Graduate Spring 2023: Irene Kemunto Momanyi

Testimony, Trauma, and Memory in Narratives of the Genocide Against the Tutsi

Department of French and Francophone Studies, African Studies Program

The existing scholarship on the literature dedicated to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda has long focused on narratives and testimonial accounts written by non-Rwandans. Nearly three decades later, this has resulted in the gradual marginalization of narratives by actual Rwandan survivors who claim, in contradistinction, that “only the one who has lived through the night can speak of it.” While this maxim in no way minimizes the work undertaken by non-Rwandans to generate greater awareness around the genocide, it underscores the critical relevance of survivors’ stories in any attempt to remember the genocide, and work toward justice and healing. Using a transdisciplinary approach that brings together critical elements from postcolonial studies, trauma studies, gender studies, and African and Francophone studies, Irene Momanyi’s dissertation explores how narratives by actual survivors recalibrate, challenge, and/or decolonize universalized conceptions of testimony, trauma, and memory, through a deep engagement with the ethnocultural, historical, and linguistic specificities of postcolonial contexts such as Rwanda. More specifically, the project argues, that survivor narratives offer unique perspectives on the Tutsi genocide and its traumatic aftermath, thus providing an opportunity for further expanding the growing field of postcolonial trauma studies.