Nigel Eltringham
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Display, concealment and ‘culture’
The disposal of bodies in the 1994 Rwandan genocide

In their ethnography of violent conflict, 'cultures of terror' and genocide, anthropologists have recognized that violence is discursive. The victim's body is a key vehicle of that discourse. Using Rwanda as a case study, this chapter proposes an agenda for ethnographic research to explore the relationship between concealment and display in contexts of genocide, with attention to the discursive quality of the disposal of bodies. The chapter explores this relationship in detail and discusses the historical background to the 1994 genocide. In pre-colonial Rwanda, the prevalence of burial or exposure was influenced by region and social status. In a sophisticated analysis drawing on his research into popular medicine in Rwanda and the cosmology of the pre-independence monarchy, Christopher Taylor suggests that Rwandans conceive of the body through a 'flow/blockage symbolism' which 'mediates between physiological, sociological and cosmological levels of causality'.

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Human remains and mass violence

Methodological approaches


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