A younger generation of South Africans are developing important and innovative ways of understanding South Africa’s past, challenging narratives that have, over the last decades, been informed by notions of forgiveness and reconciliation. Carli Coetzee uses the image of history-rich blood to explore these approaches to intergenerational memory. In this book, she revisits older archives and analyses contemporary South African cultural and literary forms.
The emphasis on blood challenges the privileged status skin has had as an explanatory category in thinking about identity. Instead, Coetzee emphasises intergenerational transfer and continuity. She argues that a younger generation is contesting the terms through which to understand contemporary South Africa and interpreting the legacies of the past that remain under the visible layer of skin.
The chapters each concern blood: Mandela’s prison cell as laboratory for producing bloodless freedom, the kinship relations created and resisted in accounts of Eugene de Kock in prison, Ruth First’s concern with information leaks in her accounts of her time in prison, the first human-to-human heart transplant and its relation to racialised attempts to salvage white identity, the #Fallist moment, the Abantu Book Festival, and activist scholarship and creative art works that use blood as a trope for thinking about change and continuity.