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 living.
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.