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Discourses of order and their disruption: the texts of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Hook, Derek and Harris, Bronwyn (2000) Discourses of order and their disruption: the texts of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. South African Journal of Psychology, 30 (1). pp. 14-22. ISSN 0081-2463

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This paper asserts that selected texts of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission possess a powerful political potential in their ability to challenge and refute historical relations of racialised power in South Africa. The prospective political efficacy of these texts is seen as residing in their critical ability to subvert and challenge the predominant understandings, discourses and representations of Apartheid, or the 'old', South Africa. Three overlapping routes of enquiry are explored in this regard. Firstly, the political efficacy of such texts is seen as arising from their role in terms of the recovery of previously repressed histories. This recovery enlarges the archive of South Africa's past and contributes to the constitution of a new body of knowledge, from which credible standpoints of resistance and opposition may be articulated. A second explanation highlights the fact these texts are able to exert a form of discursive critique upon the predominant practices and representations of both former and reigning social orders. This level of critique enables us, in Foucault's (1981) terms to restore to political discourses their nature as contextual and discontinuous practices of construction as opposed to naturally-occurring, seamlessly-unified, purely significatory instances of language. The last account engages more directly with the radical and transgressive nature of these texts, with their affective and ultimately symptomatic qualities. It is here suggested that these texts have earned their extraordinary visceral charge, their special power and horror, for many South Africans, precisely because they have exposed and stretched to the limit the boundaries of the past discursive order, of what had been known, what was understood and what could be represented in the Apartheid State.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2000 Psychological Society of South Africa
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
D History General and Old World > DT Africa
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2009 14:32
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 23:48

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