Crime, Law & Social Change 34: 77–97, 2000. © 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Victimization, survival and the impunity of forced exile: A case study from the Rwandan genocide1
FRANK M. AFFLITTO
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, The University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee, USA Abstract. A case study of a Rwandan genocide survivor and a reviewof the cultural and historical contexts of that crime are presented. The case study examines not only the events that occurred during the genocide, but also the post-victimization reﬂections of the respondent. It is argued that neither survival nor victimization in genocide are bounded events, but a set of processes. Survival during genocide is accomplished only by navigating through a series oflethal threats. Victimization is perceived to continue after the genocide through the impunity granted to perpetrators.
Introduction The basis of any empirical enterprise is the collection of observed data which can be subjected to theoretical speculation. To begin building a criminological understanding of genocide, then, scholars need a foundation of observations suitable as objects for studywithin the epistemological framework of criminology. This paper contributes to that process by presenting a case study of a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, focusing on experiences during the genocide and the post-victimization perspectives of the respondent. The interview data reported here are interpreted in terms of the respondent’s sense of justice and how formal sanctions, or their absence,affect the quality of experience of victims in the aftermath of the crime. The revelatory, holistic case study (Yin, 1984) found in this article relates the experiences of a young Tutsi woman during the Rwandan genocide of the period April to July of 1994. This case study is relevant in that it is far from unique. It is because it is representative of many similar cases of victimization in theRwandan genocide that it is of value and is revelatory as a case study. Another reason case studies such as the present one are of empirical worth is that the information provided by the research subject deals with issues beyond victimization. These contextual data include post-victimization perceptions of justice and other perspectives beyond the cross-sectional experience of direct genocidalvictimization. This current case study of one Rwandan genocide victim and survivor provides the reader with not only the circumstances surrounding victimization, but a context in which her current reac-
FRANK M. AFFLITTO
tions can be examined. These reactions center on her perceptions of the sociolegal aftermath of the genocide in her country and her continued persecution as a Tutsi woman.A third and salient point of relevance of the case study method is the position of the professional researcher in the research process. This article is being written from a place of partiality (Benedetti, 1984). While the research has been conducted with the standard perpetual focus on the enhancement of scientiﬁc objectivity and empirical validity, I would be misrepresenting myself as acriminologist were I not to state that I am partial in exposing the reader to data detailing a process of genocide. The production of such a research article is part of a process of “writing against terror” (Sluka, 2000). This methodological genre has been a developing professional trend in political anthropology and ethnography over the past decade. “Writing up genocide,” then, is a methodological actthat is also, inseparably, an “ethical stance” (Afﬂitto, 1998b) in my view. Not only are ethics exercised in guarding the respondent’s identity and hometown, but the presentation of the data themselves is one small piece in the ﬁght against genocide. Anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1992) has eloquently addressed the responsibility of exercising morality in one’s ethnographic ﬁeldwork in her...
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