This essay examines the often overlooked role that the idea of gay rights played in producing the new imaginary of the postapartheid “rainbow nation”—and its neoliberal economic order. I suggest that the figure of the gay person became an embodiment of political change, symbolically mediating conflicts within multiracial modernity in South Africa's emergent public culture, and I analyze the work done by queer “minor characters” in novels by Nadine Gordimer and J. M. Coetzee. None to Accompany Me (1994), The House Gun (1998), and Disgrace (1999) all tell the story of white, middle-class Anglo-South Africans whose struggle to adjust to the new era includes dealing with the revelation that their children are not straight. These novels dramatize how the narrative of the nation as a raced, heterosexual family romance was in crisis after apartheid, and reconstitute their families in queer new configurations—raising questions about the flexibility and persistence of the trope of reproductivity. These texts ask how whites are to “come out” as national subjects and indicate that sexuality alone cannot be the grounds for reinventing race and nation without an attention to systemic economic injustice.
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Brenna M. Munro; Queer Family Romance: Writing the “New” South Africa in the 1990s. GLQ 1 June 2009; 15 (3): 397–439. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-2008-030
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