Mediation, the Political Task: Between Language and Violence in Contemporary South Africa

By Rosalind C. Morris – February 2017

Current Anthropology

Two paradigms of communication confront each other in South Africa today. One posits an ideal public sphere that recognizes the task of mediation but also requires its effacement. The other, frustrated by deferral, seeks to bypass mediation through apparently immediate forms of speech that range from visual slogans to messianic utterances that can be heard even by the dead. When viewed ethnographically, these competing conceptions and aspirations cannot be linked to particular technologies. One the contrary, the social scene is technologically heterogeneous. Epochal and ontological schemata of mediatic displacement must thus be rethought. In this paper I pursue such a rethinking on the basis of a long-term ethnography in the gold-mining region of South Africa following the infamously violent assault on striking miners at Marikana.

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