Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 1, 2008

Conditions of Identity in Writing or: about a Genocide

Robert Stockhammer
From the journal

Modern concepts of identity proceed from paradoxical assumptions: on the one hand, they presuppose the indivisibility and self-identity of individuals; on the other hand, singular human beings are defined by their affiliation with certain groups and/or by sharing attributes with others, i.e. by their identity as … Current discussions tend to avoid this paradox by referring to a ‘free play of identities,’ above all with regard to ‘ethnic’ affiliations. However, this liberal conception ignores administrative procedures that unequivocally assign individuals to particular collectives. Identity cards that contain a category on ethnic affiliation with pre-defined choices constitute a characteristic device for these procedures. Identity cards like these were one of the most important prerequisites for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Literary and other efforts to come to terms with the genocide are confronted with the paradox that they need to maintain ethnic categories in their description of the genocide, yet they have to challenge them lest they perpetuate the conditions of the genocide. This article discusses the relations between identification procedures and literary texts about the Rwandan genocide.

Published Online: 2008-09-01
Published in Print: 2008-August

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