On historical injustice and the art of forgetting

  • Robert Vosloo Stellenbosch University


This article asks whether it is responsible to introduce and/or cultivate the language of forgetting against the backdrop of South Africa’s colonial and apartheid past.  In writings originating from contexts permeated by memories of historical injustice, the call, and more specifically the duty, to remember and the implied need to fight against forgetting are rightfully emphasised.  But how are we to evaluate what some scholars see as a discursive shift from “memory†to “forgetting†in memory studies?  With this question in mind, this article first considers some possible arguments for giving greater prominence to the notion of forgetting in our memory discourse.  This is followed by a section that reiterates the “critique of forgetting,†drawing also on some examples from 20th century South African political and church history. In the final section, the article considers, in conversation with Paul Ricoeur, whether we should view the relationship between an art of memory and an art of forgetting as symmetrical or asymmetrical.


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