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From Solidarity to Death Threats: Care and Daily Kinship of Orphans After the Tutsi Genocide

Domitille Blanco

Research Framework: This article is based on a PhD research in socio-anthropology about the transmission of familial memory among Rwandans living in France. We are interested in the day-to-day kinship of orphans after the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Objectives: The objective of this article is to provide a better understanding of family reconfigurations in post-genocide Rwanda. We will see how the care of orphans has transformed the boundaries of kinship.

Methodology: We conducted an ethnographic study based on a non-linear fieldwork from 2014 to 2019. We carried out semi-directive interviews with Rwandans living in France who were less than 20 years old in 1994, as well as with their family members, in France or in Rwanda. This was complemented with the development of kinship trees and with observations made during commemorations.

Results: We document here several hosting situations for orphans after the Tutsi genocide: foster care, children’s households and orphanages. The Rwandan government pursued family-based policy that aimed at “reunification” or placement in a family. We present configurations of households of care that may or may not involve relatives, or even protect themselves from them.

Conclusions: The genocide provoked a crisis of orphans’ care that impacted kinship relations, through acts of solidarity or hostility. Households of care and lines of transmission have seen their boundaries redrawn by affective and material exclusion and inclusion of orphans.

Contribution: The article allows us to reinscribe kinship relations and everyday kinship in a given socio-economical and historical context, that of post-genocide Rwanda. It sheds light on the family and societal changes that occur in the aftermath of genocide.