SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Gready, Paul (1997) South African life stories under apartheid: Imprisonment, exile, homecoming. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Download (24MB)


Apartheid South Africa was variously imprisoned, exiled, and engaged in the task of homecoming. This troika permeated society as reality, symbol and creative capital; as a political reality each of the experiences distilled the diverse human possibilities and potentials of apartheid. This is a study of the linked political encounters of detention/imprisonment, exile and homecoming, as well as the more general dynamics of oppression and resistance and the culture of violence, through the life story genre. Within the dynamics of struggle the focus of the thesis is on the transformative nature of resistance, in particular auto/biographical counter-discourses, as a means through which opponents of apartheid retained/regained agency and power. The main aim of the thesis is to articulate and apply a theory of life story praxis in the context of political contestation. The theory has five main components. Firstly, the life story in such contexts is marked by the imperative for narratives to be provisional, partial, tactical, to be managed in accordance with an evolving political purpose. The second component relates to the violent collaboration of state and opponent in identity construction and interpretation. This argument facilitates, as the third theoretical premise, a broad definition of texts that either are auto/biographical or impact upon the context and process of narration. Fourthly, lives are told many times over, identities are repeatedly un/remade, within an arena that is dense with prior versions and/or a discursive void. Finally, I argue that the ownership and meaning of life story narratives are provisional and contested while retaining a dominant narrative and political truth. In the main body of the thesis this theory is applied to the life stories of incarceration, exile, and homecoming.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:16

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads since deposit
Accesses by country - last 12 months
Accesses by referrer - last 12 months

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item