South Africa TRC readings

We’ll take a breather from fiction on the Tuesday after spring break and look instead at some writings by a literary journalist (also a poet), a deconstructive philosopher, and an anthropologist/political theorist intended to give us some ways into thinking about post-apartheid South Africa – and specifically the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was designed to help the country come to terms with the violence of the apartheid era.  If you’re new to these historical events, the TRC’s website is a good place to visit; it includes the full text of the TRC report, among other things.  I also highly recommend watching “Long Night’s Journey Into Day,” a documentary about the TRC that contains footage from the amnesty hearings and gives you a good sense of some of the major tensions as well as indicating what was powerful about the Commission’s work (and what a badass Tutu was).  A VHS tape of “Long Night” is available at Thomas Cooper.  Talk with Jonathon Hall about, um, another way you may be able to access the film.  The TRC website and film are not required texts for our class, but again if you’re new to this history, they’re worth it.

Here’s what is required:

Antjie Krog, Country of My Skull – several chapters.  I will send these out over email.  A bit over 100 pages of reading (just below what could be considered a “fair use” amount of her text); not the hardest reading you’ll ever do, and, I believe, well worth it.  Such a powerful account of the TRC, interweaving journalism with poetry and autobiography.   We’re reading enough so that by the time we’ve read her and Coetzee we’ll have the basis for some sort of discussion about “white writing” in (South) Africa.

Mahmood Mamdani, “The Logic of Nuremburg” – a pared-down version of an argument Mamdani makes at greater length elsewhere about the implications of subjecting instances of political violence and mass violence to criminal procedures.

Jacques Derrida, “On Forgiveness” – something to get us thinking about the ethical and theoretical implications of the TRC, implications that are also being thought through in Coetzee’s novel.

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