The Empty Present
Douglas, Stuart Sholto
Marcus, George E.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation investigates the social life of the concept of postapartheid reconciliation. It consists of a novel, a work of fiction in four parts. As a whole it constitutes an evocation of reconciliation in contemporary South Africa. As a concept, reconciliation is found and followed and found and followed and...and also repeatedly written and read across and in the lives of three main characters and personae. The absence of an argument is an allegory for the endless process of writing and storying that began before two years of 'fieldwork' and that still continues in a context of radical change and rapid fluctuation. It is also a metaphor for the impossibility of resolving, indeed of reconciling, a fundamental agonism specific to explaining, making sense of and understanding (and hence actually living) postapartheid reconciliation: analytical and instrumental reason and rational thought on the one hand, and emotion, sentiment, intuition, and feelings on the other. A central provocation is the challenge to the dominance and absolutism, in cognition and epistemology, of rational thought and pure reason. A corollary and parallel provocation inheres in the interrogation and suggestion of possible consequences of the neglect of the sympathetic imagination in and for present day South Africa.
African literature; Cultural anthropology