Southern African Democracy and the Utopia of a Rainbow Nation

Table of Contents

1 Invitation to a Discussion

We are suffering from the restrictions of travel and meetings caused by the Covid-19 pandemia. Essential forms of cooperation have become impossible, and the date of their revival will probably remain uncertain for some time. Meanhwile we learned that video and telephone conferences are a makeshift rather than a replacement.

This situation, however, is not a game changer for everyone. On the contrary, many scholars from the Global South suffer from being kept from participating in academic debates even under non-pandemic conditions. Research funding and trip money are scarce, and without personal presence many noteworthy academic contributions remain unrecognised and sidelined.

Additionally, the current circumstances are far from being historically unique. For instance, during World War II many European scholars were refugees and confronted with fundamental problems of survival. At the same time, a lot of them maintained academic exchange by writing letters.

We deliberately seek to revive this traditional cultural technique of exchanging letters, enhanced by some options of digitised technologies. We refuse to use the common solutions of internet forums because we think that letters contain an instance of reflection that is missing from so-called real-time communication. In web forums, contributions obtain attention by being made quickly, bold and provocative. (We partly observe similar effects in video conferences.) Thoughtful caution, which should not be a stain in science, is pushed into the background.

Digitisation offers us the option to address letters to more than a single person. We want to use this possibility by regularly publishing - with the consent of the discussants, of course - parts of the discussion in order to motivate further participants to reply.

The Covid-19 pandemia has interrupted the academic exchange on an international level. We would like to initiate a transnational discussion by combining a traditional mode of scholarly discussion - the exchange of letters - with new options of digitalised societies - publishing the discussions as a wiki on the web.

The topics and the participants listed here are only the beginning, and we explicitly invite other scholars to approach us with own suggestions for discussions on related topics.

1.1 Discussion: Democracy, Science and Postcoloniality

Studying democracy in Southern Africa calls up the question whether democracy is not a Western concept and, hence, a continuance of colonial domination despite its emancipatory claims. We want to deepen this discussion here by starting a dispute on the relation of hierarchy and equality.

1.2 Diskussion: Das Fremde im Unterricht am Beispiel des südlichen Afrika

An dieser Stelle entwickeln deutsche Studierende ein Unterrichtskonzept, mit dem sie die gesellschaftliche Perspektive des südlichen Afrika verständlch machen wollen.

Author: Jürgen Schraten, Sean Maliehe

Created: 2020-07-08 Wed 14:18