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Delia Wendel

Tue, Nov 15, 2022    1:15pm

Planning, Peacebuilding, and Unruly Sites of Repair in Rwanda

Lecture by Delia Wendel, the Spaulding Career Development Assistant Professor in Urban Studies and International Development at MIT. Her interdisciplinary work draws together Urban Studies, Architectural History, Cultural Geography, and Anthropology to explore peacebuilding after protracted violence. Current research builds from ten years of work in Rwanda and informs two book manuscripts in progress. Rwanda’s Genocide Heritage (forthcoming, Duke University Press) explores relationships between genocide memory, justice, and sovereignty in the context of nascent human rights practice in the Global South. The Ethics of Stability analyzes post-genocide peacebuilding as a socio-spatial endeavor; one that is defined and challenged in the design of homes, settlements, and civic space. At MIT, Wendel directs the Planning for Peace collective and the CAST and Mellon Foundation funded “Memory Atlas for Repair” project.

After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the government employed architecture and planning to “build” peace. Those strategies were wide-ranging and included memorialization, cohabitation, relocation, and settlement modernization. Reflecting on the intentions and impacts of those peacebuilding projects offers a unique vantage of repair; one that connects lived experiences to efforts in restitution. This talk will focus on one of those peacebuilding practices: the first genocide memorials in the country that preserved killing sites to maintain evidence of crimes for public viewing. I conceptualize those efforts as “trauma heritage”: practices that spatialize memories of violence that have been systematically marginalized or hidden. Trauma heritage are sites of truth-telling that aim to enact change in the contexts of impunity and gross negligence that they resist. But they are inordinately hard to see, both for those who are close and at a distance. This talk will engage the tensions inherent to trauma heritage in Rwanda and their potential as sites of repair. It will also situate those engagements in memory justice activism as unexceptional: as part of a larger “era of trauma heritage” emerging from the Global South in the late 20th century, continuing today.