Archiving Trauma and Amnesia: The Racialized Political Theologies of Reconciliation in South Africa

  • Zahir Kolia


In recent years, the South Africa truth and reconciliation model has been globalized as the template for societies emerging from conflicts. This chapter reads the significance of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in two registers: first as a moment for the production of world politics by providing a global template for reconciliation for societies emerging from conflict and, second, as an aporia of the colonial archive that is founded upon the theological-psychoanalytic motifs of confession and atonement. Drawing on a decolonial reading of Derrida’s Archive Fever, he locates the TRC as a practice that functioned to archive individual testimonies of traumatic violence in order to witness them as redemptive acts of national atonement. Through this process, however, the materiality of trauma, violence, and pain was reconstituted into a pathological discourse of black-on-black violence and as collective monuments of the past excised of the structural condition of state-instituted and state-sanctioned violence against the racialized majority. Understood in this light, the TRC produced a unique archival form indexed by selectively remembering violence in order to forget them through a national form of amnesia. The theologically inscribed nation-building project, problematic in its very articulation and inscription, the chapter suggests, has now been globalized as a model that has continued to inform processes of reconciliation across the world.


Colonial archive South African TRC Theological Confessional Atonement Post-conflict reconciliation 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zahir Kolia
    • 1
  1. 1.Lakehead UniversityThunder BayCanada

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