Hysterical nostalgia in the postcolony: from Coming Home to District 9

Walder, Dennis (2013). Hysterical nostalgia in the postcolony: from Coming Home to District 9. Consumption Markets & Culture, 17(2) pp. 143–157.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10253866.2013.776306

Abstract

Much of the remembering of recent years in South Africa has involved nostalgia, but a nostalgia of excess and morbidity, or what might be called hysteria. The endangered body stands as a memorial to the distortions of apartheid, and there are many manifestations in the culture of the country. Here I analyse two performative works by expatriate South Africans who in contrasting but related ways express through them a hysterical-nostalgic relation to their country’s past: Coming Home, a memory-play by Athol Fugard, and Neill Blomkamp’s dystopian film District 9, both of which touch on the country’s HIV/AIDS crisis. Resisting inadmissible yearnings for the apartheid past leads to revealing versions of nostalgia, in terms of broader cultural aesthetics, and the politics of the present – a time of continuing turbulence and uncertainty.

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