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“We are all Rwandans”: Imagining the Post-Genocidal Nation Across Media


There is little doubt of the fundamental impact of the 1994 Rwanda genocide on the country's social structure and cultural production, but the form that these changes have taken remains ignored by contemporary media scholars. Since this time, the need to identify the the particular industrial structure, political economy, and discursive slant of Rwandan “post- genocidal” media has become vital. The Rwandan government has gone to great lengths to construct and promote reconciliatory discourse to maintain order over a country divided along ethnic lines. Such a task, though, relies on far more than the simple state control of media message systems (particularly in the current period of media deregulation). Instead, it requires a more complex engagement with issues of self-censorship, speech law, public/private industrial regulation, national/transnational production/consumption paradigms, and post-traumatic media theory. This project examines the interrelationships between radio, television, newspapers, the Internet, and film in the contemporary Rwandan mediascape (which all merge through their relationships with governmental, regulatory, and funding agencies, such as the Rwanda Media High Council - RMHC) to investigate how they endorse national reconciliatory discourse. This study focuses on the period from 1995-2012, from the last days of the genocide proper (though mass ethnic violence continues on in various forms) to the contemporary period of comparative media “freedom,” to map the trajectory of the space, discourse, and regulation of the Rwandan mediascape. In looking at the through-line of this media narrative, this study utilizes discursive analysis, trauma theory, and textual analysis to compose a geography of media production/consumption in tandem with a discursive analysis of key media texts. The goal is two-fold: First, to prove that there are many production and consumption registers within the Rwandan mediascape that all operate, to varying degrees, to reinforce a state-supported reconciliatory discourse, and that the diversification and democratization of media (satellite TV, the internet, etc.), though a significant development, has done little to alter the dominance of traditional media and message systems. And second, given the particular media geography of contemporary Rwanda, the deregulation of media has had a minimal impact on the centrality of state-run media in the everyday lives of the general populace.

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