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Title: Living under "quiet insecurity" : religion and popular culture in post-genocide Rwanda
Author: Grant, Andrea Mariko
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis explores religion and popular culture in post-genocide Rwanda. In particular, I examine the rise of the new Pentecostal churches – the abarokore ("the saved ones") – and the reconstruction of the "modern" music industry after the genocide. I argue that contemporary social life in Rwanda is defined by "quiet insecurity" and "temporal dissonance". I employ these concepts to take seriously how young people in Rwanda create alternative pasts, presents, and futures for themselves within an authoritarian political context. While the government attempts to control the historical narrative and impose a particular developmentalist "vision" of the future onto its citizens, young people articulate and perform their hopes, fears, dreams, and anxieties within the realms of religion and popular culture, creating "unofficial" narratives that both converge with and contest those of the state. Against the prevailing academic consensus of Kigali as silent, I instead reposition the capital as a site of creativity wherein noisy debates take place about Rwandan identity and culture. I examine the new abarokore churches as important affective spaces that allow for healing and the keeping of secrets. Yet the fact that these same churches tend to be mono-ethnic suggests the limits of the born-again project. Conversely, the community imagined within popular culture, particularly through hip hop songs, is more inclusive, with identity forged through the mutual experience of pain and suffering. I pay particular attention to gender, and consider how patriarchal tendencies in the new churches and popular culture undermine the country's "progressive" gender policies. By examining Pentecostal services, conversion testimonies, song lyrics, the Kinyarwanda-language entertainment media, and discourses of musical corruption, I explore how young people respond to a context of quiet insecurity through quiet agency – they actively seek to transform and resolve their life circumstances, however modest or temporary their transformations or resolutions prove to be.
Supervisor: Pratten, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social anthropology ; Africa ; Performance ; Christianity and Christian spirituality ; Children and youth ; Gender ; Rwanda ; popular culture ; religion ; youth