Transcultural Affinity: Cosmopolitan Imagination in South Africa

My project examines the idea of cosmopolitan solidarity in South Africa. The peaceful transition to democracy and the accompanying Truth and Reconciliation Commission have undoubtedly bequeathed moral and cultural capital to South Africa. In addition to these epochal events, poets, philosophers, novelists and cultural theorists have proffered ideas aimed at promoting transcultural contacts and openness to otherness. In response to Jean and John Comaroff, who argue that “in the present moment, it is the global south that affords privileged insights into the workings of the world at large,” and that Euro-America is evolving toward Africa, I examine how post-apartheid South Africa offers insights into ways of being human in a world characterized by neoliberalism and modernity.

I investigate these related questions:

  1. To what degree did Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and South African writers and scholars influence the South African thinking toward global citizenship?
  2. How might the South African emphasis on ubuntu and other registers of openness such as ‘entanglement,’ ‘interconnectedness-towards-wholeness,’ and empathy inform our understanding of ways of being human?
  3. Can South Africa’s progressive religious atmosphere inform global political and religious cultures?
Project leader(s):
  • Chielozona Eze (Northeastern Illinois)

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