Unconfessed Architectures: published in Disembodied Territories, curated by Sara Salem and Menna Agha

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Slavery in the Cape Colony was officially the central form of social, cultural and economic organization from 1658 – 1834, and vital to the production of many of the key architectural sites from this period. In 1834, slavery was replaced by a system of indentured labour, a continuation of the slave system in all but name. While slavery and associated forms of racialized forced labour are largely represented as mild in early architectural histories of southern Africa, if present at all, there are moments when tracings, slippages and holes in the historical narratives point to stores of revolt, violence, and precarious yet peripheral care. The manor house of Waterhof, for instance, is described by architectural historian Dorothea Fairbridge (1922) as follows: “Waterhof is a place wherein to see visions and dream dreams. Legend says that you may hear the pattering footsteps of the mutinous slaves wherever you care to listen for them.” I am intrigued by these “footsteps”, and those who “care to listen for them”; and beyond the specific histories of this particular house, how similar stories emerge of various similar spaces, and the wider geographies where slaves were captured from, and the places where refuge was sought. This proposal asks how architectural history might contend with these ghost stories and hauntings. Rather than understanding the inability to know ‘fully’ as disabling, I am interested in thinking through the fictions of history, to draw on Gayatri Spivak, as a means to push back against epistemic violence of disciplinary constraints, and begin to re-map these architectures.

Accessible at: https://disembodiedterritories.com/Unconfessed-Architectures
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationDisembodied Territories
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


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