Department of Anthropology

Lynn Meskell - Seminar Series 2010-2011

Mon, April 11, 2011 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

“Heritage as Therapy: The Materiality of Uplift in Post-Apartheid South Africa”

The new South Africa offers a powerful site for heritage making, from the romanticism of the Rainbow Nation and African Renaissance rhetoric plied by politicians like Mandela and Mbeki to the rallying cries for reconciliation and restitution through a healing past. Heritage was imbued with seemingly therapeutic powers that claimed to heal the state and its citizens economically, socially and spiritually. South Africa was ?alive with possibility? as national marketing slogans suggested, and the past lay very much at the centre of possible futures. It offered the perfect place to track the progress of the past from the dark days of apartheid repression to the future-geared nation of many colors. For the new democratic nation, looking forward first requires looking back. A material past would in fact provide "unity in diversity", as the national motto proclaimed in the now unspoken !Xam language, !ke e: ?xarra ?ke. Yet as the examples in this paper demonstrate, since 1994 the state elided deep history in the public sphere beyond monumental facades and slogans, resulting in ethnic tensions, violent xenophobia and a failure to combat issues race and poverty. Culturalism supplanted racialism in the ANC's unstated political stance that has come to resemble their apartheid forebears. In the decade after apartheid?s demise heritage has been liberalized, privatized and increasingly naturalized. The politics of therapy and social cohesion have given way to stringent neoliberalism under the ANC: heritage would have to pay for itself rather than constitute the vehicle for empowerment and development.

A light lunch will be served.

Co-sponsored by the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies.

Part of the Department of Anthropology 2010-2011 Seminar Series. For further information, please contact Dr. Sofian Merabet at

*The SAC, or Student Activity Center, is a new building on campus and may not be marked on your map. It is located at 2101 Speedway, adjacent to the Gregory Gym. SAC 5.118 is in the East Wing of the building on the fifth floor.

Bookmark and Share