The 1994 Rwandan Genocide: The Religion/Genocide Nexus, Sexual Violence, and the Future of Genocide Studies

Kate Temoney
2016 Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal  
In recent genocides and other conflicts-for example, the Sudan, Burma, and now Iraq-sexual violence and religion have received increasing but modest systematic treatment in genocide studies. This essay contributes to the nascent scholarship on the religious and sexual dimensions of genocide by providing a model for investigating the intersections among religion, genocide, and sexual violence. I treat the Rwandan genocide as a case study using secondary and primary sources and proffer the
more » ... proffer the reinforcing typologies of "othering," justification, and authorization as an investigatory tool. I further nuance the influences of religion on forms of sexual violation by arguing that religion indirectly (distally) and directly (proximately) furthers the aims of genocide by coding genocidal ideology and violence as "religious. " Ultimately, I contend that studying the religious and sexual aspects of genocide deepens our understanding of the complex dynamics of genocide and opens new lines of inquiry into genocide studies. Abstract: In recent genocides and other conflicts-for example, the Sudan, Burma, and now Iraq-sexual violence and religion have received increasing but modest systematic treatment in genocide studies. This essay contributes to the nascent scholarship on the religious and sexual dimensions of genocide by providing a model for investigating the intersections among religion, genocide, and sexual violence. I treat the Rwandan genocide as a case study using secondary and primary sources and proffer the reinforcing typologies of "othering," justification, and authorization as an investigatory tool. I further nuance the influences of religion on forms of sexual violation by arguing that religion indirectly (distally) and directly (proximately) furthers the aims of genocide by coding genocidal ideology and violence as "religious." Ultimately, I contend that studying the religious and sexual aspects of genocide deepens our understanding of the complex dynamics of genocide and opens new lines of inquiry into genocide studies. Religion and Genocide Genocide is not aleatoric nor are its accounts monocausal, and although religious antagonism is rarely the motivation for undertaking genocide, religious worldviews, rhetoric, and rituals are often enlisted in the planning and execution of a genocidal conflict. 2 It is typically accepted that "religious violence seldom has its cause in purely religious conflicts; usually it occurs in the context of a clash between secular social interests." 3 The religious nature of genocide resides in the "meaning that actors ascribe to it... [and] the specific expectation[s] on the part of the actor[s] (emphasis added)." 4 Moreover, "given the function of religion as a means for understanding what appears to be beyond the reach of understanding, the use of religious reservoirs of meaning and value may seem to make eminent sense." 5 Hence, referring to Max Weber, David Little writes, "human beings seem compelled to evaluate given political and economic arrangements in reference to sacred or cosmic standards. 6 " Bruce Lincoln specifies these standards when he avers that "certain kinds of religious discourse can assist in [morally justifying]...otherwise problematic acts as righteous deeds, sacred duties, or the like, as when killing is defined as sacrifice, destruction as purification, or war as Crusade." 7 Extending this logic to genocide, "those who commit genocide often endow their actions with some sort of religious meaning, frequently putting forth the assertion that, in destroying entire groups of people, they are doing God's work." 8 Henry R. Huttenbach succinctly summarizes the intersection and consequence of religion and genocide when he writes, [R]eligion-meaning the faithful, the doctrine, the clergy and their institutions-can easily be prompted to buttress genocidal thought and action in a wide array of capacities. The religiongenocide nexus...in particular, must be carefully monitored in times of social crisis... It is the task of scholars to expose and explore it, and for policy makers to dismantle the religion-genocide connection [emphasis added]. 9
doi:10.5038/1911-9933.10.3.1351 fatcat:27ozppvtrzavte72765argfyf4