Accepted paper:

Integrating the 'other Rwandans': power and homogenisation policies in Rwanda


Christiane Adamczyk (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

The relationship between individuals and the state in Rwanda is often described as dominated by the state and its development policies. How such policies are challenged or used to secure power is shown using the example of schemes targeting the Twa, a group classified as insufficiently integrated.

Paper long abstract:

The relationship between individuals and the state in Rwanda today is often described as one clearly dominated by the state: with his disciplinary power the state seeks to reform individuals along norms tied to key issues like reconciliation, development and national unity. Institutions such as state-run civic education or solidarity camps help to inculcate the population with the desired ideals of development and modernism. On its way to modernism, the state has classified its citizens using indicators of resources and education and has identified the Twa, a population group standing at the margins of society, as 'those who are left behind by history', i.e. as an insufficiently developed and integrated 'other'. The development programs targeting the Twa (like housing schemes) have evoked mixed reactions, with critics emphasizing that the Twa have no choice but to obey the state's orders. In this reading of social reality in Rwanda, the state is constructed as the decisive actor whose disciplinary power controls almost every aspect of public life and leaves virtually no space within discourse and practice to express discontent. However, missing in this view are the instances where Twa or their lobby organisations subtly challenge the state's homogenising policies or otherwise comply for strategic reasons. In my paper I seek to explore how different stakeholders either gain power from integration policies targeting the Twa or face them in ways that challenge the notion of an overly powerful Rwandan state.

panel W057
"The Other" and the de-fetishization of the state