Trauma, Ndi umunyarwanda, Posttraumatic growth, Traditional therapy, Rwandan culture, Testimony
Prevailing theories of trauma in the Western Psychological Sciences attend primarily to trauma’s negative emotional, cognitive and behavioural consequences, which are interpreted as pathological and labelled ‘posttraumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD). Besides importing potentially culturally alien practices, technologies, and narratives, a significant problem with the Western medical model in the post-colonial, post-genocide context of Rwanda, is its narrow understanding of what constitutes ‘traumatic’. Specifically, its focus on events fails to capture the complex traumatic experiences of Rwandans which, in addition to the genocide, include the long-term destruction of indigenous culture at the hands of European colonizers. Drawing on evidence from survivor testimonies and an interview with traditional Rwandan trauma therapist, Muganga Rutangarwamaboko, this chapter advocates an alternative approach to trauma therapy in Rwanda, reconciling posttraumatic growth theory and postcolonial theory with home-grown ideas about Rwandan identity, known as Ndi Umunyarwanda, or Rwandicité. Such an approach attempts to recognize and encourage existing stories of positive change among survivors while avoiding the imposition of diagnostic labels based on a discourse of individual psychopathology.