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Commemoration of Human Remains in Rwanda as an Emancipatory Strategy Against the Dominance of Holocaust Discourse

Samstag, 21.5.2022, 11:30h

Małgorzata Wosińska


Commemoration of Human Remains in Rwanda as an Emancipatory Strategy Against the Dominance of Holocaust Discourse

As a Polish researcher of Jewish descent who has worked in spaces of conflict
and post-conflict (Rwanda, Congo, Uganda, Lithuania, Ukraine), I attempt to
move beyond the representational paradigm in genocide studies, addressing
in my research, for example, the subjectivity and agency of dead bodies and
human remains. Rwanda can be considered a special case here since it is a
land of thousands of pieces of material evidence of crime (buried and unburied
bodies, personal belongings left in 1994, abandoned houses). Both memory
and sites of mass murder undergo complicated processes of colonization and
decolonization. My research on the identity of the 1994 genocide survivors
indicates that the memory of the Holocaust and the resultant visual and literary
representations have played a constitutive role for Rwandan perspectives on
the country’s own experience. In Rwanda there is a stark contrast between
narrative museums, organised in line with the Western tradition of arranging
exhibitions, and mass graves: places of memory, such as Murambi, that
emerge as spontaneous grassroots initiatives. What can the remains of the
Rwanda genocide victims teach us? Is it possible that their lesson may be
emancipatory, liberating us from the domination of Holocaust discourse?

Małgorzata Wosińska is a genocide anthropologist and
psychotraumatologist. She holds a PhD from the Adam Mickiewicz University
in Poznań and works as a senior lecturer of the NOHA Network on
Humanitarian Action at the Faculty of Law and Administration, University of
Warsaw, Poland. Her research interests range from critical Holocaust and
genocide studies to museum and forensic studies. Her doctoral dissertation
dealt with the identity of genocide survivors in Rwanda (in comparison to those
of the Shoah), where she conducted regular field research between 2009 and
2017. In addition to her research activity, she works on a daily basis with
witnesses of traumatic events, including war refugees in Europe.
She is an expert in advising on the management of memorial sites and trauma
for both governmental and non-governmental organizations that specialize in
prevention and commemoration character, such as the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum, Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight
Against Genocide, the Aegis Trust, the European Network Remembrance and
Solidarity, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. From 2018 to
2020, she was engaged in memory diplomacy, acting as representative of the
Director for International Cooperation of the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish
Historical Institute in Warsaw.
Recent publications in English include: “Turning to the Present. A Practical
Approach to Human Remains in Comparative Genocide Studies,” in: Zuzanna
Dziuban (ed.), Mapping the “Forensic Turn“: Engagements with Materialities of
Mass Death in Holocaust Studies and Beyond
(2017) and “Murambi is not
Auschwitz: The Holocaust in Representations of the Rwandan Genocide,” in:
Mischa Gabowitsch (ed.), Replicating Atonement: Foreign Models in the
Commemoration of Atrocities
(2017). Forthcoming articles in Polish includes
“Antropologia ludobójstwa jako praktyka prewencji” [The Anthropology of
Genocide as a Practice of Prevention], in: RAT. Humanistyka Prewencyjna
[Preventive Humanities] and “Upamiętnianie szczątków ludzkich jako strategia
emancypacyjna. Ludobójstwo w Rwandzie a Holokaust” [“Commemoration of
Human Remains as an Emancipatory Strategy. The Rwanda Genocide and the
Holocaust”], in: Ewa Domańska (ed.), Ekshumacje polityczne—teoria i
praktyka. Antologia tekstów
[Political Exhumations—Theory and Practice. An
Anthology of Texts].

Veranstaltung in englischer Sprache