In the midst of death we are in life: bio-politics and beginning again in Rwanda

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This article, using a framework of analysis based on Foucauldian ideas of ‘biopolitics’ and Agamben’s ‘completion’ of that notion, together with the more focused theoriza- tions of Mahmood Mamdani, re-visits two basic questions of the Rwandan genocide which have not been satisfactorily resolved by purely materialist analyses of the roots, dynamics and consequences of the genocide. The first is that of why so many civilians participated in the massacres, or to put the question in strong terms, ‘how could even the most extreme forms of indoctrination or duress have produced such an outpouring of murder by civilians against civilians?’ The second relates to the acknowledged failure by the international community to prevent or stop the genocide, and might be phrased ‘how could so many stand idly by when so little could have prevented such untold suffering?’ The effort is to examine the plausibility and value of linking together on a conceptual (biopolitical) level the ‘internal’ questions of why a genocide in Rwanda and why in that way, with the ‘external’ questions of why non- intervention followed by intervention in the form that it eventually arrived, using in particular Agamben’s theory of the relationship between sovereignty and ‘bare life’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-508
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2007


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