The Legacy of a Troubled Past

BookThe Legacy of a Troubled Past

The Legacy of a Troubled Past

Commemorative Politics in South Africa in the 21st Century

Provence University Press


June 7th, 2022

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Since the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa has been engaged in an unprecedented exercise of national soul-searching, torn between the need to lay to rest centuries of racial conflict and the desire to come to terms with its traumatic history. This book asks whether the country has begun to turn the corner on the legacy of collective hurt. To do so it ranges in scope across 350 years of South African history, encompassing the struggle against the apartheid regime, the downfall of white supremacy, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the first 25 years of democracy, up to more recent movements, such as #RhodesMustFall, or the inquests into the 2012 Marikana massacre, that point to the persistence of traumatic memory in contemporary society. The authors assembled here set out to analyse the representation of such memory, how it has been woven into narratives, recorded, preserved and questioned, and how issues of individual and collective responsibility have been grafted onto it through the visual arts, literature, political discourse and public action. In focusing on memory along with its derived forms of memorialization, collective memory, nostalgia, or post-memory, our contributors pose a fundamental question: is South Africa finally coming to the end of the post-apartheid transition period? Do the decades of memory work on racial violence and repression examined here hold out hope for the nation to make peace with its past?

Author Information

Bernard Cros is a Professor at Paris 8 University Vincennes, where he lectures in British and South African contemporary studies. His research focuses on the (re)making of the South African nation in the post-apartheid era through cultural and social channels, such as dance, music and sport. Mathilde Rogez is a Senior Lecturer at the Université de Toulouse (CAS) specializing in South African literature. She works on the relation between various art forms and genres in contemporary South African fiction, in particular in the novel and the theatre. Gilles Teulié is Professor of British and Commonwealth Studies at Aix-Marseille University. He has written extensively on South African history, notably on war memories, Victorian racial attitudes, theology and the history of apartheid. He is currently working on a book about the mediatization of European Empires through early picture postcards.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Table of Contents7
The Struggle, Past and Present: The Memorialisation of Violence25
Bruised Landscape of Memory: The Vandalism, Abuse and Neglect of Statues and Commemorative Monuments in South Africa - Sabine Marschall27
On the (In)Appropriate Way to Remember Racial Oppression: Brett Bailey’s Exhibit A and B - Fanny Robles45
How to ‘Re-Member’ Marikana? Memory, Narratives and Mise en scène - Annael Le Poullennec65
The Ambiguous Memorialisation of Heroes81
Monumental Disruptions: Usha Seejarim’s Commemorations of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela - Brenda Schmahmann83
Commemorating Piet Retief: Justin Cartwright’s Up Against the Night (2015) - Mélanie Joseph-Vilain105
Borrowing Biko: Visual Critiques of Capitalism in South Africa - Shannen Hill119
Learning and Unlearning: Memories and/for the Future141
‘Unlearning’ the Past, Reappraising the Present in Antjie Krog’s Life Writing: The Double Valence of Dispossession - Fiona McCann143
Memory Work with HIV-Positive Children: Under Antiretroviral Treatment in KwaZulu-Natal - Philippe Denis157
Youth, Memory and Politics in Post-Apartheid South Africa - Cécile Perrot171
From Reconciliationto Contentious Co-existence: Memory Work and Wars in Post-Apartheid South Africa - Gary Baines185
Notes on contributors203