Journal article Open Access

'Bitter Emotion': Affective Archives and Transnational Solidarity against Apartheid

Thomas, Kylie

In his book about his Irish-South African family and his childhood under apartheid, White Boy Running, Christopher Hope writes of the ‘bitter emotion’ that infuses the politics of both Ireland and South Africa. This article considers how the histories of political struggle in both places are intertwined through readings of photographs taken in Ireland and South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. I draw on these photographs to develop an argument about how affective archives of music, images, and poetry travel across time and space and serve as a conduit for raising awareness about injustice and for forging transnational solidarity. At the same time these photographs provoke a consideration about how Irish identification with the struggle of black South Africans is complicated by the longer history of British colonialism and racism and how solidarity requires both remembering and forgetting. This article also begins to trace the presence and work of South African activists in Ireland who campaigned against apartheid while they were in exile. 

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