A dance begins beneath the outstretched branches of the giant umunyinya tree in Rwanda. First there is drumming and clapping, then the lead dancers step into the center of the gathering. The dancing subsides and the gacaca court, the community hearings on the one hundred days of bloodshed known as the Rwandan Genocide, is called into session. This is what the ongoing process of reconciliation looks like nearly twenty years after the brutal, orchestrated murder of almost one million people in Rwanda.
But this scene demands questions: How can court testimony be used to rebuild a cohesive national identity for the Hutus and Tutsis? And how is it that dance and theater help to move forward the cause of justice and reconciliation? By documenting the discourse and actions of the gacaca court and exploring the use of performance, Ananda Breed’s Performing the Nation: Genocide, Justice and Reconciliation provides a satisfying analysis of the interplay between justice, performance, narrative, and memorialization. A crucial addition to the literature of genocide studies, this far-reaching text will also resonate with scholars of applied theater, African studies, and law.
“Ought to be required reading for anyone interested in Rwanda politics and the possibilities of performance to create spaces for moving beyond violent pasts.”—Journal of Contemporary Drama
“[A] sensitive, nuanced portrayal of the complexities of nationhood in the context of an authoritarian state.”—Laura Edmondson, Theatre Journal