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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:How the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Challenges the Ways We Use History
Author:Thelen, David
Periodical:South African Historical Journal
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:offences against human rights
commissions of inquiry
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Ethnic and Race Relations
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Politics and Government
Military, Defense and Arms
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02582470208671439
Abstract:The civic challenge in using the past, as many in South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) conceived it, was to provide South Africans with means to experience new civic practice in order to replace values and choices that had been shaped by apartheid culture and institutions that had benefited from or served either the apartheid State or the liberation movements. In order to find out how the TRC challenges the ways in which history is used, the present author reexamines two widespread assumptions that framed the TRC hearings for many: that a human rights violation occurred in a clear, linear way which could best be understood as a narrative with a beginning, middle and end; and that the interpretive challenge was to fit individual experience into larger categories and to analyse their relationship to larger cultures and political institutions that were, in fact, the important actors in history. However, instead of bringing closure to open-ended experiences of victims or perpetrators, the author argues that we should listen to witnesses as they sought to reinhabit the open-endedness of their original experiences. He uses the term 'reenactment' for a process of reexperiencing the past that could frame what witnesses were doing at the public hearings. Reenactment challenges the notion that history is about events that are closed. In passing through the original experience and in reenacting it, individuals construct from time, place and circumstance not determinants of their behaviour but horizons of possibility and constraint, including relationships, pressures and conventions from which they frame choices and take responsibility for them. And they create these horizons not as isolated beings or interchangeable members of institutions, but in face-to-face relationships with other individuals. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]