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THE POLITICS OF BLOOD AND THE MEMORY OF THE MARTYRS: An inquiry into the political legacy of Bantu Stephen Biko

In September 1977, Bantu Stephen Biko was murdered by the South African security
police. Given Biko’s status as a leading anti-apartheid activist, the news of his death
immediately reverberated around the world. To a large number of people, he came to be
regarded as a martyr to the cause of freedom and justice, not only in South Africa but also
on a global scale.

In my proposed tenure at STIAS, I want to study the different ways in which the
assassination of Biko has continued to haunt the process of national reconciliation in South
Africa. My research will be conducted within the framework of a long-term investigation into
the different ways that the dead are instrumentalized as pawns in the battles among the

In 2013, I published a book on “necropolitics” where I carried out close readings of funeral
orations and political discourses from Pericles and Plato to Joseph Goebbels and Fidel
Castro. In my revised edition of the book, I aim to include a series of new chapters, among
them the study on the killing of Stephen Biko and its continuous repercussions on the
conditions of (im)possibility of national reconciliation in contemporary South Africa.


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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].