Whispering Truth to Power
Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda
University of Wisconsin Press 2013
This spring, I taught a class loosely called “The Holocaust through Primary Sources” to a small group of selected students. I started one class by asking them the deceptively simple question “When did the Holocaust end?” The first consensus answer was “1945.” After some discussion, the students changed their answer. The new consensus was simple. It hasn’t yet.
This came to mind when reading Susan Thomson‘s powerful new book Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013). While writing the book, Thomson talked at length with a variety of ‘ordinary’ people in Rwanda. Their stories remind us that recovery, both societal and personal, from the events of 1994, has been both halting and problematic. Her account, like that of Jennie Burnet, also draws our attention to the ways governments’ efforts to shape and reshape cultures of remembrance impact individuals decades after violence is over.
With historians and others paying more and more attention to the aftermaths of mass violence, Thomson’s book sheds light both on issues specific to Rwanda and more generally to the history of remembrance and reconciliation.