Global Citizenship and the Practice of Being Human. South African Visions and the legacy of Enlightenment

This project addresses the idea of global citizenship and common humanity in South Africa today. These ideas were powerful in Enlightenment Europe, where they promised a new regime of justice in opposition to despotism, exploitation, and slavery. But they were also highly problematic, since they tended to obscure cultural difference and impose European values on other cultures, often by force. This dynamic persists in South Africa today – not only because of the role ideas of the human played during apartheid and in the two decades of democracy, but because of the way citizenship in the global economy works against cultural difference. I will ask how inherent problems in the Enlightenment idea of common humanity and global citizenship have carried through in to the South African context. I am interested in the solutions to these problems that have been offered by writers in South Africa. I will be looking at literature as well as select scholarship in the humanities. The aim of my study is to explore how contradictions in the idea of global citizenship persist in South Africa, and to ask what the project of common humanity in the global economy can learn from South African scholarship and literature.

Project leader(s):
  • John Noyes (Univeristy of Toronto)

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