Paper Title

Examining the Causes of Post-Genocide Rwanda's Female "Walking Dead"

Location

Room 222, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Start Date

March 2016

End Date

March 2016

Keywords

Rwanda, genocide, post-conflict, women, Arendt, social death, isolation, loneliness

Abstract

Based in part on interviews I conducted with female survivors of the Rwandan Genocide, this project examines some of the causes of the creation of the female members of the bapfuye buhagazi, or “the walking dead” in post-genocide Rwanda. Female bapfuye buhagazi had particular experiences as women before, during, and after the genocide that contributed to their descent into this “walking dead” state. There is a distinct lacuna in the literature concerning the phenomenon of the bapfuye buhagazi. I assert that Card’s work on genocide as social death furthers our understanding of some of the gender-specific causes of the psychic breakdown of female members of the bapfuye buhagazi. I also use Arendt’s conceptions of isolation and loneliness in order to demonstrate how the women survivors were isolated and alone, and how these conditions resulted in the loss of their sense of self and their place in the world. Ultimately, I argue that, for the female members of the bapfuye buhagazi, isolation is the precondition for social death, and following that, social death causes loneliness. This results in the complete psychic breakdown that the bapfuye buhagazi experience.

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Mar 31st, 2:00 PM Mar 31st, 3:15 PM

Examining the Causes of Post-Genocide Rwanda's Female "Walking Dead"

Room 222, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Based in part on interviews I conducted with female survivors of the Rwandan Genocide, this project examines some of the causes of the creation of the female members of the bapfuye buhagazi, or “the walking dead” in post-genocide Rwanda. Female bapfuye buhagazi had particular experiences as women before, during, and after the genocide that contributed to their descent into this “walking dead” state. There is a distinct lacuna in the literature concerning the phenomenon of the bapfuye buhagazi. I assert that Card’s work on genocide as social death furthers our understanding of some of the gender-specific causes of the psychic breakdown of female members of the bapfuye buhagazi. I also use Arendt’s conceptions of isolation and loneliness in order to demonstrate how the women survivors were isolated and alone, and how these conditions resulted in the loss of their sense of self and their place in the world. Ultimately, I argue that, for the female members of the bapfuye buhagazi, isolation is the precondition for social death, and following that, social death causes loneliness. This results in the complete psychic breakdown that the bapfuye buhagazi experience.