Memory, monuments and the South African national imaginary : Constitution Hill and the fiction of Ivan Vladislavic.
This dissertation is an examination of public culture and memory sites in post-apartheid South Africa, in relation to their narrativisation in the fiction of the South African writer Ivan Vladislavić, who evinces a creolized, ludic style. The carnivalesque elements at play in his writing and his use of “minoritised” English constitute a radical aesthetic. With reference to poststructuralist theories of language, representation and history, I examine short stories and a novel by Vladislavić. I then turn a grammar developed from this aesthetic to an examination of one of post-apartheid South Africa’s most symbolically rich memory sites: Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. Official spaces in this country and in this era have tended to be built and curated in the interests of establishing a national imaginary based on a teleological understanding of apartheid history. This can be problematic, as I show in a brief discussion of the Apartheid Museum, a site that offers an instructive comparison with Constitution Hill. I argue that Vladislavić’s radical aesthetic provides a way to interrogate the more totalizing discourses of nationhood and citizenship of the post-Rainbow Nation. Vladislavić’s refusal to allow an authentic history and his radical aesthetics of representation constitute an iconoclasm that can be brought to bear on the more totalizing aspects of Constitution Hill’s design.