The Implicated Subject
Beyond Victims and Perpetrators
Michael Rothberg

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Progress, Progression, Procession

William Kentridge’s Implicated Aesthetic



Living in the Interregnum

In 1990, the South African artist William Kentridge completed Arc/Procession: Develop, Catch Up, Even Surpass, a large drawing in charcoal and pastel created on eleven sheets of paper that together arch over an area of approximately 241/2 x 9 feet (fig. 3). The work is typically installed high on a gallery wall, its shape recalling the triumphal arches of the Roman Empire. Indeed, Kentridge may have had in mind a famous instance of triumphalist architecture, the first-century Arch of Titus in Rome, which depicts the bearing away of the booty of imperial conquest, including a menorah and other spoils from the sack of Jerusalem. In an often-cited theorization of the link between “documents of civilization” and “documents of barbarism,” Walter Benjamin implicitly evokes the same scene when he writes of “the triumphal procession [Triumphzug] in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate.”1 Close in spirit to Benjamin’s reflections on history, Kentridge’s cryptic and decidedly nontriumphalist procession nonetheless involves not imperial booty, but rather the detritus of the dispossessed.

Most emblematically, on the far left-hand (or forward) side of Arc/Procession, the head and upper body of a hunched-over figure disappear beneath an indeterminate burden that includes cups and bowls, sacks and megaphones, all of which seem to be lashed around his body. A hobbling, one-legged man follows close behind. The feet of these two figures are hemmed in by low-lying barbed wire as they move toward a scarred landscape rendered in miniaturized, nonperspectival space at the left-bottom corner of the drawing. Following them in the procession we find a dense space populated by miners, a sandwich-board man, and male and female figures gesturing with despair, or perhaps imprecation, toward the heavens, along with abandoned cans, ladders, more megaphones, and two hyenas. Just to the left of center, three showerheads rain blue water on the proceedings—the only color in the drawing other than small triangles of green in the tiny landscapes at either corner of the arch. Meanwhile, imperfectly erased sketches at various points of the arch create an effect of layering, as do several human figures rendered in dark shadow.

FIGURE 3. William Kentridge, Arc/Procession: Develop, Catch Up, Even Surpass, 1990. Charcoal, pastel on paper. Courtesy of the artist.


In reworking the Roman triumph, Arc/Procession gives visual form to Benjamin’s indictment of the violence embedded in progress narratives. Completed in the year in which the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of political organizations such as the African National Congress and Communist Party officially inaugurated South Africa’s transition from apartheid to an eventual nonracial democracy, Kentridge’s drawing cites—in order to ironize and even violate—a series of tenets of the progressive narrative of nationalism in its classical and postcolonial variants. As critics frequently note, Kentridge has taken his subtitle, “Develop, Catch Up, Even Surpass”—incorporated into the drawing in neat, cursive hand—from the political vision of the modernizing Ethiopian leader, Emperor Haile Selassie.2 Selassie, who titled his autobiography My Life and Ethiopia’s Progress, was an anticolonial hero and convener of the Organization of African Unity who believed that the country “must make progress slowly.”3 At the same time, he sought to incorporate aspects of European modernity while holding on to traditional forms of hierarchical authority, a double game that ultimately failed and eventuated in his replacement by a military dictatorship in 1974.4 The production of Arc/Procession in the midst of a massive civil rights struggle may also contain an echo of Martin Luther King’s oft-repeated dictum, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” which continues to circulate in proximity to political change.

Yet, even as its title suggests an ambitious narrative of historical progress, Arc/Procession’s formal features complicate and undercut the progression at stake. Central to the piece’s impact is the tension between the large-scale narrative suggested by its subtitle and the minimally narrative content of the drawing: if a procession is most certainly an event, the depiction seems to lack both an explicit causal agent setting the movement in motion and the sense of an ending. Tension derives in addition from the way the viewer’s eye is pulled in two directions: while the procession moves from right to left, the drawn-in subtitle reinforces the tendency of Latin-alphabet users to “read” from left to right. Finally, the composition of imperfectly sutured panels give the arc a jagged line that doesn’t simply “bend,” as King’s phrase would have it, but rather stutters—and thus fractures the seamless continuity promised by the notion of progress.

Working at a moment on the verge of massive social change, Kentridge explores what his compatriot Nadine Gordimer has called “living in the interregnum.” In the 1980s, when she presciently saw change on the horizon, Gordimer twice cited Antonio Gramsci’s famous sentence from the Prison Notebooks: “The old is dying, and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms.”5 By staging progress as unresolved tension, Arc/Procession confirms what Gordimer also knows: that the crisis of the interregnum is also a problem of narrative and a challenge for implicated subjects. In this chapter, I explore some of the questions that arise from this conjunction of narrative form, subjectivity, and political transition. What challenges and opportunities attend narratives of historical responsibility from and in transition? What stories of collective transformation and improvement remain possible after the collapse of “grand narratives” of progress? If the old is indeed dying, how can its story still be told along with that of the emergent “new”?

In pursuing these questions, I turn not to more obvious purveyors of transitional narratives, such as Gordimer or the collective authors of the monumental Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, but to Kentridge, an artist who works the edges of narrativity. Kentridge, a globally prominent artist who comes from a Lithuanian- and German-Jewish Johannesburg family of lawyers involved in the antiapartheid struggle, makes art that is weighted with political implication, yet, for the most part, indirect in its political critique.6 To be sure, Kentridge’s innovative films, drawings, and prints—created throughout the transitional period of the late 1980s, 1990s, and early years of the twenty-first century—appear as illustrations of what “living in the interregnum” means. They help make visible the “morbid symptoms” of that moment of transformation: betrayal, violence, and complicity, to name some of the most important themes of his work. Seen from the present, much of this work seems prophetic: it seems to anticipate the failure of the “new” South Africa to confront structural inequality and transform the country’s racialized political economy.7

Understanding Kentridge’s exploration of implicated subjects in the moment of transition requires delving into the varied, media-specific techniques he employs as well as the form, content, and context of his heterogeneous oeuvre. In this chapter, I take the open-endedness, indirection, and outmodedness of Kentridge’s implicated aesthetic as an inspiration for thinking more fundamentally about the narrative form embedded in what has come be called “transitional justice”—a politico-legal regime that has emerged in response to transformations like the one in South Africa.8 I thus begin by providing a brief introduction to what we might call the “narratology” of transitional justice.9 Drawing critically on the legal theorist Ruti Teitel, I suggest that transitional justice brings with it a fundamental narrative tension involving the negotiation between continuity and discontinuity, on the one hand, and implicated and disembedded subjects, on the other. This framework helps open up the narrative dimensions of Kentridge’s experiments in animated filmmaking, where—along with Arc/Procession—he first begins to explore the minimally narrative genre of the procession.10

Reading Kentridge in the context of work on the narrative form of political transformation by theorists such as Benjamin, Benedict Anderson, and Eric Santner brings to light several keywords that orient this chapter’s approach to implication: progress, progression, procession, and transition. This vocabulary is rich with narratological association, yet will appear here in defamiliarized form. To the extent that Kentridge creates a narrative of South Africa’s transitional moment, it is a narrative that rewrites the conventional liberal narrative of change, which is founded on a vision of disencumbered subjects progressing through “homogenous, empty time” (Benjamin 261), and forges instead an alternative chronotope and a different, implicated kind of protagonist. In the two final sections of the chapter we will see how Kentridge’s quasi-autobiographical exploration of implication opens up a deep, multidirectional history of race that is simultaneously postslavery and post-Holocaust. Moving from progression to procession in a transitional era, Kentridge provides resources for new forms of storytelling in the wake of racialized traumas and in the midst of a triumphalist capitalism.

Kentridge makes several linked contributions to the conceptualization of the implicated subject. His use of twin allegorical alter egos—Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitelbaum—helps craft an implicated alternative to the disembedded subject characteristic of human rights, humanitarianism, and transitional justice. Additionally, the “thick time” fostered by his aesthetic offers a formal correlate to the interlaced diachronic and synchronic axes of implication. Finally, through the multidirectional sensibility that some of his work exhibits, Kentridge provides an encounter with complex implication—the experience of occupying positions that align one both to histories of victimization and to histories of perpetration. While Kentridge’s work always emerges from engagement with ethical, political, and aesthetic complexity, it falls neither into a facile relativism nor into a banal equation of histories: Kentridge’s implicated aesthetic does recognize the artist’s genealogical relation to Jewish suffering in the past—a version of postmemory—but it responds above all to the evidence of his ongoing structural implication in irrevocable violence and stubborn inequality.

Transitional Justice as Narrative

At the same time South Africa was making its dramatic political transition—and in dialogue with that process—a new way of responding to and thinking about what Gramsci called the interregnum was taking shape globally under the rubric of “transitional justice.” Generally applied to states, such as South Africa, Argentina, and the former Soviet bloc, that have emerged from authoritarian or totalitarian rule into democracy, transitional justice involves the invention of contingent procedures and practices in the course of reckoning with particular past injustices. The institutionalized forms of transitional justice—often traced back to the Nuremberg trials and Germany’s post-Nazi reconstruction—include truth commissions, the payment of reparations, and the practice of lustration (the banning of politically tainted politicians and civil servants from public office). The goal of transitional justice is the facilitation of new democratic regimes that break with the past yet maintain social peace; the attainment of such a goal proceeds necessarily from compromise (see Bickford; Teitel, Transitional Justice).

For all the importance of its institutional forms, transitional justice also entails a potent cultural logic. In the words of one of its leading theorists, the legal scholar Ruti Teitel, “Transitional law is above all symbolic—a secular ritual of political passage.”11 As a rite of passage, transitional justice possesses a strong narrative dimension. Narratives associated with regimes of transitional justice can appear in a variety of media that traverse the fiction/nonfiction divide—including courtroom testimony, truth commission reports, and literary and cinematic works. Regardless of the medium in which they appear, such narratives give form to political transformation by helping shape the transitional era’s time consciousness, both its space of experience and its horizon of expectations.12

In her influential account, Teitel proposes that transitional narratives possess certain shared generic features. She emphasizes, in particular, their “contextualized and partial” nature: they are not “‘meta’-narratives but ‘mini’-narratives, always situated within the state’s preexisting national story. They are not new beginnings but build upon preexisting political legacies” (“Liberal Narrative” 241, 255). In other words, transitional narratives do not stand alone, but only exist in relation to past narratives of violence and violation. They “recategorize” key events from a nation’s past in the light of a new political dispensation (translating, for instance, “antiterrorist” measures into “crimes against humanity”), and they simultaneously “emplot” a vision of national history that projects from a tainted past into a different future (Teitel, Transitional Justice 85). As such, they combine continuity with discontinuity, recapitulation of a nation’s history with a will to break with that history.

A fundamental tension in Teitel’s account emerges, however, when she places transitional narratives under the sign of what she calls a “redemptive,” “liberalizing” project (“Liberal Narrative” 257). Teitel’s synthetic summary of the genre illustrates the risks of this subsumption:

Transitional narratives follow a distinct rhetorical form: beginning in tragedy, they end on a comic or romantic mode. In the classical understanding, tragedy implicates the catastrophic suffering of individuals, whose fate, due to their status, in turn implicates entire collectives. . . . In the convention of the transitional narrative, unlike that of tragedy, the revelation of knowledge actually makes a difference. The country’s past suffering is somehow reversed, leading to a happy ending of peace and reconciliation. (“Liberal Narrative” 252)

Despite their contingent origins, transitional narratives, in Teitel’s version, possess a strong teleological drive. The genre shift she identifies at their core—from tragedy to comic resolution—facilitates a parallel shift from contingency toward certainty: liberalizing transitional narratives become metanarratives or masterplots founded on a forgetful will to reconciliation.13 As masterplots, transitional narratives shed their contingent connection to “preexisting political legacies” and become much more conventional stories that take for granted the direction of progress: in this case, toward the closure of liberal democracy. In Robert Meister’s terms, such narratives risk slipping from the message that “the past was evil” to the consolation that “the evil is past.”14

While committed to the masterplot of transition as liberalization, Teitel does show awareness of its dangers and acknowledges that, “despite its appeal, its entrenchment as a story of unity could undermine its potential for a more revolutionary project” (“Liberal Narrative” 257). Yet, insofar as she emphasizes “the potential of individual choice” as central to the “liberalizing function” of transitional “narratives of progress,” her model becomes easily amenable to conventional, Hollywood-style plotting.15 Take, for example, Invictus, Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film about Nelson Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup. There, the victory of the South African Springboks and the personal friendship between Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) and the Afrikaner rugby captain Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon) become allegories of the “wholeness” and reconciliation transitional justice promises to the postapartheid nation (Teitel, “Liberal Narrative” 257). In this drive toward closure, well-meaning individualized stories triumph while structural implication in problems of race and class goes missing.16 Indeed, the truth of the Springboks is more complicated than the film can admit. A decade and a half after their World Cup victory, the team remained almost entirely white, and success in the sport remained strongly correlated with ongoing economic inequalities.17

Invictus is, of course, a blatantly Americanized version of South Africa’s transition. Yet, as such, it also emblematizes the transnational forces that are shaping the narrative of transitional justice today. As human rights scholar Paul Gready explains, “Globalisation as a whole is forging transitions and democracies characterised by continuity as well as change, by structures of inequality and patterns of conflict that are reconfigured rather than brought to an end” (Era of Transitional Justice 8). While predominantly a matter for political contestation, the limits of transitional justice in confronting such structures and patterns are also narrative limits, for, as Robert Cover has influentially argued, “no set of legal institutions or prescriptions exists apart from the narratives that locate it and give it meaning” (4). The generic conventions of the narrative of transition help install powerful ideological parameters that limit the field of possibility for new stories of transformation.

Although transitional eras are premised on a disruptive, qualitative break in political regime, liberal transitional narratives seek to install a more reassuring plot promising closure, as Invictus demonstrates. Central to the genre shift of transitional narrative, both Teitel and the film make clear, is a sense that closure is possible via a letting go of the past. While tragedy, in Teitel’s account, “implicates the . . . suffering of individuals” and, through them, “entire collectives,” the historical reversal that takes place in nontragic endings implicitly frees both individuals and collectives (“Liberal Narrative” 252; my emphasis). Disavowing the ongoing implication of individuals in collective contexts of suffering, such narratives take on not simply a liberal but a neoliberal guise and may become a form of what Eric Santner has called “narrative fetishism.”18 Writing about German attempts to “master” or overcome the Nazi past (known as Vergangenheitsbewältigung), Santner defines narrative fetishism as “the construction and deployment of a narrative consciously or unconsciously designed to expunge the traces of the trauma or loss that called that narrative into being in the first place” (144). A fetishistic narrative emerges out of a traumatic situation and may even, Santner proposes, “acknowledge the fact” of trauma, but it “disavow[s] the traumatizing impact of the same event” (150). In pointing to the need to preserve the traces of trauma’s impact, Santner implies that the problem of fetishism lies not only in a past disavowal—or a disavowal of the past—but in the ongoing production of disavowal through narrative. The genre shift of transitional narrative from tragedy to comedy-romance constitutes a disavowal of two forms of implication. What is disavowed is not necessarily the past trauma, the “fact” of which may remain in view, but rather, first, the hold of the past on the present, and second, the ongoing inextricability of individuals from collective, social contexts. The sociologist Stanley Cohen describes this process of disavowal as “implicatory denial,” a denial that the facts of the past continue to hold implications for the present.19

Regimes of transitional justice thus occupy a field of tension and remain poised at the intersection of conflicting demands. On the one hand, the drive for justice demands an account of subjects as implicated in histories of injustice and traumatic violence. On the other hand, the desire for social peace and progress diverts such a drive and seeks to create citizens for the new dispensation who are disembedded from past histories. Such contradictory demands play out in narrative form as a tension between continuity and discontinuity. The conventional transitional narrative seeks to deny continuities between past and present in order to forgo the need for a more fundamental break from previous social arrangements; it attempts to install moderate progress in place of qualitative transformation. At the limit, such a vision becomes a form of narrative fetishism, its version of progress built on disavowal of the ongoing production of trauma and inequality in the present—an ongoing production that is particularly marked in postapartheid South Africa, where a strong neoliberal turn accompanied the advent of nonracial democracy.

The thought of Walter Benjamin helps us to diagnose the problem of the liberal narrative at a more fundamental level—as a chronotope (Bakhtin)20—and to open up alternative possibilities for thinking transition as implication. Benjamin proposes in his reflections “on the concept of history” that the liberal (or in his time, social democratic) narrative of progress derives from an underlying gradualist temporality. As Benjamin famously argues, “the concept of the historical progress of mankind cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through a homogeneous, empty time” (260–61). This same chronotope of progression lies at the heart of nationalist imaginings, as Benedict Anderson has demonstrated. For Anderson, the imagination of the modern nation becomes possible through the emergence of a new experience of temporal simultaneity, whose emblems are the novel and the newspaper, both of which present “the idea of a sociological organism [i.e., the nation] moving calendrically through homogeneous, empty time.”21 While the idea of the nation connects citizens to a horizontally conceived community as well as to that nation’s canonical history, the homogeneous, empty time in which that community comes into being establishes a terrain purified of collective implication in traumas past and present. Combining Benjamin and Anderson, we can propose that despite the peculiar, historically and socially heterogeneous circumstances in which the transitional nation necessarily emerges, the conventional transitional narrative that accompanies that emergence attempts to found the nation in this image of progression through homogeneous, empty time.

The notion of progression targeted by Benjamin is a much stripped-down version of the kind of progression that interests narrative theorists such as James Phelan.22 In place of the dynamic organization of beginning, middle, and end that Phelan reveals in narrative, Benjamin finds in progressive thought a reduced temporal imagination with a dangerous political impact. For Benjamin, this concept of time stymied opposition to fascism because it led progressive thinkers of the era to grasp fascism as an outmoded aberration bound to disappear of its own accord (257). In the transitional context, the stakes are different and involve not fascism but rather the sense of inevitability that accompanies the assumed link between democratic nation-building and capitalist marketization—an inevitability that some versions of transitional justice help to produce and reproduce.

The liberal narrative offers one way of managing the tension at the heart of the transitional era between desires for stability and justice, yet counter-forces are also at work in transitional contexts. Benjamin’s critique of progress offers a framework for thinking about such counterforces. When he writes that “[a] critique of the concept of such a progression must be the basis of any criticism of the concept of progress itself” (261), he suggests the grounds on which an alternative narrative of transition might emerge, one that is not indebted to a gradualist vision but remains true to the other demand of transitional justice for a reckoning with ongoing implication in historical injustice. But what would such a narrative look like?

Notes

1. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, tr. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1968), 256.

2. Dan Cameron, “A Procession of the Dispossessed,” in William Kentridge, ed. Dan Cameron, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, and J. M. Coetzee (London: Phaidon, 1999), 47.

3. Quoted in Aiden Whitman, “Haile Selassie of Ethiopia Dies at 83,” New York Times, August 28, 1975.

4. The moderated, gradual progress in which Selassie believed will be relevant to our later discussion of liberal narratives of transitional justice. Selassie’s New York Times obituary includes a description of the emperor that seems pertinent to Arc/Procession: “Around the clock, he was guarded by lions and cheetahs, protected by Imperial Bodyguards, trailed by his pet papillon dogs, flanked by a multitude of chamberlains and flunkies and sustained by a tradition of reverence for his person.” See Whitman, “Haile Selassie.” Arc/Procession may represent an ironized version of this royal procession as well as a counternarrative to the Roman Triumphzug.

5. Gordimer cites Gramsci in an epigraph to her 1981 novel July’s People and takes it as the inspiration for her 1983 essay “Living in the Interregnum.” See “Living in the Interregnum,” in The Essential Gesture: Writing, Politics, and Places, ed. Stephen Clingman (New York: Knopf, 1988), 261–84.

6. Kentridge’s father Sydney was a prominent antiapartheid lawyer who represented Nelson Mandela in the treason trials of the 1950s, was involved in the Stephen Biko inquest, and served as an acting justice of the South African Constitutional Court in the mid-1990s. Kentridge’s mother Felicia was also a prominent antiapartheid lawyer who cofounded the Legal Resources Centre in 1979. See the brief mention of the Kentridge parents in Gideon Shimoni, Community and Conscience: The Jews in Apartheid South Africa (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2003), 61, 191. See also the Wikipedia entries for Sydney and Felicia Kentridge.

7. Much has been written about persistent inequality in postapartheid South Africa. For one recent scholarly overview, see Marlea Clarke and Carolyn Bassett, “The Struggle for Transformation in South Africa: Unrealized Dreams, Persistent Hopes,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 34.2 (2016): 183–89.

8. The literature on transitional justice is recent but vast. For a basic definition, see Louis Bickford, “Transitional Justice,” in The Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity, ed. Dinah Shelton (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004), 3:1045–47. For a lucid and more detailed account, see Ruti Teitel, Transitional Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). For a deeper historical approach, see Jon Elster, Closing the Books: Transitional Justice in Historical Perspective (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

9. A narratology of transitional justice evokes both work on narrative and law and emergent interest in postcolonial narration. For a seminal essay in legal narratology, see Robert M. Cover, “Nomos and Narrative,” Harvard Law Review 97.4 (1983): 4–68; on postcolonial narratology, see Gerald Prince, “On a Postcolonial Narratology,” in A Companion to Narrative Theory, ed. James Phelan & Peter J. Rabinowitz (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 372–81.

10. A year after my article on Kentridge’s processions appeared in the journal Narrative, the art historian Leora Maltz-Leca published an insightful parallel study of Kentridge. Maltz-Leca confirms my linkage of the form of the procession to the historical context of transitional South Africa and provides a rich archive of imagery that has served as the basis of Kentridge’s engagement with the form (including a film about the release of Mandela for which Kentridge served as assistant producer). Maltz-Leca does not, however, explore at length the way Kentridge depicts his own implication in the scenes of injustice he renders. See Leora Maltz-Leca, “Process/Procession: William Kentridge and the Process of Change,” Art Bulletin 95.1 (2013): 139–65. Another illuminating recent essay that explores the procession form is Homi Bhabha, “Processional Ethics,” Artforum, October 2016, 230–37, 292. I return to Bhabha below.

11. Ruti Teitel, “Transitional Justice as Liberal Narrative,” in Experiments with Truth: Transitional Justice and the Processes of Truth and Reconciliation, Documenta11_Platform2, ed. Okwui Enwezor et al. (Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2002), 249. For approaches that emphasize literature and culture without slighting institutional dimensions, see also Paul Gready, “Novel Truths: Literature and Truth Commissions,” Comparative Literature Studies 46.1 (2009): 156–76, and The Era of Transitional Justice: The Aftermath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and Beyond (New York: Routledge, 2011); and Mark Sanders, Ambiguities of Witnessing: Law and Literature in the Time of a Truth Commission (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).

12. On time consciousness, the space of experience, and the horizon of expectations, see Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

13. For the concept of “masterplot,” see H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

14. Robert Meister, After Evil: The Politics of Human Rights (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 25.

15. See also Meister’s critique of transitional narratives: “The rule of law in the aftermath of evil is expressly meant to decollectivize both injury and responsibility and to redescribe systemic violence as a series of individual crimes” (28).

16. For a related argument, see Mahmood Mamdani, “Amnesty or Impunity? A Preliminary Critique of the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa (TRC),” Diacritics 32.3–4 (2002): 33–59.

17. See David Smith, “South African Rugby Team Still Looking for Happy Ending Despite Film Portrayal,” The Guardian, December 7, 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/dec/07/south-africa-rugby-team-film.

18. Eric Santner, “History beyond the Pleasure Principle: Some Thoughts on the Representation of Trauma,” in Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the “Final Solution,” ed. Saul Friedlander (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 143–54. I characterize such narratives as “neoliberal” in order to recognize the diversity of stories that can be told within a liberal framework. The neoliberal variety seeks to produce subjects as “free agents” disembedded from social implication, while other varieties of liberalism can sustain visions of communality and sociality. I take the idea of neoliberalism as a form of disembedding from Yasemin Yildiz, “Governing European Subjects: Tolerance and Guilt in the Discourse of ‘Muslim Women,’Cultural Critique 77 (Winter 2011): 70–101.

19. Stanley Cohen, States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2001), 9.

20. Bakhtin’s definition of the chronotope is apposite for Kentridge’s work. In chronotopes, “time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history.” See Mikhail Bakhtin, “Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel,” in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, tr. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 84. “Thick time” is a Bakhtin-inspired phrase used by Kentridge and applies especially to his works of animation.

21. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991), 26.

22. See James Phelan, Experiencing Fiction: Judgments, Progressions, and the Rhetorical Theory of Narrative (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2007), and Reading People, Reading Plots: Character, Progression, and the Interpretation of Narrative (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989). For a relevant and nuanced account of a “narrative ethics of implication,” inspired in part by my own earlier work on implication, see Hanna Meretoja, The Ethics of Storytelling: Narrative Hermeneutics, History, and the Possible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 179–216.