Article written by 2010 DPDF Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Contentious Politics Fellow Marie Berry: 

Twenty years ago this spring, the world watched with horror as genocide unfolded in Rwanda. In one hundred days, up to one million people were killed. As Hutu militias and ordinary citizens killed their Tutsi neighbors, the international press described these ethnic groups as fixed racial categories with a long history of “tribal” tension. The New York Times announced “Terror Convulses Rwandan Capital as Tribes Battle” and frequently referred to Rwanda’s “warring tribal factions” in its ongoing coverage. 

In scholarly circles, the “tribal tension” narrative of the Rwandan genocide has been discredited as researchers have explained the violence as a result of complex historical processes related to competition over political power. However, this hasn’t stopped the news media from explaining more recent episodes of violence—such as those in the Central African Republic or South Sudan—in predominantly ethnic terms, again ignoring the complexities and history of such violence.

Publication Details

Violence and the Transformation of Ethno-Racial Categories in Rwanda
Berry, Marie E.
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Publish Date
June 2014
Berry, Marie E., Violence and the Transformation of Ethno-Racial Categories in Rwanda (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., June 2014).