“There Was Death, But May It Never Return:” Post-Mortem Folklore, Apotropaic Storytelling, and the Orature of Genocide Prevention in Rwanda

Lowell Brower (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Based on hundreds of interviews and over a year of folkloristic fieldwork in Rwanda, this paper explores a Kinyarwanda philosophy of "apotropaic storytelling" through which storytellers and their audiences, sometimes quite explicitly, attempt to avert violence and prevent death through oral literary performances. Through a close examination of the conventions of two Kinyarwanda verbal genres, and an analysis of a single storytelling performance, I highlight the ways that tradition bearers are contending with legacies of intimate mass violence and revising pre-genocide narratives to suit post-genocide imperatives.

Part of 06-09 Rooting Death in Folkloristics, Friday, November 03, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm