Publication Date

April 2019


Lily Saint, Laura Ann Twagira


College of Social Studies


English (United States)


Constructing Silence: South Africa’s Erasure of Women’s Resistance in Post-Apartheid Memorialization analyzes the overarching exclusion of black women’s anti-apartheid activism from South Africa’s predominantly masculinized history and its material forms of remembrance in South Africa’s state-sponsored heritage and memorialization projects. These include but are not limited to statues, monuments, memorials, museums, and the renaming of roads, public buildings and airports. This thesis attempts to explore this historical masculinization of memorialization and draws connections to the social status and public recognition of black South African women. My analysis uses a wide variety of primary images that testify to women’s agency and activism against the apartheid regime, which are placed against prevailing historical narratives which characterize women’s involvement in anti-apartheid activism as secondary, supplementary, docile, superfluous, or absent. A substantial portion of the thesis is grounded in field research in South Africa at sites of memorialization with a focus on newer sites and their treatment of women. I argue that while there are some newer cases of memorialization projects that center women’s voices, they either fail or have been compromised, pointing to the ongoing failure of South Africa’s memorialization of women’s activism. Lastly, I argue that post-apartheid South Africa’s failure to memorialize women’s specifically gendered experiences of sexual and gender-based violence facilitates South Africa’s inability to address its ongoing epidemic of gender-based violence. Constructing Silence aims to demonstrate the lack of memorialization of women and its material consequences on South African women.



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