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Written under the Skin - Blood and Intergenerational Memory in South Africa, Hardback Book

Written under the Skin - Blood and Intergenerational Memory in South Africa Hardback


In this book the author argues that a younger generation of South Africans is developing important and innovative ways of understanding South African pasts, and that challenge the narratives that have over the last decades been informed by notions of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The author uses the image of history-rich blood to explore these approaches to intergenerational memory.

Blood under the skin is a carrier of embodied and gendered histories and using this image, the chapters revisit older archives, as well as analyse contemporary South African cultural and literary forms. The emphasis on blood challenges the privileged status skin has had as explanatory category in thinking about identity, and instead emphasises intergenerational transfer and continuity.

The argument is that a younger generation is disputing and debating the terms through which to understand contemporary South Africa, as well as for interpreting the legacies of the past that remain under the visible layer of skin.

The chapters each concern blood: Mandela's prison cell as laboratory for producing bloodless freedom; the kinship relations created and resisted in accounts of Eugene de Kock in prison; Ruth First's concern with information leaks in her accounts of her time in prison; the first human-to-human heart transplant and its relation to racialised attempts to salvage white identity; the #Fallist moment; Abantu book festival; and activist scholarship and creative art works that use blood as trope for thinking about change and continuity. Carli Coetzee is Editor of the Journal of African Cultural Studies.

Her publications include: Accented Futures: Language Activism and the Ending of Apartheid (Wits University Press, 2013) and the edited collection Afropolitanism: Reboot (Routledge, 2017).

She co-edited The Handbook of African Literature (Routledge, 2019) with Moradewun Adejunmobi and Negotiating the Past: The Making of Memory in South Africa(Oxford University Press, 1998) with Sarah Nuttall. Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Swaziland): Wits University Press


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 192 pages
  • Publisher: James Currey
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary studies: general
  • ISBN: 9781847012210

Also by Carli Coetzee