Review: Catherine Cole, "Performing South Africa's Truth Commission: Stages of Transition"

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Book Review

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Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies






Taylor and Francis

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Over the past several years, I have seen Catherine Cole give two conference presentations on performance pieces related to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). I was impressed both times, and thus I have been looking forward to Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission for some time. It turns out to be a very different book than what I expected, but happily, it is in many ways even more interesting and important than I hoped it would be. Rather than systematically analyzing such drama as Ubu and the Truth Commission, The Story I Am About To Tell, and Nothing But the Truth, Cole mentions those pieces only in passing or not at all. Indeed, the only artistic performance she analyzes in significant detail is a less-known musical composition by Philip Miller entitled REwind: A Cantata for Voice, Tape, and Testimony. The rest of her book is devoted to reading the processes and hearings of the Truth Commission itself through the lens of performance theory. In doing so, she offers a qualitative interpretation of the TRC’s work that serves as an invaluable counterpoint to the vast but predominantly 450 Book Reviews Downloaded by [Utah State University Libraries] at 12:17 14 April 2014 quantitative social science literature that has sprung up since the commission began its work in 1996.