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New Territories

Theatre, Drama, and Performance in Post-apartheid South Africa


Greg Homann and Marc Maufort

South African theatre, drama, and performance is a vibrant and rapidly developing area of contemporary theatre studies. In this critical anthology of essays and interviews, some of the world’s most respected scholars and practitioners writing and working in the area of South African theatre today share their detailed examinations and insights on the complex and contradictory context of post-apartheid society. Loosely grouped into the categories of Theatre, Drama, and Performance, the essays collected here offer a sampling of work being staged, produced, and written in the country today. The contributors document, contrast, and analyse significant case studies, representing examples from site-specific performance to new South African plays, from traditional indigenous performance practice to the reimagining of Western classics. The anthology takes the year of South Africa’s first democratic election, 1994, as its departure point and includes a broad range of topics that capture the current paradigm.
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Negotiating the Post-apartheid Condition: Violence, Trauma and the Realist Aesthetic in Contemporary South African Drama


← 240 | 241 → Negotiating the Post-apartheid Condition

Violence, Trauma and the Realist Aesthetic in Contemporary South African Drama


Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)

The systemic violence that affected South Africa during the apartheid regime has left a polymorphous traumatic legacy that resurges in the contemporary “Rainbow” state. Despite the efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, post-apartheid South Africa is still negotiating the unpalatable side-effects of its traumatic past. The many forms of violence plaguing today’s South Africa could be construed as belated manifestations of a trauma that keeps haunting the country.1 As Cathy Caruth points out in Unclaimed Experience, following in the footsteps of Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle, the ‘traumatic neurosis’ “[…] emerges as the unwitting reenactment of an event that one cannot simply leave behind” (Caruth Unclaimed Experience 2). According to Freud, Caruth continues, the impact of traumatic events can only be measured belatedly (Caruth Unclaimed Experience 4). In Trauma and Experience, Caruth further elaborates: “[…] the impact of the traumatic event lies precisely in its belatedness, in its refusal to be simply located, in its insistent appearance outside the boundaries of any single place or time” (Caruth Trauma: Explorations in Memory 9). Caruth further suggests that the significance of the story encoded in memories of traumatic events is best understood in “[…] a language that is always somehow literary, a language that defies, even as it claims our understanding” (Caruth Unclaimed Experience 5). Caruth implies, then, that literary discourse can...

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