Rwanda: Race, Ethnicity, Nation?

Aliza Luft, University of California, Los Angeles

This paper examines the shifting practices of categorization and classification in Rwanda from its pre-colonial past to its quasi-authoritarian present. Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa have formally been considered malleable ethnic groups, immutable racial groups, or equal members of one nation depending on the government in power and its relationship to global forces (e.g., Belgian colonists, IMF and World Bank lenders, United Nations observers). But a tendency to analyze the Rwandan case from an American-centric lens often leads to an over-emphasis on race-as-dominant and essential to the exclusion of other categories of practice, namely region and class, and how these divisions have intersected in practice with ethnic, racial, and national categories in the past and continue to matter in the present. This paper thus complicates common understandings of racial categorization and classification in Rwanda by calling attention to the construction, transformation, and intersection of social boundaries in Rwanda over time.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 178. International Dimensions of Race and State Formation