Lecture by Leen Ann Fujii Links Global Acts to Violence

Stacey Stein

On March 5, Lee Ann Fujii, a political scientist and assistant professor at George Washington University, gave a presentation that explored links between public displays of violence in Bosnia, Rwanda and Maryland. Fujii wrote Killing Neighbors: Webs of Violence in Rwanda and is currently working on Putting on a Show: Scenes of Atrocity in Bosnia, Rwanda and the United States.

Fujii began the presentation by looking at the idea of violence in general, and explained that she chose the cases from Bosnia, Rwanda and Maryland because although they started out differently, they ended up the same. Fujii was particularly interested in the processes leading up to the violence.

“Violence is a uniquely powerful medium,” Fujii said. “It is louder, more emphatic, more transformative than violence that’s not part of a display.”

Fujii first looked at the Bosnian war, where there was conflict over Bosnia’s future and possible independence. In multiple towns and villages, similar patterns emerged: the firing of non-Serbs, weapon searches, detention of non-Serbs and segregation. This changed peoples’ habits, as well as allowed people to take on new roles.

“It makes it very difficult to help your friends and to act like a friend,” Fujii said. “Now you have neighbors checking the papers of their own neighbors. For those who want to be somebody new, [violence] allows nobodys to become somebodys.”

Fujii then moved on to look at the murder of a prominent Tutsi family in Rwanda. During the Rwandan genocide, there were insecurities and crises throughout the country. This resulted in new actions, including roadblocks, and pressures to join certain political parties.

“There are a series of measures that are similar to the ones I talked about in Bosnia,” Fujii said. “We can use the same analytic framework to look at what these things are doing. Once the embodiment of the new political order is enacted, there are penalties for helping your neighbor. There’s penalties for not going along with these extremists.”

Finally, Fujii looked at the lynching of Matthew Williams in the 1930s in Maryland. After Williams was accused of shooting his boss, he was shot himself. Soon, citizens dragged him from the hospital and killed him.

According to Fujii, it is important to note that some of the people carrying out this killing found themselves involved in something they would not normally do.

“They’re straying from their normal routine. All of that is part of this destruction of old habits. It allows people to have all kinds of new roles,” Fujii said.

First-year Sammi Brown said she enjoyed the lecture and found Fujii’s remarks insightful.

“Fujii is a visionary,” Brown said. “She provides perspective on violence that we are too afraid to capture in our memories. However, Fujii suggests that if we can understand the implications of violence, we can improve our communication and the global impact.”

Contact Stacey Stein at [email protected]