'Historicizing and Politicizing Child Survivors of the Genocide Against the Tutsi'
"Literary studies on postcolonial traumas and memories have long overlooked children’s voices. However, with the significant role played by child soldiers in civil wars in various parts of Africa, authors began to adopt child perspectives, or feature children as main protagonists. The publication of texts such as Ken Saro Wiwa’s Sozaboy (1995), Ahmadou Kourouma’s Allah n’est pas obligé (2000), and Emmanuel Dongala’s Johnny chien méchant (2002) brought attention to the scourge of child-soldiers in the many devastating civil wars in Africa.
The study of such fiction texts has generated important debates on issues such as testimony, trauma and memory, that relate to the experience of children in violent contexts. Nevertheless, testimonies by child victims of violence in Africa are yet to receive substantial attention in literary criticism on trauma and memory.
In this talk, I make a case for the inclusion of children’s voices in the growing field of postcolonial trauma studies. Drawing on a testimonial account by a child survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Génocidé, I argue that child perspectives challenge discourses that tend to infantilize, dehistoricize, and depoliticize children.
By highlighting the links between their experiences and the history of Rwanda, as well as the political ideologies that led to the genocide, I contend that child testimonies subvert conventional literary and media representations that emphasize innocence, vulnerability, and resiliency over concrete actions to meet child survivors’ psychological and material needs. Ultimately, I argue that child survivors are invaluable historical witnesses, whose perspectives call for a reassessment of dominant analytical frameworks in trauma studies."
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