Elite versus Alliance: A discursive approach to the locus of agency in the Rwanda Genocide
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis has researched how the elite and the alliance theory relate to each other in practice and if one of the two theories explains Rwandan case best. The method used is discursive analysis of a bundle of interviews with perpetrators by Jean Hatzfeld, Machete Season. Hutu and Tutsi as groups prior to colonial influence can best be described as social castes. Under colonial influence, and by distribution of identity cards, the caste identities became codified ethnic identities. The process where identity turns into something unchangeable is called reification. Under colonial influence, the Tutsi were favored and Hutu frustrations grew. Tensions between the groups intensified during the twentieth century, and the shooting of the President’s plane meant the starting shot for the Rwandan genocide. But how can ethnic violence be explained? There are two social constructivist theories with regard to ethnic violence: the elite theory and the alliance theory. The elite theory contends that ethnic violence is a political strategy to create, increase or maintain group boundaries and political support. It understands ethnic conflict as top-down and elite-driven struggles for power. The alliance theory sees that agency is as likely to be based at the bottom of society, where local actors pursue their own agendas. An important feature of violent conflict is the use of violent imaginaries, as violence needs to be imagined in order for it to be carried out. The symbolisms of these imaginaries are to be found at both the elite and the alliance level. Aspects of both theories surfaced in the interviews. Therefore, I would argue that the two theories are no mere alternatives for each other as the one does not exclude the other.