Rwandan Solutions to Rwandan Problems: Heritage Decolonization and Community Engagement in Nyanza District, Rwanda

14:37 by Annalisa Bolin

UNESCO Chair postdoctoral fellow Annalisa Bolin, along with David Nkusi of Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy, has published a new article in Journal of Social Archaeology. “Rwandan Solutions to Rwandan Problems: Heritage Decolonization and Community Engagement in Nyanza District, Rwanda” is available in open access. The article investigates how rural communities in Nyanza engage with or are alienated from heritage resources, and explores possibilities for decolonizing heritage management in order to produce more effective and responsive models of management. This is part of building a decolonized future for Rwanda, the article argues, while paying attention to the ethical obligations of heritage-making.

Highlighting the rural district of Nyanza in Rwanda, this article examines community relations to heritage resources. It investigates the possibilities for more ethical, engaged models of heritage management which can better deliver on agendas of decolonization and development. The research finds that Nyanza’s heritage stakeholders highly value heritage’s social and economic roles, but communities are also significantly alienated from heritage resources. In seeking to bridge this gap, heritage professionals utilize a discourse of technocratic improvement, but community leaders emphasize ideas of ownership, drawing on higher state-level discourses of self-reliance and “homegrown solutions.” They mobilize the state’s own attempts to filter developing, decolonizing initiatives through Rwandan frameworks to advocate for communities’ right to participate in heritage. This local agency offers a roadmap for utilizing favorable aspects of existing governance to push heritage management toward community engagement and decolonization.

An abridged and adapted version of this article, focusing especially on decolonization, has also appeared in SAPIENS magazine

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Annalisa Bolin
Annalisa Bolin is a postdoctoral fellow in the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures, Linnaeus University.

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