Performing the Signs of Injury: Critical Perspectives on Traumativ Storytelling after Apartheid

Colvin, Christopher James, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Handler, Richard, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Laviolette, Adria, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Khare, Ravindra, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Smith, Michael, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

Since the end of apartheid, those who suffered human rights violations during apartheid became the objects of a great deal of attention, both inside and outside South Africa. Victims have been repeatedly approached for their stories and experiences, asked permission to record and circulate these narratives, and, often, promised a range of benefits. These promises typically go unfulfilled and victims have grown increasingly impatient with the next person who arrives on their doorstep, speaking about the miracle of testimony and reconciliation. This dissertation traces the ambivalent testimonial practice of "traumatic storytelling" in the work of Khulumani, a victim support and advocacy group, and the Cape Town Trauma Centre, a psychological trauma clinic that offered counseling services to Khulumani members. Traumatic storytelling was frequently a point of conflict and debate between Khulumani and the many individuals and institutions-both local and foreignthat sought out their traumatic narratives. These tensions were heightened as Khulumani pursued a high-profile political battle for reparations from the government, and increasingly drew attention, both welcome and unwelcome, from journalists, academics, and politicians. The chapters move roughly chronologically through a broad, two-year ethnographic account of the work of Khulumani and the Trauma Centre. Each chapter also highlights one or more of the various "domains" in which traumatic storytelling operated. Chapters 1 and 2 examine traumatic storytelling as a product of a number of political, religious and scientific discourses that came together in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Chapter 3 examines debates around the psychological dimensions of traumatic iii storytelling. Chapter 4 moves from the psychological to the social and moral aspects of traumatic storytelling. Chapter 5 looks at the "political economy of traumatic storytelling" while Chapter 6 considers the relationship between traumatic storytelling and political action.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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