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Opening Spaces through Exhibiting Absences: Representing Secretive Pasts

Rappert, B, Smith, K and Gould, C (2018) Opening Spaces through Exhibiting Absences: Representing Secretive Pasts. In: Mankoo, A and Rappert, B, (eds.) Chemical Bodies: The Techno-Politics of Control. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781786605863

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Abstract

Many chapters of Chemical Bodies illustrate how the history of the use of chemical agents as methods of control and coercion has been intimately tied to the rendering of harm as (in)visible. While suffering has been foregrounded to make the case for brutality and exceptionality on some occasions, on other occasions, suffering has been downplayed, denied or backgrounded to make the case for benevolence and normality. This suggests the need for caution about what is and is not included in any accounts of chemical agents. Another source for caution is the way the development and use of chemical agents is often undertaken in conditions of secrecy. As a result, scholars, journalists, activists and others investigating such capabilities often take their task as one of exposing hidden truths or unappreciated events. The promise of revealing or unmasking offers a fetching allure for investigators and audiences alike: an invitation to become complicit in a shared but still exclusive understanding. Against the aforementioned points, this chapter takes the chemical and biological warfare (CBW) programme established under Apartheid South Africa (code named 'Project Coast') as a topic for attending to our commitments in representing the past. This secret military programme used an elaborate array of front companies to camouflage its activities to those both outside and inside of it. Through the endeavours of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and other investigations, Project Coast has come to symbolize the perversities of Apartheid. And yet, each attempt to determine what took place has been delimited by the very terms of the investigations setup to establish the truth. Thus, any attempt to present this programme needs to find ways of acknowledging the partiality of what accounts can be fashioned.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: history and memory; Apartheid; Chemical Biological Weapons; Exhibition Studies; Science and Technology Studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Q Science > QD Chemistry
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Divisions: Liverpool School of Art and Design
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Date Deposited: 14 Feb 2019 08:45
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2019 08:49
Editors: Mankoo, A and Rappert, B
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10132

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