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Irreconcilable knowing: Legacies, subjectivities and regeneration after apartheid.


Friday, September 25, 2015 - 12:00 to 13:30
Sean Field

 Public Talk (12h00-13h30) by Sean Field, “Irreconcilable knowing:  Legacies, subjectivities and regeneration after apartheid.” to be followed by the COHDS Annual General Meeting (13h45-15h30)

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) (1995 – 2000) promised “healing” and closure” to people living with apartheid legacies of violence however these legacies are central to the TRC’s widely acknowledged “unfinished business”.  This lecture will outline the aims and operations of the TRC. But my principal motivation is to conceptualize new ways to think, write and talk about human suffering after apartheid and to critically reflect on the proliferation of “trauma theories” in post-TRC South Africa. Moreover, rhetorical discourses of forgiveness and reconciliation have failed to dislodge an entrenched “camp” thinking about race and cultural differences. Subjectivities in South Africa have been racially moulded by the systemic racism of colonial and apartheid experiences but these are not binaries but historically “entangled” intersubjective relationships.  Doing oral history research in South Africa then means working through the emotional states of otherness between black, white and other intersubjectivities; and tracing how these subjectivities were historically produced. I argue that this requires critically empathic oral history practises that engage the possibilities and limits of “irreconcilable knowing” after past and recurring present violence. Finally, I reflect on regenerative possibilities, in the context of the growing frustrations of second and third generations after apartheid.

Dr. Sean Field is Associate Professor of History at the University of Cape Town and served as Director of the Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) from 2001 to 2012. He is the author of several prize-winning books including, Oral History, Community and Displacement: Imagining Memories in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2012), and Lost Communities, Living Memories: Remembering Forced Removals in Cape Town (2001). He is joining us at COHDS for a three week residency.

1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd W., Library Building, 10th Floor, Room LB-1042

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