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Prof Helene Strauss delves into the emotion and politics of contemporary South African protest cultures
2014-12-22

Prof Helene Strauss from the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Department of English currently researches the relationship between emotion and politics in contemporary South African public and protest cultures.

The research foregrounds the complex set of concerns opened up by a study of intimacy, read as not simply a sign for emotional and sexual closeness, but more broadly as a complexly mediated site from which to observe the embodied, affective coordinates of various forms of control and contestation. Through the analysis of a range of cultural texts that, for instance, recompose moments of spectacular social upheaval through the lenses of everyday, embodied experience, this research considers what aesthetic responsibility might mean in both post-transitional South Africa and elsewhere.

One aspect of this research charts a gradual shift in South Africa from what is frequently referred to as the ‘liberation euphoria’ of the mid- to late 1990s – and the optimistic fantasies of a future South Africa that characterised dominant public discourse in the period immediately following the political transition – toward an emotional culture in which expressions of anger, disillusionment and disappointment seem to have become relatively widespread.

Prof Strauss asks, for instance, how these public feelings have been managed in the aftermath of events such as the Marikana massacre, and suggests that the affective and temporal dimensions of current attempts at containing perceived threats to financial and political stability on the part of South Africa’s business and political elite are key to understanding increasingly violent and repressive securitisation strategies.

Earlier this year, Prof Strauss presented papers on aspects of this research at two international conferences: (i) the Association for Cultural Studies conference in Tampere, Finland, where she was invited to be part of a ‘Spotlight Panel’ on the topic of African Cultural Studies, (ii) and at a conference at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, which she helped to co-organise.

An article based on some of this work has been published in the journal Safundi.

For more of Prof Strauss’s research published in journals, follow the links below:
http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rsaf20/current#.VAf88_mSxqU
http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/riij20/15/1#.VAf80vmSxqU
http://www.palgrave-journals.com/sub/journal/v4/n2/index.html

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