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In its first iteration, the broad thematic of the Lesser Violence Reading Group encompassed gender, sexuality, violence and visuality, with an emphasis on performance. The second iteration of the group will explore the ways in which artists encounter and seek to negotiate such violence as it plays out through gendered experiences of [his]tory. As organisers, we are particularly interested in the potential of artistic practice - art making, performance, literature, filmmaking - to negotiate the fissures between archive and lived experience.

Centering queer and black feminist perspectives, we hope to find ways to collectively study the gendered and raced legacies of the Indian Ocean and transatlantic slave trades, colonialism, and apartheid. In the collective study of texts, performance, theatre, film, sound and contemporary and historical works of art, the group will explore how “the unspeakable” (Yvette Abrahams (1996) and Saidiya Hartman (2008)) is evoked, and how disavowed histories are recovered, revived, or rewritten?

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The Lesser Violence Reading Group began in 2018, and is convened in partnership between Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) and the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD). The group is envisioned as an open, interdisciplinary discursive space. ’Readings’ are not limited to academic texts, but can include films, plays, images, music and sound, as well as newspaper and magazine articles. Equally, the reading sessions are an opportunity to engage with innovative texts, writers and theorists from South Africa and the Continent.

Participants are welcome from any field, and from any point in their education. The sessions are intended for all who would like to further their intersectional understanding, and would like to meet with like-minded individuals.

Starting in August, the group will meet over five sessions - each led by a different pair of invited presenters from a variety of fields including, but not limited to: activism and social justice, art, art history, performance, theatre, and journalism.

All the best,


Why 'Lesser Violence'?

The idea for the reading group emerged from a panel discussion entitled Lesser Violence - with, through, around, against, hosted by GALA and VIAD on the 31st of August 2017 and facilitated by VIAD curator and researcher Amie Soudien. With contributions from artists Donna Kukama, Gabrielle Goliath, Nondumiso Msimanga and Senzeni Marasela, the aim of the discussion was to bring together a community of artists, writers, curators and activists with a shared interest in gender rights, and to initiate dialogue around artistic (and especially performative) strategies for working with, through, around and against the enactment and perpetuation of gendered and sexualised violence. Now in its second iteration, the Lesser Violence Reading Group was envisioned as one way of furthering the close conversations, interactions and collaborations initiated by this engagement.

In naming the panel discussion reading group, our reference to ‘lesser violence’ recalls Jacques Derrida’s conception of an ethics hinged not on the prescriptive certainty of an ‘ought’ or ‘should’, but on the “ordeal of undecidability” and the possibility of a “lesser violence”. Accounted for here is a terrain of risk in which decisions are made, and must be accounted for, without the guarantee of them being ‘right’ or ‘good’ but at best as constituting a lesser form of violence. The opportunity presented in this reading group is to explore this complex ethical space in relation to performative practices seeking to engage with, and make ‘shareable’, incommensurate experiences of violence and trauma.

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For a sensitive reflection on this ethical conception, and its relation to representations of trauma in post-apartheid South Africa, see Ruth Lipschitz’s ‘Archival aftershock. On spectral justice, non-criminal death and infinite responsibility’ (2017), in Critical Addresses. The Archive-in-Practice. Johannesburg: The Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre.139-149

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For more information on the Lesser Violence Reading Group, contact Amie Soudien (amies@uj.ac.za) or Nikita Keogotsitse (nikitak@uj.ac.za)


Set 'Reading'

Sat 24 Aug | 20:00
No Easter Sunday for Queers | Performance & Discussion | download details here
Note: the play is required reading

Request comp tickets: Nikita Keogotsitse

Session 2

Wed 25 Sept | 18:00
Colonial Formations and Historical Afterlives: Race, Gender and Representation
In conversation: Saarah Jappie, Keitu Gwangwa & Amie Soudien

Download Readings (forthcoming)


Thurs 7 Nov
Final session: details TBC
Session hosted by B Camminga | Venue details TBC

Download Readings (forthcoming)

Session 1

Wed 11 Sept | 18:00
Writing & Staging Queer Intersections
Mwenya Kabwe & Koleka Putuma on No Easter Sunday For Queers | Venue details TBC

Download Readings (forthcoming)

Session 3

Thurs 16 Oct
Studio Experience
Artist's studio visit and session with Bronwyn Katz

Download Readings (forthcoming)