n English in Africa - Recent theorisations of trauma fiction, postcolonialism, and the South African novel : review article

Volume 41, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



Drawing on both psychological and sociological definitions of trauma, the essay collection engages with the intersection between individual and cultural trauma, while simultaneously warning against the blurring of the distinction between the two. In line with this, trauma is defined not only as a "wound of the mind" of an individual, but also as a "link between cultures" (x). While bearing a remarkable resemblance to the Freudian haunting inherent in most definitions of historical trauma (see also Erikson, Tal and Caruth), the concept of cultural trauma, as utilised in this collection, is situated in the present and seeks to transcend this haunting by gesturing towards a "safe post-traumatic space" (6). A traumatic history "established and sustained by power structures, social agents and contending groups" in a "constant, recurrent struggle that stirs up a troubling memory" (xii) is shared by many, if not all, postcolonial societies.

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