UCL Anthropology


Dr Marcas Mag Oireachtaigh


Dept of Anthropology

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Aug 2019

Research summary

My research ethnographically investigates the violent aftermaths of war, genocide, and revolution, traversing the thematic domains of language, identity and racisms, on the one hand, and democracy, sovereignty and postcoloniality, on the other. While I pursue questions on these topics from a starting point ethnographically grounded in the African Great Lakes Region, they ultimately address a comparative reach of global scale. My first book manuscript, Spectres of the New Rwanda: Genocide Ideology, Democracy, Terror, examines the Rwandan state’s on-going “war” against “genocide ideology” (ingengabitekerezo ya jenoside), which is prohibited in law as “thoughts” of ethnic hatred that threaten the recurrence of genocide. The book investigates the contradiction whereby the campaign against genocide ideology appears to re-inscribe the very terms and divisions it sets out to erase, thereby raising the spectre of renewed violence in the lives of ordinary Rwandans. This project has involved research in those institutions charged with eradicating genocide ideology, including Rwanda’s prisons, layperson-run genocide courts, military-run re-education camps, and state-run genocide commemoration events. I have been concurrently working on a second book project which offers a critique of the interdisciplinary literatures on transitional justice, based upon ethnographic research generated from attending over 150 hearings of Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts. These specialized genocide tribunals, which were in operation between 2002 and 2012, authorized ordinary people without legal training to try and sentence their own neighbours with up to life in prison, passing judgment on 1.9 million cases at an official conviction rate of 86 percent. My research has been supported by fellowships from a number of institutions, including the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and the United States Institute of Peace. I have served as an expert witness on asylum cases for Rwandans forced into exile.

Teaching summary

My teaching and writing bring social theoretical critique to bear on anthropology, history, African Studies, and the social sciences and humanities more broadly, taking up the call to decolonize university curricula. I draw upon the resources of deconstruction, in particular, to critically examine liberal knowledge production and its past and present roles in various imperial projects. I have taught courses on: violent aftermaths; hate speech, language and injury; deconstructive ethnography; ethnographic methods; and decolonizing anthropology.


Marcas Mag Oireachtaigh is a Lecturer in Social Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and an Affiliate Lecturer at the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation at University College London. Previously, he was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto, and a Rothenberg Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University. He received his PhD in anthropology in 2016 together with the award for the Most Outstanding Dissertation (the Richard Saller Prize) throughout the Division of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. He held doctoral research fellow positions at the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity and at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He received his masters degree from the University of Chicago and his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from University College London. Having grown up just south of the border in Ireland he has long been pressed into thinking critically about on-going colonial histories, and their erasure, as well as postcolonial identities and conflicts.