Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

John Ernest


Beyond Protest: Ethics of Reconciliation in Post-Apartheid South African White Writing examines the politics and poetics of reconciliation in South Africa by comparing the defining (or, at least the initiating) document the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report (TRC) with the ways in which concepts of "racial harmony" are presented in the post-apartheid novels of white authors like J.M.Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Antje Krog, and Andre Brink. South Africa's complex racial history dating back to the colonial times, the consequent internalization of imposed racial identities within resistance movements, and the institutionalization of racist practices through state policies mean that its effort to move beyond racism suffers from a perpetual lag-effect. The intertwining of race and colonialism also means that eradication of racism must account for colonial history. Racial reconciliation, under the circumstances, is an open-ended, dynamic, spatially and temporally sensitive process. By defining reconciliation as a dynamic process I identify a discrepancy between the celebration of the end of apartheid as end of racism in South Africa and the sedimentation of past racist practices in the present social and political structures. My dissertation uses postcolonial and race theory, primarily Goldberg's Foucauldian concept of race and Spivakean ethics, to explore how moving beyond apartheid and the nation's complex racist colonial past places signal demands on representation politics. Central to my argument is my claim that imaginative literature needs to be recognized as vital to reconciliation and to the reconceptualization of historical process required if reconciliation is to be a successful, ongoing project.;I explore reconciliation as policy and practice---a policy and practice that literature, particularly white literature, critiques and supports. For the white authors, beneficiaries of the persisting white supremacy, reconciliation involves, among other things, aesthetic strategies used to map the limits of empathy for the non-white other. Chapter 1 charts the central claims, the theoretical framework, and the historical context of my project. In Chapter 2 I examine the TRC's Final Report through the lens of the theoretical and historical framework of the first chapter to explore ethics as a temporal, rhetorical, and textual construct, and the TRC as the primary site of that construction. In Chapter 3 I argue that J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace presents reconciliation as an irony where acknowledging the impossibility of understanding the other, especially in relations marked by historical power imbalance and violence, opens the possibility of ethical relations. Chapter 4 argues that Andre Brink's post-apartheid novels use magic realism to challenge the possibility of recovering an authentic past as the basis of justice. My final chapter compares Nadine Gordimer's None to Accompany Me with Antje Krog's Country of My Skull to discuss the role of women in patriarchal conceptions of reconciliation. A brief epilogue explores the more universal currency of my conception of racial reconciliation.