The horizon of betrayal: Contesting ideals of heroic solidarity in resistance movements

Masa Mrovlje

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Within national practices of political memorialisation, visions of heroic resistance are opposed to images of aberrant, morally depraved traitors. This paper troubles this binary by inquiring into betrayal as an inescapable aspect of the resistance experience and illuminating its ambiguity in relation to the everyday reality of tragic dilemmas that resisters face. For a theoretical framework, I draw on Jean-Paul Sartre’s notion of fraternity-terror, enriched by Simone de Beauvoir’s situated perspective on resistance solidarity and by historical and sociological accounts of betrayal. I show how attentiveness to the ambiguity of betrayal can not only help us rethink resistance solidarity beyond the exclusionary logic pitting absolute commitment against the depravity of treason – it also warns against the reproduction of systematic practices of othering in the new political order. The paper demonstrates the political relevance of this theoretical exploration via the example of a South African novel, The Texture of Shadows, examining how its insights into the ambiguity of betrayal challenge the myths of heroic resistance in South Africa.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Publication statusSubmitted - 10 Sep 2019


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