Corporealities of violence in southern and eastern africa

Laura Major, Joost Fontein

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

4 Citations (Scopus)


In a recent discussion on the display and concealment of bodies during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Nigel Eltringham asserts a common anthropological truism that ‘violence is discursive’, and that ‘the victim’s body is a key vehicle of that discourse’ (2015, 161). This point preambles his argument that scholars should pay ‘the same attention…to post-mortem disposal as has been given to ante-mortem degradation’ (2015, 172) in contexts of violent conflict. His argument points to the need to consider ante- and post-mortem violence within continuous, coherent necropolitical frameworks of meaning (Fontein 2010), across often arbitrary or imposed distinctions between life and death. But the argument he develops also questions the validity of differentiating between ‘the instrumental, didactic display of bodies in “cultures of terror”, where the intention is to discipline a population and, in contrast, the concealment of bodies in contexts of genocide, where the intention is to exterminate a population’ (2015, 168). As he shows for Rwanda’s genocide, with comparative examples drawn from Argentina (Robben 2004), Columbia (Uribe 2004) and Zimbabwe (Fontein 2010), this dualism simply does not work. ‘Not all cultures of terror display bodies instrumentally’ and as the Rwandan case clearly shows, ‘not all genocides only involve concealment’ (Eltringham 2015, 167–168).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-98
Number of pages10
JournalCritical African Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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