Advertisement

From the ‘Peaceful Past’ to the ‘Violent Present’: Memory, Myth and Identity in Guguletu

  • Sean Field

Abstract

People do not face the present as an isolated and empty space, sandwiched between the past and future. Rather, ‘the present’ is ‘itself historical: a complex series of interlocking histories whose interactions have to be reconstructed, not assumed’.2 ‘All present awareness’ as Lowenthal puts it, is grounded in past perceptions and acts’,3 or as Tonkin states, ‘All understandings of the past affect the present. Literate or illiterate, we are our memories.’4 The telling of a life story is crafted from these memories of the past and is both present and presented in the present.

Keywords

Oral History Social Memory African People African Township Male Interviewee 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 2.
    J. Weeks, Against Nature, Essays on History, Sexuality and Identity, London, 1991, p. 91.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    D. Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country, Cambridge, 1985, p. 185.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    E. Tonkin, ‘History and the myth of realism’, in P. Thompson and R. Samuel (eds.), The Myths We Live By, London, 1990, p. 25.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    For useful critiques of South African oral history see I. Hofmeyer, ‘Reading oral texts: new methodological directions’, University of Western Cape, 1995, and G. Minkley and C. Rasool, ‘Oral history in South Africa: a country report’, University of Columbia, 1994.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    The term ‘race’ has limited theoretical value and will therefore be used with inverted commas. P. Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, Modernity and Double Consciousness, London, 1993, uses the term in a similar fashion.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    A. Portelli, The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories, Form and Meaning in Oral History, New York, 1991, p. 52.Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    Popular Memory Group, ‘Popular Memory: Theory, Politics and Method’, in Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Making Histories, Studies in History — Writing and Politics, London, 1982, p. 211.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    I. Bertaux-Wiame, ‘The life history approach to the study of inter-racial migration’ in D. Bertaux (ed.), Biography and Society, The Life History Approach in the Social Sciences, London, 1981, p. 257.Google Scholar
  9. 22.
    L. Passerini, (ed.), Memory and Totalitarianism, International Yearbook of Oral History and Life Stories, vol. 1, Oxford, 1992, p. 13.Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    R. Samuel and P. Thompson, (eds.), The Myths We Live By, London, 1990, p. 9.Google Scholar
  11. 25.
    A. Norval, ‘Images of Babel: language and the politics of identity’, University of York, 1994, p. 12.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    H. Bhabha, ‘What does the black man want?’, New Formations, vol. 1, Spring 1987, p. 123.Google Scholar
  13. 27.
    S. Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, London, 1991, p. 83.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    In this chapter I have not applied any psychoanalytic model but rather I have used psychoanalysis as a’ sensitizing theory’ (Ian Craib in a verbal discussion, May 1994). Also, P. Gay, Freud for Historians, New York, 1985, correctly warns against the dangers of reductionism that have all too often beset psycho-history. I have therefore used basic psychoanalytic ideas flexibly in interpreting the uses and functions of emotionally laden memories. In this area, see J. Hunt, Psychoanalytic Aspects of Fieldwork, London, 1989.Google Scholar
  15. 29.
    I. Hofmeyer, ‘We Spend Our Years as a Tale That is Told’, Oral Historical Narrative in a South African Chiefdom, London, 1993.Google Scholar
  16. 31.
    A. Freud, The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence, London, 1968, p. 87.Google Scholar
  17. 32.
    F. Jameson, The Political Unconscious, Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act, London, 1981, p. 102.Google Scholar
  18. 36.
    I. Craib, Psychoanalyses and Social Theory, The Limits of Sociology, London, 1989, p. 91.Google Scholar
  19. 37.
    E. Laclau, New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time, London, 1990. In the Lacanian sense, ‘lack’ is not simply the force of unfulfilled desires that shapes identity formation but a constitutive element of identity formation. Hence all identities are subject to a ‘constitutive lack’.Google Scholar
  20. 40.
    G. Maré, Brothers Born of Warrior Blood, Politics and Ethnicity in South Africa, Johannesburg, 1992, p. 2.Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    Through their memory reconstructions of the Windermere past interviewees tend to deny the oppression they suffered during the preapartheid segregation years. However, there is no sharp disjuncture between the segregation and apartheid periods. See S. Dubow, Racial Segregation and the Origins of Apartheid in South Africa, 1919–1936, London, 1989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 43.
    F. Barth, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries, Boston, 1969.Google Scholar
  23. 46.
    B. Bozzoli (with M. Nkotse), Women of Phokeng, Consciousness, Life Strategy and Migrancy in South Africa, 1900–1983, Johannesburg, 19Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean Field

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations