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Child Survivors of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and Trauma-Related Affect


  • The author would like to thank the Rwandan boys who agreed to be interviewed and Ellen Meisels for her help with linguistic suggestions and formatting of an earlier draft of this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Suzanne Kaplan, The Hugo Valentin Centre, Uppsala University, Box 521, SE-75120 Uppsala, Sweden [e-mail:].


This article reports findings from an interview study of orphans who were street children in Rwanda after the genocide in 1994. During two study visits in Rwanda in 2003 and 2004, in-depth videotaped interviews, follow-up interviews, and observations were carried out. Specifically, this article addresses how 10 teenage boys dealt with their memories and affects. The affect regulation of these Rwandan child survivors is elaborated and explained in a theoretical model referred to as the “affect propeller”. This model emerged in previous studies of life histories of Holocaust child survivors, using grounded theory, and has been further developed based on the findings from these follow-up studies of Rwandan teenagers. One key finding that is described is the theme of retraumatization and revenge fantasies, which are obstacles in efforts toward resilience, as well as counterforces that facilitate a positive development in the aftermath of the genocide.