The following Working Paper will contribute to the theoretical discussion about ethnicity and ethnic conflict in general, and in the Rwandan context specifically. It will promote a conception of ethnicity which allows to bridge the opposition between primordial and constructivist approaches commonly found in the scientific discussion. This can be achieved by focussing on the perceptions of social actors, thereby avoiding a superficial analysis of ethnicity and ethnic conflict. This approach assumes ethnicity to be a social category that has been (re)constructed as primordial, meaning that it is constructed to imply a genetically predetermined and fixed parameter. First of all, the case of Rwanda serves to illustrate the opposing approaches that dominate the discussion about ethnicity. The elaboration of the proposed theory will demonstrate the insufficiency of these discussions to grasp the phenomenon of ethnicity. In addition, the theory will show how prior arguments about the question whether speaking of “ethnic conflict” or not missed the point. Therefore, the question whether the Rwandan genocide was an “ethnic conflict” needs to be re-examined. In order to avoid the risk of a superficial analysis of ethnicity and ethnic conflict (in the Rwandan context), the experiences and views of people who witnessed tensions and atrocities based on ethnic affiliation will be taken into account. In order to prevent an essentialisation of ethnicity, which could result from merely describing and taking into account the actual perceptions of actors, the historical origin of the ethnic categories in Rwanda will be traced. On the basis of empirical statements, the contradictions and points of contact between the official narration promoted by scientists and the narration of Rwandans will be demonstrated. Finally, the problems and advantages of the scientific discourse on ethnicity in the Rwandan context will be discussed.