Tag Archives: human rights

The Incarceration Collections at the Rubenstein: The Role of Reading and Writing in the History of Prisoners’ Rights Movements

The popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black, based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman, has brought renewed attention to the conditions inside U.S. women’s prisons. While prison reform has not been contemporarily understood as a priority of the LGBTQ and feminist communities, the special collections at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, illustrate the degree to which prison reform and anti-prison activism have, since the 19th century, operated as a cornerstone of both LGBTQ and feminist movements.

 In the 19th century, charity efforts led by white middle-class feminists led to the creation of prison reform organizations such as the Women’s Prison Association (WPA) and the Gilbert Library and Prisoners’ Aid Society. These organizations advocated for separate women’s reformatories, the decriminalization of prostitution, rehabilitation programs for former inmates, and the creation and expansion of prison libraries.

These early reform efforts are reflected in the ledger and scrapbook of Linda Gilbert, the founder and president of the Gilbert Library and Prisoners’ Aid Society. The ledger details Gilbert’s fundraising efforts on behalf of the organization and the expenses it incurred from roughly 1868 to 1894, as it helped to establish libraries in institutions such as the New York House of Detention, Ludlow St. Jail, and Sing Sing Female Prison. A pamphlet included in the Linda Gilbert scrapbook speaks to the particular significance of prison libraries and literature to reformers of this period, who saw increasing literacy among prisoners and increasing access to reading material as central to their moral improvement.

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Linda Gilbert account and scrapbook, 1894

 The incarceration collections held in the Rubenstein Library, however, reflect the importance of circulating periodicals to prison reform efforts more generally, and the changing role of reading and writing in prison reform movements over time. In the 1960’s and 70’s, prison libraries and education programs helped to instigate an expanding prisoners’ rights movement both within and beyond prison walls. These efforts are reflected in several women’s prison newsletters and pamphlets that were published by lesbian feminist organizations in the late 20th century, including “No More Cages” and “Through the Looking Glass,” which are held in the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection and the Women’s and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Movements (LGBTQ) Periodicals Collection, respectively.

These newsletters were the collaborative projects of lesbian feminist and anti-prison activists in the late twentieth century in the context of neo-liberal economic policies, intensifying restrictions on access to welfare, and a corresponding rise in incarceration rates. The newsletters that grew out of these coalitions often aimed their critiques at increasing restrictions on access to welfare that, while initiated by the Nixon administration, were part of a larger conservative backlash against the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 that continued through the 1990’s, making women of color, in particular, vulnerable to mass incarceration.

“Break ‘de Chains of U.S. Legalized Slavery,”  a joint publication between the Triangle Area Lesbian Feminists’ Prison Book Project and inmates at the North Carolina Correctional institute for women, documents a prison rebellion at the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women in 1975 that began as a work stoppage in the prison laundry. The pamphlet not only critiques healthcare and labor conditions in the prison, but contests media accounts of the rebellion itself. Additionally, the Rubenstein Library also holds a publication from Action for Forgotten Women, a feminist organization that was also active in the Triangle in the 1970’s.

Gay and lesbian publications such as Feminary, Lesbian Tide, RFD, and Gay Community News, which frequently reported on conditions inside prisons and incidents of police brutality, gave advice to gay and lesbian readers about how to protect themselves from law enforcement, and published letters from prisoners that also circulated widely both inside and outside of prisons during this period. These publications helped to galvanize support for prisoners, and encouraged readers to understand the policing and criminalization of gender and sexual non-normativity as intersecting with the policing and criminalization of people of color, immigrants, and the poor.

More recently, zines distributed by prison books programs, anti-prison zine distros, and collectively owned bookstores and activist centers have done similar work, attempting to fill a gap left by increasingly restrictive policies and funding for prison libraries and education.

Many of the most widely circulating zines are included in the Incarceration Zine Collection, part of the Human Rights Archive, which was acquired from the Chicago Anarchist Black Cross Zine Distro. The collection spans the years from 1995 to 2007, and includes 103 zines distributed inside and outside of jails and prisons, with writing by notable inmates and anti-prison activists, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Ashanti Alston Omowali, David Gilbert and his son, Chesa Boudin, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, Dennis Kyne, Anthony Rayson, Bobby Sands, Sean Swain, and Harold H. Thompson. Zines related specifically to the concerns of women and LGBTQ people, including The Invisibility of Women Prisoners’ Resistance, Reaching through the Bars, Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison, and Queers Bash Back can be found in the Bingham Center Women’s Zine Collection.

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The Incarceration Zine Collection

These resources offer researchers insight into the dialogue amongst prison reformers and anti-prison activists both inside and outside of prison, and into the particular role of reading and writing in the expansion of prison reform and prisoners’ rights movements.

Submitted by – Jennifer Ansley, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow, Thompson Writing Program, jennifer.ansley@duke.edu

NEH grant will fund Voices of Change Project at the Rubenstein Library

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has received a grant of $200,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support Voices of Change: Preserving and Presenting Radio Haiti.  This two-year project, set to begin in July 2015, will preserve and make widely available the written- and spoken-word archives of Radio Haiti Inter, the country’s oracle of democracy from the late 1960s until its closure in 2003. The announcement of the award coincides with the fifteen year anniversary of the assassination of the station’s owner and Haiti’s most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique, and amidst continuing news coverage about the ongoing trial of his accused murderers.

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Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas at Radio Haiti Inter, 1995

 

The Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library received the archives of Radio Haiti in late 2013 as a gift from Michèle Montas, the station’s co-anchor and widow of Dominique.  “To me, Duke University was the most welcoming environment for these unique archives, with knowledgeable teams of scholars and archivists able to preserve the past and help to use that recent past as a tool to re- imagine the future,” commented Montas about her decision to place the archives at Duke.

As evidenced in the more than 3,000 recordings and 70 linear feet of paper records comprising the collection, Radio Haiti distinguished itself from other media outlets in Haiti by covering not only events in Port-au-Prince but news from the rural areas of Haiti, including a grassroots democratic movement that eventually overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. It was the first independent radio station in Haiti, and the first to broadcast in the language of the people, Haitian Creole, instead of the French spoken only by Haiti’s elite.

The collection is one of the most important and comprehensive resources available for studying and understanding the recent history of Haiti. Primary materials related to Haiti are relatively rare, and the archives of Radio Haiti are particularly distinct both for the depth and breadth of their coverage. According to Laurent Dubois, project advisor and Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke, “The Radio Haiti Archives represent a tremendous resource for scholars, educators, and the general public interested in culture and politics in Haiti from the late 1970s to the present. Under the leadership of Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas, the station served as a critical voice for reportage, debate, editorials, and news for several decades.” Access to these important primary materials will allow scholars to write the history of the country in nuanced and participatory ways.

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As part of preparing the grant proposal, Library staff completed a pilot project cleaning and digitizing a selection of tapes from the Radio Haiti Archives.

 

Grant funding will support a full-time project archivist fluent in both Haitian Creole and French to oversee the arrangement, description, digitization and preservation of these materials. To support multilingual and international research, audio recordings will be described in French, Haitian Creole, and English, and will be made freely available online via Duke’s Digital Collections, the Digital Public Library of America, and the Digital Library of the Caribbean.

In order to promote easy access to these materials in Haiti, the Library will partner with the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke and FOKAL (La Fondation Connaissance et Liberté/Fondasyon Konesans Ak Libète), a community organization in Haiti, to place digital copies of the recordings in libraries throughout Haiti. The team will also explore creating podcasts from the recordings to allow for easier access in regions with intermittent internet connectivity.

The Radio Haiti collection is a singular resource supporting a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the last 50 years’ of Haiti’s history. By preserving and making accessible these archives, Duke University Libraries seeks to advance the dialogue not only about Haiti’s past but also about its future.

Those interested in learning more about the archives of Radio Haiti are encouraged to visit the pilot site developed collaboratively between the Forum for Scholars and Publics and the Library at http://radiohaitilives.com/.   This site includes access in Creole and English to all the recordings reformatted as part of the planning phase of the grant.

Post contributed by Kat Stefko, Head of Technical Services. 

R!C!A! Film Screening: Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

Date: Thursday March 19, 2015
Time: 7:00pm-9:00pm
Location: Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, Franklin Garage
Contact: Patrick Stawski, patrick.stawski@duke.edu 919-660-5823.

Rights!Camera!Action presents Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare , 2012 winner of the Full Frame Film Festival Human Rights Award.  Directed and produced by Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke, Escape Fire tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: how can we save our badly broken healthcare system?

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It’s not surprising that healthcare tops many Americans’ concerns and is at the center of a political firestorm in our nation’s Capitol. But the current battle over cost and access does not ultimately address the root of the problem: we have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system. Escape Fire examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care.  After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground.  A panel discussion will follow the screening.

Sponsored by the Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library, and the Duke Human Rights Center @ FHI.

 

“Human Rights, Truth Telling, and Justice” Symposium

Date: Friday November 14th, 2014
Time: 9:00am-4:00pm
Location: Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, Franklin Garage

The Human Rights Archive is co-sponsoring a symposium that will focus on truth telling and justice in the context of human rights. The exciting list of speakers includes representatives from two of the Archive’s partners:

Eduardo GonzalezEduardo González is Director of the International Center for Transitional Justice’s (ICTJ) Truth and Memory Program, which provides advice to countries on truth commissions, declassification of archives, memorialization activities, museums, and other instruments. He has provided technical and strategic support to truth-seeking initiatives in places as diverse as East Timor, Morocco, Liberia, Canada, and the Western Balkans. Before joining ICTJ, he helped organize and carry out the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Previously, he worked as an advocate for the establishment of the International Criminal Court. The historical records of ICTJ are also part of the Human Rights Archive in the Rubenstein Library.

Pamela MerchantPamela Merchant is the Executive Director of the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), and an attorney with 25 years of experience in the conduct and management of complex state and federal litigation. She joined CJA in October 2005 and has overseen a period of significant growth – both programmatically and financially. Under her leadership, CJA has grown from an organization devoted solely to human rights litigation in the U.S. to one that also engages in human rights litigation in foreign jurisdictions, such as Spain and Cambodia. Ms. Merchant has testified before Congress on accountability for human rights abusers and other human rights issues and received degrees from Georgetown University and Boston College School of Law. Ms. Merchant will explore changes in the field over the past 30 years with a particular focus on the resilience of survivors and their communities and the critical role they play in building high impact human rights cases.

All sessions are open to the public. For a free lunch, please RSVP to emily.stewart@duke.edu by Thursday November 13th.

Schedule

9:00 am- Coffee and Pastries
9:30-10:30 am- Andrea Petö, “Revised and Revisionist Histories in Eastern Europe” (followed by Q & A)
10:30-11:30 am- Kimberly Theidon, “Incarnations: Legacies of Violence in Peru” (followed by Q & A)
11:45-1:00 pm- Lunch
1:00-2:00 pm- Pamela Merchant, “Truth telling, Human Rights Litigation and Resilience” (followed by Q & A)
2:00-3:00 pm- Eduardo Gonzalez Cueva, “Truth Orthodoxies: The Truth Commission Model, 30 Years after Argentina” (followed by Q & A)
3:00-4:00 pm- Roundtable discussion

Sponsored by The Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library, the Duke Human Rights Center at FHI the Trent Memorial Foundation. Cosponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies, Duke History Department, and Duke Cultural Anthropology.

For further information contact Patrick Stawski, Duke University patrick.stawski@duke.edu 919-660-5823.

Defending Haitian Rights: A Transnational Challenge

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) papers documents this NGO’s advocacy for human rights in Haiti and for Haitian refugees in the United States. NCHR has conducted its mission reaching out to congressmen and international organizations to influence policy, using its connections and credibility to assist Haitians, whether in their individual immigration issues or as this recent discovery notes, to flee persecution in Haiti and reach safety.

 

Let’s start with a little bit of context. In 1992 Haiti democratically elected its first president ever, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was subsequently forced out of the country for about 6 months. A military regime came immediately into power. Human rights violations became more prevalent, particularly toward supporters of former President Aristide.

 

Logo for the National Front for Change and Democracy
Logo for the National Front for Change and Democracy of Haiti, found in the National Coalition for Haitian Rights Records

During this tumultuous period, three Haitian members of the Aristide’s political party FNCD (National Front for Change and Democracy) [whose names will be withheld for their protection], decided that, for safety reasons, they had no other option than to flee Haiti. They arrived in Guantanamo, Cuba which at that time was used as an immigration transit camp to assess the validity of asylum claims made by Haitians. The asylum process required an initial interview in Guantanamo that would assess whether an immigrant had a credible fear of persecution, and then a second interview in Miami that would assess whether this fear was well-grounded. The screening process was tough, as it is estimated that only 2% of Haitian applicants were granted asylum between 1980 and 1992.

 

It is in Guantanamo that the three Haitians first came in contact with NCHR. Living conditions at the camp were difficult, and several reports documented humiliating treatments, separation of families or refusal of medical care. As the founding members of the Association of Haitian Political Refugees, the three Haitians asked NCHR to witness and then advocate for better treatment of Haitian refugees inside Guantanamo’s camps. The three Haitians successfully passed the first step of the asylum process. However, accounts of mistreatment during the second interview in Miami, especially directed towards members of the Association of Haitian Political Refugees, made them refuse to submit to the second interview. Additionally, the omnipresence of the US military in the camps made many Haitians nervous about telling their stories to immigration officials.

 

Having abandoned the asylum process mid-way, the three Haitians were sent back to Haiti. Beatings by the police on their day of arrival confirmed their fears of political persecution. They decided to go into hiding and attempt to leave Haiti one way or another. They were unable to apply for asylum from within Haiti, and the American embassy was not a sanctuary. The three Haitians called NCHR for help.

 

NCHR’s strategy was first to get them into the Dominican Republic,

Logo for Radio Enriquillo, a station in the Dominican Republic
Logo for Radio Enriquillo, a station in the Dominican Republic

where the United Nations had set up a refugee camp, and then try to obtain permanent residency in the United States, Canada or another Caribbean nation. In a parallel to the American abolitionist Underground Railroad, NCHR resorted to Haiti’s own underground railroad dedicated to helping persecuted Haitians cross the border and enter the Dominican Republic. The underground railroad was managed by a priest on the Haitian side, and by a radio station on the Dominican side.

 

By means of the underground railroad the three Haitians arrived safely in the Dominican Republic. They were greeted by a team of lawyers, enlisted by NCHR to build their asylum case; further complicated by the three being HIV positive at a time when both the United States and Canada had a practice of rejecting asylum claims of HIV positive individuals unless a waiver was obtained.

 

That is the last update in the archives about the three Haitians. We do not know how significant the underground railroad was, as so far we haven’t found any other account of its use in NCHR’s archives. We also do not know whether their asylum claims have been successful, or whether they managed to get permanent residency in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, we have been able to reconstruct this story using a variety of documents present in NCHR archives: letters of the three Haitians to NCHR written in Haitian Creole, communication between NCHR’s Haiti and New-York teams in English, status reports coming from the underground railroad in Spanish, interview transcripts in French. This diversity illustrates the fact that the issue of Haitian rights encompasses much more than just the Haitian territory: the flow of refugees coming to the Dominican Republic and to the United States has made the protection of Haitian rights a multinational challenge.

Post contributed by Marie Veyrier, student assistant in Technical Services

Rights! Camera! Action!: The Undocumented (Director’s Cut)

Date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Full Frame Theater on the American Tobacco Campus (directions & parking information)
Contact: Patrick Stawski, patrick.stawski(at)duke.edu

Marcos Hernandez lives and works in Chicago. He came to the United States from Mexico, after a life-threatening border crossing through the Sonora Desert in southern Arizona. Each month, he sends money to his mother in Mexico City to buy medicine for his brother, Gustavo, who needs a kidney transplant. The Undocumented, by acclaimed filmmaker Marco Williams, is Marcos’s story—as well as the story of countless other migrants.

Chronicling Arizona’s deadliest summer months, award-winning documentary and fiction film director Marco Williams (Banished, Two Towns of Jasper, In Search of Our Fathers) weaves Marcos’s search with the efforts of humanitarians and Border Patrol agents who are fighting to prevent migrant deaths, the medical investigators and Mexican Consulate workers who are trying to identify dead border crossers, and Mexican families who are struggling to accept the loss of a loved one.

Poster for Screening of The Undocumented

In true cinéma vérité style, The Undocumented (91:00 TRT; 2013 Full Frame Honorable Mention for Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights) reveals the ongoing impact of immigration laws and economic policies on the very people who continue to be affected by them. By going beyond politics, the film also tells a story that is deeply personal.

The screening, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a panel discussion featuring director Marco Williams and Duke University professor Charlie Thompson.

Rights!Camera!Action! is sponsored by the Archive of Documentary Arts and the Human Rights Archive in the Rubenstein Library, the Duke Human Rights Center @ FHI, and the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image.

New Acquisitions: Human Rights in the New World

In June and July we’ll celebrate the beginning of a new fiscal year by highlighting new acquisitions from the past year.  All of these amazing resources will be available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library! Today’s post features a key early work in the development of the concept of human rights.

Bartolomé de las Casas, a Dominican friar and one of the first Spanish colonists in the Caribbean, is best known today for his exposé of the horrifying treatment of indigenous peoples by Spanish settlers during the first decades of colonization.  First published in a 1550s series of tracts in Seville, the tracts represented the first argument for the rights of American Indians to be treated as fellow human beings, the first argument for the abolition of slavery in the New World, and one of the first attempts to appeal to a universal code of human rights.

The tracts, especially the sensational details of torture, abuse, and murder, spread throughout Europe as evidence of the Spanish abuse of power in the New World.  The Library’s new acquisition is the first Latin translation and first illustrated edition of Las Casas’ text, entitled Narratio Regionum Indicarum per Hispanos Quosdam Devastarum Verissimi…published in Frankfurt in 1598.  The work features a powerful series of eighteen copper engravings by Theodor de Bry, depicting abuses of the native peoples.

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Image courtesy Dorothy Sloan Books.

De Bry never visited the New World, and the images can be seen as prime examples of the “Black Legend” of sensationalistic, anti-Spanish (and anti-Catholic) propaganda used to curb the might of the Spanish empire.  This edition of the work of Las Casas advocating for basic human rights for the native populations of the Americas was wildly popular and influential, thanks in part to the images, which retain some of their original power to shock and provoke thought about the treatment of the original inhabitants of the New World.

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Image courtesy Dorothy Sloan Books.

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.

Radio in the Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan audiotapes of the International Monitor Institute (IMI) records are comprised almost entirely of the transcripts of radio broadcasts translated from Kinyarwanda into French and English. These are the broadcasts which aired in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide, which took place from April through early July of that year and in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred. The genocide was triggered by the assassination of Hutu President Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. An IMI piece on radio as a tool of genocide (available in the organizational records) summarizes these events: “His plane was shot down on his return from Arusha, Tanzania, where he met with RPF leaders and signed an agreement further limiting his regime’s hold on power (known as the August 1993 Arusha Accords).”

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President Juvénal Habyarimana

During colonization from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, the German and Belgian colonial elite manufactured a native elite in the Tutsis, a process of colonization that Franz Fanon describes in The Wretched of the Earth. Hutus thus experienced discrimination in education and various sectors of the economy. In 1959, Hutus took control of Rwanda following the independence movement, forcing many Tutsis to seek refuge in neighboring countries. In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) comprised of exiled Tutsis, invaded Rwanda, initiating a civil war. Habyarimana’s assassination resulted in an escalation of Hutu anxiety that the Tutsis would seize power of the government and that discrimination against Hutus would be reestablished.

Radio became a powerful weapon used to incite and direct the Rwandan genocide. The majority of radio broadcasts in the Rwandan audiotapes collection are from the privately-owned Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM). What I found especially interesting about the content of these broadcasts (the transcripts of which can be found in the IMI organizational records and the audiotapes of which can be found in the Rwandan Videotapes and Audiotapes inventory) was the way in which its efforts to direct the extermination of the Tutsi population was paralleled by its efforts to claim authority over the telling of history. The radio broadcasts reveal a struggle over who gets to tell history and, therefore, a struggle over a monopoly on truth. In other words, the RTLM broadcasts exhibit a phenomenon which seems to be more universally true, which is the political necessity of storytelling.

There are a few particularly conspicuous aspects of the history-telling of the RTLM broadcasts, one being the discourse of revelation or enlightenment – the idea that if we only peel back the layers, we can finally see the truth. And this encounter with the truth is the basis for political action, or, in this case, the basis on which genocide becomes justified. “Slavery,” for example, is a term that is repeated throughout these broadcasts. Several journalists recall the state of Hutu slavery during colonization in order to characterize the discrimination Hutus experienced. Drawing on such a vocabulary, the radio broadcasts attempt to illuminate the Rwandan genocide as a slave rebellion. Freedom from slavery, according to this narrative, lies in the ability to discover the true history and nature of that discrimination, in opposition to the stories of the colonizers and the native elite. For the same reason, I’m less interested in the truth or accuracy of this, or any, construction of history than in the need and tendency to construct history more generally.

In one broadcast which aired on April 12, 1994 (6 days after Habyarimana’s assassination),[ii] Georges Ruggiu gives his audience a history lesson. He evokes Tutsi discrimination against Hutus in the colonial educational system and the ways in which the Germans and Belgians perpetuated this discrimination. Ruggiu situates the RPF’s efforts to seize power in Rwanda and oppress Hutus within that context. “Now we are going to continue with history,” he begins one segment. He goes on to describe how Hutus, beginning with the first school for Tutsis in 1917, were denied education and how, as a result of this denial of access, the Hutu became slaves to the Tutsi “who, according to the colonial legend, were born to rule.” I suspect that Ruggiu does not understand Hutu slavery as merely metaphorical. The discourse of slavery in these broadcasts seems to represent Hutu slavery as naked reality; that is, these broadcasts understand historical Hutu slavery to be literal. Indeed, in the segment that follows, Ruggiu draws on historical documents that testify to the fact that historically “Tutsis killed Hutu kings and enslaved Hutu people.”

Listen to an excerpt of this broadcast here.

In a second broadcast from April 17, 1994 (11 days after the assassination), journalist Agenesta Mukarutama leads a roundtable discussion about how the RPF seeks to return Rwanda to its pre-revolutionary time in which the Tutsi commanded and the Hutu obeyed. “But,” the broadcast tells us, “Rwandans have learned their history and are ‘saying no’ to a repetition of history.” Genocide is perceived as the only way to break out of an historical cycle of discrimination and oppression. Murego argues that “what it [the RPF] did not understand is a lesson from history. In fact, the political skeleton before ‘59 is clear: Some people command and others obeyed, and the RPF inserted its objectives in that scope . . . Since the conditions have changed, there is now no way to impose oneself as it was before . . . what happened is that it is a genuine restoration of the former reality where some people commanded, you understand who, and others have learnt to say ‘no.’ That is where the president of the PL [le Parti libéral] has made an important statement: ‘those who are saying no today, they are saying no considering their history, the history of their country . . .’” (emphasis is mine).

IMI records, box PH1, Tutsi Refugee Camp, Nov 93(for blog)

By suggesting that “there is now no way,” that is, that it would be either impracticable or unbearable for Rwanda to return to a pre-revolutionary state governed by colonial structures, Murego essentially makes a philosophical statement about history – not just what the content of that history is, but more specifically, the temporality in which revolutionary history operates. The Rwandan genocide here is not just a “saying no” to Tutsi rule; it is a “saying no” to a particular conception of the temporality of history that stands in opposition to the revolutionary conception of history. Murego’s argument, here, seems to be that the RPF does not understand how historical time actually works. Ngirumpatse, a participant of the roundtable, follows this up:

“First thing, at the risk of disappointing many Rwandans, especially the educated people, I have always considered the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history. No any people make a revolution just once. France has made a Revolution, it had two or three restorations, it took 100 years for the Republic to impose itself. When I say Republic, I mean the power of people.  . . . So I consider the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history.” Ngirumpatse makes this claim repeatedly:  “I consider the Arusha agreements as an exception in history.”

Ngirumpatse refers to the Arusha Accords as exceptional insofar as they are exceptionally generous; this generosity, it seems, arises from the mistaken belief among Rwandans that their revolution was finished once and for all. But again, what is more interesting to me is the temporality of the historical discourse within the broadcasts themselves – the repetition of the insistence that history cannot and will not repeat itself.

Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.

Celebrating Freedom from Persecution for Hanukkah

Hanukkah card sent to Marshall Meyer by Débora Benchoam, November 1981. From the Marshall T. Meyer Papers.

The Hanukkah celebrations of 1981 were especially meaningful for Débora Benchoam and Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer.  Benchoam had just been released from four years of brutal imprisonment during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” thanks in large part to the efforts of Meyer.  She sent this card to Meyer on 26 November 1981. The card and the letter it contains have been digitized and are available for viewing in Duke’s Digital Collections.

This card is held in the Human Rights Archive‘s Marshall T. Meyer Papers, documenting Meyer’s tireless human rights activism.  To learn more about the story of Benchoam and Meyer, see the online exhibit “I Have No Right to Be Silent: The Human Rights Legacy of Marshall T. Meyer” and this 2009 interview with Benchoam.

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.

New Acquisitions Week, Day Three: Calligraphic Devotion and Haitian Rights

We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012.  Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week.  All of these amazing resources are available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!

  •  Kitab Dala’il al-Khairat wa Shawariq al-Anwar fi Dhikr al-Salah ‘ala al-Nabi al-Mukhtar [Guidebook of Benefits and Illuminations of Prayers to the Chosen Prophet].  The Dala’il al-Khairat of al-Jazuli (Al-Jazuli, Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad ibn Sulaymana, d. 1465) is one of the most popular devotional works in Islam, comprising a cycle of prayers to the prophet Muhammad.  The manuscript now at Duke is Arabic written in the Maghrebi script, and likely was created in North Africa in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.  The manuscript also contains other prayers and devotional texts.  Its calligraphy and ornamentation are beautiful witnesses to a text of surpassing importance in the Muslim faith.
Opening from the newly acquired manuscript of the Dala’il al-Khayrat. Arabic in Maghrebi script.
  • National Coalition for Haitian Rights Records: This organization is dedicated to furthering the civil and international human rights of the Haitian community in the US and helping influence US policy over Haiti to support human rights.  In over 146 linear feet of material, the records document the activity of the Coalition from 1981 to 2003.  This adds to a growing collection of material in the Human Rights Archive related to human rights in Haiti; see the Human Rights Archive’s LibGuide for more information on other collections related to human rights in Latin America.

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