In South Africa, the post-apartheid public sphere is convened around wounded or suffering bodies. In fact, the performance of suffering allows the individual body to instate itself as belonging to the nation. What emerges in this context is a public sphere in which victims vie for access to a limited real estate of suffering, or an economy of suffering. Conversely, the suffering body is traded upon by the nation, as Seltzer has noted, in the pathological public sphere the private and the public intersect in the spectacle of the torn or wounded body, which is simultaneously inside and outside itself, “and in gathering around the wound, one detects a radical mutation and relocation of the public sphere, now centred on the shared and reproducible spectacles of pathological public violence” (Seltzer 4). In fact the TRC inadvertently theatricalised a public sphere based on personal injury, confession and redemption. The TRC prioritised the individual rather than collective structural or social suffering, while simultaneously making the subject position of victimhood a lexicon through which forms of national belonging are articulated. Yet, an economy of suffering, more than anything, suggests an exchange in value. For the SADF veteran — specifically the white male conscripts of the Border War — shaping a narrative around their suffering bodies allows them to situate themselves within the TRC’s trope of victimhood. Similarly, in South Africa public tensions around the nature, form and extent of crime map out a complex relationship between the personal and the political, the public and the private. To think about which suffering bodies make it into the public sphere, is also to think about absences and occlusions. While crime may remain a prevailing concern in the public sphere as it draws on motifs of Afropessimism and produces narratives of anxiety, certain more quotidian suffering, such as the bodily privations of everyday poverty, is inevitably occluded.
We welcome papers that touch on but are not limited to the following topics:
–The Necropolitics of South African public spheres;
— Representations of crime and criminality;
— Gendered violence in South Africa;
— Aids/HIV in South Africa;
— Quotidian violence and everyday poverty.
Please send your proposals to [email protected] by March 14, 2015.