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Title: The Mistakes That Make People: Reconceptualizing Power and Resistance in Rwanda
Authors: Rollason, W
Keywords: Disputes;Integrity;James C. Scott;Mistakes;Personhood;Power;Resistance;Rwanda
Issue Date: 2018
Citation: Social Analysis, 62 (1), pp. 96 - 115
Abstract: This paper constitutes a critique of Scott’s theory of everyday resistance, and the use of these concepts in anthropology more generally. Its claim is that theories of power and resistance need to be framed in terms of local ideas about the nature people if they are to account adequately for what happens in social life; any theory of power and resistance not so framed will obscure local interests. I make this claim based on ideas of personhood amongst motorcycle taxi drivers in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. Central to these ideas are the ‘faults’ or ‘mistakes’ that people have, which form the basis of social relations founded on ‘patience’ or ‘forbearance’, as well as offering opportunities to extract advantages from others. Because of these relations, people typically do not take the form of bounded individuals. This means that, despite its wide application in Rwandan studies and beyond, Scott’s theory of everyday resistance is inappropriate to the Rwandan case. This is because it derives its force exactly from the assumption that the oppressed act in defence of their personal integrity as individuals. Two conclusions follow: first, to account for the operations of power in Rwanda, we require a theory of power based on Rwandan understandings of the person; second, if we take seriously the cultural constitution of persons and social relations, then our notions of power and resistance require reconceptualisation.
ISSN: 0155-977X
Appears in Collections:Dept of Politics, History and Law Research Papers

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