Why do individuals who did not experience apartheid personally claim to suffer from trauma as a result of apartheid? How do we make sense of the anger of the “born-free” generation towards their parents’ generation, and their rejection of the political settlement that brought about the “new” South Africa? Is this anger an expression of a historical trauma? If so, how is the trauma of the past transmitted across generations? Drawing on insights from a range of disciplines, I intend to address the above questions in ways that might help us think differently about our attempts to forge a new nation in South Africa. My talk draws on a range of sources, including the archives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to develop an approach that is both grounded historically but also cautiously speculative. My aim is to understand how ordinary South Africans remember histories of violence and how their memories of this violence are shared across generations. How, in short, do these memories become History? What does it mean to remember your parents’ pain of humiliation when you yourself never experienced that humiliation? The project is motivated in part by an attempt to understand how South Africa’s past has shaped the way the discipline of History has developed in South Africa.
Jacob Dlamini is a journalist, historian and author. He is currently an associate professor of history at Princeton University. He is the author of Native Nostalgia and Askari.
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021 685 3516/8
Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education,
69 Main Road/1 Batten Lane,
Mowbray, Cape Town
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