Angélique1 told a harrowing tale. ‘They said I had Tutsi blood’, she explained. Her voice was soft, her demeanor sombre. It was our first meeting after a long day of multiple interviews. I was in Rwanda to talk to rural people who had lived through or participated in genocidal violence. The year was 2004 – ten years after a civil war that had installed a new regime and a genocide that had cost the lives of half-a-million people. We sat side by side on a damp log, the ground still wet from rain. I was

eager to hear her story, for here was a woman, I had thought, who was Hutu but had nonetheless been targeted because her mother was Tutsi. Angélique continued. Some neighbours had dug a hole where she hid for the night with her youngest strapped to her back. Her rescuers covered the hole with leaves. The next day, Angélique and her baby fled to safety with Tutsi from the area. Angélique’s experience would have been another piece of data I was col-

lecting on mass violence that took place in Rwanda between 1991 and 1994. Her story was consistent with those from other genocide survivors I had interviewed as well as published testimonies.2 Survival, as Angélique’s story illustrated, was often a matter of luck and the life-saving gestures of neighbours, friends, and strangers. Each time I travelled to the research site where Angélique lived, I looked

forward to learning more. As the interviews continued, however, Angélique became less precise. The more I probed, the sketchier her story became. Angélique seemed to have other things on her mind. Her present life was

filled with hardship and struggle. After the war, she had returned with the other refugees who had fled across the border, but the government denied her ‘survivor’ status. Worse, the other Tutsi survivors also denied she was a survivor. Angélique was consequently ineligible for benefits the government had promised to genocide survivors, which included new housing and assistance with school fees for her children. By our fourth interview, it started to occur to me that Angélique had made

up the entire story of her escape. Her statements were not adding up. When I asked why her former Tutsi friends would have denied she was a survivor like them, she said it was because her husband was Hutu. This seemed odd since other survivors I met had been married to Hutu. When I asked her what had

become of her husband, she said she did not know. This, too, struck me as odd – that no news of her husband had ever reached her through other refugees, as was common with other refugees to whom I had spoken. When I asked about her parents’ background, she gave similarly vague answers. At one point, she went beyond all credibility and claimed that her father had had 39 wives. Polygamy was common in this part of the country but I had never heard of any man having more than two or three wives. I was beginning to doubt everything she was saying. How should researchers deal with questions of veracity in post-violence

settings when the stakes run particularly high? To what extent should researchers trust personal narratives and local histories that are generated in politically sensitive contexts? This chapter argues that the value of oral testimonies that researchers col-

lect in places that have recently suffered violent conflict does not lie solely in the truthfulness of their content. It also lies in the meta-data that accompany these testimonies. By meta-data, I mean the information people communicate about their interior thoughts and feelings. Meta-data are important indicators of the current social and political landscape and how that landscape shapes what people are willing to say to a researcher. These meta-data are indicators of how reliable the data are and what answers they provide. By failing to attend to these meta-data, analysts risk mis-interpreting ambiguities, overlooking important details, drawing incorrect conclusions, and leaving informants vulnerable to reprisals or harassment for having talked to the researcher. Attending to meta-data is therefore vital to protecting informants and for arriving at robust explanations and theories about violence and its aftermath.