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Cultured ViolenceNarrative, Social Suffering, and Engendering Human Rights in Contemporary South Africa$
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Rosemary Jolly

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781846312137

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846315244

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Spectral Presences: Women, Stigma, and the Performance of Alienation

Spectral Presences: Women, Stigma, and the Performance of Alienation

(p.82) Chapter 3 Spectral Presences: Women, Stigma, and the Performance of Alienation
Cultured Violence
Liverpool University Press

The post-apartheid Constitution of South Africa acknowledged women as legal subjects in their own right for the first time. This chapter examines what it means for the women of South Africa to be assigned a subject status with rights in law but to in reality do not enjoy such a status. It analyses this failure of discourse to ‘speak’ gender by focusing on narratives that illustrate the unintelligibility of ‘woman’ and places women's nominally assigned subject position within the discourse of human rights. The chapter also looks at Fiona Ross's 2003 book Bearing Witness, in which she describes the ways that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) committed so-called deaf listening, whereby it failed to hear many aspects of what women's testimony conveyed. It cites the testimony of Sepati Mlangeni, the widow of slain activist Bheki Mlangeni, before the TRC as an example of women's perception of their own experience of being a subject as spectral. The chapter also examines women's sexuality and the notion that it is dangerous, and Judith Butler's theory of implicit censorship.

Keywords:   South Africa, women, Truth and Reconciliation, sexuality, Judith Butler, Sepati Mlangeni, human rights, Fiona Ross, deaf listening, testimony

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