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Drawing the Line

Toward an Aesthetics of Transitional Justice

Carrol Clarkson

Publication Year: 2013

Drawing the Line examines the ways in which cultural, political, and legal lines are imagined, drawn, crossed, erased, and redrawn in post-apartheid South Africa through literary texts, artworks, and other forms of cultural production. Under the rubric of a philosophy of the limit and with reference to a range of signifying acts and events, this book asks what it takes to recalibrate a sociopolitical scene, shifting perceptions of what counts and what matters, of what can be seen and heard, of what can be valued or regarded as meaningful. The book thus argues for an aesthetics of transitional justice and makes an appeal for a postapartheid aesthetic inquiry, as opposed to simply a political or a legal one. Each chapter brings a South African artwork, text, speech, building, or social encounter into conversation with debates in critical theory and continental philosophy, asking: What challenge do these South African acts of signification and resignification pose to current literary-philosophical debates?

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Just Ideas

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-8


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xvi

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pp. 1-22

“Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere,” G. K. Chesterton wrote in 1928, insisting on the necessity—if also the contingency—of marking a limit in the act of making an ethical decision (Chesterton 1928, 780). Yet the act of drawing this line is an art as much as it is a question of morality. A line drawn reconfigures space: It divides yet juxtaposes two...

I. Drawing the Line

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1. Drawing the Line

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pp. 25-45

“In many ways law is colonialism’s first language,” writes Gary Boire in his afterword to the special edition of Ariel: Law, Literature, Postcoloniality (Boire 2004, 231). This chapter pays attention to this “first language”—the scene of the nomos, that very first significant plough line drawn in the ground, marking the boundary of an arrogated territory.

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2Redrawing the Lines

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pp. 46-62

In a striking passage from his autobiographical work, Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela gives his account of the initial hearings of the Rivonia Trial on October 15, 1962: ...

II. Crossing the Line

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3. Justice and the Art of Transition

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pp. 65-87

In conversation with Angela Breidbach, South African artist and filmmaker William Kentridge speaks about his early interest in art: “I come from a very logical and rational family. My father is a lawyer. I had to establish myself in the world as not just being his son, his child. I had to find a way of arriving at knowledge that was not subject to cross-examination, not subject to legal...

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4. Intersections: Ethics and Aesthetics

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pp. 88-106

At the traffic-light intersection, where one crosses over the M3 from Newlands Avenue into Rhodes Drive in Cape Town, the wait for the lights to change from red to green takes an eternity, not least in summer, with two children, but without airconditioning in our Golf Chico, when temperatures...

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5. Poets, Philosophers, and Other Animals

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pp. 107-134

“On the list of the nation’s priorities,” says Lucy Lurie of J. M. Coetzee’s novel Disgrace, “animals come nowhere” (Coetzee 1999a, 73). Certainly the Constitution of South Africa makes no specific mention of animals other than human—unsurprisingly so, given the context of this new constitution, that is to say, the radical change in human politics and the national...

III. Lines of Force

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6. Visible and Invisible: What Surfaces in Three Johannesburg Novels?

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pp. 137-160

When Welcome to Our Hillbrow was published in 2001, I asked my friend and the author of the novel, Phaswane Mpe, to sign my copy: “Welcome to our Heaven of fictions!” he wrote, alluding to our earlier joking conversation about the novel’s Heaven TV lounge. I was pleased with this inscription. Certainly, “our Heaven of fictions” seemed a more congenial place to...

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7. Who Are We?

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pp. 161-180

My starting point is an observation that David Schalkwyk makes about linguistic “shifters” in his Speech and Performance in Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Plays: Linguistic shifters—words such as “I,” “we,” “you,” “here,” and “now”—pick out their referents through deixis rather than through the “rigid designation” of a proper name.1 A text (I use the word in its broadest...

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pp. 181-186

In what has become a seminal paper in South African jurisprudence, former Constitutional judge Yvonne Mokgoro writes about ubuntu in an interesting way. “Ubuntu, a Zulu word with botho as its sesotho equivalent,” Mokgoro explains, “has generally been described as a world-view of African...


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pp. 187-198


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pp. 199-204

Further Reading

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pp. 221-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780823254194
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823254156
Print-ISBN-10: 0823254151

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 10 b/w
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth
Series Title: Just Ideas
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OCLC Number: 862102610
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Drawing the Line

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Justice in literature.
  • Law and aesthetics.
  • Law and ethics.
  • Transitional justice -- South Africa.
  • Authors, South African -- Aesthetics.
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