Absences and the Display of Secreted Pasts: Representing South Africa’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Programme, Brian Rappert (Exeter University)

Title
Absences and the Display of Secreted Pasts: Representing South Africa’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Programme, Brian Rappert (Exeter University)
Speaker(s)
Date and Time
15th Dec 2016 16:00 15th Dec 2016 17:30
Location
6th Floor Staff Room, CMB
URL
http://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/ceser/news_and_events/events/absences_and_the_display_of_secreted_pasts_representing_south_africas_chemical_and_biological_weapons_programme,_brian_rappert_exeter_university2

The substantive topic for the presentation is the South African Apartheid era secret chemical and biological warfare programme (code name: Project Coast).  Through the endeavours of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an extensive legal trial, and various other investigations, the activities of the programme have become treated as emblematic of the perversities of a former time.  And yet, each attempt to determine and remember what took place has been structured and delimited by the very investigations that enabled it. In short, and as with many other transgressions, Project Coast is situated between revelation and concealment, remembering and forgetting, and the past and the future. 

Conceptually, the presentation will outline possibilities for encounters with uncertain and contested pasts of science and technology through considering the configuration of spatial design and material construction of an exhibition titled ‘Poisoned Pasts’ I curated with South African colleagues.  The fragmented understanding of Project Coast, the lack of recovered or identified bodies, the difficultly of recounting human and animal suffering, as well as contests about who counts as a ‘worthy victim’ all trouble attempts at representation through an exhibition format.  We have sought to ask how the intertwining of what is made present and absent within the exhibition space can offer alternative openings for engaging with troubled past.

About Brian Rappert: http://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/sociology/staff/rappert/