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Country of My Skull

13 Dec 2016

Country of My Skull is a very good book both in content and style. I had never heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) or maybe I had but did not remember the details well enough. We went to the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg and I made an offhand remark while watching one of the video clips that I found this TRC thing to be interesting. Taya was shocked at my lack of knowledge about it and thus recommended I read Country of My Skull as a good overview of both the TRC as well as to fill in more details about the fall of Apartheid.

It was fascinating in relation to other moments in history when regimes changed either through external wars such as Nazi Germany, revolution such as in America, Russia, and France, or through civil revolt against authoratative regimes such as in Chile and South Africa. The SA version of regime change was unique as well as the regimes themselves. Thus the process involving the TRC was necessarily special.

Apartheid is fascinating in its approach to institutionalized racism. The system in the US always seems to have an air of trying to hide the racism behind other concepts and getting discrimination in through the backdoor. This was not always the case, in particular if one looks at the Jim Crow laws, however at least since the mid 1960s the racism has been more subtle. In SA they put it all out there and codified what it meant to be white, coloured, or black. You got an ID book which said what race you were and therefore defined what you could and could not do. This continued until the 1990s. The regime change took a long civil war which was both ethnic and racial. It stratified on race, gender, economic class, and historical lineage. Calling it just a race war is actually too simplifying.

The book is quite a good companion to teh rest of the history by focusing on the entire TRC process from ideation to aftermath. As I said, being in South Africa while reading it gave the book a bit more of an interesting flavour. I highly recommend reading it especially if you do not know that much about Apartheid and the TRC.


Category: book