American University

11/29/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/29/2023 12:58

Claudine Kuradusenge-McLeod, The Burden of the Rwandan Diasporic Identity: From Social Categorisation to Silencing

In her new chapter "The Burden of the Rwandan Diasporic Identity: From Social Categorisation to Silencing" in Emerald Interdisciplinary Connexions' Migrations and Diasporas: Struggling Between Inclusion and Exclusion, SIS Professor Claudine Kuradusenge-McLeod explores the dual, contentions spaces of consciousness the Rwandan diaspora communities navigate.

The first was created through the stories of trauma and displacement since the Rwandan genocide and is influenced by the current Rwandan government's control over narratives of identities and remembrance both socially and politically. The second originated from the younger generations' attempt to assimilate to the only country they have never lived in and personally known. In this second space, the younger generations were forced, consciously or unconsciously, to choose between their communities' attachment to the past or creating a new path or future. Most importantly, being in diaspora means accepting that the different generations will often remain at the periphery of the new country, like outsiders looking inward.

Kuradusenge-McLeod shows how this phenomenon of social exclusion is a result of different factors, such as social categorization, collective trauma and the narratives of otherness, which shape the different generations' identity shifts and sense of belonging. Using a phenomenological research method, her study analyzes how one event, the 1994 Rwandan genocide, changed the meaning of diaspora consciousness and divided the communities into social categories such as 'victims' and 'perpetrators'. Using the experiences of Rwandan American diaspora communities, Kuradusenge-McLeod explores the impact of the labels of 'victim' and 'perpetrator' and how they have not only created specific narratives around remembrance and accountability but also crystallised the normative ideas of who was harmed and who was responsible for inflicting that harm.

The chapter analyzes the Rwandan communities' social development and assimilation, their understanding of their pasts and their members' social and political engagements in addressing their roles in their communities and nations.