“One Does Not Do That to a Human Being”: Reading A Man of Good Hope (2015) as a Testimonio of Human Rights





human rights , refugees , autobiography, testimonio, A Man of Good Hope , (in)justice


Human rights are central to South Africa’s nationalist struggle and imaginings of a democratic dispensation. Amongst other institutions, the Human Rights Commission, the South African Constitution, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Freedom Charter have historically been tasked with enshrining human rights in processes, relationships and moralities defining South African democracy. However, over the years, conceptions of who is entitled to human rights and protection have continued to shift, especially in the wake of increasing numbers of migrants seeking different forms of refuge in South Africa. This article turns to literature as a site to encounter contemporary discourse on migrant human rights in the country. Using Jonny Steinberg’s biography A Man of Good Hope (2015), the article explores how the biography’s styling as a testimonio allows it to critically engage the question of human rights and (in)justice in relation to migrants. Focusing on the protagonist’s witnessing of migrants’ violated lives and themes of victimhood, suffering and dehumanisation, the article examines the ethics of human rights and justice in A Man of Good Hope.


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How to Cite

Motahane, Nonki. “‘One Does Not Do That to a Human Being’: Reading A Man of Good Hope (2015) As a Testimonio of Human Rights”. Imbizo, 16 pages . https://doi.org/10.25159/2663-6565/13796.



Received 2023-06-01
Accepted 2023-11-14
Published 2024-03-04