Women's narratives of intergenerational trauma and post-apartheid identity : the 'said' and 'unsaid'.
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This research has focused on the concept of intergenerational trauma, elaborating on the post-Apartheid condition. Drawing on trauma theory, such as that provided by clinical and psychoanalytic approaches on the one hand, and on narrative and identity theory on the other, the project examines the long-term implications of Apartheid, particularly for the identities of post-Apartheid generations. The families who participated in this study all experienced a particular traumatic event, personally experiencing the political violence of Apartheid. However, the study focused on how this event has been integrated into and represented in family histories, how what is ‘said’ and what remains ‘unsaid’ within families functions and constitutes their identities in their ongoing lived experiences. Women’s narratives, often considered secondary to the grand narratives of struggle and conflict, are drawn out to show the ways, as primary caregivers, they form the pivot for the (intergenerational) transmission of secondary traumatisation or for negotiating new versions of family history that make it possible for both them and their children to create meaningful lives in the shadow of their tragedies. Utilising a narrative method which explores the interactional dynamics, structure and content of participants’ stories, the narratives of these women and their children are analysed first for the ways in which what was said (and even what remained ‘unsaid’) was complicated by the ‘interactional dynamics’ of research and, in particular, research across a language divide. The second layer of analysis attends to the narrative structure or form in which the stories are told. The final phase of analysis focuses on the thematic content of the narratives. In telling classic ‘trauma’ stories, of the political deaths of family members and partners under Apartheid, these women spoke of events which marked ‘turning points’ in their lives and which continue to leave their mark in their embodied experience. They also told of navigating a context of continued and pervasive violence, speaking of the violences of today, particularly domestic and sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, and they link these to their own embodied experiences after the political trauma event. Through intergenerational talk on relationships and sexuality, mothers attempt to navigate and negotiate new versions of family history for their children, as they try to create lives for their children that are dissimilar to their own, particularly with regard to violence.