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From /Han=kass'o to Hani: representing the past in the post-colony

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
Abby Loebenberg
University of Cape Town | South Africa
Influenced by the ending of apartheid and the effects of globalization, what new and hybrid forms of culture and identity have emerged in the new South Africa? How new is the “new” South Africa?

This dissertation responds to the emerging discourse of post-colonial thought, embracing the field of public culture defined by the journal Public Culture as “the places and occasions where cultural, social and political differences emerge as public phenomena, manifested in everything from highly particularistic and localized events in popular or folk culture to global advertising, consumption and information networks.” Embracing this, the work furthermore examines public culture in a South African context by hybridizing an architectural and a social science methodology to examine the notion of heritage and heritage production in post-apartheid South Africa. Particularly, the architectural and spatial consequences of the forms of identity and culture that make up the ‘public’ realm in which heritage is contained and itself contains are examined.

The dissertation initially builds a theoretical argument, examining, in post-colonial terms, the notions of history and representation of history as examined through the idea of the construction of identity both in the present and the past, the framing of museums in terms of time, space and place and their philosophical implications upon the resulting built form of museums and exhibitions. This thesis is then rigorously tested by two case studies that exemplify the two identity constructions argued in the first part of the work. Whilst the theoretical argument takes a deliberately high academic tone, the methodology of the social sciences is fused with the critique of architectural theory in the second part of the work. Thus, the thesis argues for the subjectivity of the museum experience and discourse and thus the cases become constructed from a deliberate position of reflexive subjectivity.

The culmination of the dissertation is to ask the question and investigate the consequences of a society remaking itself in response to the trauma of the past, from the position of an individual within that society who is attempting to make logical a sense of her own experiences.

Abby Loebenberg

The School of Architecture, UCT, strives to instill in students a responsiviness to their past by engaging the post colonial through architectural criticism. The dissertation is an exceptional example of the School's fostering of critical thinking and cross-disciplinary research. It reviews and re-places the historical though contemporary thought and as such offers a re-reading of the past. The paper was produced through co-operation between the School and the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town.

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