'This is our speech': Voice, body and poetic form in recent South African writing

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10 Scopus citations


In recent years, different South African literary genres have revealed writers' innovative efforts to name subjectivities and experiences that have been erased by legacies of colonial and sexual violence. By analysing the poem 'Tongues of Their Mothers', the novel Unconfessed and the play Reclaiming the P...Word, this essay traces a shift away from realistic representations of the physical and symbolic violence to which Black women's bodies have been and continue to be subjected. Arguing that an emphasis on violence can unwittingly re-inscribe invasive acts and representations, this article shows how poetic strategies and registers can be used to write Black women's bodies into alternative modes of visibility. Through a complex interplay of silence and reclamation, the texts unflinchingly confront the legacies, meanings and forms of sexual violence in South Africa, while also conveying new understandings of their histories and the languages that support them. Poetic language provides a powerful means of naming ubiquitous, naturalised and erased violence, and is also shown to offer regenerative ways of configuring the resilience, authority and pleasures of those usually seen only as the bodies onto and through which dominant subjects' desires are violently inscribed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-227
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Dynamics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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