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Chapter 25. The Politics of Remorse

Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Subject Politics
Anthropology » Psychological Anthropology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631225973.2004.00032.x


There is therefore a poetics of blood. It is a poetics of tragedy and pain, for blood is never happy. Gaston Bachelard For the purposes of this volume, I am taking on the politically and morally ambiguous task of telling the story of political violence and recovery in South Africa through the experiences, narratives, and points of view of a small number of white South Africans, drawn from across the social class and political spectrum. It should be taken as a psychological anthropologically informed reflection on suffering, remorse, and reconciliation among a small number of white South Africans who were historically and existentially “thrown” into a political drama where they were cast as either active collaborators, passive beneficiaries, or revolutionary “race traitors” vis-à-vis the old apartheid state. Today, they are trying to make sense of their country's violent history and of their role in that history, to undo past wrongs, and to mend spoiled identities, and to resume interrupted lives. Obviously, due to the history of apartheid, “black,” “colored,” and “white” South Africans inhabit vastly different spatial, social, psychological, and moral worlds. As a consequence, they have experienced the transition to democracy and the formal processes of social healing through the independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) with very different emotions, meanings, and agendas. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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