Re-articulating History: Historical Play, Nation, Text .
van Bever Donker, Maurits Michiel
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The writing of history in postapartheid South Africa constitutes a crisis for the discipline of history as, I argue, it requires the discipline to confront its role in contributing towards the constitution of the condition of possibility of the discourse of apartheid. Stated differently, the relationship between the discipline of history and nationalist or identity politics, a relationship that is characterized by history performing the role of alibi, is highlighted as problematic within the question of the postapartheid. It is in this context that I want to broach the concept of the historical playas an antidisciplinary object that works to unsettle the discipline of history and thereby its role as alibi. Such an engagement with the historical play would, I argue, enable a progressive politics of the sort that Michel Foucault calls for. In his essay 'History, Discourse and Discontinuity' (1972) which he wrote in response to a question posed to him of the possibility of resistance within the corpus of his work, Foucault argues that a progressive politics would be one that takes into account a discourse's conditions of possibility - one that limits the claims of discourses on life through defining their grammars, as it were." While this current study does not seek to, and also does not claim to, subject the discourse of history to such a critique (I am not proposing to investigate the emergence of the discipline), Foucault's understanding of a progressive politics is especially significant to it. Particularly, rather than reading for the grammar of history - this has been done by others such as (but not limited to) Gayatri Spivak, Hayden White and Friederich Nietzsche and will be discussed later - this dissertation starts from the position that the discipline of history played (and plays) a fundamental role in establishing the conditions of possibility of the discourse of apartheid." This is not to argue that apartheid can be reduced to an outworking of nationalist history (apartheid as a discursive field).