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A New Congresswoman's Dissertation On Genocide

Who Must Die: The State Of Exception In Rwanda's Genocide
Who Must Die: The State Of Exception In Rwanda's Genocide
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Representative-elect Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat with a Ph.D., is heading to Congress early next year.

While I was writing a profile about Sinema that’s set to air this week, I came across her doctoral dissertation on the Rwandan genocide. Sinema finished the degree at Arizona State University's School of Social Justice this year. (Yes, she also ran successfully for Congress in 2012.)


The treatise is 251 pages long and not really relevant for the radio story. But I’m posting it here for a few reasons:

1) How many people in Congress have a Ph.D.?

2) It’s a deeply researched body of work with some potentially interesting political insights into the mind of an increasingly important person in state and federal policymaking. There aren’t many documents that so clearly identify an emerging academics’ intellectual musings as a doctoral dissertation.

3) There are some cool behind-the-scene tidbits. Like this one:

“While I feel extraordinarily lucky to have been granted access to documents in Rwanda, Tanzania, London and Wales, my position as an Arizona State Representative in 2010 and Arizona State Senator in 2011 likely allowed me to gain access to people and places that I would have struggled to access as a private citizen.”

Sinema notes: “the Rwandan genocide is notable for its swiftness, brutality, and intense efficiency. Nearly one million people were killed in less than 100 days.”


And she argues the cause of that brutality had its roots in German and Belgian colonizers who “create[d] false and ever-more calcified distinctions between the Hutu and the Tutsi.”

Sinema bases much of her work on the theory of Georgio Agamben, an Italian political philosopher. She writes:

“The idea that extermination of an entire portion of one’s population as a solution to the problems a sovereign faces is rooted in Agamben’s concept that the state of exception creates an atmosphere wherein a sovereign (government) strips its citizens of their sociopolitical being – where People are reduced to people, ‘naked people’ devoid of social political capital or value. For the Hutu Power faction in Rwanda, Tutsi were not People. They were simply a threat to the existing power structure, a structure that had operated since independence without regard to the juridical order.”

I’ll be honest. I did not read the entire dissertation. (Or even most of it.) But here it is, in case any political buffs care to dig in. Enjoy!