Performing South Africa's Truth Commission

Performing South Africa's Truth Commission : Stages of Transition

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South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commissions helped to end apartheid by providing a forum that exposed the nation's gross human rights abuses, provided amnesty and reparations to selected individuals, and eventually promoted national unity and healing. The success or failure of these commissions has been widely debated, but this is the first book to view the truth commission as public ritual and national theater. Catherine M. Cole brings an ethnographer's ear, a stage director's eye, and a historian's judgment to understand the vocabulary and practices of theater that mattered to the South Africans who participated in the reconciliation process. Cole looks closely at the record of the commissions, and sees their tortured expressiveness as a medium for performing evidence and truth to legitimize a new South Africa.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 264 pages
  • 154.94 x 233.68 x 20.32mm | 317.51g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 10 b&w illus.
  • 0253221455
  • 9780253221452
  • 1,000,556

Review quote

I would submit that no comparable media studies analysis approaches the level of complex layering with which Cole, sensitive to mediumspecificity but also to the vagaries of performance as such, thinks of television itself as a polyvalent, indeed over-determined, kind of performer, juggling the work of Brechtian narrator, Greek chorus member, vaudevillian magician, and melodramatic star actor.Contemporary Theatre Review * Contemporary Theatre Review * [T]his multifaceted work on the TRC as a performed enactment of transition from apartheid to democracy offers a stimulating interpretation of the process by a scholar with a convincing interest in and profound understanding of the complexities of the South African process of transformation. * L'Homme * Cole retrieves the commission from any narrow legal or quantitative assessment to uncover a promising literariness at its core that should be read and interpreted.October 2011 -- Ed Charlton * University of Cambridge * In this important book, Catherine Cole wisely observes that commissions still 'grapple with the ultimate failure of traditional jurisprudence in the face of contending demands for justice, reparation, acknowledgement, mourning, healing, reconciliation, and the promulgation of public memory' (x). Truth commissions can only attempt to write the future of the past.

[However, as the author], 'This book has made you a secondary witness'.Fall 2012 * The Drama Review TDR * Performing South Africa's Truth Commission is a must-read for anyone interested in the work of the Truth Commission. * Safundi : S African & Amer Comp Stds * The five well-crafted chapters present instances of how the public or the nation experienced or witnessed the public proceedings of the commission either directly or mediated through the news media or art. Cole manages-and this is no small feat-in the first two chapters to position the performance perspective. She also recasts the related fields of transitional justice and political trials to reveal new dimensions of the constitutive fields of specific trials in South Africa and transitional justice. * Political and Legal Anthropology Review * In this beautifully constructed and densely argued volume, Cole attends to actors, scripts, and audiences, and also to the literary and artistic renderings that carried the TRC hearings to a nation and to the world. * Interventions * The book stands apart from the mostly academic literature that uses the testimonies from the public

hearings to analyze narratives, silences and agency or as a springboard for further analysis of patterns of violence, human rights violation, gender bias, prospects for reconciliation and so forth. It also stands apart from the broad spectrum of work informed by different scientific traditions and legal positivism that has characterized the search for the foundation of transitional justice, reconciliation, and rights-based approaches. * PoLAR * Cole's study significantly enhances our understanding of the TRC. . . . [It] is to be welcomed as a true example of committed scholarship. * Journal of Theatre Research International *
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About Catherine M. Cole

Catherine M. Cole is Professor in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is author of Ghana's Concert Party Theatre (IUP, 2001) and editor (with Takyiwaa Manuh and Stephan F. Miescher) of Africa After Gender? (IUP, 2006).
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Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

1. Spectacles of Legality: Performance, Transitional Justice, and the Law
2. Justice in Transition: Political Trials, 19561964
3. Witnessing and Interpreting Testimony: Live, Present, Public, and Speaking in Many Tongues
4. Eyes and Ears of the Nation: Television and the Implicated Witness
5. Dragons in the Living Room: Truth and Reconciliation in Repertoire, 2006
Afterword: What "Truth" Meant to the TRC

Select Bibliography
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Rating details

7 ratings
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