• Rwanda's Genocide Heritage: Between Justice and Sovereignty
    Delia Duong Ba Wendel
    Duke University Press, 2023
    Delia Duong Ba Wendel

Genocide victims’ cemetery near Nyamata Parish. 1994, Rwanda. Courtesy M. Ibarra personal archive, Chile

Rwanda’s Genocide Heritage is an intimate history of spatialized genocide memory. It reconstructs why Rwanda’s genocide memorials display the remains of the dead and how such sites originally came to be. The book explores a past made present: how certain memories gained presence, were authorized, and marginalized other narratives. That this history was entangled in nascent global human rights practice in the late twentieth century complicates the view that genocide memorials were influenced by Holocaust memorialization. It instead substantiates another center—that of Global South activists and human rights experts—who spatialized memory to reveal otherwise hidden violence. The material representation of brutal, marginalized memories approximated justice and continues today in initiatives by Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and the National Lynching Memorial in the southern United States. In this context, genocide memory work in Rwanda crystallized the shift toward a new, global “era of heritage.”

Delia Duong Ba Wendel is an assistant professor of urban studies and international development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research explores forms of community repair, the challenges to peace, and the afterlives of violence. Wendel approaches this work from an interdisciplinary perspective that draws together cultural geography, architectural and urban history, and anthropology. Her next book, The Ethics of Stability, explores post-genocide peacebuilding in Rwanda as a sociospatial endeavor; one that is defined and challenged in the design of homes, settlements, and civic space. Wendel is also coeditor with Fallon Samuels Aidoo of Spatializing Politics: Essays on Power and Place (Harvard University Press, 2015) and curator of the MIT and Mellon Foundation funded exhibition, A Memory Atlas for Repair (2023).