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Anthropology Dissertation Defense: Annalisa Bolin
A Country without Culture is Destroyed: Making Rwanda and Rwandans through Heritage
In 1994, the people of Rwanda suffered genocidal violence and the destruction of their homes and nation. In the process of building the New Rwanda in the years since, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government uses heritage to reshape national identity and to establish key characteristics of the new country. In particular, the government deploys heritage to revitalize culture, drawing on the pre-colonial Rwandan past, in order to establish a new national identity and re-situate the country in the international context of power. My research, based in heritage ethnography within the government, examines the production and deployment of ideals of value, dignity, unity, and development in integrating heritage into the RPF’s post-conflict nation-building effort. I argue that, as the RPF seeks to make a new country with new citizens to people it, heritage is mobilized to produce a new nation as well as to resist international influence. At the same time, heritage production is subject to numerous political pressures that implicate it in exclusionary social processes and undercut the government’s stated goals of domestic development and unification. Through attention to the work of heritage-making in the post-conflict context, this dissertation reveals the internal workings of state heritage production and its multivalent power dynamics, along with how heritage is both governed and a force of governance in the project of remaking Rwandans and their country.