Demitrios Tsafendas: race, madness and the archive
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This thesis is concerned with the archival production on the life of Demitrios Tsafendas, the man who assassinated Hendrik Verwoerd on the 6 September 1966. Through an examination of three different archival registers: the colonial, apartheid and post-apartheid, the thesis tracks the parallel construction of race and madness in these archives. This thesis is primarily concerned with the apartheid period in its phase of ‘grand’ social engineering. The historiography of this period has traditionally focused on the material manifestations of apartheid social policies. As a result we know a lot about how apartheid impacted on people’s lives in the social, political and economic domains. The study attempts to demonstrate how Tsafendas’ life places on the historical agenda the need to examine how apartheid as a form of racial rationalism shifted the interior psychic geographies of people. Tsafendas’ life unsettles the traditional questions posed by South African historiography. These questions have been concerned with how people’s destinies were shaped by class, race or gender. Through an examination of the life of Tsafendas, I hope to ask very different questions than those posed by traditional historiography. This thesis asks: what can ‘madness’ tell us about apartheid? It makes a case for an examination of creative works on Tsafendas and how these works illuminate the relationship between identity, history and the psyche.