Living in Fear: The Affective Economies of Post-Apartheid Rape Narratives

  • Author / Creator
    Frost, Helen Dorothy
  • Since the election of a democratic government in 1994, South African print culture has been marked by a proliferation of rape narratives as sexual violence increasingly came to be understood as a social crisis. Although the majority of rapes in South Africa are intraracial and intra-communal, with few exceptions, critics have tended to focus on the representation of interracial rape narratives as they relate to the pernicious racism of apartheid and its aftermath. I argue instead that rape, particularly intraracial rape, is a powerful site for the sedimentation of affect in post-apartheid South African literature, print media, and other forms of public culture. In my research, I found that emergent concerns over criminality, poverty, and HIV are amplified though narratives of intraracial rape, often with the effect of displacing a robust public debate over the conditions that support rape, particularly of black women. In its analysis of the public feelings that coalesce around rape narratives, my project focuses on the affective valences of language. Drawing on the work of theorists such as Ben Anderson, Sarah Ahmed, and Denise Riley, I insist that language—through its historical weight and its public circulation—mediates and transfers affect, and in so doing, I reject the implication that we can do away with critical theories of subject formation in our understanding of how emotion, feeling, and affect circulate. In keeping with this approach, each chapter functions as a case study in which I consider fictional and non fictional rape narratives and diagnose their associated public feelings—including anxiety, shame, despair, and, perhaps surprisingly, intimacy and provisional hope—as they intersect with public debates over the conditions of the new democracy.

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  • Graduation date
    Spring 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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