Death in an Ordinary Time: Reflections from Rwanda


Meanings and processes of death in Rwanda have changed dramatically in the 25 years following imvururu, the Kinyarwandan term for “interruptions” that signifies the numerous episodes of violence between the late 1950s and mid‐1990s. Reflecting on experiences of elderly Rwandans who witnessed imvururu in adulthood, this article traces how death is perceived and practiced in old age, a phase of the life course that is marked with relative political calm. Although traces of imvururu permeate the present, these ordinary times—ibihe bisanzwe—afford opportunities for the elderly to alter their notions of death as an event by making it a personal process, reviving valued preparation practices from the past and creating new ones with the young. This peopled account invites alternative ways of thinking about time and recognizing death’s role in infusing meaning back into life in contexts where accounts of the everyday remain frozen in an apocalyptic imaginary. [aging, death, ordinary, temporality, Rwanda].