Oisín Keohane, University of Dundee, 'Pardon my ‘Anglossolalia’: Derrida on Forgiveness and the South African TRC'
My paper examines Derrida’s comments on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as found in his perjury and pardon seminars by examining issues pertaining to translation, witnessing and what I call ‘Anglossolalia’. In particular, it focuses on Derrida’s claim that the Christian Anglo-Anglican language used in the TRC conflated forgiveness with reconciliation. Derrida’s analysis is evaluated primarily by examining the testimony of one witness (Notrose Nobomvu Konile), and one Xhosa word (uxolo) which was interpreted in the TRC as ‘forgiveness’ on 23 April 1996. This translation of uxolo is shown to be problematic through analysing Antije Krog’s There was this Goat, which supplies the original Xhosa testimony of Konile for the first time, but which also elides the problems of translating this homonymic word by choosing to translate it as ‘forgiveness’, without noting its other meaning, ‘peace’. The paper also situates Krog’s work in relation to Derrida, since though he cites her Country of my Skull in his seminars, her work since his death has been criticising his interpretation of the TRC as a process governed by Christianisation. Rather than understanding the TRC as either an event in an unfolding “globalatinisation” (as Derrida suggests) or as an event where “interconnectedness-towards-wholeness” is prompting the forgiveness in its black participants rather than a “Christian-redemptive ethos” (as Krog suggests), I outline how far more work needs to be done on analysing the original language testimonies to determine their relationship to Christian models of forgiveness.
|Dr Suzanne Whitten