Narratives of Victimhood and Perpetration

The Struggle of Bosnian and Rwandan Diaspora Communities in the United States

by Claudine Kuradusenge-McLeod (Author)
©2021 Monographs XVI, 250 Pages


The book concentrates on the construction of the trans-generational understanding of the labels of victim and perpetrator in contemporary society, investigating their impact on the diasporic consciousness of Rwandan and Bosnian communities in the United States, as well as their political participation and involvement. The book challenges the common assumption that the notion of trauma belongs almost exclusively to the victim, often leaving descendants of the perpetrator ignored and blamed through multiple generations. The comprehensive analysis in this book is rooted in both the author’s experience as a survivor of genocide and her deep understanding of the various social and political dynamics that shape the lives of immigrant communities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Advance Praise
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction: The Stories of New Generations
  • Part One Complex Identities: The Creation of Otherness
  • Chapter One Who Have We Become? Exploring Identities in the Wake of Trauma and Social Categorization
  • Chapter Two Diaspora Communities: A Bridge Between Two Nations
  • Part Two Competing Homeland Histories
  • Chapter Three Bosnian Historical Narratives of Instability
  • Chapter Four Rwanda’s Troubling History and Current Instability
  • Part Three Personal Stories of the Past, Present, and Future: Victim and Perpetrator Narrations
  • Chapter Five Victimhood Identity and its Marginalizing Effects
  • Chapter Six The Burden of Perpetration
  • Chapter Seven Emotions of Shame, Guilt, and Pride
  • Part Four What Tomorrow Brings: Social Consciousness and Political Participation
  • Chapter Eight Diaspora Communities Fight for Assimilation
  • Chapter Nine New Waves of Participation
  • Conclusion: The Legacy of Labels
  • Index


My Personal Journey Walking on Eggshells: Exploring Complex Post-Genocide Narratives

Being Rwandan has not been easy. Like most Rwandans, I have lost family members and loved ones. Losing them at such a young age had a painful effect on how I connect with others and conduct myself. Some 20 years late, I still feel the pain of losing both my parents, especially now that I am a parent myself. In many ways, I have not been able or allowed to mourn them properly. Being Rwandan means you exist and live within a particular political structure that pushes us to silence ourselves out of fear of reprisal - perceived or real. For years, I silenced my doubts and questioned my own story. I was led to believe that being Rwandan meant something specific, particularly because my ethnic Hutu identity was vilified. Many Conflict Analysis and Resolution (CAR) experts still talk about this ethnic identity as a homogeneously evil group.

It was within this environment I started questioning and challenging our Western social and political assumptions regarding human behavior that results from identity transformation and our moral ←ix | x→values created through social categorization or labeling. More precisely, I started to wonder how younger generations understood who they were among the mix of narratives promoted about their parents and social groups. I also wanted to know how they were experiencing and creating new meanings when they are not the ones creating their own identity narratives. This was only possible once I realized, as Gaston Bachelard once said, that it is necessary to consider “what is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak. It was born in the moment when we accumulated silent things within us.”1 With this in mind, I wanted to present the stories of young people from communities that have experienced genocide and forced migration. Their stories are often lost in translation or ignored because they are perceived as being too young to have experienced or remember the atrocities. Yet, as shown throughout this book, their stories are poignant and need to be acknowledged and heard.

Exploring these stories is challenging. There is an emotional and physical toll that comes with researching these types of narratives. Emotionally, asking people to relive the most painful events in their life, especially if you had a similar experience, can be triggering. Physically, there is backlash. I have been intimidated and continue to receive threats from ordinary people as well as scholars and politicians for exploring narratives of victimhood in both victim and perpetrator groups. Social media has provided a platform to those who disagree or want to silence me. The attacks I have received have not only affected me and my family, but they have both a self-censuring and silencing effect on the broader Rwandan community. Finally, because of the nature of my work and my Hutu identity, I must clearly state that I am not a genocide denier. This acknowledgment is necessary because of criticism and threats I receive from people who attempt to dismiss or delegitimize my work as well as survivors’ stories. Exploring people’s stories that do not fit specific narratives of genocide and mass atrocity does not mean I am questioning the events that took place. Rather, doing so provides a path toward recognition and healing to those who may not have had one. This is my hope for my communities and others who have experienced genocide and mass atrocities.

←x | xi→


This book would not have been possible without several people who were involved in one way or another. First, I am grateful to the Bosnian and Rwandan diaspora communities across the United States. They opened the doors of their homes and communities to me. Despite their difficult experiences, they embraced me and my research, and kindly shared their stories. We spent long days and nights together, sharing tears and laughter. They invited me to their social and family gatherings and treated me as a family member.

Second, I would like to thank Damascene, Vicky, and the numerous other members of Rwandan communities. They have shaped the way I see the world and pushed me to find answers to my questions. In Europe and the United States, these communities have shown me the power of resiliency and empathy. They have allowed me to explore the different topics I address in this book and engage in difficult conversations. Thank you to Damascene and Vicky for creating a place where I could recenter my thoughts and gather my energy.

Third, I could not have been completed this book without the guidance and friendship of Dr. Karina Korostelina, Professor and Director ←xi | xii→of the Program on the Prevention of Mass Violence and the Program on History, Memory, and Conflict at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University. She inspired and supported me intellectually. Her expertise on identity, social categorization, and conflict was invaluable in developing my personal interests and professional goals. I also want to express my gratitude to the friends and colleagues I made during my time at the Carter School, including Ellen G., Monique B., Charisse C., Laura C., and Jamie S. to name only a few. They were there every step of the way and helped me stay focused.

Finally, I am extremely thankful to my husband, Daniel, and children, Scarlett and Talib. They are at the heart of my work. Their love and support help me stay true to myself and my community.

List of Abbreviations


Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre


Bosnia and Herzegovina


Coalition pour la Défense de la République


Central Intelligence Agency


District of Columbia


District of Columbia-Maryland-Virginia


Dayton Peace Agreement


Department for Peacekeeping Operations


Democratic Republic of the Congo


European Union


Fonds National Pour l’Assistance aux Rescapés du Génocide


Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina


International Committee of the Red Cross


International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda


International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia


Internally Displaced Persons


International Monetary Fund←xiii | xiv→


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex,


Lord’s Resistance Army


Mouvement Révolutionnaire National pour le Développement


North Atlantic Treaty Organization


Non-governmental Organization


Office of the High Representative


Office of the Prosecutor


Rwandan Defense Force


Rwandan Patriotic Army


Rwandan Patriotic Front


Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines




United Nations


United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda


United Nations Children’s Fund


United Nations Protection Force


United States

Introduction: The Stories of New Generations

If I am my father’s son and my grandfather’s grandson, then I am nothing more than a memory. My identity was shaped by my lost ones and the lies people tell about my people.

— Patrick1

Patrick was only 9 years old in 1994, the year he witnessed his parents murdered during the Rwandan genocide. It would take him over a decade to fully understand the profound effect this loss would have on the rest of his life. Not only did he become an orphan but, as a refugee, he was caught up in the violence that took place in the refugee camps in Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). What he saw and endured at the tender age of 9 stripped him of his childhood innocence. After seven more years of emotional and physical turmoil, he was able to join some of his relatives who had resettled in Belgium. Upon arriving in Brussels, he wanted to be part of a group that not only ←1 | 2→understood his pain but provided the sense of belonging he had lacked for most of his life. Although he lived close to the Rwandan embassy in Brussels and was surrounded by Rwandans, both of which should have made his transition easier, he was once more embroiled in Rwandan identity politics. As a Rwandan and, specifically as a Hutu who had lost so much at a young age, Patrick believed he had found a place where his pain and suffering would be accepted, where he would have the opportunity to heal his wounds and move forward.


XVI, 250
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (November)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XVI, 250 pp.

Biographical notes

Claudine Kuradusenge-McLeod (Author)

Claudine A. Kuradusenge-McLeod, originally from Rwanda, is Professorial Lecturer of Conflict Resolution and International Affairs at the School of International Service, American University. She is the author of "Denied Victimhood and Contested Narratives: The Case of Hutu Diaspora" and "Belgian Hutu Diaspora Narratives of Victimhood and Trauma." She is an educator, researcher, activist, and scholar who specializes in complex identity formation, diaspora and transnational studies, and genocide studies. Her research has taken her to Europe, Brazil, Africa, and the United States. As a conflict resolution scholar, she is involved in nongovernmental work on youth engagement and empowerment, multicultural (racial and ethnic) dialogue, genocide prevention, and post-conflict trauma healing.


Title: Narratives of Victimhood and Perpetration
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
268 pages