Chantal Kalisa, 50, of Lincoln, died Dec. 18. She was an associate professor of French and the director of Women’s and Gender Studies program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
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, receiving her doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1999. She began her career at UNL in 2001.
As a scholar, Kalisa studied 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.
Kalisa 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 gave many public talks on the subject.
“It is difficult starting the new semester without her warm smile, her terrific sense of humor and her love of the work we do,” College of Arts and Sciences Dean Joseph Francisco said. “She was a dedicated teacher and scholar and managed to balance all of that with a profound love for her family. She will be greatly missed.
“In the Lincoln community and beyond, Chantal will certainly be remembered for furthering our understanding of the Rwandan genocide.”
Kalisa is survived by her sons. A funeral service was held Dec. 21 at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Lincoln. A memorial fund is being established in Kalisa’s name. Details on the fund are forthcoming.