Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Tricia R. Hepner

Committee Members

Gregory V. Button, Graciela S. Cabana


Despite the ever-expanding criticism of the way the international community conducts its aid missions, it remains clear that humanitarian intervention is necessary for the successful rebuilding of post-genocide nations. As such, the interactions of the international aid community with the national governments and local communities of Cambodia, Guatemala and Rwanda are of particular importance to this thesis. By analyzing these relationships and their resulting policies, it becomes clear that peace cannot last if the survivors are unable to relate to the justice and reconciliation measures implemented. Local cultural norms and traditions, as well as input from survivors, must be the foundation from which national and international policies are built. Furthermore, the goal of international intervention must focus on rebuilding the legitimacy of the nation-state in the eyes of both the local citizens and the international community. As it is oftentimes the state itself that commits genocide against its own people, it is imperative that the new government be seen as separate from the old, that the state itself institute justice and reconciliation policies with the aid of the international community, and that the international community adhere to a “light footprint” policy.

Ultimately, the most effective solutions are those that have cultural and historical meaning for the affected local communities, are implemented by the state and are supported by the international community. To establish sustainable initiatives the international community must adopt a human rights oriented policy that addresses the underlying causes of genocide and encourages the local appropriation of human rights dialogue. Using an analytical framework derived from anthropology’s foci on human rights, politics and law, I argue that the recognition of overarching themes across these case studies can help improve the way international, national and local post-genocide justice, reconciliation and state-building policies are formed.

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