Genocide and the Religious Imaginary in Rwanda

Christopher C. Taylor

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199759996
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Genocide and the Religious Imaginary in Rwanda


This chapter, which concentrates on the violent imaginaries that informed the reports and deeds of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, reviews the perseverance of pre-colonial notions of a sacred king whose “wild sovereignty” and inability to promote the flow of imaana earns him fateful sacrifice. The term imaana denotes a supreme being and, in a more generalized way, a “diffuse, fecundating fluid” of celestial origin whose activity upon livestock, land, and people brought fertility and abundance. As imaana's earthly representative, the king channeled fertility to the rest of humanity. The chapter also discusses symbolism of the sovereign's body and its implicit link with the process of liquid flow. Habyarimana is an inadequate conduit of imaana and thus not a worthy king. He is the antithesis of Ruganzu Ndori.

Keywords: violent imaginaries; 1994 Rwandan genocide; imaana; humanity; sovereign; Habyarimana; Ruganzu Ndori

Article.  5106 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies

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