27.1 | Alexandra Schultheis Moore

“Not to Arouse Your Pity”: Situated Engagement and Human Rights in Dangarembga’s “The Letter”

This essay reads Tsitsi Dangarembga’s short story, “The Letter,” for the ways in which its play with epistolary form challenges normative human rights discourse and literary expectations. I develop the concept of situated engagement examine how the text at once locates itself in the context of the Apartheid state’s repressive apparatus abstract and refuses the reader’s empathic identification. Instead of a narrative of personal suffering, the story demands recognition of the right to stake a political claim to self-representation, a conclusion with implications within the South African context as well as in terms of reading human rights literature more generally.