ABSTRACT

In South Africa, the end of apartheid brought with it any number of creative, often unorthodox, ways of engaging the past.1 Among the most majestic was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a passion play in which “We, the People” sought rebirth by together confronting painful memories, long repressed. Similar attempts to find renewal in the ritual revisitation of trauma are widespread in the political culture of our age. They express, simultaneously, homage to what has gone before and a desire to transcend it, a paradox evident in most epochal transitions, to be sure. But, these days, there is also something else at work: a detectable loss of faith in a telos of open-ended possibility (see Chapter 1). In this mood we seem especially anxious to repossess history-less, as some suggest, in a spirit of nostalgia than as a means of kick-starting the future, of vesting time itself with lost direction and purpose (cf. Hartog 2003).2