Department of French and Francophone Studies

Rwandan Stories of Change

An AHRC-funded project to investigate the impact of genocide and expressions of post-traumatic growth

This project aims to investigate the ways in which individual Rwandan people have adjusted and reconstructed their identity in the years since the genocide. We aim to gain a comprehensive, qualitative understanding of the impact of the genocide with a particular focus on the expression of post-traumatic growth. 

This project is a collaboration between the Department of French and Francophone Studies, School of Education, Aegis Trust, and Genocide Archive Rwanda.

Genocide Memorial Centre Kigali by Adam Jones
In 1994, in a period of only 100 days, over one million Rwandans were brutally killed during the genocide.

Project overview

Project overview

In 1994, in a period of only 100 days, over one million Rwandans were brutally killed during the genocide. This project aims to investigate the ways in which individual Rwandan people have adjusted and reconstructed their identity in the years since the genocide. We aim to gain a comprehensive, qualitative understanding of the impact of the genocide with a particular focus on the expression of post-traumatic growth.

Traumatic and challenging life experiences may sometimes serve as a positive turning point in peoples’ lives. This is known as post-traumatic growth. It is important to stress however, that post-traumatic growth is not universal and the individuals who report it still also experience high levels of distress. The positive changes that individuals may experience are despite the pain, loss, and distress they have endured.

In collaboration with the Aegis Trust, we will analyse the testimonial narratives of survivors and perpetrators of the genocide to examine for signs of post-traumatic growth. The three aims of our project are to:

  • document and compare psychological and social adjustment in survivors and perpetrators.
  • give ordinary Rwandan individuals the opportunity to express their own story.
  • help contribute to post-conflict reconciliation and healing in Rwandan society.

Our project is generously supported and made possible through a research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Arts and Humanties Research Council


Project team

Dr Nicki Hitchcott
Principal Investigator

show/hide full profile...

Nicki  is Associate Professor and Reader in African Francophone Studies at the University of Nottingham. Nicki specialises in postcolonial literature with a particular focus on female authors from sub-Saharan Africa. Nicki’s research has led to the publication of several books including Francophone Afropean Literatures, Calixthe Beyala: Performances of Migration, Women writers in Francophone Africa and African Francophone Writing: a critical introduction. Most recently, Nicki’s research has focused on fictional responses to the Rwandan genocide, and resulted in her forthcoming book entitled ‘Rwanda Genocide Stories: Fiction After 1994', funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. She is currently Vice-President of the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies.

Dr Nicki Hitchcott staff profile

Professor Stephen Joseph
Professor Stephen Joseph
Project Co-investigator

show/hide full profile...

Stephen is Professor of Psychology, Health, and Social Care at the University of Nottingham, and an HCPC registered health and counselling psychologist. Stephen’s research has focused extensively on how people deal with adversity, and the development of the theory of post-traumatic growth in particular. Stephen has published widely on positive psychology in leading psychological journals and has authored several popular press books on the topic including What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Post-traumatic Growth and Trauma, Recovery, and Growth: Positive Psychological Perspectives on Posttraumatic Stress.

Professor Stephen Joseph staff profile

Dr Laura Blackie
Research Fellow

show/hide full profile...

Laura is the Research Fellow on the project at the University Of Nottingham. Before moving to Nottingham, Laura received her PhD in psychology from the University of Essex and then spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at Wake Forest University in the United States. Laura’s research is at the intersection of social and lifespan psychology, and investigates how individuals adjust and find meaning from adverse experiences. Laura has investigated this topic in relation to how individuals react when reminded of their mortality (doctoral thesis), and the expression of post-traumatic growth following highly challenging and traumatic life experiences (post-doctoral research).

Dr Laura Blackie staff profile


Selected publications for the Rwandan stories of change project

  • Hitchcott, N., (2015). Rwanda Genocide Stories: Fiction After 1994  (Liverpool University Press)

  • Hitchcott, N., (2014). Memorial Stories: Commemorating the Rwanda Genocide through Fiction. In: ELTRINGHAM, N. and MACLEAN, P., eds., Remembering Genocide Routledge. 54-70

  • Hitchcott, N., (2014). Rwanda, Ethnopolitics and Fiction Francophone. Postcolonial Studies. 2-7.

  • Hitchcott, N., (2013). Between remembering and forgetting: (in)visible Rwanda in Gilbert Gatore’s Le Passé devant soi. Research in African Literatures. 44(2), 76-90.

  • HITCHCOTT, N., 2009. ‘A Global African Commemoration – Rwanda: écrire par devoir de mémoire’, Forum for Modern Language Studies 45:2, 151–161.
  • HITCHCOTT, N., 2009. ‘Travels in Inhumanity: Veronique Tadjo's Tourism in Rwanda’, French Cultural Studies 20: 2, 149–164.
  • HITCHCOTT, N., 2009. ‘Writing on Bones: Commemorating Genocide in Boubacar Boris Diop's Murambi’, Research in African Literatures 40:3, 48–61.
  • Utuza, J, A., Joseph, S., & Muss, D., (2012). Treating traumatic memories in Rwanda with the Rewind Technique: Two-week follow-up after a single group session Traumatology 18, 75-78.

  • Joseph, S., Murphy, D., & Regel, S., (2012). An affective-cognitive processing model of posttraumatic growth Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. 19, 316-325

  • Stockton, H., Hunt, N., & Joseph, S., (2011). Cognitive processing, rumination, and posttraumatic growth. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 24(1), 85-92.

  • Joseph, S., (2011). What doesn't kill us: the new psychology of posttraumatic growth (Basic Books).

  • Joseph, S., & Wood, A., (2010). Assessment of positive functioning in clinical psychology: theoretical and practical issues. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 830-838.

  • Blackie, L. E. R., Jayawickreme, E., Helzer, E. G., Forgeard, M. J. C., & Roepke, A. M. (2015). Investigating the veracity of self-reported post-traumatic growth: A profile analysis approach. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6, 788-796.
  • Blackie, L. E. R., Jayawickreme, E., Forgeard, M. J. C., Jayawickreme, N. (2015). The Protective Function of Personal Growth Initiative among a Genocide-Affected Population in Rwanda. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 7, 333-339

  • Blackie, L. E. R., & Jayawickreme, E. (2014). Promoting Change in Post-Traumatic Growth Research: Response to Commentaries. European Journal of Personality, 28, 351-361. DOI: 10.1002/per.1970

  • Jayawickreme, E., & Blackie, L. E. R. (2014). Post‐traumatic Growth as Positive Personality Change: Evidence, Controversies and Future Directions. European Journal of Personality, 28, 312-331. DOI: 10.1002/per.1963


Project partners

The Aegis Trust 

The Aegis Trust is is an international non-governmental organization working to prevent genocide. The Aegis Trust has offices in the UK, US, and Rwanda and works to promote research, remembrance, and learning about acts of genocide to create community resilience against the risk of genocide in the future. Aegis also offers support to the survivors of genocide to help individuals and communities rebuild their lives. Finally, Aegis is actively engaged in evidence-based campaigns to prevent genocide in areas that are under risk, and works closely with policy makers who can respond.

The Aegis Trust


Genocide Archive Rwanda

Established by the Aegis Trust in association with Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), the Genocide Archive Rwanda is intended to be a unified repository where all information relating to the 1994 genocide can be found. The archive contains original audio-visual, documentary and photographic materials along with testimonies shared by both survivors and perpetrators of the genocide. Its research programmes continue to trace materials from the genocide period, to map and gather information at sites of the genocide, and to record fresh survivor testimony.

Genocide Archive Rwanda


Advisory board

Our Advisory Board consists of the following group of academic scholars, mental health practitioners, NGO professionals, and Rwandan community partners:

Advisory Board

Dr Jonathan Adler

Jonathan is an Associate Professor at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts in the United States. Jonathan’s research focuses on the interface between adult identity development and clinical psychology. His research revolves around the ways that people make sense of the difficult things that happen to them and how that personal meaning leads to changes in physical and mental health, personality maturity, and the process and outcome of psychotherapy treatment.

Dr Jonathan Adler profile

Dr Phil Clark

Phil is Reader in Comparative and International Politics, with reference to Africa. Phil is a political scientist specialising in conflict and post-conflict issues in Africa, particularly questions of peace, truth, justice and reconciliation. His research addresses the history and politics of the African Great Lakes, focusing on causes of and responses to genocide and other forms of mass violence. His work also explores the theory and practice of transitional justice, with particular emphasis on community-based approaches to accountability and reconciliation and the law and politics of the International Criminal Court. Phil is Head of the Aegis Trust’s Research, Higher Education and Policy Programme.

Dr Phil Clark profile

Amdani Juma
Amdani  is a Nottinghamshire-based health worker. Amdani is the director of African Institute for Social Development, which develops HIV education programmes to prevent the spread of the virus, improve HIV testing, and prevent stigma against individuals with health conditions. Amdani also works as a health promotion specialist at the Terrence Higgins Trust to design HIV interventions that are suitable for the African communities and the wider Nottinghamshire area.
Professor Dan McAdams

Dan is Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University in Illinois in the United States. Dan’s research interests focus on narrative psychology and the development of the life story as model of human identity. Dan is a leading expert in the empirical study of the development of generativity and redemption during adulthood. Dan has published widely on these topics in leading psychological journals, and authored The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By.

Dr Dan McAdams profile

Esther Mujawayo
Esther Mujawayo is a therapist, activist, and survivor of the genocide in Rwanda. She has published two books about her experiences - SurVivantes and La fleur de Stéphanie: Rwanda entre réconciliation et déni which recount the psychological impact of the genocide and the search for the bodies of her beloved family members. She is a cofounder of AVEGA (an association for widows), which provides psychological and financial support to widows who are survivors of the genocide. She currently lives in Germany with her husband and three daughters.
Professor Steve Regel

Steve is Director of the Centre for Trauma, Resilience and Growth, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Honorary Professor in the School of Education, University of Nottingham and a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Mental Health, Nottingham. He has over 30 years’ experience working with trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He is on the Board of Overseers of the Children and War Foundation, principal advisor on psychological and family support for Hostage UK and a Trustee of Escaping Victimhood. He was appointed an OBE in 2013 for services to victims of trauma.

Dr Steve Regel profile

Dr James Smith

James is co-founder of the UK National Holocaust Centre along with his brother Stephen and parents. He co-founded the Aegis Trust in 2000 and remains the Chief Executive Officer. In 2002 he staged the first major international conference on genocide prevention with the UK Foreign Office (held at The Holocaust Centre). In 2004, working with the Rwandan Government and Kigali City Council, he played a key role in establishing the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda’s capital

Dr James Smith profile

Dr Caroline Williamson

Caroline received her PhD from the University of Nottingham working with Nicki Hitchcott. Her PhD thesis was titled “Post-traumatic identities: Developing a culturally informed understanding of post-traumatic growth in Rwandan women genocide survivors.” Caroline is a lecturer at University College Cork.

Dr Caroline Williamson profile




Related research and resources

Related research and resources

The Centre for Trauma, Resilience and Growth

The Centre aims to provide an interdisciplinary focus for practitioners and researchers interested in trauma, its effects, and therapy. The Centre provides opportunities for practitioners and researchers working locally in the Nottinghamshire NHS and the University of Nottingham to meet and to develop research, projects.

The Centre for Trauma, Resilience and Growth

USC Shoah Foundation

Steven Spielberg founded the Institute in 1994 to videotape and preserve interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. The USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education aims to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry—and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of the Institute’s visual history testimonies.

USC Shoah Foundation

Rwanda Library

In 2012, Donald Miller and Lorna Touryan Miller conducted interviews with survivors of the Rwandan genocide. This website shares some of these eyewitness accounts of the events and experiences of 1994.

Rwanda Library

Rwandan Stories

Rwandan Stories is a close-up look at the genocide and recovery in Rwanda. The website offers educational videos, curriculum resources for teachers, and videotaped stories shared by individuals who survived the genocide.

Rwandan Stories

Growth Initiative Project

A psychological research project led by Dr Eranda Jayawickreme that aims to investigate the behavioural markers of post-traumatic growth in clinical samples in the United States, civil-war affected samples in Sri Lanka and genocide-affected populations in Rwanda. Laura Blackie (our Research Fellow) was previously based at Wake Forest University on this project.

Growth Initiative Project




Public Engagement

Public Engagement

During the project, we will be organising:

  • A poetry reading at Five Leaves Bookshop with US poet, Laura Apol, who has run therapeutic poetry workshops with genocide survivors in Rwanda      (17 November 2015)

  • A free public event Rwanda, Writing as a duty to Memory - an author’s perspective with award-winning author Véronique Tadjo on the 16 March 2016.

  • A public event at Nottingham Playhouse with Associate Director      Fiona Buffini - 'Rwanda: Theatre for Change' (28 April 2016)          

  • A seminar series called ‘Rwanda After 1994’ (ongoing)        

  • A film screening of “Rising from Ashes”, a documentary about      Rwanda’s national cycling team at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham (April 2016)          

  • An educational event for local schools at the Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire         

  • A practitioners’ workshop at the Kigali Genocide Memorial for      counsellors and trauma therapists working in Rwanda.          

  • End of project conference (April 2018)

Listen again

Nicki recalls the 'profoundly moving experience' of visiting Rwanda 20 years after the genocide where over 800,000 Rwandan people were massacred in just 100 days. 

Laura talks about the Rwandan Stories of Change project. Interviewed and produced by Andy Proctor – Producer of The Proc-Cast.

Requiem Rwanda: Poetry reading by Dr Laura Apol, Michigan State University.
Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham (17 November 2015)
The reading was recorded and produced by Andy Proctor, Producer of The Proc-Cast.

Talk given by Esther Mujawayo (29 January 2016) on her experiences of the 1994 genocide and her involvement in the AVEGA association.  

Dr Ananda Breed - University of East London - on ‘Juridical and Applied Performance in Post-Genocide Rwanda’ (04/02/2016)

BBC Radio Nottingham interviews Dr Laura Blackie about the project and Dr Laura Apol about her work with genocide survivors (22/11/15)

Award-winning author Véronique Tadjo talks about her visit to Rwanda in 1998 and her book ‘The Shadow of Imana Travels in the heart of Rwanda’ (16/03/16)



Genocide Archive of Rwanda 

This short film introduces the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, a project initiated by the Aegis Trust in collaboration with the National Commission for the fight against genocide (CNLG) to document and preserve the memory of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.




Arts and Humanties Research Council

Aegis Trust logo

Project team and collaborative partners

Associate Professor Nicki Hitchcott (principal Investigator)Professor Stephen Joseph Dr Laura Blackie Aegis Trust Genocide Archive Rwanda

Stephen Joseph’s
Psychology Today blog –
‘What Doesn’t Kill Us’


Dr Zoe Norridge: Papaoutai? Postmemory, Intergenerational Absence and Rwandan Artists Today, 5 May 2016

Laura Blackie: Examining the Possible Benefits of Hardship Across Continents, Annual Conference for the Association of Psychological Science, Chicago, USA. 27 May 2016.

Get Social



Department of French and Francophone Studies

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

Contact us