The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a modern social drama that enabled the nation's apartheid past to be constructed as a cultural trauma, and by doing so created a new collective narrative of diversity and inclusion. The TRC relied primarily on testimonies from victims and perpetrators of apartheid violence who came forward to tell their stories in a public forum. Rather than simply serving as data for setting the historical record straight, this book shows that it was not only the content of these testimonies but also how these stories were told and what values were attached to them that became significant. Goodman argues that the performative nature of the TRC process effectively designated the past as profane and simultaneously imagined a sacred future community based on democratic idealism and universal solidarity.
Tanya Goodman brings to this study of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission an impressive set of analytic skills as well as a deep sensitivity to the cultural climate of South Africa. The hearings of the Commission were political theater, ritual performance, judicial procedure, moral pageant, and public ceremony all at once. They played a vital role in the beginnings of what may well become a true national community, and Goodman has caught their character and their spirit wonderfully.
-Kai Erikson, Yale University