Global histories through the lens of fiction

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Global histories through the lens of fiction

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Publication Conference Paper, other
Title Global histories through the lens of fiction
Author(s) Hemer, Oscar
Date 2013
English abstract
Literature has historically played an important role as witness-bearer to the incidents of mass violence that formed an intrinsic part of modernity in the 20th century - especially when other forms of documentation have been scarce or missing altogether. But today, when the media and new information and communication technologies give us immediate access to almost all dramatic events in the world, there is less incitement for literature to assume that role. More than just supplementing authentic testimonies, literary fantasy can however also be an important corrective, as demonstrated by the two cases of Argentina during the military dictatorship (1976-82) and South Africa during Apartheid (Hemer 2012a). The transition processes were in both countries supported by systematic investigations of the state violence, in Argentina the CONADEP (1983-84), in South Africa the TRC (1995-98), arguably the two to date most influential Truth Commissions, with a crucial impact on cultural production. Many, if not most, of the books and films that were produced in the aftermath of the truth commissions served a redemptive purpose, in the name of national reconciliation (South Africa), or in order to absolve the general public from complicity (Argentina). Rather than opening up for discussion, the mainstream cultural production sealed the new, official history. Yet literature – more than any other medium or art form - did also play a proactive role in the transition process, displaying public lies and self-deceptions, and deconstructing prevailing myths rather than forging new identities. The most effective literary approaches to the present past were, in the Argentinean case, in fact the opposite of witness literature, working the void of experience and often deploying the curious tense of the future past. In parallel with my interrogation of ‘fiction’ and ‘truth’ from a writer’s perspective, which in the end brought me to the cross-roads of Literature and Anthropology and resulted in a dissertation in Social Anthropology (Ibid.), I have worked on the same material in a hybrid literary form (Hemer 2012b), and lately by purely fictional means, in the concluding part of a novel trilogy, set in a near future (Misiones, forthcoming). With my experimental ethnographic research as a starting-point, I intend to discuss its relation to my more recent literary research, as two related yet radically different means of exploring global modernity.
Pages 13 s.
Language swe (iso)
Subject(s) history
memory
fiction
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS
Note What Time is Global History? 8 May 2013, Malmö University
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/16520 (link to this page)

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