University of Cambridge > > Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminars > Crime fiction, mythomania, and the criminalisation of the South African state

Crime fiction, mythomania, and the criminalisation of the South African state

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he surge in the popularity of crime fiction in contemporary South Africa owes much to an ever-increasing sense of threat felt by its middle-class readers. The characteristic manoeuvre of popular fiction is to imprint fantasy outcomes onto realistic scenarios, allowing recognisable anxieties to be assuaged by the force of idealisation. Crime fiction lets readers reflect on the circumstances that give rise to their unease, and then affectively installs consoling impressions of legibility and restoration. The threat of bodily harm from an unexpected source is the most obvious of the fears exploited by crime fiction, but other, less immediate threats are negotiated by the genre. In this paper, I’d like to consider the ways recent white-collar crime thrillers represent fraud. Fraud is both the simplest and the most complex of crimes to understand: it involves theft, straightforwardly, but it also raises questions to do with truth and lies, pretence and duplicity. Two contexts for these questions will be explored here: ANC rhetoric and policy, and South African corporate capitalism. These fields are in many ways characterised by a discrepancy between what is said and what is done: by lying and by fraud. The crime fictions I will explore suggest that mythomania may prove to be the defining disposition of the postapartheid period, and they provide unique insight into what is increasingly being identified as the criminalisation of the South African state

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminars series.

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