2022 Winter

Literatures and Cultures of Africa and/or the Middle East (AFST 370A)

Instructor: Dr. Suzanne James

Literary Responses to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

After the fall of South Africa’s racist apartheid regime in the early 1990’s and the first free elections of 1994, Nelson Mandela’s government faced the daunting task of building a new democratic society. Arguing that the injustices of the past needed to be confronted in order to move forward, and that “[i]t is only by accounting for the past that we can become accountable for the future,” the South African parliament passed an act creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The goal of this TRC was “to bring about unity and reconciliation by providing for the investigation and full disclosure of gross violations of human rights committed in the past.”

We will begin our exploration of literary responses to this ambitious enterprise with two non-fiction works: Country of My Skull, Antje Krog’s powerful first-hand account of the hearings of the Commission, followed by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela’s memoir, A Human Being Died That Night. This will be followed by a discussion of selected poetry and three novels. Texts will be discussed in the context of South Africa’s historical legacy, in terms of the specific impact and legacy of the TRC, and as literary explorations of broader issues of social justice and reconciliation.

Register here.