Interviewer: RAFAEL KHACHATURIAN. The transition away from Apartheid in South Africa during the 1990s has been hailed as a double miracle of nation-building and the establishment of democracy, so much so that at the time it seemed to validate Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of the end of history. Political scientist CAROLYN E. HOLMES, in her political ethnography of contemporary South Africa, highlights the inherent tensions of the transition: between the “selective forgetting” required to join together as a nation and the continuing political salience of remembered wrongs in a competitive democracy; and between the looking forward of “rainbow nation” rhetoric and the necessary looking backward of truth and reconciliation. In her discussion with political theorist Rafael Khachaturian, she discusses how these tensions have shaped the current political landscape in South Africa, how history has remained important to how people feel about their nation, and how its experience can inform the analysis of other countries, including the U.S., divided by the legacy of painful pasts.
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