Who am i?

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The construction of identity in 20th-Century South African Autobiographical Writings

"Who am I?" is a question that most of us ask ourselves with considerable regularity, but when asked by 20th-century South Africans it has a particular urgency and complexity.

The topic draws on a wide range of intellectual (re)sources in order to define autobiographical writing and selfhood in an African context.

The study examines the impact of history, racial politics and language on the formation of identity, but also looks into the influence of traditional African modes such as praise poetry in the expression of selfhood, whether for an individual or the group.

in the process, the work of theorists such as Stuart Hall Sidonie Smith and Paul de Man all contribute to a lively discussion of what constitutes autobiography and how we define the relationship between the historically lived life and the self inscribed in writings such as prison diaries, memoirs and autobiographical novels.

The overriding impression of this book is its passionate engagement with the texts and issues of a painful era in South Africa's history.

The title 'who am i?" comes from a poem by Mongane Serote which gives voice to the agonies faced by the many writers under discussion.

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