Scratching the surface: the home and the haptic in Lauren Beukes’s Zoo city and elsewhere

Louise Bethlehem*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

ABSTRACT: This paper deploys the haptic, and more broadly speaking, notions of multisensory reading and spectatorship to reconfigure perceptions of home. It explores configurations of home in the practice of the late French-Israeli visual artist, Absalon, to draw tropes of “complicity” and “contagion” into an intersection with discourses of moral hygiene arising from the modernist preoccupation with denuded surface in the history of architecture. It then goes on to read a postapartheid South African text, Lauren Beukes’s Zoo city (2010), through the lens of these concerns. Beukes’s text, it claims, can be made to precipitate the historicity of the white suburban home under apartheid. The novel offers alternative iterations of domesticity, however, as metonymies of contagion shift into metonymies of conviviality. The final section of the paper investigates the vulnerability of the home against the background of the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza and its assault on the built environment. It explores an art exhibition, Postcards for Gaza, staged by the dissident Israeli organization, Zochrot, in the context of a previous military assault on Gaza in 2008. Here the reworking of photographic surface is made to gesture towards the possibility of political reparation in an alternate modality of complicity that Mark Sanders parses as “human-foldedness” (Sanders 2002).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3-23
Number of pages21
JournalScrutiny2
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © Unisa Press.

Keywords

  • Absalon
  • Lauren Beukes
  • Postcards to Gaza art exhibition
  • Zoo city
  • haptic in literature
  • modernist architecture
  • multisensory reading
  • surface

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