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The Fluidity of Ethnicity in Modern Rwanda and Burundi: Roots and Precursors of the 1994 Genocide

The Fluidity of Ethnicity in Modern Rwanda and Burundi: Roots and Precursors of the 1994 Genocide

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Published by Travis Hodges
The mass killings of hundreds of thousands of Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutu moderates by Hutus that occurred in 1994—also referred to as the Rwandan Genocide—was originally (and at times still) blamed on ancient tribal hatreds that have persisted, but more reflective analysis elucidates the significance of the social construction of ethnicity. The Tutsi victims were systematically targeted based solely on ethnic identity, forcing the consideration of exactly how and within what contexts ethnicity is constructed. Human beings are born without any information about themselves or others and acquire sets of attitudes, values, and beliefs—including those of race or ethnicity—through the process of social interaction. Therefore, ethnicity is a social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on a shared commonality such as a shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and geography.

This paper will examine the construction, manipulation, and perpetuation of ethnicity and ethnic or “tribal” divisions and stereotypes during German and Belgian colonial rule and how this furthered ethnic fissures and led indirectly to the mass killings in 1994. This paper will also examine historical and sociological factors leading up to the violence, explore the role of the state as regulator of society at the national level in terms of management of conflict, and analyze the extent to which the construction of ethnicity is able to be negotiated and its boundaries manipulated in order to serve political or social needs. Essentially, the ultimate goal of this paper will be to illustrate the social construction and subsequent malleability and fluidity of ethnicity, and in doing so, shall elucidate the ludicrousness of the mass killings—as based on such fabricated, faulty perceptions.
The mass killings of hundreds of thousands of Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutu moderates by Hutus that occurred in 1994—also referred to as the Rwandan Genocide—was originally (and at times still) blamed on ancient tribal hatreds that have persisted, but more reflective analysis elucidates the significance of the social construction of ethnicity. The Tutsi victims were systematically targeted based solely on ethnic identity, forcing the consideration of exactly how and within what contexts ethnicity is constructed. Human beings are born without any information about themselves or others and acquire sets of attitudes, values, and beliefs—including those of race or ethnicity—through the process of social interaction. Therefore, ethnicity is a social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on a shared commonality such as a shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and geography.

This paper will examine the construction, manipulation, and perpetuation of ethnicity and ethnic or “tribal” divisions and stereotypes during German and Belgian colonial rule and how this furthered ethnic fissures and led indirectly to the mass killings in 1994. This paper will also examine historical and sociological factors leading up to the violence, explore the role of the state as regulator of society at the national level in terms of management of conflict, and analyze the extent to which the construction of ethnicity is able to be negotiated and its boundaries manipulated in order to serve political or social needs. Essentially, the ultimate goal of this paper will be to illustrate the social construction and subsequent malleability and fluidity of ethnicity, and in doing so, shall elucidate the ludicrousness of the mass killings—as based on such fabricated, faulty perceptions.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Travis Hodges on Sep 11, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved
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02/15/2011

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