Considering fiction from the colonial era to the present, State of Peril offers the first sustained, scholarly examination of rape narratives in the literature of a country that has extremely high levels of sexual violence.
Lucy Graham demonstrates how, despite the fact that most incidents of rape in South Africa are not interracial, narratives of interracial rape have dominated the national imaginary. Seeking to understand this phenomenon, the study draws on Michel Foucault’s ideas on sexuality and biopolitics, as well as Judith Butler’s speculations on race and cultural melancholia. Historical analysis of the body politic provides the backdrop for careful, close readings of literature by Olive Schreiner, Sol Plaatje, Sarah Gertrude Millin, Njabulo Ndebele, J.M. Coetzee, Zoë Wicomb and others.
Ultimately, State of Peril argues for ethically responsible interpretations that recognize high levels of sexual violence in South Africa while parsing the racialized inferences and assumptions implicit in literary representations of bodily violation.