Call for Papers: Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Conference 2012

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
Please note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.
Opportunity closing date: 
Wednesday, 23 May, 2012
Opportunity type: 
Call for papers

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation promotes the values, rights and principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. The foundation also collects, records, promotes and display, through historical artefacts and contemporary material, Ahmed Kathrada's role in South Africa's liberation struggle and its relation to the role of other individuals, groups and movements both nationally and internationally, among others.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation is calling for papers for its annual conference, taking place under the theme ‘Unity in Diversity: What Does it Mean for Non-racialism and Nation-Building?’, from 11-12 October 2012 in Johannesburg.

The conference 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 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’.

The phrase Unity in Diversity is indelibly linked to South Africa’s legacy of overcoming apartheid and its identity as a nation. It 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 and 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 and 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?

Abstracts should address the above 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.
  • The proposed panels: 15 May 2012.

Inquiries: Dr Caryn Abrahams, Research Manager, Kathrada Foundation, 072 148 4851, E-mail:

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