The Diversity in Organizations, Communities & Nations Journal Collection offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Diversity in Organizations, Communities & Nations Research Network.
While the colonial-apartheid governance was obsessed with “segregation” as a policy imperative, culturally diverse communities were established in many South African urban spaces. When the National Party came to power in 1948, these culturally mixed spaces became prime targets for destruction as they represented the antithesis of apartheid segregation: integration. With the promulgation of the Group Areas Act (1950), places like District Six, South End, Fietas (Pageview), and many others, were bulldozed to the ground and their inhabitants were forcibly removed to resettle in separate, racially exclusive townships. Given the post-1994 democratic transformation and its subsequent struggle to undo the legacy of colonial-apartheid, those cultural mixed spaces represent the best examples of what contemporary South Africa needs to aspire to become a democratic society. Considering the contestation around the concept “cosmopolitan” to describe culturally integrated living spaces, this paper defines those historical communities as “cosmubuntu” communities, emerging from pre-colonial Ubuntu communities. An argument is constructed that “cosmubuntu” communities go beyond Eurocentric cosmopolitanism, but also grew out of the Khoi-san expression “!ke e: /xarra //ke”—“diverse people unite”—which informs the African humanist philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am human through other humans” Using the historical case study methodology, this article conceptualises “cosmubuntuism” and illustrates its manifestations in three communities destroyed by forced removals: Fietas (Pageview), District Six, and South End. Forced removals literature is employed to answer the research question: what are the manifestations of “cosmubuntuism” in pre-apartheid South Africa and how can this concept encapsulate “unity in diversity” in a post-apartheid South Africa? Recommendations are made to integrate the history of “cosmubuntuism” and forced removals in a post-apartheid curriculum.
This article presents the highlight of a National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF) project: Remembering District Six: Lest it be forgotten. While the main purpose of this project was to excavate, resuscitate and record forgotten knowledge and memories of forced removals under apartheid, it metamorphosed into a transdisciplinary project with innovative pedagogical and epistemological dimensions. Its epistemological value, in particular, lies in a realization of the importance of historical knowledge in shaping consciousness and identity. The project also generated other articles on historical cosmopolitanism, citizenship and decolonized pedagogy. Data for this project were mainly extracted from secondary sources but smaller scale empirical studies were conducted with both older and younger generations that had their ancestral roots in District Six. Notwithstanding its recognition of apartheid as a crime against humanity and the destructive nature of forced removals, the project arrived at conclusions worthy of sharing in publication. From Cape Town (District Six) the project migrated across the pre-apartheid urban historical landscape of forced removals to detect a common pattern in the literature: cosmopolitanism and Ubuntuism. Not only Cape Town, but also Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Pretoria had flourishing cosmopolitan communities that were demolished to create space for a white minority that came to regret all that were committed in their name. Optimistically, the project creates hope for a democratic and peaceful future in a shared legacy of historical cosmopolitan memory that reminds all that if South Africans of diverse cultural backgrounds could live together in the past, it is possible now and in the future.
Initially the project had a historical ‘memory - work’ focus but it evolved into a contemporary citizenship-building project, not forgetting its resonance with an ailing global struggle for cosmopolitanism, displaced communities, refugees and migrants and gentrification that became a post-apartheid, neo-liberal euphemism for forced removals. This article was first presented at the 2017 International Diversity Conference in Toronto, where it was shared and received critical feedback. There the limitations of a conventional ‘cosmopolitan’ approach to describe South Africa’s complex historical and post-apartheid communities, was highlighted. Burdened with a need for a deeper decolonized and conceptually clearer understanding of cosmopolitanism, this paper was revised and submitted to: The International Journal of Community Diversity and published in 2018. Surprisingly, soon after its publication, the article received at least two substantial international citations. While the project is coming to its conclusion at the end of 2018, hope is expressed that the ideas generated, will have a new beginning. A book publication is envisaged with the intention to make a further contribution to the literature in cosmopolitanism, forced removals and post-apartheid citizenship.
I am humbly honored to be the recipient of this award and wishes to thank the funders: the National Research Foundation (NRF), my institution of affiliation, University of South Africa (UNISA) and Common Ground Publishers for their support.
—M Noor Davids
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