Discussion Questions: There was this Goat

First of all, I could not help but compare the book with my own experience as a former journalist and how the mundane job of transcribing and translating could, in this book, become the central task out of which an entire project developed. The seemingly simple goal of deciphering the testimony of a victim’s mother grew into an ambitious project spanning multiple academic disciplines. Topics in history, psychology, justice, culture, philosophy all intersect at one point in South Africa’s history known as the Gugulethu Seven incident. There was this Goat answers many questions addressing the human psyche in relation to that incident but in the process it also asks a host of new ones. Below are a few questions we may want to discuss in class:

  1. Human rights abuses such as kidnapping, execution, torture occur to individuals. Why does the reconciliation between a group of victims and their abusers lead to a sense of national reconciliation even if not all victims were given the same chance? Where does this sense come from?
  2. Is national reconciliation universally applicable across world? Why? What is the common thread that makes it so universal?
  3. How does the idea of national reconciliation relates with Lieberman’s thesis that the brain is wired to connect? How does forgiveness play a role in the evolutionary standpoint of ensuring group living?
  4. How would we (as an individual) have testified had it been our son who was killed? In noticing the difference between Mrs Konile’s testimony and ours, what does this gap tell us about truth when the cultural context differ?
  5. Given the multitude of themes addressed in this book, what would be its primary message?
  6. On page 58 in the last paragraph, Kopano remarks how neo-liberal, capitalist, Western psychology violently interrupts African indigenous psyches. He goes on to explain how African students appear terribly confused upon entering universities where they must uproot their understanding of the nature of social relations and about themselves. So is there no universal definition of the Self? If not, then what do we make of disciplines such as psychology which must assume some sort of universal standard?
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