Co-organizer. The Haunted Present: Reckoning After Apartheid conference. Concilium on Southern Africa. April 10, 2014 - April 11, 2014

Event/Organization Administration

Conferences Organized ; From April 26-29, 1994, South Africa held universal, democratic elections for the first time. Witnessed by the world, South Africans of all races waited patiently in lines to cast their ballots, signaling the official and symbolic birth of the “new South Africa.” The subsequent years, marked initially with euphoric hopes for racial healing enabled by institutional processes such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), have instead, most recently, inspired despair about epidemic levels of HIV/AIDS, violent crime, state corruption, and unbridled market reforms directed at everything from property to bodies to babies. At the same time, seemingly beleaguered state officials deploy the mantra “TINA” (There Is No Alternative [to neoliberal development]) to fend off critiques of growing income and wealth inequalities. To mark the anniversary, we propose a two-day interdisciplinary conference framed around the question of reckoning to reflect on twenty years of South African democracy in light of the contradictions and apparent failures that define the no-longer “new” South Africa. Against accounts depicting the liberation era as non-violent and peaceable, more nuanced analysis suggests not only that South Africa’s “revolution” was marked by both collective and individual violence—on the part of the state and the liberation movements—but in turn that reckoning with the present demands of scholars, the media, and cultural commentators that they begin to grapple more fully with the dimensions and different figurations of violence historically. Violence and reckoning appear as two central forces in contemporary South African political, economic and social life. Specifically, we pose the following questions: In the post-apartheid period, what forms of (individual, structural) violence have come to bear on South African life? How does this violence reckon with apartheid and its legacies? How can we or should we think about violence as a response to (failed?) reckoning of state initiatives like the TRC? In some measure the most intelligible forms of reckoning have emerged in the writing of history, ethnography, and through aesthetic forms, such as the novel, and plastic, and visual arts responding in varied fashion to the difficulties of South Africa’s ongoing transition in ways that other political, economic, historical, or social discourses have found remarkably challenging. And in consequence, “The Haunted Present” seeks to explore what a genuine accounting with South Africa’s past, present, and future might look like.

Service Performed By


  • Co-organizer


  • April 10, 2014 - April 11, 2014

Service or Event Name

  • The Haunted Present: Reckoning After Apartheid conference

Host Organization

  • Concilium on Southern Africa

Location or Venue

  • Duke University