Boas Mabiza and the long walk to freedom : the diary of an abused and neglected boy as a 'potential space' - implications for therapeutic practice

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Tina Sideris


Psycho-analytic Psychotherapy in South Africa, Volume 12, p.72-86 (2004)



This article discusses the use a South African abused boy makes of his diary as a 'potential space', in Winnicott's terms. His entries negotiate fantasy and reality, life history and political context. Extracts from other texts punctuate his diary. Notes on the life of Mr. Mandela from the Long Walk to Freedom represent his suffering. A poem 'I Feel' expresses his pain, and discourses of freedom and rights communicate his anticipation. That he has access to these discourses makes the historical contingency of the 'potential space' significant. This raises ethical questions about practice in the 'potential space'.

Medical Humanities in Africa

WISER is working to establish the field of medical humanities in South Africa with other partners at Wits and in the region. Medical Humanities took root in the interdisciplinary spaces between social history of medicine, medical sociology, medical anthropology, literary studies, art and film studies, cultural studies, politics, philosophy, legal studies, public health, psychiatry, medical economics and medical ethics. Although initially concerned with contrasting and comparing approaches from the humanities and medical science to themes of health, suffering, therapy, pain and illness, it has grown in ambition to consider the foundational question of what it is to be fully human, inviting debate around vital epistemological problems. The interface of medicine and humanities also demands a broadly interdisciplinary discussion about what constitutes evidence, and this is critical in the formulation of all contemporary political arguments, including health policies. 

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