How did a truth commission examining the final thirty four years of apartheid manage to construct an account of the past that did not place race center stage? This article will argue that a constellation of ideological contexts and practical possibilities placed boundaries on the interpretive reach, discursive terrain and scope of activities of the TRC, with specific consequences for its engagement with the nexus of race, racism and apartheid. Some of these boundaries were in place prior to the establishment of the TRC, some were the boundaries of the political space in which the TRC acted, while others were the consequence of choices made by the organization itself.
Madeleine Fullard is a historian and former researcher at the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). She previously worked with the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa on post-TRC prosecutions and investigations into persons who disappeared during political conflict.