Article published in:Critical Linguistic Perspectives on Coping with Traumatic Pasts: Case studies
Edited by Christine Anthonissen and Jan Blommaert
[Journal of Language and Politics 5:1] 2006
► pp. 37–70
Narrative inequality in the TRC hearings
On the hearability of hidden transcripts
South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission victim hearings were a highly unusual discourse event in which previously silenced and powerless people were offered a prestigious public forum and speech format to tell about their experiences of human rights violations. However, despite the equal access offered to victims for the telling of their stories, pre-existing inequalities persisted and were reflected in the relative ‘hearability’ of these stories. We use the concept of ‘pretextuality’ to account for the relative hearability. The concept refers to the varying degrees of competence in language varieties, literacy and narrative skills that people bring with them to a communicative interaction, and which influence the impact of their narratives. Through detailed analysis of selected testimonies, we demonstrate ways in which the inequalities suggested above emerged in the hearings.
Keywords: Truth and Reconciliation Commission, human rights violations, hidden transcripts, narrative, pretextuality, discourse analysis, South Africa
Published online: 14 April 2006
Cited by other publications
De Fina, Anna, Paternostro, Giuseppe & Amoruso, Marcello
Unuabonah, Foluke Olayinka
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Biber, Douglas and Finegan, Edward
Bock, Mary, McCormick, Kay and Raffray, Claudine
Maryns, Katrijn and Blommaert, Jan
Ochs, Elinor and Schieffelin, Bambi
Posel, D. and Simpson, G.
Silverstein, Michael and Urban, Greg
Scott, James C.
Villa-Vicencio, Charles and Verwoerd, Wilhelm
eds Looking Back, Reaching Forward: Reflections on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Cape Town/London: UCT Press and ZED books.