Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetics of Transitional Justice

Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetics of Transitional Justice

Carrol Clarkson
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetics of Transitional Justice
    Book Description:

    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?

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5419-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (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 entities; it connects two distant points. Figuratively, it includes some and excludes others; it marks a boundary between standing for and standing against, or it traces a path along which places are invested...

  5. PART I Drawing the Line
    • 1 Drawing the Line
      (pp. 25-45)

      “In many ways law is colonialism’s first language,” writes Gary Boire in his afterword to the special edition ofAriel: Law, Literature, Postcoloniality(Boire 2004, 231). This chapter pays attention to this “first language”—the scene of thenomos, that very first significant plough line drawn in the ground, marking the boundary of an arrogated territory.Thisact of drawing the line is also an “aesthetic act” in the sense that Rancière gives to the term, and that I delineated in the introduction: an act that reconfigures perceptions of what counts, of what matters, and of what is allowed within...

    • 2 Redrawing the Lines
      (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:

      I entered the court that Monday morning wearing a traditional Xhosa leopard-skinkarossinstead of a suit and tie. The crowd of supporters rose as one and with raised clenched fists shouted“Amandla!”and“Ngawethu!”Thekarosselectrified the spectators….

      I had chosen traditional dress to emphasize the symbolism that I was a black African walking into a white man’s court. I was literally carrying on my back the history, culture...

  6. PART II Crossing the Line
    • 3 Justice and the Art of Transition
      (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 reasoning” (Kentridge and Breidbach 2006, 70). Kentridge explains that his drawing “was a way of trying to find knowledge or find opinions that came through a completely different route.” In the...

    • 4 Intersections: Ethics and Aesthetics
      (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,withtwo children, butwithoutairconditioning in our Golf Chico, when temperatures in Cape Town sometimes rise above 40 degrees Celsius. As the lights turn red, street hawkers prance out into the traffic, touting an extravagant range of wares:The Big Issue, peanuts, hands-free cellphone sets, plastic refuse bags, grapes, peaches,The Cape Times, avocado pears, sunglasses, arum lilies, oranges, children’s parasols, strawberries,...

    • 5 Poets, Philosophers, and Other Animals
      (pp. 107-134)

      “On the list of the nation’s priorities,” says Lucy Lurie of J. M. Coetzee’s novelDisgrace, “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 transition from the rule of apartheid law to democracy. Perhaps there is also something to be made of the view held by another one of Coetzee’s characters, the philosopher Professor Thomas O’Hearne, inThe Lives of Animals. O’Hearne points out to...

  7. PART III Lines of Force
    • 6 Visible and Invisible: What Surfaces in Three Johannesburg Novels?
      (pp. 137-160)

      WhenWelcome to Our Hillbrowwas 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 be welcomed to than “our Hillbrow” at the turn of the twenty-first century. (Figure 1.)

      Hillbrow, an inner-city area of Johannesburg, has undergone momentous social change in the last hundred years or so: The gold claims on this...

    • 7 Who Are We?
      (pp. 161-180)

      My starting point is an observation that David Schalkwyk makes about linguistic “shifters” in hisSpeech 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 possible sense here) that makes use of shifters rather than proper names, Schalkwyk suggests, can do so “because of its original rootedness in space, time, event and social purview.” Further, an instance where shifters are used without question, or without recourse...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 181-186)

    In what has become a seminal paper in South African jurisprudence, former Constitutional judge Yvonne Mokgoro writes aboutubuntuin an interesting way. “Ubuntu, a Zulu word withbothoas itssesothoequivalent,” Mokgoro explains, “has generally been described as a world-view of African societies and a determining factor in the formation of perceptions which influence social conduct” (Mokgoro 1998, 15). Of interest here is Mokgoro’s appreciation of the way in which a world-view is integrally bound up in the “formation of perceptions”; bound up in what is sociallyperceived. Taking this further: What are the conditions under which a...

  9. References
    (pp. 187-198)
  10. Index
    (pp. 199-204)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-208)