Brickyards to Graveyards: From Production to Genocide in Rwanda

By Burnet, Jennie E. | African Studies Review, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Brickyards to Graveyards: From Production to Genocide in Rwanda


Burnet, Jennie E., African Studies Review


BOOK REVIEWS ON THE GREAT LAKES CRISIS Villia Jefremovas. Brickyards to Graveyards: From Production to Genocide in Rwanda. Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press, 2002. xi + 162 pp. Illustrations. Maps. Photographs. Appendixes. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $21.95. Paper.

Brickyards to Graveyards traces the transformation of gender, class, and power relations from the precolonial period to the lead-up to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Using the brick industry as a case study, the book argues that the roots of the genocide lay more in economic recession, land scarcity, elite control of resources, and civil war than in ethnicity and ethnic politics. Powerfully concise analysis and rigorous methodology, which melds ethnographic vignettes with interview data and quantitative research, make this volume a significant contribution to Rwandan studies. Most important, the book offers detailed insights into social relations in Rwanda during the 1980s, when ethnicity played a secondary role to class, regionalism, and gender. Unlike many scholars and journalists who have written about Rwanda since the 1994 genocide, Jefremovas eschews ethnic labels for her informants and instead documents the numerous other social and political realities that conditioned their lives, reflecting the realities of life in Rwanda before the mobilization of ethnicity in the early 1990s.

The book's contributions to Rwandan studies are too numerous to elaborate fully, but I will highlight a few key points. First, the book offers one of the few discussions in English of the competing "traditional" land tenure systems in Rwanda. An understanding of these land tenure systems and their residual influences on rural understandings of property rights is vital to grasping the impact of the land policy promulgated by the Rwandan National Parliament in 2005. second, the author oudines how transformations in land tenure, common property, and the control of labor, as well as the development of a capitalist market during the colonial period, meant that lineage heads and heads of household lost authority over the labor of their children. …

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