By Jane Bennett
I make the assertion that rape is not a moment but a language…and I untangle and decipher the knots and codes of this language, to surface its structure, underline its histories, understand its rules.
(Gqola, 2015: 22)
In the two years since the publication of Pumla Gqola’s third book, Rape: A South African Nightmare, the quotation above is the one most cited in the myriad reviews of her work and in the conversations that the book has inspired in public space. The metaphor — rape as language — draws on notions of the symbolic as communication, and on the idea that a willingness to accept the terms of a language constitutes a powerful route to the fiction of a community. So, argues Gqola, the fiction of a South African nation involves prescribed relationships between sexual violence and citizenship.
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