Commemorating and Forgetting
Challenges for the New South Africa
Publication Year: 2013
When the past is painful, as riddled with violence and injustice as it is in postapartheid South Africa, remembrance presents a problem at once practical and ethical: how much of the past to preserve and recollect and how much to erase and forget if the new nation is to ever unify and move forward? The new South Africa’s confrontation of this dilemma is Martin J. Murray’s subject in Commemorating and Forgetting. More broadly, this book explores how collective memory works—how framing events, persons, and places worthy of recognition and honor entails a selective appropriation of the past, not a mastery of history.
How is the historical past made to appear in the present? In addressing these questions, Murray reveals how collective memory is stored and disseminated in architecture, statuary, monuments and memorials, literature, and art—“landscapes of remembrance” that selectively recall and even fabricate history in the service of nation-building. He examines such vehicles of memory in postapartheid South Africa and parses the stories they tell—stories by turn sanitized, distorted, embellished, and compressed. In this analysis, Commemorating and Forgetting marks a critical move toward recognizing how the legacies and impositions of white minority rule, far from being truly past, remain embedded in, intertwined with, and imprinted on the new nation’s here and now.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Faced with the challenge in the “new South Africa” of forging a sharednational identity out of a fragmented past, citizens from across the divides ofrace and class have been asked to set aside differences in the name of recon-ciliation and forgiveness as a way of moving forward into the future. Closeto two decades after the end of apartheid and the transition to parliamentary...
Introduction: Memory and Amnesia after Apartheid
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The end of apartheid and the transition to parliamentary democracy broughtto the surface a host of deeply entrenched tensions that were long sup-pressed under white minority rule. Yet as the “new nation” has struggled toestablish a firm footing, the lingering ghosts of the past have continued tohaunt the present. As retired South African constitutional court justice...
Chapter 1: The Power of Collective Memory
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Collective memory is not at all like a living organism that develops andmatures on its own accord in linear time, as present disappears into past.Instead, it is something that is socially constructed and socially situated—not only incubated in the shared desire to preserve that which is worth remem-bering but also fashioned in such a way as to connect it to an “eternal pres-...
Chapter 2: White Lies: Mythmaking and Social Memory in the Service of White Minority Rule
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What becomes of the social memories of settler colonialism and white minor-ity rule when the myth-laden, sociocultural world of their making lies inruins?1 The end of apartheid and the transition to parliamentary democracytriggered what amounted to a crisis of collective memory that left citizens ofthe “new South Africa” without the stable reference points necessary for build-...
Chapter 3: Facing Backward, Looking Forward: The Politics of Remembering and Forgetting
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The end of apartheid and the transition to parliamentary democracy pro-duced a paradoxical situation. With the collapse of white minority rule andthe dismantling of apartheid, citizens of the “new South Africa” have beencalled upon to look two ways in time: back to the racially divided past toconfront painful memories born of discrimination and oppression, and for-...
Chapter 4: Collective Memory in Place: The Voortrekker Monument and the Hector Pieterson Memorial
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The erection of monuments and memorials—along with the choreographedceremonies of commemoration centered on them and the orchestration ofpublic participation around them—transforms particular places into ideo-logically charged sites of collective memory. Monuments and memorials arepowerful mnemonic devices through which the custodians of collective mem-...
Chapter 5: Haunted Heritage: Visual Display at District Six and Robben Island
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Urban landscapes are densely textured places where both material andimmaterial traces of the past cling stubbornly to the social fabric, refusing tofade into obscurity. The meaning of a place depends in large measure uponthe residues of memory that are embedded there. The thickness of thesememory-traces indicates the lingering presence of unresolved tensions and...
Chapter 6: Makeshift Memorials: Marking Time with Vernacular Remembrance
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In the aftermath of tragedy, collective memory can become attached to a spe-cific place: sites of loss can be marked, set aside, and sanctified as “hollowedground.” Particular places—Robben Island, the Hector Pieterson Memo-rial, the District Six Museum, the commemorative plaque in Gugulethudedicated to the memory of Amy Biehl, the bronze statue of Steve Biko in...
Chapter 7: Textual Memories: Autobiographical Writing in a Time of Uncertainty
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The birth of the “new South Africa” brought with it a proliferation of com-mentaries and essays, autobiographies, memoirs, personal reminiscences,and realist documentaries that explore the quandaries of social institutionsand individuals as they attempt to deal honestly and forthrightly with themultiple legacies of tyranny, repression, and rebellion. As Athol Fugard argued,...
Epilogue: History and Heritage
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Heritage and history are like twins separated at birth: while their origins areidentical, the trajectories of their distinct life-courses are quite dissimilar. Ascommunicative devices, history and heritage rely on antithetical modes ofpersuasion. Heritage does not pretend to present a genuinely authentic, andreasonably plausible, account of some past but is a declaration of faith in that...
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The ideas that eventually led me to write this book began to take shape in theimmediate post-1994 period, when the outcome of the negotiated settlementthat brought an end to apartheid was far from certain. In earlier research andwriting, I focused on the wars of maneuver and wars of position that accom-panied the popular struggles against white minority rule and the final days...
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About the Author
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...martin j. murray is professor of urban planning in the Taubman Collegeof Architecture and Urban Planning and adjunct professor in the Departmentof Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. He is theauthor of City of Extremes: The Spatial Politics of Johannesburg, Taming theDisorderly City: The Spatial Landscape of Johannesburg after Apartheid, The...
Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013