What is it about?

Violent experiences seem difficult to express and directly describing what one knows about these experiences seems to be of limited value in enhancing one’s understanding of them. To overcome this, this paper proposes the accommodation of the inexpressable, as captured in aesthetic representations, be drawn on to destabilise reductive, binary expressions of violence and trauma common within colonial discourse.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

In the current climate of rampant binarisation of the 'Other' inherent in contemporary 'call out' culture, this paper provides a methodological alternative to the reduction of opposing positions by suggesting that the 'not knowing' position be accommodated in our understanding without explaining it away. In this sense it demonstrates a real alternative to Western, binary thinking and the epistemic violence this is currently causing.


I was inspired to write this article when I kept hearing on the news that young women who had been 'saved' from years of sexual slavery by kidnappers in central African forests just would not let go of the families that they had born there. The explanation that the West seemed to give for this was that these women had somehow been psychologically damaged in a way that could be fixed and would lead to a full recovery. It struck me that an alternative explanation was needed that accommodated the fact that these women can never completely resolve their trauma but must go on LIVING with it, without being able to neatly explain its effects away through being saved or healed.

Jeanne-Marie Viljoen

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Decolonising violence through the ineffable: the case of Africa’s world war, African Identities, April 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/14725843.2019.1607719.
You can read the full text:




The following have contributed to this page