Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

7/1/2010 - 6/30/2011

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

Selective Silencing and the Shaping of Memory in Post-Apartheid South African Visual Culture

FAIN: FB-55046-10

Kimberly Miller
Wheaton College (Norton, MA 02766-2322)

My project examines the visual representations of women political activists in South Africa both during and after the struggle against apartheid. I consider the extent to which women's participation in the struggle for democracy is represented and remembered, and in many cases forgotten, in contemporary South African visual culture and commemorative sites. This oversight of women is a particularly troubling trend given the central role the liberation struggle has played, and continues to play, in forging a new South African identity. I argue that the limited representation of women in South Africa's commemorative spaces continues and perpetuates a form of "selective silencing." My project is in conversation with interdisciplinary areas of scholarship on postcolonial studies, art history, history, and women's studies. I hope it will appeal to scholars with interests in public memory, political transformation, history and its representation, and the recovery of women's stories.

Media Coverage

Professor wins NEH grant to focus on women's roles in anti-aparthied fight (Media Coverage)
Publication: Wheaton Quarterly
Date: 6/1/2010
URL: http://

Associated Products

Selective Silence and the Shaping of Memory in Post-Apartheid Visual Culture: The Case of the Monument to the Women of South Africa (Article)
Title: Selective Silence and the Shaping of Memory in Post-Apartheid Visual Culture: The Case of the Monument to the Women of South Africa
Author: Kim Miller
Abstract: This paper focuses on a particular event in South African history and the ways in which the event is memorialized and remembered in post-apartheid South Africa. In her book Visual Culture and Public Memory in a Democratic South Africa, Annie Coombes remarks, “Women’s vital role in the overthrow of the apartheid state has been sorely neglected in favor of a more monolithic representation of the liberation movement” (107). In this paper I consider Coombes’ claim in relation to one specific attempt at public memorial after apartheid: the Monument to the Women of South Africa located at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. As the only commemorative site dedicated entirely to women’s apartheid-era political efforts, the Monument to the Women of South Africa is of vital importance to the memory of women’s role in the struggle. And yet a tension exists between the monument’s presence as a feminist site, and its disappearance from public view: the Monument has essentially been invisible to the public for most of its existence, due in part to the inaccessibility of the Union Buildings. The Monument’s invisibility not only trivializes the political significance of the Women’s March, but is also a distressing act of post-apartheid erasure of women’s political agency. I argue that when one considers this alongside the more widespread exclusion of women in post-apartheid commemorative sites, this not only has implications for the telling of history, but may very well affect women’s ability to in Cynthia Enloe’s words, “sustain an authentic political life in post-war periods” (71).
Year: 2011
Primary URL:
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: South African Historical Journal
Publisher: Taylor & Francis