The politics of trauma: gender, futurity and violence prevention in South Africa

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2 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, I consider the framing of trauma as an epigenetic exposure that warrants intergenerational interventions. I draw on ethnographic research conducted in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa in 2014–15 to illustrate how violence prevention in this context is increasingly framed in epigenetic terms. I show that, in contrast to the anticipatory logic of a programmatic focus on maternal investment as a means to arrest intergenerational cycles of violence, violence produces different infrastructures of anticipation and effects on intergenerational relations. I argue against the speculative conflation of trauma and intergenerational epigenetics, to resist a newly biologized view of the bodily manifestations of apartheid history—in itself a re-inscription of damage, and a form of violence. Drawing on Murphy's concept of distributed reproduction (2017b), I argue for collectivized forms of intervention that aim for accountability and social justice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-457
Number of pages17
JournalMedical Anthropology Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2022


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