Between Constitutional Mo(nu)ments: Memorialising Past, Present and Future at the District Six Museum and Constitution Hill
This article explores the powers and potentialities of imaginations of political community at the site of the museum in contemporary South Africa. Taking the District Six Museum (Cape Town) and Constitution Hill (Johannesburg) as the empirical backdrop, I explore the ways in which memorialising practices at these sites bolster or deflate the exaltation of the post-1996 constitutional moment. This argument aligns closely with contemporary discussions by South African constitutional theorists about the role of monumentalism and counter-monumentalism. Indeed, I argue that memorialising techniques employed at the District Six Museum offer a practice of memory-making that resists the fixed and limited boundaries proffered by the new South African constitutional discourse exalted at Constitution Hill. However, my critique does not include a call for a reform of the latter. Instead, I argue that the continuation of monumental memory practices at Constitution Hill, in juxtaposition to counter-monumental practices at District Six, serves a key role in revealing the limits of fixed notions of law and subjectivity in imagining past and future political communities. Drawing on Antonio Negri's concept of constituent power, I argue that the juxtaposition of monumental and counter-monumental memorial practices exposes the illusion of the division between transcendent Power (potestas) and immanent power (potentia). Finally, I turn to Emilios Christodoulidis' conception of 'strategies of rupture' to consider ways in which this contradiction might be made to 'persist' through the site of the museum. Indeed, if the goal is to illuminate the illusion of transcendent power, the juxtaposition of memorialising practices between the two sites (a museological form of 'tapping of contradiction') may serve as a platform for the truth of constituent power to be realised.
|Keywords||Constituent power, Counter-monumentalism, Monumentalism, Museums, South Africa|
|Journal||Law and Critique|
Douglas, S. (2011). Between Constitutional Mo(nu)ments: Memorialising Past, Present and Future at the District Six Museum and Constitution Hill. Law and Critique, 22(2), 171–187. doi:10.1007/s10978-011-9083-4