From model to practice : researching and representing Rwanda's 'modernized' gacaca courts
Institute of Development Policy and Management
Critique of anthropology. - London
, p. 388-414
University of Antwerp
The publications on the modernized gacaca courts dealing with the legacy of the Rwandan genocide are abundant and they often seem to be rife with diverging analysis and conclusions. This article argues that the seeming lack of consensus does not signal the impossibility of adequately representing the gacaca courts. This article does not dwell on the crisis of representation. Instead, an effort is made to provide clarity in a disorder of representations in the context of a political anthropology that works across localized, national and international networks and dynamics. The process of establishing a representation of the gacaca courts is scrutinized. Numerical legibility, magic syllogisms and performative speech lie at the heart of the process that generates an ideological representation of the modern gacaca courts upheld by the Rwandan regime and its agents. In addition, a first generation of academic studies on gacaca is characterized by magical legalism: they depict a theoretical model that is primarily based on law or law talk. A second generation of gacaca studies mainly adopt a bottom-up perspective that is often ethnographically informed. A focus on actual gacaca practice not only constitutes an alternative research approach but also unmasks and destabilizes the process of making models. But dangers exist regarding these alternative types of representational strategies as well, especially due to uncritical blurring of reigning models and actual practice. The analysis suggests new avenues of investigation and reflection in the fields of the anthropology of transitional justice, international relations and peacebuilding.