CFP: [Postcolonial] Trauma, Resistance, Reconstruction in Post-1994 South African Writing

full name / name of organization:, Rajendra Chetty
contact email:

Jaspal K. Singh
Rajendra Chetty

Call for Papers

Trauma, Resistance, Reconstruction in Post-1994 South African Writing

The reconceptualization of South Africa as a democracy in 1994 has
influenced the production and reception of texts in this country. The
literature emerging after 1994 provides a vision for reconciling the
ravages of apartheid and consequently shifting social relations from a
traumatized past to a reconstructed future. The purpose of this project
is to explore, within the literary imagination and cultural production of
a post-apartheid nation and its people, how the trauma and violence of
the past are reconciled through textual strategies. What role does
memory play for the remembering subject? Is that memory “heteropathic”
or “idiopathic,” and what does that mean—particularly within the South
African context?

Several of the post-1994 stories of South African writers are
autobiographical or semi-autobiographical, where the childhood self,
treated as other, is challenged by changes taking place in the present.
Memory affects the passage into the future and enables moral re-
alignment. Much of the new South African writings continue to be
underpinned by the past; however, there is also a move towards new social
or historical perspectives that point optimistically towards
reconciliation and non-racism or inclusion. The SA culture prior to 1994
was experienced by many as a culture of inequality, silence and
coercion. Against the historical background of colonialism and
apartheid, a more inclusive, representative and democratic ‘national
culture’ is slowly taking root. Art and literature are necessarily
implicated in processes of political and ideological contestation and

 In “Projected Memory: Holocaust Photographs in Personal and Public
Memory”, Marianne Hirsh (2000) elaborates on Kaja Silverman’s ideas
of “heteropathic” and “idiopathic” identification (The Threshold of the
Visible World, 1996) by explaining that in “heteropathic” identification,
the remembering subject identifies with the victim at a distance,”
whereas in “idiopathic” identification, it identifies over-appropriately,
where “distances disappear, creating too available, too easy an access to
[a] particular past,” thereby creating an “appetite for alterity”
(Hirsh). The artist who remembers the painful events in the lives of
victims must “resist appropriation and incorporation, resist annihilating
the distance between self and other, the otherness of others,” otherwise,
due to the “appetite for alterity” and “over-appropriation,” the
remembering subject will construct itself as a “surrogate victim”
through “projection . . . [and] over-appropriation” (Hirsh). How
do ‘postmemory’ artists recreate or re-imagine the scene of trauma when
many had repressed it in the first place for survival? What is the
positionality of the text post-interregnum? Are artists able to work
through the trauma of the past, or are they obsessed with the past and
repeat the pain and hurt — through projection or displacement?

The essays in this anthology will examine texts from the post-1994 South
Africa dealing with trauma, resistance, and reconciliation. For example,
how is the tension in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (which was
set up in South Africa after apartheid) with its elevation of forgiveness
over justice depicted in recent writings? How did the airing of the
moments and sometimes periods of violence during the TRC hearing help or
not help to heal the people — be they the oppressor or the oppressed?

We will welcome essays that analyze the repertoire of texts — fiction,
biographies, films, documentaries, poetry, short stories, and so forth –
that are engaged with rewriting and re-examining the trauma and violence
of colonial/apartheid policies and actions, the TRC hearings in the post-
apartheid era, the construction of dominant historiographies, personal
narratives, collective and individual memory of the past, and the public
and collective mourning (or the lack of it) that went on (or did not) in
post-1994 South Africa. How different or similar are the responses to
these historical moments from various communities within the new
multicultural and multiethnic milieu?

Abstracts limited to 300 words and a brief bio-detail should be sent to
the editors, Jaspal K. Singh at and Rajendra Chetty at

Jaspal K. Singh, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
English Department
Northern Michigan University
Marquette, MI 49855

Rajendra Chetty, Ph.D.
Professor and Head of Research
Department of Education
Cape Peninsula University
Cape Town, South Africa

Closing date for abstracts is 30 May 2008.

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Received on Tue Feb 12 2008 - 08:23:42 EST

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