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Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies

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States of Shame: South African Writing after Apartheid

Caitlin Charos Published online: 01 Jul 2009.

To cite this article: Caitlin Charos (2009): States of Shame: South African Writing after Apartheid, Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, 10:3, 273-304 To link to this article:

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Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies Vol. 10, No. 3, July 2009, 273304

States of Shame: South African Writing after Apartheid

Caitlin Charos
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We who have grown up on a diet of honour and shame can still grasp what must seem unthinkable to peoples living in the aftermath of the death of God and tragedy: that men will sacrifice their dearest love on the implacable altars of pride.1

Shame and Disgrace: the titles of novels by two of the worlds most renowned authors, Salmon Rushdie and J. M. Coetzee, likewise draw the reader to consider a painful state of emotion as it affects persons within a particular locale, the postcolonial nation-state.2 Characteristically, Rushdies Shame (1983) issues a playful but scathing critique of Pakistans political corruption and its cultural dictates, uncovering shameful behavior among the ruling elite, exposing the displacement of shame onto innocents, and tracing how its effects may suddenly and bestially manifest themselves as violence. Unveiling the many nuances of shame that inflect the world of his characters, Rushdie roguishly declares what shame would have us silence, for as Wicomb avers, it is the very nature of shame to stifle its South African author Zoe own discourse.3 But while Rushdie invites readers to witness the destructive effects of shame and implacable pride4 as they play out in his metafictional tale, he does not delve into the highly visceral feelings of rejection and relational desire that characterize affective experiences of shame. Cognizant of the subtle distinction between the public state of disgrace and the exceedingly private nature of shame, Coetzee, on the other hand, treats the subject of shame in Disgrace (1999) with

Correspondence to: Caitlin Charos, 5066 Gadwall Circle, Stockton, California, 95207, USA. Email: Rushdie, Shame, 115. While the place of the term postcolonial in South Africa has been largely disputed among critics, I follow Christopher Warnes in identifying South Africa as a nation that experienced colonialism of a special type, therefore theorizing the postapartheid condition can thus draw on the substantial narratives of colonialism, decolonization, and postcoloniality that are engaged and produced in postcolonial theory (Warnes, The Making and Unmaking, 71). 3 Wicomb, Shame and Identity, 92. 4 Rushdie, Shame, 115.
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ISSN 1753-3171 (print)/ISSN 1543-1304 (online) 2009 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/17533170903020890

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arguably greater subtlety and sensitivity; interrogating our ability to textually access the often concealed, sometimes excruciating feeling that is shame, Disgrace fittingly exposes the failure of shame to emerge in discourse. This is a textual performance that arises partly because the narration is focalized through the perspective of Coetzees somewhat obdurate, aging protagonist, David Lurie. Dismissed from his post at the Cape Technical University for initiating a sexual relationship with a coloured5 student, David seeks refuge from his public disgrace with his daughter, Lucy. Following Lucys refusal to report her rape to the police after three black men attack the pair and despoil Lucys Eastern Cape farmhouse, David implores his daughter to tell[] the whole story6 of her violation. Misinterpreting her silence as a desire to expiate the crimes of the past by suffering in the present, David keep[s] misreading7 Lucys unwillingness to speak of the shame that he believes she must be feeling: Too ashamed, David muses, as he imagines Lucys attackers gloating over their predation, too ashamed to tell.8 But while David harps on Lucys ashamedness, Lucys feelings remain unintelligible at best: in fact, thwarting David and the readers access to Lucys consciousness, Coetzee seems to insist upon her affective unreadability. When Lucy does speak, refusing Davids invitation to put the whole past behind [her] and start a new chapter elsewhere,9 her circumvention of the words shame and rape are palpable: I cant talk any more, David, I just cant, [. . .] I know I am not being clear. I wish I could explain. But I cant. Because of who you are and who I am, I cant. Im sorry. And Im sorry about your car. Im sorry about the disappointment.10 In this passage, Lucys language acquires a kind of immobilizing circularity: despite the starkness of her words, her meaning is rendered truly opaque. The repetitive assertion of the I marks her presence and authority as subject, but that I is only defined in the negative, that is, by what it cannot do: Lucy can only hold onto her I, her subjectivity, if she refuses to speak within the terms of shame that David offers her. However, Lucys remorseher emphatic Im sorryimplies that she perceives that a discourse of confessional shame will structure a public disclosure of her rape. For Coetzee, words of shame place Lucy at a representational impasse: should she speak of ashamedness, she must perforce represent herself as a victim, as the object of rape; yet should she

5 Coloured refers to the groups of people classified under apartheid as neither White nor Black (Wicomb, Shame and Identity, 101), and who were usually of mixed ethnicity. Griqua refers to a distinctive coloured group descended from the Khoisan and early Afrikaners. For the purposes of this paper, I follow Wicomb in using the word coloured without its old prefix of so-called and without the disavowing scare quotes earned during the period of revolutionary struggle when it was replaced by the word black, indicating both a rejection of apartheid nomenclature as well as inclusion in the national liberation movement (Wicomb, Shame and Identity, 93). 6 Coetzee, Disgrace, 110. 7 Ibid., 112. 8 Ibid., 110. 9 Ibid., 110. 10 Ibid., 155.

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choose silence, prying others are bound to misread her, casting her experience in terms of shame. Through Lucys apparent silence on the issue of her rape, Coetzee explores the difficulties inherent in tapping into the subterranean world of affect and the linguistic effects of that intimate feeling to which others hardly ever gain access: shame. Responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC) attempt to create a public forum for speaking out apartheid violence, which additionally (if inadvertently) involved revealing the affective implications of historical abuse, some South African writers of the post-1994 era seem drawn to the subject of shame and its (in)ability to emerge or find coherence in language. A circularitywhat Wicomb, term recursivenesscharacterizes their I later, borrowing from Zoe textual renderings of shame, an affect that physically and emotionally seems to take hold of the subject and to recur uncannily over time.11 Coetzee only begins to touch on this narrative double movement through Lucys reluctance to speak of shame, even if to reject it, in the above passage: her repetitiveness and vocal hesitancies suggest that speech or confession would only offer painful exposure, while her silence requires that she withdraw from confidants and kin. What is clear from her limited speech is the continuance of the negative feelings that attend her rape after the moment of traumathe memory of her rapists hatred and her own (what the reader can only assume is) fear, pain, or even shame will not be easily buried or put to rest. In South Africa, a nation burdened with the memory of apartheid violence, a prevailing theme of the countrys literatures has been the persistence or intrusion of the past in the present.12 While writers like Shane Graham and David Bell have been attentive to the fact that apartheid structures and memory continue to affect social relations in contemporary South Africa13, this continuity has not yet been thought through the lens of feeling. Instructively, a discourse on negative feelingand, more specifically, on shame is emerging in American queer and feminist theory. Acknowledging the recurrence of backward feelings that many people with queer identities still experience in the post-Stonewall era, Heather Love observes,
Although there are crucial differences between life before gay liberation and life after, feelings of shame, secrecy, and self-hatred are still with us. Rather than disavowing such feelings as the sign of some personal failing, we need to understand them as indications of material and structural continuities between the two eras. As resignifying or refunctioning stigma has become synonymous with the political in queer criticism, stigma itself has fallen by the wayside.14

Shames effects on language are different than the linguistic effects of pain, which, according to Elaine Scarry, does not simply resist language but actively destroys it, bringing about an immediate reversion to a state anterior to language (Scarry, Body in Pain, 4). Rather than destroy language, shame allows for speech, but speech that is mediated by the desire to keep bad feelings concealed. 12 Bell, Persistent Presence, 63. 13 For more on the intersection of memory, representation, and space see Graham, Memory, Memorialization, and the Transformation. 14 Love, Feeling Backward, 201.

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Love also cautions that queer studies, in its haste to refunction the difficult experiences and histories of gays may not be adequately reckoning with their powerful legacies. Turning away from past degradation to a present or future of affirmation means ignoring the past as past; it also makes it harder to see the persistence of the past in the present.15 Loves work on loss and queer history, Feeling Backward (2007), joins a genealogy of texts that engage with the sociocultural and political implications of feeling. Several of these worksEve Kosofsky Sedgwicks Touching Feeling (2003), Sarah Ahmeds The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004), Elspeth Probyns Blush: Faces of Shame (2005)draw from the theories of affect elaborated by American psychologist Silvan Tomkins, whose abridged work appears in Sedgwick and Franks Silvan Tomkins reader, Shame and Its Sisters (1995).16 A renewed interest in affect among social, queer, and literary theorists inspired this turn to Tomkins, a personality psychologist whose four-volume Affect, Imagery, Consciousness (published over a period of thirty years [196292]) identifies nine affect spectrums. One of these is shamehumiliation, an affect range that has its correlate in interestexcitement.17 The emphasis on shame in recent theoretical projects seems to proceed from the idea that Tomkins places shame [. . .] at one end of the affect polarity shame-interest, suggesting that the pulsations of cathexis around shame, of all things, are what either enable or disenable so basic a function as the ability to be interested in the world.18 That shame is inextricably linked to interestthat only a scene that offers you enjoyment or engages your interest can make you blush19suggests that shame makes a highly interesting double movement . . . toward painful individuation, toward uncontrollable relationality.20 Shame separates us from others, causing us to experience that state of painful disidentification and self-consciousness that at times would threaten to implode the self, yet it also indicates our desire to connect to the people with whom we share a space. It is this dual nature that makes shame such an interesting tropological feeling to consider in South African literaturein a place that yet suffers bitter division and lack of connection between people, wouldnt it be fruitful to represent those feelings that both separate apparent others and uncover an investment in repairing that severed relationship?

Ibid., 19. Tomkins identifies shame as an affect, a biological response, rather than as an emotion, a term that connotes a cognitive evaluation of ones feelings. However, following Probyn, I hold shame can be an affect and an emotion, or rather a feeling that defies the opposition of the two (Probyn, Blush, 4). Because shame is accompanied by a physiological response, we might think of it as automatic; yet, it is also characterized by a re-evaluation of the self and the social that suggests it involves an interpretation of ones environment and relationship to others. I will therefore refer to shame as an affect or as an emotion interchangeably throughout the paper, stressing its affect status in writing about blushing and the body. 17 Each of Tomkinss affects is named according to its lowest level and highest level of intensity (i.e. shame is the basic affect that, when intensified, is felt as humiliation). See Tomkins, Affect, Imagery, Consciousness. 18 Sedgwick and Frank, Shame and Its Sisters, 5. 19 Ibid., 22. 20 Sedgwick, Touching Feeling, 37.


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An affect of proximity,21 shame is a feeling that puts bodies in relation to each other, exposing one self to the other, and yet it also makes each body aware of its separateness, as the blush blazons ones singular humiliation. This coincident vulnerability and relationality characterizes Tomkinss explanation of the workings of shame:
The innate activator of shame is the incomplete reduction of interest or joy. Hence any barrier to further exploration which partially reduces interest or the smile of enjoyment will activate the lowering of the head and eyes in shame and reduce further exploration or self-exposure powered by excitement or joy. Such a barrier might be because one is suddenly looked at by one who is strange, or because one wishes to look at or commune with another person but suddenly cannot because he is strange, or one expected him to be familiar but he suddenly appears unfamiliar, or one started to smile but found one was smiling at a stranger.22

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Crucial to shame here is the (im)possibility of identification: the idea of having ones interest barred due to these elements of strangeness and (un)familiarity recalls the tension between identification and withdrawal that is at work in the postapartheid nation. In a place where racial others have used violent means to obtain political goals, it may be all the more difficult for people to see anything but the uncanny, the trace of the familiar rendered unfamiliar by a brutal history of separation, in the strangers gaze. Because the leaders of the New South Africa, with their emphasis on the nations colorful citizenry, have trumpeted the democratic ideal, feelings of shame may be, according to Tomkins, even more pronounced. Tomkins writes that in a democratically organized society the belief that all men are created equal means that all men are possible objects of identification.23 There thus lies in shame an intersection between individual identity and the formation of socio-cultural and political communities. According to Sarah Ahmed, feelings of shame are not only indicative of human relationality and the desire for community, but they can be crucial to forms of nation-building. Ahmed argues that If we reconsider the role of shame in securing the (hetero)normative, then we can see that national shame works as a narrative of reproduction; the nation hence (re)produces itself by displacing shame onto illegitimate others (who fail to reproduce its form, or even its offspring) or by shamefully mistreating its citizens in perpetuating forms of racism.24 Both of these efforts to shape the nation through shame seem apposite to thinking about the past and present of national shame in South Africa: apartheids Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) and Immorality Act (1950) sought to prevent the birth of illegitimate others, and the systems legacy of racism, which continues to find expression in rampant xenophobia, certainly represents the failure of a multicultural

21 22

Probyn, Blush, 34. Tomkins quoted in Sedgwick and Frank, Shame and Its Sisters, 1345. 23 Ibid., 139. 24 Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 108.

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ideal. Furthermore, South Africas attempt to heal the nation through a process of reconciliation puts shame to work in the national narrative of feeling better:
Shame makes the nation in the witnessing of past injustice, a witnessing that involves feeling shame, as it exposes the failure of the nation to live up to its ideals. [. . .] By witnessing what is shameful about the past, the nation can live up to the ideals that secure its identity or being in the present.25

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When the nation, in this case, South Africa, acknowledges the shameful acts of the past, its leaders are authorized to transform testimonies of systemic and personal trauma into a narrative of recovery.26 While the victims of such trauma may indeed feel vindicated or healed by speaking out against their oppressors, Ahmed is skeptical that, if these individual feelings of pain and shame are absorbed into the national narrative, national recovery may come only at the cost of re-covering27 or covering over that painful history: in reconciliatory processes, what is witnessed is not the brutality of this history, but the brutality of the passing over of that history. Ironically, witnessing such a passing over might even repeat the passing over, in the very desire to move beyond shame into pride.28 The challenge of this project is to rethink the shame theories elaborated by Silvan Tomkins and their evolution in more recent affective studies by Sedgwick, Love, Ahmed, and Probyn in relation to the question of writing the postapartheid nation. When we begin to think about the state of shame in literature, we may also consider a different kind of stateSouth Africa, the State that bears the shameful history of apartheid. This move from state to nation-State is one that Judith Butler traces in her conversation with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Who Sings the NationState? (2007). Butler writes,
how do we understand those sets of conditions and dispositions that account for the state we are in (which could, after all, be a state of mind) from the state we are in when and if we hold rights of citizenship or when the state functions as the provisional domicile for our work? If we pause for a moment on the meaning of states as the conditions in which we find ourselves, then it seems we reference the moment of writing itself or perhaps even a certain condition of being upset, out of sorts: what kind of state are we in when we start to think about the state?29

If, as Butler suggests, the state we are ina state of upset, a state, perhaps, of shameis connected to the nation-state and to writing about the nation-state, then it seems productive and even imperative to consider the formal mechanisms through which South African narratives engage with the subject of feeling after apartheid and, particularly, with feelings about the nation. At this juncture in South African literary history, it appears writers have begun to pose the hairy question: do South Africans feel postapartheid? Though Butlers argument centers largely on the obstacles facing
25 26

Ibid., 109 (italics original). Ibid., 112 (italics original). 27 Ibid. (italics original). 28 Ibid., 111. 29 Butler and Spivak, Who Sings the Nation-State?, 3.

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stateless peoples and refugees, she makes the crucial point that ones affective state may be indicative of the degree to which one feels that (s)he belongs in a particular Statethat is, as a welcome and equal citizen. Adopting a critical stance on nationalist claims of miracle multiplicity that take such belonging for granted, Wicomb and Phaswane Mpe, the foci of this essay, South African authors like Zoe reveal through their fiction a vein of shame that endures for contemporary South Africans, even as the African National Congress (ANC) seeks to close the door on the nations shameful past.30 It is the persistence of racial, sexual, and national shame after the ANCs 1994 victory and its inauguration of the proud, New South Africa that seems to haunt Wicomb is one of the countrys recent literature. Acclaimed author and critic Zoe few South African writers to directly broach the subject of shame after apartheid. Her 1998 article Shame and identity, which engages with the troubling notion that shame is bound to the problem of coloured identity, seems to gesture to the theoretical and thematic impulse behind her second novel, Davids Story (2000). Disturbed by the idea that shame has been implicated in the very label Coloured, an apartheid construct that served to categorize those people defined negatively as not a White person or a Black,31 Wicomb endeavors to uncover the many nuances of shame that shape representations of miscegenation, slavery, and the coloured cultural past.32 This critical move is one she textualizes in Davids Story, a novel that centers on a coloured ANC activist, David Dirkse, who attempts to investigate his origins in the Griqua nation and employs an amanuensis to write his proper history.33 As Wicombs novel oscillates between the legends surrounding Davids alleged ancestor, Le Fleur, who insists upon pure Griqua nationhood, and the year, 1991, in which Davids own story is set, it highlights the tensions between proud calls to nationalism and a discourse of shame that seems to be covered up in their wake. Aware of the cultural betrayal implicit in the coloured persons search for origins, a betrayal that effaces a shameful history of slavery, miscegenation, and complicity with the oppression of African blacks, Wicomb translates shame into a postmodern narrative strategy that represents the simultaneous exposure and suppression of this past as it intrudes upon the present. Phaswane Mpes short novel, Welcome to Our Hillbrow, published in 2001, takes a different approach to shame by focusing on the new nations xenophobia. Bolstered by the AIDS epidemic, this fear and hatred of the foreign recalls the shame of mixing that undermines triumphant notions of rainbow multiplicity. Foregrounding the shameful exclusion of foreign bodies in urban Johannesburg, Mpe welcomes the reader to question the physical

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I have elsewhere explored the effects of shame in Achmat Dangors Bitter Fruit (2001) with attention to shames capacity to move between bodies and to interrupt the archiving of reconciliation sought by the TRC in its 1998 report. 31 Wicomb, Shame and Identity, 101. 32 Ibid., 92. 33 Wicomb, Davids Story, 199.

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and geographical boundaries of affect, theorizing shame as a condition that moves between bodies and through transnational spaces. Although these contemporaneous texts may be formally diverse, their authors seem drawn to shame, not only as a theme, but as a narrative mechanism: the double discourse of shame has a singular capacity to both expose and conceal, to probe what appears in discourse and what is suppressed. If intrinsic to feeling shame is the desire to stifle itto cover it upthen it follows that shame would effect a kind of circular gridlock in language, resurfacing and then effacing itself whenever its subject seems on the brink of exposure. Drawing on the postcolonial trope of recovering unwritten histories, Wicomb reveals that uncovering shame and textualizing its pervasiveness interrupts or precludes cohesive narratives of recovery. In South Africa, initiating a process national recovery and rapprochement was the task of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: through a series of hearings, many of which were publicly televised or available through the internet, the TRC allowed victims to testify to the violences committed against them during the apartheid years; perpetrators also came forward to request amnesty for political crimes. With the aim of producing reconciliation between citizens who, in the New South Africa, would be compelled to share spaces and shift perspectives, the TRC required what Ingrid De Kok calls the language of the clean breaka language that expressed the imperative to have the storyoften called by [TRC] commissioners this chapter of our history closed.34 It makes sense that South Africans might want to turn their backs on the disgraceful past of apartheid and the shameful feelings a past of violence may have evokedto start over with a clean slate. However, by bearing witness to the crimes of apartheid, the TRC makes the very move that Ahmed cautions against: the desire to move on35 expressed in the TRCs wish to have this chapter of our history closed risks moving over and out of shame, repeating apartheids censorship by once more passing over36 that brutal history. Containing the violence of apartheid within a closed narrative that displaces shame and yet ostensibly serving as a forum for voicing shameful history, the TRC became ironically complicit in stifling a discourse on shame while exposing those who had been shamed to the public eye. As Mark Sanders rightly observes of complicities, when opposition takes the form of a demarcation from something, it cannot, it follows, be untouched by that to which it opposes itself. Opposition takes its first steps from a footing of complicity.37 Sanderss claim suggests that it is not possible to oppose shame without again calling it into being. It seems especially problematic, then, that the ANC and former president, Thabo Mbeki, made pridein opposition to the shamefulness of apartheid racisma watchword of national recovery. The inadequacies of the proud title, Rainbow Nation, have been the subject of much critical writing since the installment
34 35

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De Kok, Cracked Heirlooms, 59. Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 111. 36 Ibid. 37 Sanders, Complicities, 9 (italics original).

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of the so-called new dispensation.38 While critics like Shaun Irlam have lamented the ANC governments failure to improve the material conditions of black South Africans since the end of apartheid,39 an attention to affect in recent South African fiction also reveals that democracy and the promise of national belonging have been unable to guarantee feelings of dignity, personhood, and honor for many citizens. Honor, according to anthropologist Julian Pitt-Rivers, is the value of a person in his own eyes, but also in the eyes of his society. It is his estimation of his own worth, his claim to pride, but it is also the acknowledgement of that claim, his excellence recognized by society, his right to pride.40 For Pitt-Rivers, pride in this sense is synonymous with dignitya self-estimation that involves the recognition of ones own humanness by a community of peers who likewise strive for a generally accepted ideal of respectability. Because apartheid was a system that devalued certain human lives by regulating intimacy and by creating hierarchies of respectability based on race, it created conditions in which shame could thriveboth for African blacks, gradually stripped of human rights through apartheid legislation, and for whites and coloureds, who were differently complicit in their oppression.41 But feelings of shame and acts of racist shaming did not die with apartheid; as a recent incident at the University of the Free State illustrates, eliciting shame in racial others is still very much a part of keeping apartheid boundaries in place. In February 2008, a short video surfaced that depicted four white, male students instructing five black members of the cleaning staff to perform a series of degrading tasks. The scandalous film was created in opposition to the universitys plan to integrate dormitories and sports teams,42 as evident in the message in bold print that concludes the video, Op die einde van die dag is dit wat ons regtig van integrasie dink! (At the end of the day that is what we really think about integration!).43 Despite the amateur cinematography, the films creators seem intent upon demeaning the bodies of the workers: this objective is clear in the slow-motion footage of the staff running a race to the mocking soundtrack of Vangeliss Chariots of Fire and in the even more troubling scene when the employees kneel before the students, ingesting contaminated food and spitting it out into buckets close-at-hand. The Free State video suggests not only that racism is a continuing problem in South African universities, but that, disturbingly, in an effort to prevent integration and therefore possible identification with non-whites, these young mens protests took the

Taking the pulse of South African fiction after apartheid, David Attwell and Barbara Harlow suggest that despite the so-called miracle of the transition, South Africas underlying social relations and even attitudes remain substantially unchanged (Atwell and Harlow, South African Fiction, 2). 39 Irlam, Unraveling the Rainbow, 697. 40 Pitt-Rivers, Honour and Social Status, 21. 41 This was accomplished through apartheid legislation like the Population Registration Act (1950), which required South Africans to be classified as white, black, or coloured, thus determining their social status and their spaces of inhabitance, and the Immorality Act (1950), which prohibited all sexual relations between whites and non-whites. 42 BBC News Online, Outcry in SA over racist video, 7267027.stm (accessed 27 July 2008). 43 YouTube, The Racist University Video, (accessed 27 July 2008).

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form of undermining black dignity and reinforcing the bodily separation that apartheid legislation once imposed. Such incidents remind us that while the metaphor of the Rainbow Nation may be a hopeful ideal, it is one that South Africa has yet to approximate. It is all the more disconcerting, then, that premature declarations of pride, progress, and miracle multiplicity inform the nationalist projectrhetoric that may be as ethereal as the rainbow it invokes. Iridian images coupled with slogans of pride are bound to recall another identitarian enterprisethe lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride movement. Cheryl Stobie makes this connection in her recent study of bisexuality in postapartheid novels, Somewhere in the Double Rainbow (2007). Pairing the emblem of the rainbow-coloured Pride flag that celebrat[es] sexual diversity44 with the ideal of the rainbow nation, the term used in South Africa to denote equality embracing racial and ethnic diversity in the body politic,45 Stobie envisions a figurative double rainbow that might represent respect and process, but which also highlights tensions associated with othering.46 Although Stobie insists that her metaphor is not reflective of blind optimism or utopianism,47 her argument that fictional representations of bisexuality may serve to destabilize binaries and thus illustrate a loosening of boundaries, a possibility of multiplicity48 seems to disregard the stigma and shame still associated with queer identities, despite South Africas liberal constitutional policies regarding sexual orientation. She mentions only cursorily that there is still a gap between the liberal democratic ideals enshrined in new laws and the reactionary vigilantism found in certain sectors of society. Some commentators have expressed the opinion that increasing visibility [of people with non-normative sexualities] contributes to hate crimes.49 By invoking the double rainbow, Stobie also appears to subscribe to its call for celebration, transgression, and forwardmovement. This is not necessarily a bad thingany project that strives to identify change and secure rights must have utopian goals; as Meg Samuelson writes, emerging from the nightmare of apartheid, how can we [South Africans] not want the rainbow nation? [. . .] How can we deny that we have entered a redemptive state?50 But I share with many US-based feminist and queer theorists the fear that cries for national, racial, or sexual progress cover over histories of shame in hopes of recovering pride. Stressing the transformative hybridity of bisexual identities in South Africa, Stobie turns the shame associated with queerness to good use and thus is complicit in the veiling of shame discourses. But she is not alone: as Elspeth Probyn points out, national pride, black pride, gay pride, and now fat pride are all political projects that, in triumphing proud identities, become amnesic about

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44 45

Stobie, Somewhere in the Double Rainbow, 2. Ibid., 3. 46 Ibid., 2 47 Ibid. 48 Ibid., 71. 49 Ibid., 60. 50 Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 11.

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histories of shame or found the success of their enterprises on the eradication of shame.51 Yet bad feelings about our identities may refuse to vanish, even when we outwardly vocalize feelings of pride. Confronting the past and present of shame in South Africa is imperative now after reconciliation, after re-coverybecause shame suppressed may resurge with violent implications. Rushdies novel is illuminating on this point, for his Shame traces the effects of this inner torment on Sufiya Zunobia, a simple young woman who, as vessel for her familys shame, must expel the emotion in a series of sexuallycharged murders. As Rushdie illustrates, the shame affect is particularly physical, peculiarly bound to the body; it also provides, Tomkins seems to suggest, a model of social relations, as shame informs both our welcome of and withdrawal from certain other-ed bodies. We are most vulnerable to shame when we seek identification with another person, but shame also creates in-groups and out-groupsit reminds that we prefer not to take in the unrecognizable or the different. Indeed, Tomkins explains that shame may quickly turn to contempt or disgust if the subject feels that identification with the other is unattainable.52 On the subject of homosexual Intimacies and violence, Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips write, To love what is other is to love what cannot be loved; it is like being force fed, and like being force fed it could only unleash an extreme violence, or the extreme stifling of violent energies.53 Shame requires intimacy or an affective investment in another that allows him/her to be taken and kept54 within ones emotional and physical borders; but if that investment is unwanted or, as in South Africa, becomes a kind of political force-feeding that infiltrates those intensely personal boundaries, the subject may feel the need to spit out the other, the outside, the foreignto cast off the affective intruder with extreme violence. Psychologist Teresa Brennan further posits that human subjects may attempt to affirm their affective selfcontainment by violently projecting undesirable feelings like shame onto others.55 Citing the foundational fantasy, in which the mother serves as the passive repository for the childs unwanted raging affects,56 Brennan hazards that feminine beingsnot only women, but sexual and racial othershave been compelled to carry negative feelings for the willfully narcissistic subject.57 Much of the recent work on shame that I have discussed above emerges from fields that take sex, gender, and sexuality as their subject of enquiry. Given that shame is so often linked to sexualityto queer identities, to female desire, to male impotence, to miscegenation it appears to have acquired a particularly gendered valence. The gendering of shame may occur partly because the posture of shame is one of emasculationthe bowed head and lowered eyes signify not only withdrawal but submission. Even though,
51 52

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Probyn, Blush, 2. Tomkins quoted in Sedgwick and Frank, Shame and Its Sisters, 140. 53 Bersani and Phillips, Intimacies, 1012. 54 Ibid., 101. 55 Brennan, The Transmission of Affect, 12. 56 Ibid., 13. 57 Ibid., 15.

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according to Darwin, blushing is common to all humans, whether or not any change in color is visible on the skin,58 it is a somatic response that has too been feminized (the phrase blushing bride comes to mind) or moreover, displaced onto the bodies of feminine beings. Historically, Meg Samuelson points out, the TRC participated in such a projection of shame when, increasingly anxious about its failure to capture the story of women and the story of sexual violence, it began to conflate the two: womens story was reduced to one of sexual violence, and sexual violence was identified as a defining female experience.59 We might consider, then, that in the TRCs national narrative, sexualized bodies not only came to carry the weight of remembering the nation, an idea that Samuelsons Remembering the Nation, Dismembering Women explores at length, but that they also became figures of national shame. Troublingly, the exclusion of feminine or shamed bodies from the narrative of recovery continues to structure nationalist discourses in South Africa, a country where xenophobia and sexual violence have become arguably endemic. The pervasiveness of these issues continues to be a shameful blemish on South Africas supposed clean slate, but these violences also serve as a point of entry into the double discourse of shame and its complicitous interest in exposure and concealment. The body that experiences shame-inducing violence may be unable to utter its feelings, for, just as speaking rape potentially reiterates the primary violation,60 speaking shame re-stigmatizes the body and renews its bad feelings.61 Representing abused, isolated, and pathologized bodies in their fiction, several postapartheid South African writers have turned to textual translations of shame that complicate notions of telling and unspeakability after bodily violence. Writing shame, these authors (we might think here of Achmat Dangor, in addition to Wicomb and Mpe) are also aware of their betrayal, their complicity in figuring and perpetuating shame through re-covered bodies; but fiction, with its unique possibilities for exploring ambiguities and elusive feelings like shame, may be the one realm where the potentially brutal or divisive effects of shame can be ethically imagined. Critical of the way that gendered and abused bodies have been made to carry the nations shame whilst they are obscured by the banner of the proud rainbow, post-apartheid writers take on the difficulties of textualizing an affective flow that seems to defy reification in language. Acknowledging that shameful feelings are still with South Africans after apartheid, and that they might not go away, these writers radically re-imagine constructs of nationhood and representations
58 59

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Qtd. in Probyn, Blush, 28. Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 121. 60 Ibid., 122. 61 Samuelsons analysis of rape discourses recalls the problems of recovery and re-covering that Ahmed discusses in her work on national shame in The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Focusing instead on rapes apparent unspeakability in narrative representations, Samuelson suggests that recovering a voice may also entail re-coveringcovering overthat which remains outside prevailing discourse (Ibid., 8). I draw from her argument by continuing a discussion of the unspeakable in sexual violence; however, I depart from Samuelson by arguing that shame can be translated into a representational mode for representing that which is outside discourse.

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of the body, exploring new forms that move us to consider what it might mean to live in an indefinite state of shame.






this text deletes itself 62

Set in 1991, with the nation poised to somersault into the new (61) period of democracy, Wicombs Davids Story (2000) is a self-reflexive and complex fiction that takes on the ambiguities of representing the secrecy, betrayal, and shame that surreptitiously accompany liberal notions of attaining freedom. A commander of the ANCs military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), David, the ostensible narrative subject, has no illusions about freedom and the violence that ushers it into emergence; but his dedication to the causethe fight for democracy in South about the benefits of militarization and Africablinds him to his own naivete nationalist discourses. Davids loyalty to the Movement also compels him to overlook its condoning of the sexual coercion enacted on female comrades, and the maltreatment of its members in torture camps. These clandestine betrayals haunt Davids Story and are inseparable from the feelings of shame and textual hesitancies that mark Davids attempts to flesh out the narrative (1) for his amanuensis. This unnamed woman who narrates Davids mixed-up tale (9) insinuates in her preface that the fragmentary nature of the text is a product of its content, as the process of disclosure becomes, for David, a testing of the fine line between treachery and the search for truth: David, she writes, believed it possible to negotiate a path between the necessary secrecy and a need to tell, a tension that caused agitation which in turn had to be concealed, but it drove him to view the story of his life as a continuous loop that never intersected itself (2). This image of the narrative locked on impasse recalls the tensions between self-declaration and obfuscation that attend feelings of shamefeelings that will surface as David traces his dubious origins in the Griqua tribe and as he futilely attempts to prevent the narrator from representing his questionable relationship with a comrade-in-arms, Dulcie. Dulcie, a female MK, legendary for her contributions to the Movement, is an elusive figure that has dominated critical discussions of Davids Story, particularly those that express anxiety about representations of the female body in postapartheid literature;63 but, significantly, shame is a word that never features in these accounts. As a reader, the reason for this neglect is clear, for Dulcie, portrayed as the paragon of resistance, seems at times beyond the realm of human feeling. Furthermore, as the narrative is filtered through David and then again through the narrator, Dulcies representation is ever diluted and displaced; as the fictions surrounding her tend towards myth, it becomes more evident that Dulcies story is one that the reader
Wicomb, Davids Story, 212. Subsequent page references to this text in this section will be included in parentheses in the body of the article. 63 See Samuelson, Disfigured; Gane, Unspeakable Injuries; Daymond, Bodies of Writing.

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will never access. However, there is something about Dulcies figuration that produces shame in the text: as David struggles to negotiate his tangled ethnic identity and his uncertain feelings for Dulcie that would seem to amount to political betrayal, his desire to tell and not to tell his story becomes fraught with shame. Both Dorothy Driver and Meg Samuelson note the importance of shame to Wicombs thematic concerns in Davids Story, but these writers also determine that the nuances of shame in the text are too many to be dealt with economically in their work.64 Samuelson astutely links shame to the novels concern with the ANCs complicity in upholding apartheid constructs of race, but this discussion is limited to a mere two paragraphs;65 Driver, like Davids amanuensis, defers to Sarah Gertrude Millins Gods Stepchildren, an early twentieth-century novel informed by racist, eugenicist discourse on the ills of miscegenation, and addresses shame only through Wicombs intertextual engagement with this work. While the textual relationship between Davids Story and Gods Stepchildren is intricate, the pervasive shame that Wicomb represents stems beyond that of what J. M. Coetzee terms Millins poetics of blood.66 Although Davids own story may begin with a supposedly shameful history of racial mixing, the shades of shame in Wicombs text are more various and complex. Davids shame arises not only from the perceived impurity of his coloured identity and cultural past, but also from his desire for tellingan urge that he equates with the alleged weakness of tattle-taling, telling-tales. The burden of narrating the story falls instead to Davids amanuensis, but her own rapacious (186) impulse to flesh out (1) representations of Dulcie within Davids story compels her to recover/re-cover Dulcies subjectivity only by subjecting her body to (albeit fictional) sexualized torture. Thus, at the center of both Davids and the narrators desire for telling is Dulcie, whose protean (35) textual body in turn refracts the various forms of her authors telling shame. Wicombs concern with such refractions or recursions of shame is earlier apparent in her 1998 article, Shame and Identity, where she argues that black and coloured womens bodies have been harnessed to a sexual shame that has its origins in colonial discourse. Citing the repatriation and burial of Saartje Baartman, a KhoiSan woman who was brought to Europe and displayed for Western entertainment in the early nineteenth century and whose genitals were posthumously exhibited in the Musee lHomme in Paris, Wicomb questions whether Baartmans burial would also bury black woman as icon of concupiscence, which is to say bury the shame of having had our bodies stared at, but also the shame invested in those (females) who have mated with the colonizer.67 Wicomb further laments that this history of miscegenation,
the origins of which lie within a discourse of race, concupiscence, and degeneracy, continues to be bound up with shame, a pervasive shame exploited in
64 65

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Driver, Afterword, 246. Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 106. 66 Coetzee, White Writing, 138. 67 Wicomb, Shame and Identity, 912.

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apartheids strategy of the naming of a Coloured race, and recurring in the current attempts by coloureds to establish brownness as a pure category, which is to say a denial of shame.68


As a coloured woman born and raised in a small Griqua community in the Western Cape, Wicomb is deeply invested in interrogating this bodily shame. In Davids Story, these recursions of shamethe repetition of the colonial vocabulary of sexual shame, taint, and purity, in the discourse of pride that informs coloured ethnic nationalismare performed through the novels bi-temporal, echoic structure. The perceived shame of miscegenation69 that Wicomb is eager to expose as so much nonsense70 fuels Davids contempt for his green eyes, which conspicuously proclaim his biracial heritage. Turning inward and realizing this outward ocular shame, a festering wound that surprises him [. . .] a problem on the surface, something that had stared him in the eyes all his life (12), David resolves to exhume his origins in the Griqua community by tracing the history of Andrew le Fleur, legendary Griqua Chief and Davids alleged forefather. Through these flights into history (1), David intends to disentangle the neglected knot (27) of his coloured roots and thus extricate feelings of shame from his personal history that seem to have their beginnings (9) in miscegenation. Tracing his genealogy, David dubiously links himself to le Fleur through a mysterious immaculate conception that occurs when the prophetic Chief penetrates Davids great-grandmother, Antjie, with his procreative gaze (155). This connection, free from the sweaty and negligible act of physical union (9), foregrounds the absurdity of the doctrines of mixed blood set forth in Millins Gods Stepchildren (1924). Admitting in one interview to an enduring obsession with Sarah Gertrude Millin71 and her tragedy of miscegenation, Wicomb inserts her protagonist, David, into the deviant ancestral line of Eduard le Fleur (the corollary for Millins character, Andrew Flood, a missionary who procreated with a Khoi woman and thus fathers a degenerate race).72 As J. M. Coetzee points out in his reading of Millins text, her representation of mixed blood [as] a harbinger of doom73 was founded on a nineteenth-century vocabulary of degeneracy74 that assumed that the half-caste would carry the taint of black blood through future generations.75 Such aberration could only, for Millin, result in a naturalistic tragedy of victims subject to a biologized fate initiated by the meanest of lusts.76 But Davids place in Millins supposedly degenerate lineage is not the result of an errant sexual encounter; interestingly, when David does prepare his family tree, his early ancestral line following from Eduard le Fleur and from another historical Griqua leader, Adam
68 69

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Ibid., 92. Marais, Bastards and Bodies, 22. 70 Wicomb on Davids Story, 136. Olver and Meyer, Zoe 71 Wicomb in Conversation with Hein Willemse, 147. Zoe 72 Marais, Bastards and Bodies, 23. 73 Coetzee, White Writing, 152. 74 Ibid., 143. 75 Ibid., 150. 76 Ibid., 156.

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Kok I, seems to have reproduced itself(and the narrators wry tone is evident)all without the interference of women (38). The irony here is that absenting these (assumedly black or coloured) womens bodies from Davids supposed ancestry and linking him to le Fleur through an immaculate event, Wicomb renders the exchange of bloods in sexual union somewhat ludicrous within, if not irrelevant to, Davids own history. But Wicombs engagement with Millins work is not merely a writing back that purports to eradicate shame by disassociating it from colonial vocabularies of concupiscence; rather, absorbing Millins story into her own allows Wicomb to create a double narrative that discloses the multiform recursions of shame that pervade and are elided in other racial discoursesnamely ethnic nationalisms. Having claimed that his race is of no consequence (11) to his story, David assumes that the shame he feels for his green eyes is personal, a matter entirely unconnected with the Movement or with the way he relates to his comrades (12). This supposition proves false, however, when Davids request to spend time in Kokstad investigating his ethnic identity invites the suspicion of his fellow MKs (65). Mohamed Adhikari suggests that historically such distrust would be consistent with the attitude towards colouredness within the anti-apartheid movement, where any recognition of coloured identity was repudiated as a concession to apartheid thinking.77 Defined in the apartheid era as a negative identitythe leftovers [. . .] the people that were left after the nations were sorted out78the lump racial category, coloured, referred to people of usually mixed ancestry and was used to stratify racial hierarchies. Zimitri Erasmus reflects that, during this period, being coloured meant one was not only not white, but less than white; not only not black, but better than black.79 The pressure to maintain that middle statusa level of respectability80 over black Africansled many coloureds to participate in the racialized oppression of blacks.81 Coloured complicities like these are evident in Dawid Dirkses rant about Davids political involvement with black people he pejoratively titles the kaffirs and the Hotnos (23). Censuring his son for associating himself with the shame and the filth and the idleness of blackness, Dawid betrays his own rootedness in colonial discourses of purity and apartheid stratifications of race. But, as Wicomb reveals through Davids politics, the ANC also predicated its racial stance on apartheid constructs: Zimitri Erasmus locates an ethnic chauvinism in the ANCs growing tendency to conflat[e] blackness with Africanness as the nation moved out of apartheid, thus marginalizing those peoples identifying as coloured.82 Although David has given [his] life fighting for a nonracial democracy (150), a defining discourse of race and racial shame remnants of the colonial lexiconinforms his contemporary (1991) moment.

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77 78

Adhikari, Hope, Fear, Shame, Frustration, 472. Former South African first lady, Marike de Klerk, quoted in Adhikari, Hope, Fear, Shame, Frustration, 481. 79 Erasmus, Introduction, 13. 80 Ibid. 81 Adhikari, Hope, Fear, Shame, Frustration, 480. 82 Erasmus, Introduction, 19.

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The narrator infers that, throughout the course of their collaboration, David has been using the recovery of his Griqua history and le Fleurs saga to displace that of which he could not speak (145); one of the insinuations here may be that David cannot or will not recognize the systemic and problematic shaming processes and grammar at work in any nationalist narrative of recoveryincluding those endorsed by the ANC. Oscillating between descriptions of le Fleurs call for a prosperous nation, a separate Griqua nation (161) and Davids appeals to freedom in an ostensibly nonracial ANC democracy, the novels structure foregrounds the recursions of shame that reverberate within these stories of recovering nationhood. What these two nationalist discourses have in common is that both sanction a language of race that privileges pure blood and hence the [colonial] orders exclusionary practices.83 The voice of le Fleur that David and his amanuensis recuperate is one that seeks to deracinate shame from its seeming embeddedness in coloured identity; but in this attempt, as Mike Marais convincingly argues, le Fleur subscri[bes] to the discourse of pure blood [and] endorses the aesthetic process through which blood inscribes a history of shame on the faces of coloured people.84 Dismissing the name coloured, Le Fleur re-designates his people Eur-Africans, those through whose veins the blood of European settlers visibly flows (161); authorizing purity, this new ethnic identity renders coloured people both European and African, vessels for two pure bloods that are visible in the somatic appearance of one body. In addition, Le Fleurs manic claim that the Griquas under his leadership have fashioned [them]selves into a proud people a grand Griqua race no coloured nameless bastards (146) is reminiscent of Sarah Ahmeds warning that national narratives of recovering pride often merely coverover or displace histories of shame: intact in le Fleurs vocabulary are the constructs of race, blood, and bastardry or concupiscence, even as he attempts to re-signify his people with a rhetoric of pride. Shame requires the subjects participation in the discourse of shame, Samuelson remindstheir complicity, in other words.85 While Davids admiration for le Fleur diminishes over the course of his research because of the Griqua chiefs support for a separate homeland for a separate Griqua race (150), he fails to recognize how the ANC too is complicit in sustaining the discourse of purity that informs le Fleurs ethnic nationalism. Insisting on the non-racialism of the Movement, David yet reveals its investment in race as a system of significationthe ideal absence of racial difference is also founded on imaginings of a pure state. The lingering influence of this discourse of purity on the MK wing is evident when David reluctantly admits that there was always the assumption among some that Dulcie and I were somehow working together [. . .] All based, I now believe, on us being from the same Cape communitywhich, strictly speaking, we are not (200). The narrator follows this
83 84

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Marais, Bastards and Bodies, 23. Ibid., 26 (emphasis original). 85 Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 106.

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confession by not[ing] the avoidance of the word coloured (200), highlighting the strongly racial terms of Davids disclosure. That David will not/cannot say how the Griqua history and the installment of the ANC are connected (34) gestures not only to his manifest fear of misrepresenting the Movement but also to his inability to tell his story (and his version of history) in words untainted by the inherited language of colonial shaming. If a vocabulary of shame is one of the many unfortunate legacies of colonialism, then Davids story is an exercise in avoidance (33): an avoidance of the language of purity that sustains and lodges shame in print, in perpetuity (33). Davids angst about the shame of miscegenation thus transmutes into an anxiety over a different form of transmissionspreading shame through language. To speak shame is to again call it into being, and yet to bear shame in silence screens, rather than addresses, its divisive effects. That the word shame literally recurs throughout the text suggests that Wicomb is prepared to acknowledge its prevalencein identifying as coloured, in nationalist complicities, in bodily representationsand to grapple with its contagiousness and its concealment. Her ironic treatment of concupiscence, muddled origins, and her playful fascination with her female characters steatopygia (96) evokes the colonial vocabulary of shamed bodies and yet mocks the place of that vocabulary in her postcolonial text: the irregularity of birth in Davids genealogy, Wicombs narrator quips, brings us once more to the field of concupiscence, a subject that after all cannot be avoided in the writing of this story. For David and I were left to patch together a family history, and mores the pity that it would seem to support the colonial assumption that concupiscence and steatopygia are necessarily linked (96). Sarcastically demonstrating her narrators inability to escape a lexicon that defines coloured womens bodies as lascivious and defiled, Wicomb posits that such shameful portrayals can be combated by appropriating the colonial lexicon while disrupting it through irony. However, her character, the ever-stoic David, seems unprepared to fully confront or question his feelings of shame or to negotiate the new discursive spaces where that shame might be ethically addressed. A virus of secrecy (204) infects Davids capacity for telling: the narrator has come to recognize the symptoms: the desire to tell, the stalling, the attempt at withdrawal; thus [she] keep[s] prodding and provoking (189). Secrecy is part of the twofold condition of shame, and Davids lends a certain doubleness or dissimulation to Wicombs dually-crafted narrative. Secrecy is also that which operates between speech and silence: it is another level of speech [. . .] [where] words uttered on another wavelength [. . .] threaten[] to become audible (144). It is at this level of speech, an esoteric pitch that is emitted somewhere between the told and untold, that David attempts to represent (or rather avoid representing) Dulcie. At the start of their project, the narrator conveys that
Dulcie is surrounded by a mystique that [she] is determined to crush with facts [. . .] But David cannot or will not answer such questions [. . .] Her story is of no relevance to his own, he says weakly, but he has already betrayed the belief that some trace of hers is needed for his to make sense; he has already betrayed the desire to lose her story within his own. (78)

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As this passage suggests, the role of the narrator in Davids Story is not only that of amanuensis, editor, or surrogate author, but also interpreter/reader: by reading Davids feelings and reading into his reluctant disclosures, the narrator offers a layer of textual voice that uncovers and comments upon Davids shame-filled betrayals breaching the Movements code of secrecy and exposing his part (however uncertain it may be) in silencing, or at least re-covering, Dulcies story. The dual authorship of Davids story thus effects a kind of double movement throughout the text that is consistent with the secrecy, and simultaneous exposure of that secret, which are characteristic of feelings of shame. Dulcies figuration is the crux around which this textual double movement is performed. Fittingly, in an interview with Stephen Meyer and Thomas Olver, Wicomb maintains that the difficulties of ethically representing multiple stories (an evident concern for Dulcies authors) dictated the ostensibly postmodern, bi-vocal, and recursive structure of Davids Story: For me, she responds, it was simply a struggle, not only with the aesthetics of combining two stories, but also the ethics of representing the ambiguities of the situations. I dealt with the problem as best I could through a fragmented, indeterminate narrative.86 Wicombs choice of the word struggle to define the novels complex form is interesting, for it foregrounds not only the context of Davids storythe liberation movementbut it also gestures to the aesthetic battle taking place within the novel between David and his amanuensis over their conflictual representation(s) of Dulcie. David persistently attempts to deflect the narrators interest in Dulcie and insists that there is nothing irregular (80) between the two comrades: to indulge in such passion is to betray the cause (137), he explains, and furthermore, (as if this description were the last word on sexual interest), she is not pretty, you know, not feminine, not like a woman at all (80). Stumped by this woman she finds so difficult to imagine, a woman who apparently endorses militarization, who perhaps tak[es] pleasure in her double life (79, emphasis mine), the narrator chooses to put things together[,] [. . .] invent, and hope that Davids response will reveal something (80). Alternately figured by David and re-figured by the unremitting and unreliable narrator, Dulcies narrative body is indeed double: doubly imagined and re-produced as her so-called trurt (truth) (136) is doubly obscured. The power of the amanuensis in this reproduction must be taken seriously, for her perception that David has elected to silence Dulcie by omitting her from his story compels her to counter his narrative with one that would represent another version of Dulcie, a version with a (problematically recovered) textual voice. The tension between Davids apparent silence on the subject of Dulcie and the narrators attempts to give voice suggests that the ethics of representing the gendered body are not, to use Wicombs self-reflexive trope, so black and white. In evading Dulcies representation, David is also trying to circumvent, the text later reveals, the coupling of Dulcies story with his own. Davids comrades have already paired the two MKs based on their shared colouredness; a second conjugation in

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Wicomb on Davids Story, 185. Olver and Meyer, Zoe

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print, David fears, will link him to Dulcie in a shameful, illicit union and will contaminate his unquestionable honor. If secrecy is one part of shames twofold nature, the other condition of shame is exposure, an often violent publication of ones vulnerability. As I earlier suggest, feelings of shame may indeed engender a propensity for violence. In Davids Story, this relationship between inner shame and acting-out violence and its implications for Dulcies (dis)figuration87 may be best explored through Davids discovery of the hit list:
The hit list is a cultural variation on sticking pins into a doll or sending a tokolosa demonto undermine the intended victim. [. . .] The secrecy, the silence of [these other] operation[s], where all is required is for the intended to catch an uncertain glimpse, is replaced in the hit list by stark revelation, by making public, for there in black and white is your name in a column with the names of others. (113)

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The inviolable (116) hit list is, for David, rather than a harbinger of impending death, a public inscription of his shame and an undermining of his dignity: positioning Dulcies name beneath Davids own, the hit list blatantly coupl[es] them in an intimacy that surpasses the charged and awkward moments of their chance meetings [. . .] it is the schoolgirl writing of her name beneath his own that has driven them into this naked embrace, for which he blushes (114). Davids blush signals the somatic implications of this coupling and highlights the subtle movement from shame in print to shame on/of the body. Yoked together in text black and white, David and Dulcie are included on the hit list presumably on the basis of their exclusion from these two pure categories of race; it is at least in part their coloured bodies and assumed concupiscence that seems to lock the pair in this forbidden intertwinement. But Davids anxiety over such coupling is not only a question of race and the supposed shame of miscegenation but of en-gendering shame. Davids discovery of the hit list evokes a feeling of shame that effects an emasculating gender reversal. In an intertextual nod to Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness, Wicomb casts David as the intendeda girl in that twilight time of waiting to be claimed as a wife [. . .] a girl clutching at straws, at the fading light, waiting to be told of the truth (113). Recontextualizing Conrads intended, Wicomb puts Davids story in dialogue with the imperial project that engendered the shaming categories of race in order to suppress and control, often through feminizing, native populations.88 That David is now the intended, that he blushes at the thought of his beloved, highlights the gendering of that racial shame and shames persistent association with the feminine in the postcolonial, specifically postapartheid, moment. This is not to say that Wicomb is incognizant of repeating this feminization of shame in Davids reaction to the hit list; rather she exposes through Davids girlish shame that his personal narrative of recovery is
I borrow the term dis-figuration from Meg Samuelson, who argues that Davids attempts to figure Dulcie impose violence on her body, literally disfiguring her (Samuelson, The Disfigured Body, 836). 88 See Ann McClintocks Imperial Leather for more on the emasculation of native populations in colonial South Africa.

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constructed at the cost of inflicting a violent projection of shame onto womens stories and womens bodies. David also does not want Dulcies story mixed-up with his own because a story of women, he opines, is not a proper history at all (199)rather, we might imagine that David feels a story of women is too often a story of shame. Retreating into the solace of the militaristic discourse he has absorbed during his training for the Movement, David responds to the shaming hit list by violently and repeatedly scoring out Dulcies name in the trance of his freedom mantra (1167). This frenzied obliteration of Dulcie as text accompanied by an evocation of freedom can be read, as Meg Samuelson suggests, as an erasure of the female guerilla from the story of nation-building, and to the extent that the grand national narrative of the transition coheres around the heroic figure of the anti-apartheid militant, this equally threatens to delegitimise female [militancy and] citizenship.89 Citing an interview with MK commander, Thandi Modise, Samuelson maintains that this elision is bound to feelings of shame that emerge when masculinity is undermined by womens militancy: describing attitudes towards former female MKs after liberation, Modise explains,
Whether it is that they [men] cannot accept that you fought with them, whether it is guilt or whether it is denial that women should have been forced to do this, I dont know. But somehow you become something they do not want to face, something that must be pushed outside. [. . .] When it comes to men, its heroism. When it comes to women its almost like you should be ashamed.90

As Samuelson notes, Modises language reveals a crucial point about the projection of a somewhat ambiguously-founded masculine shame onto women:91 as the MKs response implies, it may be that pushing shame outside of oneself means forcing shame onto the othernot facing shame may lead to the others defacement. As a coloured, female militant, Dulcie reflects and refracts Davids raced and gendered shame, reproducing it[] in puzzling distortions.92 When David scores out Dulcies name on the hit list, he is on one level attempting to un-couple himself from the connotations of colouredness and emasculation that their pairing intimates and thus legitimize his heroic role as liberation soldier; at the same time, however, this obliteration of Dulcies name must be read not only as an effacement of her story from the nationalist script but as a defacement or (dis)figurationseemingly generating an absence, this violent striking out of the signifier likewise produces a representation of the signifed. Dulcies figuration is thus itself a recursion of shames double movement. Attempting to cover up and displace his feelings of shame, to absent them from his story, David succeeds instead in baring that shame as it is blazoned through the bodyyet here, it is Dulcies body that bears the pain of exposure. Obliterating Dulcie as text/word/language and reproducing her as
89 90

Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 138. Qtd. in Ibid., 1389. 91 Ibid., 138. 92 Wicomb, Shame and Identity, 92.

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a puzzling distortion of shame, David ironically draws her violated, wounded body into the narrative foreground. According to Sarah Ahmed, shame and pain share a capacity for intensifying somatic consciousnessjust as shame amplifies the body by blushing exposure, pain marks out our bodily surfaces by alerting us to when others have intruded upon or violated them. In her chapter on pain in The Cultural Politics of Emotion, Ahmed claims that the pain sensation not only makes us aware of our skin surfaces and bodily boundaries, but causes our bodies to materialize and take shape.93 Without feelings like pain, Ahmed seems to suggest, our bodies fade from consciousness:
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what is crucial is that although I have a sense of my body before each new encounter, my body seems to disappear from view; it is often forgotten as I concentrate on this or that. [. . .] And so, experiences of dysfunction (such as pain) become lived as a return to the body, or a rendering present to consciousness of what has become absent.94

If the body slips from view and thus from representation in the absence of pain, then recovering the body in narrative seems to demand a recovery and re-inscription of painor of the trace of pain, the wound. This sense of rendering present the body through painpain inflicted in order to move out of shameis troublingly apparent in both David and the amanuensiss narrative representations of Dulcie. Just as David is complicit in portraying Dulcie as a violated body when he attempts to score out her place in his story, so the narrator, in returning to Dulcies body, or returning her body to the story, does so at the cost of assigning her a perennial victim-status. The narrators agenda, her own aesthetic project, seems to be driven by a desire to uncover the silent stories of women that have been swallowed by grand narratives of nationalisman agenda that is associated with certain strands of feminism.95 When David refuses to provide necessary details about Dulcie from which to patch together a character (78), the narrator chooses to fictionalize stories of Dulcie based on her own interest in the unspoken treatment of female MKs, a story that David has denounced as irrelevant (78). Disturbingly, these concerns compel the narrator to enter Dulcies consciousness only by inventing repeated scenes of her torture. Whether or not this nightly torture is the truth of Dulcies experience remains uncertain throughout the text, for as Wicombs narrator points out, Dulcie has, after all, always hovered somewhere between fact and fiction (198); and yet it seems that these violent fictions in which Dulcie is made to play a part are but another recursion of the brutal projection of shame onto womens bodies in narratives of recovery and processes of witnessing. In one of these recurring passages, the narrator imagines that the hooded leader of Dulcies torturers dictates that he and his cohorts will not use rape to abuse the defiant MK: Not rape, that will teach her nothing, leave nothing; rapes too good for her kind, waving the electrodes as another took off her nightclothes (178).
93 94

Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 24. Ibid., 26 (emphasis original). 95 Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 132.

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But, as Samuelson points out, the removal of Dulcies clothing reveals the sexualized terms of her torture;96 this denuding further en-genders rape as the kind of torture enacted on women, reinforcing the TRCs implication that shaming acts of sexual abuse are experiences peculiar to women. Exploring representations of rape in South African literature, Samuelson defines sexual violence as a shaming act that muzzles its victimshence the value granted to breaking the silence.97 For the narrator, Dulcies voice grows out of the silence that this en-gendered torture forces her to adopt: she figures this silence as a form of resistance, something that will allow Dulcie to refrain from speaking and hence from tarnish[ing] words like freedom and justice, something that will allow her to cling with idealism [. . .] to that which they wish to break down (179, 180). While I have thus far followed Meg Samuelsons work on the problematic implications of speaking rape98 in Davids Story, I find that, despite her own critique of the amanuensiss portrayal of Dulcie, Samuelson seems convinced by the narrators assumption that Dulcies silence is elected, a matter of agency99: Dulcies dilemma is that prevailing discourses of rape threaten to domesticate her should she speak within them.100 If Dulcies silence is indeed her way of maintaining honor at all costs, then the narrators inventions that produce her consciousness and her body are an intrusion indeed, for unveiled in the narration itself is the secret of her pain and of her supposed friendship with David (180). A discourse of rape, which I have argued is publicly produced in terms of shame, is not thwarted by Dulcies failure to speak out against her torturers: instead, this language of shame and the fetishization of the wounded body are chronically rooted in the narrators voracious representation. Listing the vocabulary of torture, gendered through its association with recipe books, the narrator fixates on the butchering of female flesh: tenderdize, baste, sear, seal, sizzle, score, chop (178). These sinewy verbs, almost carnal in their connotations, betray the narrators appetite for bodily representationor rendering present the bodythrough violence. This recitation supposedly transports [Dulcie] into yet another space (178), where she, the subject, observes her pain from a distance (178); severing Dulcies consciousness from her body and positioning her as witness to her own bodily violation, the narrator effectively produces her body as wound in order to ensure that her subjectivity will endure forever (178). But this endurance has
96 97

Samuelson, Disfigured, 846. Samuelson, Remembering the Nation, 120. 98 Ibid., 121. 99 This is an assumption that appears in several readings of Davids Story, including Gillian Ganes, who shares with Samuelson the argument that Dulcies silence becomes a source of discourse (Gane, Unspeakable Injuries, 102). However, as Derek Attridge writes of Davids Story, the reality of Dulcies experience is conveyed with extraordinary intensity, and yet it is one of the most doubtful realities of the book. It tests, more strongly than anything else, the limits of narrative as a conveyor of truth (Attridge, Home Truths, 162). Vital to Wicombs project is to expose how shame is produced through representations of the female body: if the narrator wishes to make Dulcie speak through silence, and therefore invest her with agency, she is also doing her an injustice by positioning the reader as witness to Dulcies story and exposing the betrayals someone like Dulcie may have desired to conceal in order to maintain her honor. 100 Samuelson, Disfigured, 851.

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a priceit demands the reification of the wound as a sign of identity and presupposes womens collusion with discourses of shame that produce them as mute, wounded bodies. Tearing into Dulcies silence, the narrator doubles the torturous exposure David executes when he brutally scotches Dulcies name. By serving as a witness to this perpetual violation, the narrator also removes herself from Dulcies pain. Discursively affirming her own disidentification with women like Dulcie who get their hands dirty for the nation and who bear the nations shame through their wounded bodies, the narrator demonstrates her complicity in a further shameful projection: Dulcie as abused guerilla allows the narrator to affirm her own self-righteous probing into the stories of violated women. The narrators attempts to throw off Dulcies muzzle of silence and to re-present her absent body reveal too that the shame that has saturated black and coloured womens bodies throughout colonial and apartheid history cannot be so easily dismissed through the liberal vocabularies that inform contemporary academic feminism.101 The freedom the narrator would like to afford Dulcie by giving her a voice yet announce[s] itself as a variant of the oldanother form of violence. If the amanuensiss and Davids (dis)figurations of Dulcie are thus recursions of each other, or recursions of producing the body in shame, then textual shame, shame in print, seems characterized by a kind of perpetual madness, madness, madness (184)a ceaselessly recurring cycle of violent disclosure and concealment, a deadlock of representation. In simpler terms, Davids Story theorizes that, by performing the work of shame, this text deletes itself (212). Mysteriously appearing on the amanuensiss computer after Davids funeral, this queer message (212) captures the circular movement shame makes, at once declaring and disguising its hold on the subject. Anonymously authored, this puzzling warning, a seeming aside to the end of Davids Story, gestures to the authorial ambiguity of the text itself: unraveling each others historiographical and fictional projects, David and the narrator seem to un-write the text they produce in competing attempts to efface shame from their narratives. The final image of Dulcie sunbathing in the narrators garden lends descriptive credence to this textual circularity. Dulcies body is presented to us unclothed for the first time, without the protection offered by her military garb. She has trespassed into the narrators garden so that she may sunbathe in private (212), but the presence of the voyeuristic narrator suggests that Dulcies exposure is made public to prying eyes that vulgarize her wounds. Crawling with goggas that explor[e] her orifices (212), Dulcies body is at once bared, her physical boundaries penetrated by probing insects, and yet the narrator notes that Dulcie seems grateful for the cover of
My analysis of the narrators figuration of Dulcie and her role as witness to her torture may recall Chandra Mohantys admonishment in Under Western Eyes (1991), where she warns that Western feminist writing discursively colonize[s] the material and historical heterogeneities of the lives of women in the third world, thereby producing/re-presenting a composite, singular third world woman (53). Although the amanuensis is not Western in location, her politics of representation are informed by a kind of liberal, Western feminism that may attempt to uncover the silent voices of third world women, but in doing so, may produce these women as part of one homogenous entity or image with a common experience of sexual violence.

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the creatures (212), as they re-cover her bared body, relieving her of the scorching exposure (212). The flows of shame that surround Dulcies open-ed body, pulling her into a cycle of boundless (re)covery, suggest that narratives of shame may call for a re-visioning of our own assumptions about affective boundaries: the sense of endless revisionism that characterizes Davids Story, implicit in the statement this text deletes itself, is not merely a reflection of Wicombs post-structuralist proclivities but rather reveals that shame is not subject to narrative closure. Refusing to let go of its subject, mediating language and ever ready to resurge, shame is a highly moving affect that violently rearranges bodies and defies nationalist imaginations of historical containment.
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Its not that the effects of shame can be harnessed by stories; its that shame demands that we tell other stories.102

As my reading of Davids Story suggests, shame is a truly elusive affect. Just as it holds bodies apart, or rather, reflects our desire to hold off other-ed bodies, shame also holds us together, cathecting in our relationality, our interest in stranger intimacies. While often refusing to release its subject, shame is also characterized by its near-viral transferability. Meditating on shames aggressive breach of bodily integrity, we cannot but think of the shame and stigmatization attached to representations of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, as well as internationally. Cultural critics have dwelled at length upon former South African President Thabo Mbekis by now notorious and lamentable response to the epidemic and its fatal effects in his own country;103 I therefore will not linger on the impediments to AIDS policy-making that Mbekis apparent denialism has engendered. But the former presidents repeated effort to displace the diseases very real and local ramifications by insisting that HIV/AIDS, a virus communicable largely through sexual exchanges, has been figured as a black disease104 due to colonial and apartheid imaginings of native African prurience suggests that his avoidance of the AIDS crisis may be related to feelings of shame and pride. Acknowledging the validity of Mbekis argumentthat racist vocabularies continue to find expression in scientific discoursesNeville Hoad yet finds fault with his critique in that it do[es] not go far enough,105 does not fully interrupt these discourses: citing an address to the University of Fort Hare in 2001, Hoad posits that, when the president refutes the supposedly widespread view, inherited from colonial history and its sexualized construction of black bodies, that African people
102 103

Probyn, Blush, 72. What has been termed Mbekis AIDS denialism has resulted in a delay in government investment in antiretroviral drugs and seems to have contributed to the silence surrounding AIDS that prevents infected people from seeking treatment. See Robins, Long Live Zackie, Long Live, and Niehaus, Death before Dying. 104 Robins, Long Live Zackie, 653. 105 Hoad, African Intimacies, 112.

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are but natural-born, promiscuous carriers of germs [. . .] [with an] unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust,106 he unwittingly upholds a sexual dialectic of racism107 based on the colonial polarization of white continence and black concupiscence. In order to counter the stereotype of black lasciviousness, which he may find reflected in Western pressures to curb the rampant spread of AIDS, Mbeki draws upon the same colonial lexicon that made whiteness tantamount to honor and respectability. This impasse, what Hoad has called an immobilizing paradox, is one that I have argued attends feelings and narrative renderings of shame and its alter-ego, pride. By tying the constructions of Africans as germ carriers to the sin of lust, that which has been marked shameful by moralizing colonial powers, Mbeki reinforces the stigmatization of AIDS and figures sexually excessive bodies as a threat to national and, more extensively, Pan-African, pride. Like AIDS, shame has no borders: though both disease and affect are experienced on and within the delimited body, neither can be absolutely fenced in, or, for that matter, fenced out. I have earlier explored shames capacity for movement between others, within archives, through spaces; although in South Africa, a nation with a history of spatial division and of patrolling racial bodies, mobility may be a hard-won, transgressive freedom that defeat[s] apartheids spatial design,108 the indiscriminating movement of shame and of AIDS may force us to rethink prevailing theories on the potential subversiveness of border-crossings.109 What happens to the utopian ideal of open bordersfluid national borders or bodily boundariesin the midst of a pandemic like the AIDS crisis? And how is this openness or inclusiveness threatened by double-edged shame/pride? In the same Fort Hare speech, Mbeki questions whether the intellectual community he is addressing must perforce adopt strange opinions, to save a depraved and diseased people from perishing from a self-inflicted disease.110 Although his reference to self-inflicted illness aims merely to ventriloquize a racist sentiment, within the context of the speech, the condemnation of depraved and diseased people, victims who must be blamed for their own promiscuity, seems to issue from Mbeki himself. Hoad also takes us this far: but the effect of demarcating these depraved and diseased people is the creation of a group that is separate, different, and of a lower order111 than
106 ANC, Address by President Thabo Mbeki at the Inaugural ZK Matthews Memorial Lecture, http:// (accessed 21 July 2008). 107 Hoad, African Intimacies, 112. 108 Mbembe and Nuttall, Johannesburg, 371. 109 The potential transgressiveness and limitations of border-crossings are a trope of fairly recent transnational feminist criticism. These involve creative re-writings of identity that allow for cross-cultural solidarities and shifting social identities. See Narayan and Harding, Decentering the Center. I use the term here somewhat differently, for border-crossings in a South African context may refer to the potential for mobility across apartheid spaces of division and imposed identificatory classifications. 110 These references to the Address by President Thabo Mbeki at the Inaugural ZK Matthews Memorial Lecture ( are cited by Hoad in African Intimacies and I am indebted to his work for directing me to this source. 111 ANC, Address by President Thabo Mbeki at the Inaugural ZK Matthews Memorial Lecture, http:// (accessed 21 July 2008).

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the we of the address: we scholars, we South Africans, we Africans, who are also subject to the racism of the they to which Mbekis speech is opposed, claim belonging to the intellectual community (by joining the great legacy of those who passed through these corridors before) and to the national/continental community (in reclaiming our identity, our dignity and our pride as Africans) by producing a community of shamed, morbid others.112 Those who hold fast to their opinions about AIDS contagion and those other-ed, diseased bodies are excluded from these fellowships by virtue of their strangeness. If, as president, Mbeki stood for and provided criteria for the exemplary South African citizen, then his AIDS denialism may have deprived persons living with this disease of symbolic, if not legal, citizenship. While Mbeki professed kinship with Africans throughout the continent and in diaspora, the borders of his we are anomalously imporous. His projection of shame onto those who carry foreign bodiesHI virusesruns contrary to his avowed commitment to ubuntu, a humanistic ethic that informed the interim South African Constitution and promotes dignity by recognizing that the individual is part of a greater human community and that his/her humanity is defined through relationships with others.113 In Archbishop Tutus words, A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others [. . .] he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.114 By way of conclusion, I will offer a brief reading of Phaswane Mpes Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001) that explores how an acknowledgement of shame may create conditions for the fulfillment of human dignity that is central to this principle of ubuntu. Mpes first and only novel, published just three years before his untimely death from an HIV-related illness, maps the urban landscape of Hillbrow, an area of Johannesburg that has become a vibrant center of migrant traffic and cultural mixing as well as a decaying cityscape wracked by violence, prostitution, xenophobia, and AIDS.115 Mpe juxtaposes this metropolitan space with that of Tiragalong, a rural village outside Johannesburg characterized by its superstitious, moralistic inhabitants. Ever conscious of the politics of place, Mpe issues a welcome to the reader to figuratively enter these very different spaces and to become a witness to the shaming, pathologizing lines of thought that continue to create physical and social boundaries between others in the new South Africa. In Welcome to Our Hillbrow, shame circulates around the issues of AIDS and xenophobia, two national crises of epidemic proportions in South Africa. The Tiragalong villagers distrust of the Hillbrowans and of the Makwerewere, a somewhat derogatory term for non-South African blacks, stems from their popular understanding that AIDS was caused by foreign germs that traveled down from the
112 113

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Ibid. (emphasis mine). Gaylard, Welcome to the World of Our Humanity, 272. 114 Wikipedia, Ubuntu, (accessed 27 July 2008). 115 Green, Translating the Nation, 5.

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central and western parts of Africa [. . .] AIDSs travel route into Johannesburg was through Makwerewere; and Hillbrow was the sanctuary in which Makwerekwere basked.116 Again, associations with infiltration and sexual promiscuity mark the discourses of othering apparent in the assumption that the Makwerekwere are carriers of foreign germs. Mpe is certainly interested in exploring the hypocrisy of such claims, as evidenced when his narrator vehemently denounces Tiragalongs own diseased encounters that left genitals so swollen and decaying that one could hardly recognize them for what they were (55). But what is most interesting in his novel is the way Mpes second-person mode of address produces spatial and social communities, reflecting the relational and exclusionary work of shame. Mpes use of the second-person is one of the defining critical moves in his text; while this perspectival choice has remained a dominant feature of literary analyses on the work,117 critics have yet to recognize that this form of address is crucial to creating a textual structure that reflects the novels thematic concern with personal, national, and transnational shame. Welcome to our Hillbrow: the title of the novel, an invitation that itself draws attention to Mpes ambiguity of address, frequently appears throughout the work as a refrain. This potentially all-inclusive welcome is mediated by the our of our Hillbrow, which may or may not position the reader as one who can claim Hillbrow as a space of belonging. But just as the reader begins to accept that welcome, a place in the expansive you, that sense of belonging is frustrated by e, you the specificity of the narratives initial address: If you were still alive, Refents would be glad that Bafana Bafana lost to France in the 1998 Soccer World Cup fiasco (1). As transnational readers, this opening line is particularly distancing, for the reference to France makes us think about our own foreignness to the nation that is not named, South Africa. The narrator then delves into the personal memory e, recalling for him the 1995 World Cup against of the ostensible protagonist, Refents Ivory Coast, when the Bafana Bafana win spawned a nationalist celebration with violent consequences.118 We readers are now on the outside, it seems, as we are e as witnesses to the accidental murder of a seven-year-old compelled to join Refents child in the midst of the jubilee (2). The first repetition of Welcome to our Hillbrow! follows this scene, but it is directed to a young woman rather than to e (2): we thus join the character as newcomers to Hillbrow, the reader or to Refents as others who have inadvertently become witnesses to a communitys shameful display of national pride. Witnessing the subject in shame, as I have argued, often allows the witness to distance him/herself from the experience of shame, affirming his/her own good feelings. While we readers may enter the narrative as mere bystanders to shameful activity, the ever-expanding mode of address begins to
Mpe, Welcome to Our Hillbrow, 4. Subsequent references to this text in this section will appear in parentheses in the body of the article. 117 See Clarkson, Locating Identity, and Green, Translating the Nation, 2005. 118 Michael Green points out that sporting events in South Africa have become integral to defining national identity in contemporary South Africa (Green, Translating the Nation, 7).

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include us in a wider, human community of beings that feel shame. The inclusiveness of Mpes narrative fabric demonstrates that shame is a human condition, and that it flows between others as much as it pervasively structures our discourses of othering. Thinking about shame too can be a call to empathyto transforming relationships between apparent others with increasing universality. Elspeth Probyn argues that all humans are born with the capacity for shame;119 this is not to say that we all experience shame in the same way or that some will not be more vulnerable to shame. [. . .] But surely that does not annul our capacity for feeling it.120 Although, as Rob Gaylard has noted, humanism has become a much derided word in contemporary criticism, the human remains a concept or category which we have to work with.121 I therefore join him in suggesting that Mpes novel can be read as a (somewhat despairing) plea for the acknowledgement of a shared humanity122 based on our common vulnerability to the shame affect and to infection. The bodies of AIDS victims in Welcome to Our Hillbrow force us to contemplate this vulnerability and the idea that the integrity of our bodily borders cannot be guaranteed. Indeed, when it comes to shame and to disease, es former lover who there are no check-points like those Refilwe, Refents travels to study in Oxford, must pass through at Heathrow airport. The fluidity of affect transfer and contagiousness is mirrored in the narrative flows that conclude each chapter. Appearing after Refilwe discovers she has AIDS during her time in Oxford, the following passage traces the flow of affect and of memory around her illness:
And as Refilwe comes to this part of her journey to AIDS and Tiragalong condemning her and the Bone of her Heart and Refilwe herself reaping the bitter fruits of xenophobic prejudice that she had helped to sow Hillbrow and Tiragalong flowing into each other in her consciousness with her new understanding of life love and prejudice gained in our Oxford and Heathrow Oxford London and Lagos demystified Tiragalong sweating its way through the scary invasion of AIDS apparently aggressively sown by migrants and all witchcraft becoming less colourful and glamourous in the face of this killer disease the impact of which could be seen with the naked human eye [. . .] Welcome to the World of our Humanity. (113)

Here the lack of punctuation and sprawling connections imply that there is no exclusion or prevention for the flow of affect between places, people, and experiences. The somewhat positivist extended global welcome reminds that human experience involves vulnerability to prejudice, to disease, to the shame of facing judgment, to the fear of communal exclusion. Mpe describes AIDS as the disease [that] lent itself to lies (121), allowing members of rural communities shamed by the infections connotations of promiscuity to cover over AIDS deaths with stories of witchcraft and minor illness. While in an interview with Lizzy Attree, Mpe insinuates that he believe[s] in the veil of secrecy. One has to be careful what one talks about and what
119 120

Probyn, Blush, xiii. Ibid., xiv. 121 Gaylard, Welcome to the world of our humanity, 279. 122 Ibid., 278.

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one reveals,123 he is also conscious that the skeletal figure of the AIDS-ridden Refilwe itself proclaims her disease, while linguistic chisels (122), gossips from her village, begin to revise and to spread the story of her shame. Shame is traitorous, transmissible, contagious: but the fact that it spreads between shamed beings says something about our common humanity. Through the universalizing second-person address and his ever-broadening references to shamed bodies as they move through distant places, Mpe theorizes shame as a global condition that has a common power to affect us, to change our state, to change our feelings about our State. As a transnational reader, I am aware that I may be out-of-place when writing about shame in South Africa: as Probyn finds, this kind of shame is the feeling the body registers in social and cultural contexts where it doesnt belong.124 By probing into these representations of shame, I too am complicit in exposing them, and of perhaps not being authorized to do so. But it is important now to understand how shame affects our bodies and how shamed bodies are implicated in social and national formations if we are to move beyond the persistent prejudices of the past. Indeed, if the call to nation-building in South Africa is one that will resist the transience of the rainbow, then it must not demand an eradication of shame but acknowledge its persistence in the postapartheid moment. Burdened with telling the story of the nation, South African literature after apartheid has been locked into a blocked dialectic of shame and pride. Wicomb and Mpe have urged us to speculate what a fictional project might look like that is able to circumvent vocabularies of shame and to find semblances of belonging in a communal place without subscribing to exclusionary nationalist pride. Were we to acknowledge shame in the everyday, without stigmatizing the feeling itself, we might be able to ameliorate many of the prejudices that inform discourses of othering throughout the globe. Thinking about shame as truly corporal,125 as truly human and as indicating our interest in communing with one another, may allow writers to tell new, transformative stories in which language is no longer delimited by words of shame.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Many warm thanks to Rita Barnard and David Attwell for their guidance and suggestions throughout this project.

Adhikari, Mohamed. Hope, Fear, Shame, Frustration: Continuity and Change in the Expression of Coloured Identity in White Supremacist South Africa, 19101994. Journal of Southern African Studies 32, no. 3 (2006): 46787.
123 124

Attree, Interview: Healing with Words, 148. Probyn, Blush, xvi. 125 Ibid., 27.

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