Simon Frasier University
Oral historians are increasingly expanding their gazes to consider intimate accounts of extreme human experiences, such mass human rights violations. Yet there is a paucity of literature that adequately discusses the theoretical, ethical and methodological challenges that emerge from such research, particularly when conducted in highly politicized nations, such as Rwanda. In this presentation, I reflect on the particular challenges I experienced while negotiating government, survivor, and perpetrator narratives related to the Rwandan genocide of 1994. I explore the effect of ethnographic seduction on my attempts to listen deeply to and share authority with my participants amidst competing narratives proffered by survivors and perpetrators regarding what really happened during the genocide. Candid consideration of these kinds of challenges should be a crucial part of the fieldwork and research dissemination to encourage awareness of the intricate ways that macro- and micro-level politics shape a researcher’s understanding of conflict.
Erin Jessee is a Fonds québécois de recherche sur la societé et culture (FQRSC) postdoctoral fellow at the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She recently completed a PhD in the Humanities (specialization in political ethnography and oral history) at Concordia University in Montreal.