21-22 Rudolph Field Research Fellow

Intergenerational Memory Practices and Sociopolitical Transformation in Post-Genocide Rwanda


Project Abstract

This dissertation investigates intergenerational memory practices and social transformation in post-genocide Rwanda. In recent years, concerns about psychosocial well-being of the youth born after the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi have spurred Rwandans of all ages to establish formal and informal intergenerational dialogues in which to discuss the past. Building on these observations, and drawing on studies of memory, generations, and post-conflict contexts, as well as initial fieldwork, my research explores how Rwandans are using memory practices to reconfigure social relationships, with implications for how “Rwandan” identity will be understood in the future. By memory practices, I refer to the material, affective, and semiotic processes through which memories are internalized, externalized, and rendered capable of circulating. I hypothesize that through such practices Rwandans negotiate a complicated relationship to the past to transform social boundaries and imaginaries. Tracking the work of official and unofficial memory practices within and across three multi-generational youth-focused organizations, as well as in popular media and at the level of policy, this project explores how “memories” are made tangible in the present and their import on social life. What practices enable individual and collective resolution after violence, and how do these practices change over time?



Zoë Berman is a doctoral student in the Department of Comparative Human Development. Her research focuses on the intergenerational transmission and transformation of memory in Rwanda, the ways global biomedical discourses of memory intersect with local understandings of mental health and collective healing across different contexts, and the import of memory practices on social life after conflict. Zoë received her BA in Anthropology from New York University (2012) and MA degrees from the University of Chicago Masters of the Arts Program in the Social Science (MAPSS) (2015) and Department of Comparative Human Development (2018). She has been working in Rwanda since 2011 and her research has been funded by the Fulbright International Institute of Education (IIE), the Wenner Gren Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. 

Read more at their department profile: https://humdev.uchicago.edu/directories/full/graduate-students