Staging Solidarity: Truth and Reconciliation in a New South Africa

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The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a modern social drama that enabled the nation’s apartheid past to be constructed as a cultural trauma, and by doing so created a new collective narrative of diversity and inclusion. The TRC relied primarily on testimonies from victims and perpetrators of apartheid violence who came forward to tell their stories in a public forum. Rather than simply serving as data for setting the historical record straight, this book shows that it was not only the content of these testimonies but also how these stories were told and what values were attached to them that became significant. Goodman argues that the performative nature of the TRC process effectively designated the past as profane and simultaneously imagined a sacred future community based on democratic idealism and universal solidarity.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594512865
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/28/2010
  • Series: The Yale Cultural Sociology Series
  • Pages: 194
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Tanya Goodman is an independent researcher who studies local and global transitional justice issues. She has taught at Yale Law School, worked with various human rights oriented NGOs in South Africa, and developed a multimedia project related to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission under a grant from the U.S. Institute for Peace.

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Table of Contents

Tables and Figures vii

Acknowledgments ix

1 A Home For All 1

Introduction 2

The Architecture and Impact of Apartheid 3

The Transition to Democracy and the Founding of the TRC 8

Dealing with the Past 9

The Structure of the TRC 11

Innovations of the South African TRC 15

The Significance of Testimony 16

Bridging the Divide: Past and Future, Black and White 17

Defining Truth, Defining Reconciliation 19

2 Theoretical Backdrop 23

Introduction 23

What Do Truth Commissions Do? 23

The TRC as a Cultural Project 27

Ritual and Social Change 29

Cycles of Performance 40

Methodology and Data 42

3 Weaving the Threads of a Cultural Trauma: Testimony at the TRC 45

Introduction 45

"A Cry from the Soul" 46

The TRC Hearings as a Ritual Space 48

In the Theater of the TRC 50

Setting the Scene 51

Telling Tales in the TRC 54

Commissioners as Empathic Interlocutors 62

Conclusion: Escorting the Narrative 71

4 Broadcasting the Trauma Drama: The Media as Sympathetic Interpreters 73

Introduction 73

Journalists as Sympathetic Interpreters 79

Performative Aspects: The TRC in the Media 84

Reaching Beyond: Seeking a Global Center 95

Conclusion: Giving Voice to Victims 97

5 Extending the TRC Narrative: Analyzing Positive Audience Response 99

Introduction 99

The Register of Reconciliation 100

Telling Their Stories: Bystanders Respond to the TRC 104

Acknowledging the Narrative of Apartheid as a Cultural Trauma 106

Dealing with the Past, Imagining the New 118

Conclusion: Seeking Solidarity 120

6 Ramifications and Conclusions 123

Adapting the Cultural Lens 123

The Reverberations of the TRC 127

The Unfinished Business of the TRC 131

Setting a Narrative Scaffold 134

Further Study 136

Conclusions 138

Appendixes 141

Appendix A The Global Spread of Truth Commissions 141

Appendix B Summary of Data Sources and Methods 146

Notes 151

References 155

Index 173

About the Author 183

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