Delia Wendel is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research incorporates perspectives from urban and architectural studies, cultural geography, and anthropology. She studies cities, conflicts, and natural disasters in Central and East Africa. Current writing builds from ethnographic and historical research in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide to explore how state peacebuilding objectives are realized and challenged in the rebuilding of housing, settlements, and civic space. Wendel previously worked as an architect, and holds degrees in urban planning (PhD, Harvard), cultural geography (University College London), architectural history and theory (Harvard), and architecture (Rice University). She served as a UN-HABITAT research consultant in 2009 and as a tenure-track lecturer at the University of Edinburgh from 2008 to 2011. Publications include essays on post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans, spatial forms of political praxis, and community building after mass violence. Wendel is coeditor with Fallon Aidoo of the 2015 book Spatializing Politics: Essays on Power and Place (Harvard University Press, 2016). Wendel was also a fellow of the Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship program in 2012.
Framed by the title, ‘Rebuilding after the Genocide in Rwanda: Space and the Ethics of Transition,’ my dissertation will identify precise relationships between spatial and sociopolitical rebuilding strategies, in the context of Rwanda’s post-conflict transition. With the SSRC’s support, I will undertake empirical and historical research in Rwanda, focusing on the post-genocide period from 1994 to the present. My research engages with the interdisciplinary field of Conflict and Peace Studies, and contributes a spatial perspective – developed from Cultural Geography and the History of Architecture and Urban Planning – to this field. Space has received little critical attention in Conflict and Peace Studies literature. This is despite the history of strategic roles that space has had in sovereign territory provision, ethnic partitioning in urban areas, material reparations, and the preservation of cultural heritage (e.g. in monuments). To address the gaps in the literature, I will research four post-genocide strategies in which governmental and non-governmental institutions have rebuilt settlements, housing, and civic spaces for survivors, perpetrators, and returnees. I am focusing on these rebuilding strategies because they have been explicitly designed to address ethical issues related to trauma, national citizenship and reconciliation – all of which are critical to peacebuilding. I am focusing on ethics to identify the moral and political values that have guided Rwanda’s peacebuilding policies and projects. My central argument is that spatial and sociopolitical rebuilding strategies are inextricably linked in post-conflict contexts. The value of my dissertation research is its combined focus on space and ethics, its cross-disciplinary development, and its close study of a culturally specific context that will provide the basis for cross-national comparisons.