Posted: Thu, Jul 28, 2016
Chantal Kalisa was born Dec. 5, 1965, in the Republic of Burundi in Africa. She came to the United States in 1990 to pursue her graduate education, earning her doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1999. She began her career at UNL in 2001. As a scholar, Kalisa researched global women’s rights, transnational feminism, women’s literature, African colonial and post-colonial violence against women, and the Rwandan genocide. Her most recent book, Violence in Francophone African and Caribbean Women's Literature, was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2009. A multidisciplinary professor, she led study abroad programs to France and Rwanda; she also chaired the program in Women’s and Gender Studies.
Kalisa developed an appetite for literature at an early age. Long before the electronic era, she excelled in multitasking, reading as she cleaned house with a broom in one hand and a book in the other. She later described herself as a “child of exile,” having been raised by parents who were exiled from Rwanda prior to the genocide that occurred there in 1994 and claimed a million lives, including many of her relatives. “All of my maternal side of the family was killed during the genocide. My maternal grandparents decided to stay in Rwanda instead of fleeing, which is the case of many Tutsi people in 1994,” Kalisa said in an interview with NET in 2014. This connection to Rwanda fueled a portion of her research, including her most recent project of collecting a living history of the genocide through survivor stories. She also co-edited a book in French on the genocide and was often invited to speak at local, national, and international genocide commemorations.