In this autoethnographic article, I examine the presentation of human remains at memorials commemorating the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, focusing on witnessing and voyeurism. Drawing on my own and others’ experiences visiting these memorials, I address the following questions: How do we represent humans who are no longer living? How do we conceptualize the humanity of human remains produced by violent means? This article examines these questions through an engagement with literary representations of Rwanda’s dead, specifically Boubacar Boris Diop’s Murambi: The Book of Bones and Koulsy Lamko’s La Phalène Des Collines (A Butterfly in the Hills), as well as analysis of my field notes and diary entries regarding my personal responses to genocide memorials I visited in Rwanda. Whereas previous scholarship has focused primarily on the intended function of the memorials and the anticipated response of their visitors, by concentrating on affective and aesthetic responses to the dead, I address something in between: the aesthetic perception of human remains, particularly in relation to the dignity of the people they were. At stake in this research is who is able to make a claim to humanity and under what theoretical guises.

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