reconciliation’s waste: heritage and waste in post-apartheid south africa

Analysis by Duane Jethro, one of my colleagues at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative.

Discard Studies

By Duane Jethro

Svetlana Boym argues that ruins “make us think of the past that could have been and the future that never took place”. She turns the idea about the link between the past and the future around, and suggests we can use ruined or wasted things for clues about society in the present. In this piece I want to think about what certain ways of talking about waste and ruins in South Africa can tell us about pasts that never came to be and futures that never took place.

To do so means briefly thinking about heritage and reconciliation. Heritage, or the singling out of certain histories and people for commemoration, is connected to the idea of reconciliation, because in South Africa, it was meant to do the work of bringing South Africans together as a nation. Through new museums, statues and memorials, heritage would help overcome the long…

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