Ruin memory

A hauntology of Cape Town

Authored by: Nick Shepherd

Reclaiming Archaeology

Print publication date:  May  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415673921
eBook ISBN: 9780203068632
Adobe ISBN: 9781135083533

10.4324/9780203068632.ch18

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Abstract

My themes in this chapter are the quintessentially archaeological ones of time and the materiality of the past in the present. But rather than a notion of modern time – linear time, in which the past is divided from the present, and the present from the future – I want to think about a more complicated relationship between present lives, past events and future possibilities. In particular, I want to think about what Anthony Bogues has called ‘historical catastrophe’, the idea of an atrocious set of events set in the past, and the ways in which these events are reproduced and recapitulated in new forms and contemporary disguises (Bogues 2010). As a set of points of departure, I want to think about the way in which history, especially history as catastrophe, is inscribed onto the bodies of its subjects, as well as onto familiar landscapes and cityscapes. I want to think about the performativity of history, and the ways in which we negotiate the material landscapes of the past/present through a set of embodied responses, so that the past is not abstract historical narrative, but is daily reiterated and performed as a set of routes, intersubjective relations, and moments of rest and unrest. I want to think about a more complex thematics of time, in terms of notions of simultaneity, repetition, co-presence, and moments of rupture and return. I want to think about memory not as a voluntaristic act of recall of the past, but as a constitutive act directed at the present and the future. I also want to think about forgetting not just as a failure of memory, but as a conscious act of disremembering which allows historical injustice to be reiterated in forms of contemporary social injustice (so that forgetting becomes its own kind of constitutive act).

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