Memory, Trauma and Culture in South African Women’s Prison and Exile Life Narratives


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




My research will investigate the relationship between memory, trauma and culture in the narratives of South African women focusing on their experiences of life in prison and/or exile. The chosen autobiographies emphasize trauma sustained in South Africa’s politicized society. The texts focusing on exile and prison life are predominantly written in prose form and often presented as a journal. They reflect the historical moment when they were written and illuminate the concepts of intersubjective and collective memory in the formation of a cultural identity. Current women’s prison writing in the form of poetry, which is not widely available, will be analyzed as examples of trauma therapy.The research is of importance because it investigates questions of memory, trauma, culture and gender as represented in politically inflicted trauma life narratives of South African women as opposed to the majority of studies which center on South African men in prison/exile.