n English in Africa - Trauma and the Conscript Memoirs of the South African 'Border War'

Volume 42, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



This paper examines the recent appearance of several 'anti-heroic' memoirs of the South African 'Border War' written by conscripts. The use of the medical diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in these writings is critically examined. The memoirs reveal how difficult it is to articulate memories of contemporary war without drawing on a medical explanation. The South African memoirs also demonstrate the ambiguous role that the diagnosis of PTSD plays in, on the one hand, enabling the authors to speak about their experiences, while, on the other, providing an opportunity for them to distance themselves from the ethical implications of their own involvement in the war. The paper concludes that the tension within the identity of victim-perpetrator is perhaps too easily collapsed into simple victimhood.

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