Call for papers: Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Conference 2012

I went to this conference last year, and while interesting and necessary, it needed broader (read: less academic) participation. If you’re interested in the topic, you should submit an abstract or attend the event if you’ll be in Joburg at the time.
Call for papers: Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Conference 2012

11-12 October 2012

The 2012 annual conference of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation aims to be a forum for activists, public intellectuals, researchers and policy makers to discuss and debate non-racialism in contemporary South Africa, moving from words to action.

The theme for this year’s conference is:

Unity in Diversity: What Does it Mean for Non-racialism & Nation-Building?

The phrase Unity in Diversity is indelibly linked to South Africa’s legacy of overcoming apartheid and its identity as a nation. It conjures up images of people from all walks of life and racial groups waving one flag. It is an expression of the Constitution’s preamble that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, united in our diversity”. The term underwrites the South African coat of arms, implying that it is paramount to how this country defines itself. This year, Unity in Diversity is also the chosen theme for the centenary celebrations of African National Congress. In its rationale, the notion is ‘the essence of congress’ and the ‘cornerstone of the nation-building project’.

Unity in Diversity is also an important ideal in other countries with diverse populations. In South Africa, there is a need to refine our understanding of its meaning 18 years into democracy. What does it mean for building a non-racial society? There is also a need to probe the implications of such an ideal on nation building efforts, more broadly, and its contradictions. Is ‘Unity in Diversity’ a matter of tolerant co-existence? Does it speak to more than just celebrating multiple individual and group identities within a diverse country? And what happens when seemingly tolerant societies see the resurgence of racist attacks & sentiment, or narrow nationalisms? How complementary are notions of ‘non-racialism’ and ‘Unity in Diversity’? And how can these be reconciled in the face of increasing racial, ethnic and religious fractures across various political, economic and social arena? What lessons are there for South Africa & elsewhere? What does it mean in the context of shifting notions of identity and classification, or representation and redress? And how do we make sure that ideals of non-racialism and unity are preserved and upheld in different arena – schools, places of worship, workplaces?

Call for Papers

Authors are invited to submit abstracts for this conference that address this theme. The focus of papers may include, (but need not be limited to):

  • Contesting Unity in Diversity: Addressing any of conundrums that the notion of Unity in Diversity throws up;
  • Unity in Diversity in practice: case studies exhibiting challenges and/or successes in various sectors of society;
  • Unity in Diversity and the preservation of identities;
  • Unity in Diversity as a new pattern for democracy after Luthuli (“It is suggested that…in a community like ours, diverse in very many respects, you can’t hope to share democracy. But I personally believe that here in South Africa, with all our diversities of colour and race, we will show the world a new pattern for democracy.” (Luthuli, 1958).
  • Constitutional inclusivity, citizenship and xenophobia
  • Unity in Diversity as an articulation of non-racialism in South Africa
  • Unity in Diversity: More Unity, Less Diversity?
  • Proactively building unity in diverse societies.


Proposed panels: 15 May 2012
Paper abstracts: 23 May 2012 (no more than 200 words)
Please contact Dr Caryn Abrahamsn Research Manager,  Kathrada Foundation, for expressions of interest or should you wish to make further inquiries.

This initiative is supported by:

  • Intercultural & Diversity Studies at Wits
  • International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation & Social Justice (UFS)
  • Institute for Justice & Reconciliation
  • Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism & Democracy (NMMU)
  • Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO)
  • Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity (UKZN)
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