Roosblad, S. (2012) Sending Up Trauma

Sending Up Trauma: A Study Of Political Cartooning In South Africa's Post-Apartheid Trauma Discourse


The idea of trauma as a wound in the psyche of a person, has dramatically altered in the twentieth century. From its inception in the mid-nineteenth century, the trauma concept has moved away and evolved in different directions. Though in the absence of a psyche, groups and nations are now considered to be able to undergo traumatic experiences. This idea of the collective trauma has been applied to South Africa in the period of transition from apartheid to democracy. Especially during the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), as the commission invested heavily in the practice of traumatic storytelling as part the broader globalization of psychiatric knowledge about trauma (Colvin, 2008). Political cartoons shed an interesting light on the establishment and development of trauma discourse. This study looks at the contribution of South African political cartoonists to trauma discourse at the time of the hearings of the Human Rights Violations Committee (HRVC) of the TRC. This study first looks at how the notion of trauma evolved preparatory to the analysis of trauma discourse in South Africa. Cartoons are used to illustrate how trauma discourse established itself; however, the second part of this work is dedicated to a close analysis of the cartoons. I conclude that the cartoons indeed contributed to trauma discourse, however, due to their particular style and composition, they did not contribute in a similar manner. Both Zapiro and Nanda Soobben look at current affairs and thus directly responded to whatever occurred at the hearings. They are more ‘political' as they display the (failing) attempt of the creation of the imaginary national trauma identity by the state. They both question the work of the TRC, however, they do not address the creation of a trauma discourse in South Africa. Furthermore their nature as political cartoonists demands from them a focus on high profile political characters. The Cartoon Madam & Eve tackles social issues. The main focus of the creators lies on the continuation of social apartheid and the subsequent distorted economic and social power relation between the maid and the employer. Thus, the social situation, which is considered to be traumatic for the nation.

Citation Serginho Roosblad (2012). Sending Up Trauma: A Study Of Political Cartooning In South Africa's Post-Apartheid Trauma Discourse (Master's Thesis, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa). Thesis

BibTex entry for this thesis:

BibTex entry for this thesis:

address = {Cape Town, South Africa},
author = {Roosblad, Serginho},
school = {University of Cape Town},
title = {{Sending Up Trauma: A Study Of Political Cartooning In South Africa's Post-Apartheid Trauma Discourse}},
type = {Master's Thesis},
year = {2012}

Key ideas


Cartoons, high resolution images, research, risks management, sustainable reconstruction