Efficacy of Narrative/Discourse Analysis and Autoethnographic Research Methods in Communication/Media and Ethnic Conflict Studies: A Reflection on Research about Rwandan Former Refugees and Genocide Survivors (FRGSs)

Efficacy of Narrative/Discourse Analysis and Autoethnographic Research Methods in Communication/Media and Ethnic Conflict Studies: A Reflection on Research about Rwandan Former Refugees and Genocide Survivors (FRGSs)

Seif Sekalala (Drexel University, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9728-7.ch003
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Abstract

In this chapter, the author briefly surveys some seminal macro- and micro- studies relevant to the study of forced migration narratives and discourses, identity, and sensemaking and resilience, and he presents some of his most significant research findings to-date on the narrative sensemaking and resilience processes of Rwandan former refugees and genocide survivors (FRGS). The author also reflects on the personal experiences that inspired him to take up that research, and the need for more scholars of communication/media and ethnic violence (and mass conflicts at large) to make use of their own shared backgrounds with research participants.
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Introduction

The contribution of this chapter to the study of the impact of communication and the media on ethnic conflict, comes from my research on Rwandan former refugees and genocide survivors (FRGSs). One can classify the impact of communication and mass media on ethnic conflict into three stages, namely the period before the start of the conflict, the period during the actual conflict, and the period after the conflict. In the case of the Rwandan genocide, multiple studies (e.g. Desforges, 1999; Strauss, 2006) have documented the impact of the mass media—particularly FM radio, vis-à-vis the propagation of ethnic division and political ideologies that resulted in the genocide. However, this chapter takes a look at the role of communication among Rwandan former refugees and genocide survivors, and foreign media commentators vis-à-vis narrative sensemaking and resilience expression after the 1994 genocide, today—20 years after the end of the genocide.

To-date, the bulk of my research on this topic has come from studies of narratives and discourses of Rwandan former refugees and genocide survivors in the USC-Shoah Video Archive and Western (US, UK, Italy, Canada) newspaper articles. But in addition to those two core methodologies, my research has been inspired by my own background as the child of a Rwandan-Ugandan woman born in Uganda, who lost dozens of relatives in Rwanda, and who still has family members in Rwanda, Also, having grown up in Uganda and living and studying in the USA for 11 years, I am uniquely positioned as a cultural bridge between American, and East African (Ugandan/Rwandan) cultures. Thus, I believe I have an ideal familiarity and distance to the people and issues that might help me carry out a research study with a unique, well-informed, and balanced perspective. Thus, in this chapter, in addition to providing samples and discussions of the narrative and discourse analysis results from my research to-date, I will attempt to highlight the potential benefits that scholars of communication/media and ethnic conflict might harness by using their own shared backgrounds and struggles with participants during their research.

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