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Papers to Ward Off the Threat : Identity Cards, Documentary Uncertainty, and Genocide in Rwanda

Abstract : It is well known that identity cards played a major role in identifying victims during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. This use of papers is part of a long history of the documentary state in Rwanda. The categories Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa first featured on papers in the 1930s and remained after independence, because they allowed Rwanda as a racialist republic to control the Tutsi and their place in society and the political system. Yet the dread of submersion went hand in hand with an obsession—‘ethnic’ falsification as a means for Tutsi to bypass the quotas they had to comply with. When the war against the Rwandan Patriotic Front began in 1990, this dual process—the need for ‘ethnic’ identification, on the one hand, and documentary uncertainty, on the other—was a recurring theme in the extremist press. As such, the role of identity cards during the genocide is ambiguous: various rules were set up to check papers, while persistent rumours stressed the unreliability of those same papers. Alternative means of verification were used, but did not lead to a weakening of the state's role: documentary uncertainty and insecurity do not necessarily bring about bureaucratic mistrust.
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Contributor : Florent Piton Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Saturday, June 12, 2021 - 12:56:33 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - 6:51:50 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-03258963, version 1


Florent Piton. Papers to Ward Off the Threat : Identity Cards, Documentary Uncertainty, and Genocide in Rwanda. Routledge. Identification and Citizenship in Africa. Biometrics, the Documentary State and Bureaucratic Writings of the Self, pp.144-159, 2021, 9781003053293. ⟨hal-03258963⟩



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