with a summary of the archaeological outcomes of this research and some speculation on future research directions.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Re-constructing the past in post-genocide Rwanda: an archaeological contribution
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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