UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Galicia and Rwanda: Social or Ethnic Genocide?

07 December 2021, 5:00 pm–6:30 pm

A collage of Galician Peasant Uprising and Rwandan Genocide

A SSEES Study of Central Europe Seminar with Tomasz Kamusella, University of St Andrews

This event is free.

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Rarely are European and non-European events compared, let alone for the sake of methodology. Education and the mass media keep reproducing this post/colonial divide between the West and ‘the Rest’ in people’s heads. A considerable percentage of the targeted population was rapidly exterminated in both Galician Peasant Uprising and Rwandan Genocide. The former event is interpreted as a social (socio-economic) conflict and largely forgotten, though part of the highly politicized Polish modern history. This uprising sits ill at ease with the Polish national master narrative. On the contrary the Rwandan Genocide is said to have been a case of an ethnic conflict, and this bloodbath has been made into the foundation of present-day Rwanda’s politics of history (Geschichtspolitik). Yet, I propose that the dynamics of the events in Galicia can be explained better if we adopt the actors’ perceptions of the situation, and thus treat nobles and serfs as opposed ethnic groups. On the other hand, no religious, linguistic or spatial difference has been in place to sunder Tutsis from Hutus. So, I propose to see the Rwandan genocide as a social (socio-economic) conflict that was retroactively ethnicized, especially in subsequent reinterpretations of this genocide.

NB: This talk is based on the speaker’s Open Access article: Ethnicity and Estate: The Galician Jacquerie and the Rwandan Genocide Compared. 2021. Nationalities Papers. 

Image credit:
Left image - The three estates of the realm. Woodcut by Jacob Meydenbach, from Prognosticatio by Johann von Lichtenberg, 1488. This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.
Right image - Site through Barbed Wire - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - Phnom Penh - Cambodia - 02 by Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.