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Davidson, L. (2016). Race, Memory and the Apartheid Archive: Towards a Transformative Psychosocial Praxis, edited by Garth Stevens, Norman Duncan, and Derek Hook, Palgrave, Macmillan, London, 2013, 368 pp.. Psychodyn. Psych., 44(1):166-168.

(2016). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 44(1):166-168

Race, Memory and the Apartheid Archive: Towards a Transformative Psychosocial Praxis, edited by Garth Stevens, Norman Duncan, and Derek Hook, Palgrave, Macmillan, London, 2013, 368 pp.

Review by:
Leah Davidson, M.D.

For this reviewer, this book is not only a review project, but a document reminiscent of my own lived experience in South Africa between the years 1935 to 1957, and thereafter as an expatriate South African in London between the years 1957 to 1963. As such it echoes for me the guilt of whiteness and the pain of empathy that is a part of the white- black encounter in South Africa.

The issue of what has been called white-black perceptions of each other is still a current topic in the United States and in the practice of authentic democracy. In an article entitled “Letter to My Son” in The Atlantic (September 2015), Ta-Nehishi Coates raises the same issues that appear in the apartheid archives in narrative after narrative. To quote some of his statements, “Racism dislodges brains, blocks airways, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this” and “You are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know.”

In the introduction to the book, the editors state that readers feel drawn to reflect on their own relation to the apartheid period by the storytelling of lives. These narratives are accounts of black and white experiences and form the background to “The Truth and Reconciliation Act” documentation. Material in the book is gleaned from many South African sources, but is mostly based on the documentation of ordinary people.

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