ON 7 MARCH 2006, I AM RESIDING IN A REMOTE AREA IN RURALRWANDA ...
... tensions are high due to the legacies of the genocide and the ongoing gacaca trials dealing with the genocide. I am questioned about my intentions by a military commander. I explain him that I was 15 years old during the 1994 Rwandan genocide when I saw the images of the violence on TV. I refer to a shot that captured a couple of men handing out blows with machetes to people lying on the ground on a dirt road. I tell him this image stayed with me for years and that I had to come to Rwanda to understand what happened and how people deal with this experience, how (mass) violence unfolds and might be prevented. Not by reading about it, but by talking to the people of Rwanda. The discussion is difficult and tense but I am able to continue my research in the area.
I initially studied philosophy but I missed the dimension of lived experience. Therefore, I continued with a degree in social and cultural anthropology. Subsequently, I got the opportunity to be included in a research project on the micro-dynamics of the Rwandan genocide and subsequently in a large-scale World Bank project on the dynamics of poverty. Ever since, I have been researching these topics.
It is my deepest conviction that the (theoretical) knowledge on 'violence' ‘development’, ‘governance’ or 'poverty' can only progress by developing innovative research approaches fostering more empirical depth. In doing so, I pursue an approach that aims to combine breadth and depth, pays attention to longitudinal developments, is actor-oriented as well as reflexive and takes context serious. Reaching these objectives requires an immersive research stance through intensive and long term data gathering. Since 2004, I have undertaken more than 40 months of fieldwork in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and some research on the DRCongo.