IN CONVERSATION: Author Rita Kesselring speaks at the launch of her book ‘Bodies of Truth’ at Clarke’s Bookshop. Her book deals with the aftermath on victims who participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Picture: PHANDO JIKELO
A new book by Swiss anthropologist Rita Kesselring seeks to open dialogue on how victims of apartheid-era atrocities deal with the long-term effects, years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Kesselring spent two and a half years researching material for Bodies of Truth: Law, Memory, and Emancipa- tion in Post-Apartheid South Africa. It launched last night at Clarke’s Bookshop in Long Street with a discussion by Kesselring and chairperson in African studies at UCT Lungi- sile Ntsebeza, on what new discourse the book would bring in the greater context of South Africa.

“This to my knowledge is the first to speak to the aftermath of the TRC, especially on the victims. It also speaks to the process of the commission, and so too the post-apartheid democratic government and its failure to deliver on promises.”

The guests began a lively discussion on the ideologies, the legal frameworks and how this deals with the emancipation of the victims.

Kesselring said she dealt with not just what the process defined as “victim” but how these participants defined themselves in the process and sought to uplift themselves.

“This was one of the driving questions: where are they now, are they still struggling and are they better off?”

She said monetary emancipation would perhaps uplift victims but there were other ways to uplift themselves within their communities.

“The bulk of the book looks at how these people deal with their daily lives, mainly elderly women, and how they cope. How does their shared experience, their attempts to help change their social circumstances and move out of victimhood.”

Kesselring said she hoped her book would help start the necessary dialogue and lead to those in power assisting them.