Kathryn Mara

Position title: Albert Markham Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Email: kmmara@wisc.edu


  • PhD’20 University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • MA’15 Michigan State University
  • BA’12 Northern Michigan University


Kathryn Mara (she/her/hers) is an Albert Markham Postdoctoral Research Fellow. In her research, she employs ethnography and critical discourse analysis to explore discourse and cultural practices surrounding genocide.


In her dissertation, “Rwandan Diasporic Discourse in Toronto: Talking About and Commemorating the 1994 Genocide,” Kathryn examined commemorative and discursive practices, attitudes, and processes of socialization among people of Rwandan heritage living outside of Rwanda, including both those born in Rwanda and those born in the diaspora. Through ethnography and critical discourse analysis, she examined how Rwandans talk about the genocide in simultaneously similar and different ways, learn and teach both each other and others how to represent it “appropriately,” and assign meaning to their commemorative practices. She concluded that Rwandan discourse about the genocide not only aims to represent their interests as individuals but also as members of “imagined communities” (Anderson 1983). Furthermore, Rwandans frequently position their stories in relation to other narratives about the 1994 genocide, and they are further invested in socializing others, particularly those who were not in Rwanda during the genocide, into telling similar narratives, through commemoration, conversation, and advocacy for genocide legislation in their new communities. While her research is centered on the discourse of Rwandans, through self-reflexivity and approaches drawn from linguistic anthropology, it also revealed how influence and power operate situationally, at the local level of a conversation and, more broadly, across interactions, contributing to new ways of understanding the relationship between discourse and power. She argued that we make discourse powerful through the ways we employ it and encourage others to do the same. Thus, power is always contextually configured.

Selected Awards and Honors 

A.C. Jordan Prize for Best Graduate Student Paper on Africa, UW-Madison African Studies Program, 2019.

Honorable Mention, Bennetta Jules-Rosette Graduate Essay Award, Association for Africanist Anthropology, 2019.

Best African Language Film for Shikamoo: Maisha Ya Miguu, UW-Madison African Cultural Studies Film Festival, 2018.

Selected Publications 

Review of Seminega, Tharcisse. No Greater Love: How My Family Survived the Genocide in Rwanda. Davenport, IA: GM&A Publishing, 2019. African Studies Review (2021): E32-E34.

Review of Ndagukunda Déjà. Film. Directed by Sébastien Desrosiers and David Findlay. 2020. Montreal. Africa is a Country (blog), May 24, 2021, https://africasacountry.com/2021/05/a-child-of-the-rwandan-diaspora.

Review of Thomson, Susan. Rwanda: From Genocide to Precarious Peace. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018. Africa Today 66.2 (2020): 145-147. 

“The Remains of Humanity: An Autoethnographic Account of a Misery Tourist in Rwanda.” Journal of Autoethnography 1.1 (2020): 16-28.