Shahi and Ascione (2016) argue that the basic problem of disciplinary international relations (IR) is the lack of inclusiveness of external voices. There is, however, a growing step beyond “Western Eurocentric” IR to explore novel methods of studying the “international” and researching subaltern voices and suppressed knowledge (Jones, 2003; Vasilaki, 2012). This required the search for “differences” in the “non-West” (Bilgin, 2008). and according to the 2014 survey on teaching, research and international politics (TRIP), the development of concepts from “other / non-western” civilizations (Wemheuer-Vogelaar, et al., 2016). This PhD thesis contributes to this project by examining the South African philosophy of Ubuntu and its instrumentality for IR.
The non-western turn in IR has led to demands for a “global IR” as a space for the dialogical discovery of IR theories and concepts beyond the West (Acharya 2011; 2014). The non-western turn of the disciplinary IRs must reflect the current geographic and cultural distribution of the world. The enlivening of this dissertation is therefore an interest in how Ubuntu, as an intellectual tradition from the African region, can contribute to global IR.
The dissertation argues that the South African philosophical concept of Ubuntu, translated from the Bantu languages as “person” (humanity), can serve as a powerful performative discourse within the IR. Acharya and Buzan (2007) identify a number of factors that limit the possibility of non-Western theoretical and conceptual contributions to IR. However, given the emergence of global IR, this thesis argues that there is more leeway for the development of non-Western IR than Acharya and Buzan seem to allow. This dissertation shows that Ubuntu can play an important role for the global IR project in two ways: First, methodically – as a dialogical instrument to promote a constructive interaction between a pluralism of knowledge sources within the IR, according to Bilgins (2008) argument, which is often not western is ideas are found in western thinking and vice versa. And secondly, normatively, as an alternative worldview for the development of concepts for the reorganization of global responsibilities – including as a concept for promoting an intercultural definition of humanism and human dignity, as a conflict resolution mechanism and as a system of thought to reverse ecological degradation. The main question that animates this study is therefore: how and what can Ubuntu contribute to global IR and how do we get involved in global politics? It must be emphasized that Ubuntu is not viewed here as a separate and superior worldview, but that Ubuntu serves as a normative concept that can bring together common narratives in a variety of different worldviews, recognize differences and at the same time promote harmony.
Accordingly, this dissertation asks the following research questions:
- Does the African region have anything to contribute to the theoretical and conceptual development within the IR?
- Does Ubuntu’s performativity in building a new South Africa illustrate the prospect of a worldview different from the current one?
- Can the Ubuntu philosophical concept provide a dialogic technique for evaluating the growing sources of knowledge of IRs? And,
- Does Ubuntu offer an alternate worldview that can help develop concepts for reorganizing and fulfilling global responsibilities?
The main goals of this study are threefold: First, to present Ubuntu as evidence of existing sources of knowledge in the African region that can contribute to theoretical and conceptual developments in IR. Second, to question the philosophical concept of Ubuntu and its role in building a new national consciousness in South Africa after apartheid as a new public discourse. And thirdly, to construct Ubuntu as a dialogical tool for navigating the growing body of knowledge of IR and to develop Ubuntu normatively and conceptually for the reorganization and execution of global responsibilities. The investigation into Ubuntu here is preliminary, however, with the main objective being to create space for exploring other African sources of knowledge for the benefit of global IR. Nor is it argued that Ubuntu can be kept homogeneously in all (South) African societies, but rather as an example of the existence of African intellectual traditions. Another example worth exploring is the ancient Egyptian concept of Mate (the ordering principle) which informs the creation of the world and how it can be helpful in reading African forms of knowledge (see Martin, 2008).
The lack of a significant examination of African sources of knowledge within the IR, however, implies that the dissertation uses a purely qualitative methodology that is largely based on sources that go far beyond the boundaries of the disciplinary IR. A multidisciplinary approach was used which hopefully will serve as a stimulus for further interdisciplinary engagement between IR and disciplines such as African Studies, History, Philosophy, etc. Nonetheless, this study makes an original contribution by outlining the value of Ubuntu as a dialogical methodology and normatively as an alternative worldview for organizing global relationships.
After the PhD thesis focus has been introduced, the rest of the study continues in three main chapters. Chapter two deals with a review of the literature criticizing the exclusive gatekeeping practices of disciplinary IR, highlighting the post-western / non-western turn of the discipline and the emergence of global IR that has enabled contributions from the non-western. In chapter three, the dissertation examines the importance of African forms of knowledge and how to localize them, isolating the philosophical concept of Ubuntuas, one such intellectual tradition, from southern Africa. Chapter 4 attempts to demonstrate the performative instrumentality of Ubuntu as a new political discourse that enlivens the formulation of a new national consciousness in South Africa after apartheid and the role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in this process. The chapter examines Ubuntu as an original contribution to the IR, which is based on and emphasizes an ahistorical (in the western sense of the word) but still existing South African philosophical concept, like Ubuntu Humanism can help us rethink and rethink our global politics. The dissertation concludes with a summary of the main argument and the contributions.
CHAPTER II. LITERATURIC REVIEW:
This chapter provides an overview of a number of previous studies that have given impetus to this dissertation. The chapter examines those studies that have criticized the Eurocentrism and gatekeeping practices of IR and have led to a move towards global IR. and examines Africanist criticism and contributions.
Eurocentric IR to global IR:
A number of studies have primarily served to criticize the status and structure of the IR discipline. Some of these criticisms have described the discipline as arguably “American social science” (Hoffman, 1977; Turton & Freire, 2016; Waever, 1998). Numerous studies have criticized the Eurocentrism of disciplinary IR (e.g. Hobson, 2014; Wallerstein, 1997; Tickner, 2003; Hurrell, 2016). Eurocentrism implies that IR scholars in the West adhere to a dominant standard of civilizational hierarchy that manifests itself in an imperialist standard – that is, the West must embark on a civilizing mission; and an anti-imperialist standard – that is, the rest must emulate the West (Hobson, 2014).
Oddly enough, non-Western scholars consistently profess similar standards of the civilizing hierarchy. Such Eurocentrism reflects, albeit often subliminally, the historical preponderance of Western dominance. As Falaye (2014) claims, African universities, with their structures – curriculum, research, and reading lists dictated by Western philosophies and experiences – remain the most enduring of all colonial institutions. While critical theories such as Marxism and postcolonialism, advocated by some non-Western scholars, often emphasize the marginalization of the non-West, they too inadvertently implement Eurocentrism by firing non-Western agencies (Bischoff et al., 2016; Hobson), 2007).
In addition, South Africa – arguably the only African country with a strong disciplinary IR culture while taking a fundamentally African approach to teaching and research – persistently uses Eurocentric theoretical and methodological approaches (Smith, 2013). It is also telling that IR realism has long remained and remains the primary analytical theory of South African intellectuals in some areas (Smith, 2013). Of course, this emphasis on realism has its roots in a pre-apartheid confrontational South Africa, with realism highlighting the nation’s alienation from the international system while justifying domestic oppression (Smith, 2013). While the 2012 TRIP survey found that more IR intellectuals in South Africa now prefer constructivism in their research, there is still a great reliance on Western approaches to analyzing the international from the African region (see Maliniak et al., 2012). South Africa cannot represent all of Africa. However, this implies, as Smith (2013) argues, that by continually applying standard mainstream theories, African intellectuals have not problematized the prevailing Eurocentric worldview. This dissertation contributes to the problematization of the Eurocentric worldview.
The move away from Eurocentric IR has led to the demand for a global IR as a framework designed to create space for academic discourse, empirical study and analysis to criticize the prevailing constraints imposed by the diffusion of IR Eurocentric thinking and dealing with cosmologies and epistemology from the periphery in order to give the disciplinary IR a truly pluralistic and universal perspective (Acharya, 2016). In this context, the dissertation tries to create a basis for the development of IR theories and concepts from Ubuntu as a performative discourse that can promote the dialogue between a variety of sources of knowledge within the framework of Global IR, and as a revised concept for the present that challenges Western universalist sentiments about the organization of global politics. Following a series of studies, the project to think of the “international” differently has already begun, with some of these voices coming from the African region.
African IR criticism:
Some studies have inquired about the nature of knowledge and the type of knowledge within the IR. For example, Zondi (2018) examines what a “decolonial turn” brings about in IR and argues that achieving epistemic justice requires, in addition to social justice, the abandonment of the monocultural knowledge system that characterizes Eurocentric IR, and emphasizes one Shift towards knowledge pluralism, which creates epistemological diversity, can play an important role in the decolonization of knowledge and power. de Matos-Ala (2017) also examined how the IR curriculum at the Witwatersrand University in South Africa was changed to be more epistemically plural. The pluralization of the IR curriculum at universities opens up opportunities to counter the Eurocentrism, which has led to the marginalization of subordinate voices in IR (see also Vasilaki, 2012).
In other studies, Karen Smith (2009, 2012) identified two ways in which Africa can / can contribute to our understanding of international politics. The first consists of posts that are easily identified as IR capable and sometimes fall victim to Eurocentrism, including indigenization or localization of mainstream cannons; Criticism of the restricted view of the state as the primary unit of analysis in the IR; and the collectivist understanding of the behavior of African states in international forums (Tieku, 2011; Smith, 2012; Odoom & Andrews, 2017). The second way Africa can contribute to our understanding of international politics is mainly outside the current boundaries of disciplinary IR (Smith, 2012). This includes contributions from other disciplines; and acquiring knowledge from the everyday stories of ordinary Africans (Smith, 2012; 2009; Odoom and Andrews; 2017).
Just as necessary, Smith (2009) argues, the reinterpretation of old stories with a different language, new main characters and new plot changes. It is the philosophy of Ubuntu in the context of telling stories from African epistemologies and cosmologies finds its niche to contribute to how we organize and engage in global politics. However, as Smith (2012) warns, this does not mean that “African stories are morally superior: it would mean turning a blind eye to the ways in which various African actors themselves marginalize and dominate” (p. 33) . . Like Western sources of knowledge, African intellectual traditions must be subjected to academic rigor and scrutiny.
Non-western sources of knowledge:
Numerous studies have already examined a variety of Eastern sources of knowledge, all of which have contributed significantly to IR. Of course, such studies cannot be fully examined here. However, some examples deserve special mention because they provide a direct impetus for the approach to this study. Giorgio Shanis (2007; 2008) Inquiry into the Islamic Umma and Sikh Khalsa Panth and how the two communities re-conceptualize universalism and solidarism creates a space to bring religion back into the IR (see also Petito & Hatzopoulos, 2003). Similarly, Deepshika Shahi (2019) seeks to develop, through the Sufi philosophy of 13, a global IR that is non-derivative and non-exceptionalth The poet of the century Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī theoretically presents an “alternative explanation of recognized practices of the IR …” while he “suggests an unexplored generative reason for new universalistic theoretical investigations of the IR” (p. 269). So Shahi IR opens up to a very strong intellectual tradition. On the other hand, an investigation of the Chinese IR community offers the exploration of a particular worldview that relies heavily on ancient Chinese thought and dialectics, as well as philosophers such as Confucius (Qin, 2012). These studies are illustrative only, but they and many others have provided direct impetus for analyzing the instrumentality of Ubuntu for IR that follows now.
This chapter summarizes the key studies that question the Eurocentrism of disciplinary IR and identify the global IR framework as a space for Eastern voices and thoughts. The chapter also examines Africanist contributions to IR and illustrates the emergence of non-Western sources of knowledge that gave impetus to this dissertation. The following chapter questions the existence of characteristic African sources of knowledge and identifies and examines Ubuntu as a philosophical concept that emerges from the Bantu languages of southern Africa.
CHAPTER III. UBUNTU AND THE LOCATION OF AFRICAN KNOWLEDGE:
This chapter examines questions about African sources of knowledge and how Ubuntu proves the existence of African sources of knowledge. While there are increasingly new sources of knowledge from the East in the IR, the African region lacks such original theoretical and conceptual developments within the IR from indigenous systems of knowledge and belief. This chapter examines and defines the philosophical concept of Ubuntu. Before exploring Ubuntu, you need to clarify what is meant by “African knowledge”. Does it exist? How different is it from other sources of knowledge? A more pressing question, however, is: what is meant by “African”?
About African knowledge:
The geographic continent and political region known as Africa are as diverse as any other, and it is the case that in individual African countries, the experiences of individuals are equally different depending on the social, cultural, and economic context (Smith, 2009). In the following, it is expected that different contexts and factors influence people’s worldview. Hence, as used herein, “African” means a considerable degree of generalization. Nevertheless, the use of “African” here must be justified on the grounds that there is a considerable amount of common ground between different African experiences, for example in terms of disciplines. Africans can be said to have peripheral status to the mainstream IR (Smith, 2009; Odoom & Andrews, 2017). This study agrees with Smith (2009) in leaving the definition of “African knowledge” open to include: contributions from African intellectuals inside and outside the African region; Contributions from non-Africans who specialize in Africa; and understanding gained from a careful reading of African experiences. The main point here is that; Original theoretical and conceptual developments from Africa must reflect African experiences and contexts.
When considering the question of who speaks for or represents Africa, Zegeye and Vambe (2006) ask: “What is African knowledge?” (P. 336). If Africa is written in a European language, does it count as African knowledge? This study is consistent with the conclusions of the International Symposium on Globalization and Social Sciences in Africa of 1998: “The production of African knowledge is an exercise that cannot be defined geographically, and any attempt to seal the production of African knowledge would not be only in vain It would also be a very harmful exercise ”(Nieftagodien, 1998, p. 232). Any attempt at exceptional cases and exclusivity contradicts the goals of Global IR. The aim must continue to be to recognize a large number of sources of knowledge.
In addition, Smith (2009) asks, for example, the degree of differentiation between African knowledge and European insights. As Smith (2009) admits, “in an increasingly globalized world it is difficult to determine what is purely western or non-western as history is littered with cultural, social, political and intellectual cross-pollination” (p.272). Hobson (2004) has also shown how historically the East influenced the emergence of Western civilization through so-called “resource portfolios” such as technology or ideas. Hence, Bilgin (2008) rightly suggests that both the East and the West influence each other. However, as Smith (2009) claims, a variety of factors, depending on the socio-cultural and politico-economic context, significantly influence the way in which imported or forced knowledge is interpreted. Depending on the geographical conditions and individual experiences, the interpretation process may lead to new insights. The Gacaca The Rwandan courts for handling genocide cases provide a fitting example of a mixture of Western judicial practices and indigenous dispute resolution mechanisms (see Human Rights Watch, 2011). In addition, the aim of Global IR is to examine ways in which different worldviews, contexts, actors and experiences can enrich disciplinary IR. In this regard, the specificity of Africa and African insights offer perspectives for the enrichment of IR (Smith, 2009).
Sources of African knowledge:
An important factor influencing the type of knowledge is culture, as the cultural background significantly influences the reality of the world (Smith, 2009). According to Ali Mazrui, “culture offers lenses of perception, a view of reality, a view of the world” (Mazrui, 1980, p. 47). In a similar way, Tickner (2003) identifies people’s “everyday experiences” as a source of knowledge. Knowledge is then produced depending on one’s own reality. Accordingly, depending on his reality, an intellectual must prioritize what kind of knowledge to produce. Furthermore, there is the question of the closeness between a researcher and the realities to be explored. Anyidoho (2006) has discussed the impact of positionality on identity, arguing that a researcher’s identity (s) matter in relation to their proximity to the realities they are exploring. This further substantiates the need for African knowledge to reflect African insights and experiences.
Using African experience and knowledge to generate alternative theories and concepts is a difficult but not impossible task. Such sources exist in African literature and society. In order to uncover them for the localization of agential spaces, theoretical entrepreneurship and innovation must be pursued, including African epistemology and cosmologies (Akoto & Akoto, 2005). What we know today as social facts or knowledge – especially dominant Western knowledge – were once stories. These Stories turned into knowledge Constructed within IR, as Bleiker (2001) states, a certain interpretation of global politics into a universal standard. However, there is a need to problematize the design and maintenance of such a standard. In order to challenge these prevailing stories and standards, alternative stories must be developed. How do you accomplish this task?
One way is to turn new characters into old stories. Mainstream IR has adhered to certain characters in telling stories about global politics, particularly the character of the “state” – as the primary unit of analysis (Smith, 2009; Odoom & Andrews, 2017). IR liberalism and critical theories have already responded to this problem, arguing that numerous actors inside and outside the state influence global politics. African insights can further problematize the hegemonic state centrism of the IR by introducing novel characters and expanding the units of analysis to include, for example, traditional leaders and their roles in peace and conflict (Malaquias, 2001). Significantly, African knowledge already lies in African science, but unfortunately outside the disciplinary boundaries of IR (see Smith, 2002; Tickner, 2003; Bajpai, 2005).
In this dissertation, the emphasis is on drawing from African insights, experiences and stories largely outside the confines of Eurocentric IRs and comes from a variety of sources including African studies, philosophy, history and more. This dissertation is particularly concerned with South African cosmology, where cosmology is defined here as a collection of a people’s way of thinking, drawn from their history and culture, dealing with issues of reality, value, truth, etc. (Akoto & Akoto , 2005). However, the origins of African stories and insights shouldn’t necessarily qualify them as social facts. It will be easy to recommend subjecting African sources of knowledge to a standard (Western) social science critique. But are methods from the social sciences sufficient for a discipline that has systematically marginalized a large number of sources of knowledge outside Western borders in the course of history, for example to examine the alternative intellectual traditions of Africa?
In this context, Mudimbe (1988) has argued that both Western and African readers of African knowledge largely depend on conceptualizations and categorizations that are compatible with a Western epistemological process. This situation is not necessarily always deliberate, but such a process of knowledge seems to indicate that traditional African sources of knowledge do not have their own independent rationality (Mudimbe, 1988). Nonetheless, this study will not and cannot deny the value of current social science methods and methods for any kind of academic endeavor. Refusal to problematize the Eurocentrism of such techniques can, however, endanger Eurocentric tendencies. This study promotes research into sources of knowledge from the African region through a multidisciplinary approach, in particular through work from work in African Studies.
What is ubuntu
The philosophical concept of Ubuntu is widely practiced by southern, central, and some East and West African cultures belonging to the Bantu tribal group (Eze, 2010). Dolamo (2013) has suggested that the concept may not necessarily be limited to the African region, but has gained general importance due to the efforts of post-independent African countries to draw from their past in the hope of building better nations. The philosophical concept according to Eze (2010) is derived from the “colloquial language” of the style of reference to a “person” in the Bantu language family: in Shona as “Munhu” (plural: “Abantu”); in Sotho as “Mutho” (plural: “Batho”); in the Nguni languages - that is, isiZulu, isiXhosa and isiNdebele as “Umuntu” (plural: “Abantu”); and as Ubuntu in isiSwati (see also Dolamo, 2013). In the Sesotho languages - that is, Sepedi, Setswana and (southern) Sesotho – as “Botho”. (Dolamo, 2013). For the purposes of this dissertation, the popular term Ubuntu will be used consistently.
The word Ubuntu has a common root “Ntu” with the word “Bantu”, which means “human” (a person). “Ubu” as a prefix denotes a condition of “being and becoming”; and in connection with the tribe “Ntu” the idea of a transformation into the personality is suggested as a continuous process, which is not only oriented towards the unity of the community, but also towards the unity with the cosmos (spiritual realm) and the physical environment (Mhlambi, 2020). This unity of one individual in relation to another individual in harmony with the cosmos and ecology embodies the state of existence according to the Nguni tradition and is in the harmony of ‘uMvelinqangi’ (the creator who was before everyone else) and everything else (Mhlambi, 2020). It is from “uMvelinqangi” as the supreme reality that the reality of other beings progresses, for in all creations uMvelinqangi’s form manifested itself, different and individually unique, but overall perfect (Mhlambi, 2020). According to Ngubane (1979), some of these forms were the spirits of things that had life in them, and uMvelinqangi put flesh and bones on them to make them human, to roam the earth. As part of the essence of uMvelinqangi, human beings are sacred and therefore all human beings must be regarded as equal and treated with respect and dignity. The philosophy of life, popularly known as Ubuntu, emerged from this belief (Ngubane, 1979).
The definition of Ubuntu is as ambiguous as the attempt to define an indigenous knowledge system, be it African or otherwise. L.J. Sebidi (1998: p.1) defines Ubuntu as “something abstract, … [a] imperceptible, almost indefinable quality or property of human actions, the presence or absence of which can only be recognized by the human mind ”(cf. in Mnyaka, 2003, p. 142). The concept is quite broad and unspecific that Gade (2012) discovered different and different interpretations of the concept by South Africans of African descent (SAAD) in a survey. In this survey, Gade (2012) was able to distinguish between two sets of interpretations: one – those that describe Ubuntu as the moral essence of an individual; and two – those who identified Ubuntu as a concept or ideology, such as a worldview, ethical system, African humanism, etc. that connect people. Bezeichnenderweise haben beide Definitionsgruppen als zentrales Thema den Begriff der Persönlichkeit und der Gemeinschaft (Gade, 2012).
Eine weitere Komplikation dieses Prozesses der Definition von Ubuntu ist der häufige Missbrauch des Konzepts in populären Medien und im täglichen Gebrauch (Commodification), der häufig zu Fehlinterpretationen und einem Missverständnis seiner Bedeutung führt (Blankenberg, 1999). Es ist daher sinnvoll, wie Blankenberg (1999) vorschlägt, dass Ubuntulike, da die meisten afrikanischen Ideen und Philosophien mündlich von Generation zu Generation übertragen werden, ohne dass eine maßgebliche schriftliche Quelle zu konsultieren ist, einer (falschen) Interpretation überlassen bleibt. Der Erinnerungsprozess muss daher auf eine Weise erfolgen, die das primäre „Wesen“ einer Idee betont. Bei dem Versuch, Ubuntu zu definieren, betont diese Dissertation seine „Essenz“ und identifiziert die Entstehung eines Menschen (Persönlichkeit) durch seine Gemeinschaft und seine Beziehung zueinander als grundlegend.
Die Essenz von Ubuntu:
Ubuntu unterstreicht in erster Linie die Bedeutung der Gemeinschaft oder einer Gruppe, wobei das Konzept im Nguni / Ndebele-Aphorismus kurz und bündig ausgedrückt wird: „umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu“, was grob in die englische Sprache übersetzt wird als: „Personen sind Personen durch andere Personen“ (Mboti, 2015) S. 125). Das Herzstück von Ubuntu ist der Grundgedanke, dass ein Individuum nicht bedeutender ist als die Gruppe. Diese Weltanschauung unterscheidet sich stark von der westlichen Weltanschauung, in der individueller Komfort absolut ist. Pobee (1979: S.49) fängt dies kurz und bündig ein, wenn er die Aussage macht: “Cognatus ergo sum”, übersetzt als “Ich bin durch Blut verwandt, deshalb existiere ich”. Desmond Tutu untermauert diese Position und drückt aus, dass „eine Person von anderen Personen zu einer Person gemacht wird“ (Tutu, 1999). In ähnlicher Weise drückt Mbiti (1989: S.106) dieses afrikanische Sprichwort aus: „Ich bin, weil wir es sind; da wir also sind, bin ich “. Jeder Student des westlichen Denkens kann leicht feststellen, wie stark die Aussage von Mbiti der kartesischen “Cogito ergo sum”, “Ich denke also, ich bin” widerspricht (siehe Newman, 2019). Es gibt zahlreiche Eigenschaften, die Ubuntu zuzuschreiben sind. Prozesky (2003) identifiziert zehn davon: Menschlichkeit, Gastfreundschaft, Mitgefühl, Verletzlichkeit, tiefe Freundlichkeit, Großzügigkeit, Freundlichkeit, Empathie, Sanftmut und Zähigkeit. Diese Dissertation wird jene Eigenschaften hervorheben, die für IR-Studien und -Praxis von entscheidender Bedeutung sein können.
Eigenschaften von Ubuntu:
Es ist erforderlich, die Unterschiede zwischen (afrikanischer) „Menschlichkeit“ und „Humanismus“ zu verstehen. Menschlichkeit nach Dolamo (2013) hat mit dem einfachen Wesen des Menschseins zu tun, gepaart mit den Eigenschaften, die es definieren; während der Humanismus als eine Ideologie verstanden werden kann – als ein Denksystem, das kollektive menschliche Bedürfnisse und Interessen über individuelle stellt. Die afrikanische Menschlichkeit betont dann die Eigenschaften des selbstlosen Engagements für das Kollektiv gegenüber individuellen Triumphen; Der afrikanische Humanismus kann als ein Denksystem verstanden werden, das dem kollektiven Wohlbefinden und Wohlstand eine hohe Bedeutung beimisst.
According to Ubuntu, a person achieves humanity through continual good relations with other persons in their community (Eze, 2011; Mhlambi, 2020). Becoming human then requires a significant recognition of the humanity of the ‘other’, which can only happen and flourish when respectful human relations are cultivated (Eze, 2010). Mbiti (1989) stresses the importance of human relations when he argues that individuals in traditional life are incapable of existing on their own, for they owe their existence to other humans, which can be traced from their contemporaries back to their ancestors.
However, Eze (2010) raises an interesting issue when he suggests that the linguistic similarities among the Bantu tribal grouping in their respective terms for Ubuntu, quite plainly incorporates the ‘essence or quality of being human or humaneness’ (that is, Ntu). In this regard, the essence or quality of being ‘human’ must be perceived as indigenous to these Bantu societies, therefore, non-indigenes are not accorded similar degrees of essence or quality of humaneness (Eze, 2010). This might suggest that non-blacks are not fully human, which is an oversimplification of the matter. In the Nguni languages for instance, a white person is referred to as ‘Umlungu’ (plural: ‘Abelungu’) – which refers to ‘White people’ “with a benign emphasis on difference” (Eze, 2010: p.96). This difference is further emphasized in the Tsonga aphorism: ‘Mulungu a nga na ‘xa ka,’ xaka ra yena i imali’, that is, “A white person has no relatives, money is his relative” (Coertze, 2001, p. 113).
Eze (2010) has suggested that the ‘othering’ of the white person as ‘different’ (i.e., not fully human), is entrenched within the historical encounters between indigenous peoples and Europeans, particularly in the case of Black South Africans. This claim should not be simply dismissed as an inversion of Eurocentrism’s Western self, as against a non-Western other. Indeed, the ‘othering’ of the Westerner by African indigenes was a result of early encounters between them, one that was marked by plundering and material exploitation. Hence, Black Africans became incapable of identifying intersubjective values of Ubuntu within ‘White people’. Nevertheless, being human among the Bantu languages is not homogenous as Eze (2010) argues, for even within the Bantu tribal grouping what constitutes a human differ from community to community. This does not insinuate that there is an exclusive bias towards an ‘other’, it merely implies that within each community, there are standard criteria or values that an individual must consistently exhibit to be considered as a full human member of community (see Eze, 2010; Mhlambi, 2020).
The measure of moral standards according to Ubuntu depends on the nature of the relationship one cultivates with others, as well as the environment and other interdependent forms (Mhlambi, 2020). One demonstrates ‘unoBuntu’ (having Ubuntu) when they cultivate meaningful relations in service to their communities; in reverse, one lacks Ubuntu (‘akala’ Ubuntu) when they isolate themselves from their communities (Mhlambi, 2020). It is the case ergo, that even indigenes are capable of losing their humaneness or personhood when they stop cultivating communally beneficial relations, a sentiment well captured in the Nguni saying: ‘Wo, akumuntu lowo’ (Oh, that is no person) because one has negated their humane responsibilities (See Mhlambi, 2020). Similarly, it can be deduced that White people can achieve ‘unoBuntu’ or ‘Okuba ngumu-Ntu’ (personhood) as long as they cultivate continuous good relations with others in their community. The significance of grounding ones humanity in that of others is simplistically reflected in the common Zulu greeting: ‘Sawubona’, which translates as “we see you”, or “I, on behalf of the community recognize and affirm your humanity” (Mhlambi, 2020, p. 14). Such a salutation affirms the quality of one’s personhood, which subsequently recognizes their humane existence as defined by their community, allowing them to truly say, I am a person because I have been recognized by another person. This understanding subsequently ushers in the idea of hospitality, gentleness, and generosity as significant qualities of Ubuntu, because they establish the paths for the acceptance of a ‘different’ ‘other’ into the community.
Hospitality entails selflessly welcoming a stranger into one’s life. In Bantu communities the significance of hospitality is captured in the following expression: ‘Alela Moeng, gobane motlalekgomo ga a tsebje’, that is, “receive a guest with hospitality because the one that will bring you a beast [cattle] as a present is not known” (Eze, 2010: p.100). However, this openness does not transform the status of the guest, as s/he is still only a stranger, thus: ‘Moeng, o naka di maripa’, that is, “A guest has short horns” (Eze, 2010: p.100). A guest remains an ‘other’ until they are assimilated into the ways of the society, in other words, when they achieve UnoBuntu or ‘Okuba ngumu-Ntu’. There is an express connection between getting assimilated into the society and becoming a full human member of society, as long as a stranger adopts and lives by the defined good ways of society, s/he can become a full human member of society irrespective of race or original culture.
According to Mangena (2020), there is significant distinction between hospitality in the Ubuntu sense – which accommodates generosity, and Western hospitality. Western hospitality is very much commercialized with comfort often provided for a cost. It is not being suggested that ‘White people’ are generally inhospitable, the point being made is that in Western societies hospitality like many sources of human welfare have been commodified. Contrarily, in the Shona/Ndebele communities for example, a stranger was often freely provided with basic necessities while in transit (Mangena, 2020). Similarly, among the Northern Zimbabwean ‘Korekore-Nyombwe’ people, before a stranger can seek direction, s/he must first be given water to quench their taste (Mangena, 2020).
Closely connected to hospitality is the quality of gentleness and empathy, which includes softheartedness and the sacrifice of one’s time to cater to the concerns of others; hence, reflecting the altruistic character of Ubuntu. Yamamoto (1997) captures this succinctly when he suggests that when a community is unhealthy, individual members of the community are also liable to be unhealthy. This claim is given credence in the emphasis on good public health in the contemporary world. These qualities emphasize a sense of selflessness, because when one diminishes the humanity of another, they inadvertently dehumanize themselves.
Furthermore, Ubuntu emphasizes tolerance, compassion, and forgiveness. An individual is capable of losing their humanity, in which case an individual can be ostracized and cast out of the community (Mnyaka, 2003). However, a repentant individual must be welcomed back into the community, because an inability to forgive and reconcile signifies a lack of Ubuntu. This quality is reflected in the expression: ‘umntu akancanywa’ (one should not give up on another person) (Mnyaka, 2003). The purpose of these qualities – of compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation, which will later underpin the South African TRC, is the promotion of healing over retribution, the mending of inequities, and the restoration of damaged relationships (Tutu, 1999). A refusal to use one’s humanity for the betterment of the society is always frowned upon, until such a time when that individual recognizes their responsibility to the society (Netshitomboni, 1998).
This chapter has examined the question of the existence of African knowledge, significantly, it has examined the concept of Ubuntu as evidence of African forms of knowledge. The concept has been defined, relying chiefly on proverbs that have been passed on orally from one generation to the next, thus demonstrating that African knowledge sources can only be truly gathered from African experiences and stories. Crucially, the chapter has outlined some of the defining qualities of Ubuntu, which shall provide the basis for evaluating the significance of the concept for IR. In the next chapter, the importance of Ubuntu as a public discourse in South Africa is discussed, and its usefulness for IR are outlined.
CHAPTER IV: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF UBUNTU:
This chapter identifies two ways in which Ubuntu can be useful for IR. One – as a dialogical tool for disciplinary IR; and two – as an alternative worldview for the advancement of concepts for the conduct of global affairs on issues of humanitarianism, conflict resolution, and ecological challenges. South Africa’s post-Apartheid nation-building exercise that had its foundations in the construction of a new national consciousness through Ubuntu, provides a blueprint for challenging certain Western standards in IR and proposing alternative ways of promoting global stability.
Ubuntu in the Making of a New South Africa:
Cobley (2001) asserts that the new social history of South Africa was initially typified by the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which stressed first, the emancipating power of joint recollection and confession; and second, the need to locate and unify existing monuments of the old apartheid government and the new South African government, while erecting new ones. Ubuntu as a new public discourse legitimated the TRC, giving it authority to give new meaning to past history, while reinterpreting the contents entrenched within the old narrative (Eze, 2010). It was the power of Ubuntu as a new narrative and public discourse that led to the dampening of apartheid tensions, while simultaneously unifying South Africa. Ubuntu was hence; a reconstructed memory which told a story within another story; the first story was that of apartheid – translated from the Afrikaans as ‘apartness’, formally becoming state policy with the advent to power of the Nationalist Party government in 1948 (Coleman, 1998). The new policy set apart the White minority from the Black majority population, isolating the latter through repressive structures in a manner that seemed to keep the White population aloof to the predicament of the Black population (Jolly, 2001). This political system was based on exclusionary and exploitative policies that negated the ‘other’ person’s identity and humanity, setting them apart (as different) (Eze, 2010). The second (new) story was Ubuntu, having the capacity to produce a memory that reflected, and was sympathetic to the tumultous and diverging narratives within the history of South Africa (see Eze, 2010). Underpinning this ‘confluence of narratives’ was a moral legitimacy granted to the new government, permitting it to surmount past injustices through the institution of a ‘new political humanism’, one that defied common sense Western notions of retributive justice (see Eze, 2010).
The success of the TRC was grounded in a historical context unique to South Africa, a nation that had evolved through two distinct narratives – of oppressed and oppressor. While the Black-dominated African National Congress (ANC) party was fated to be victorious in South Africa’s first interracial elections, the Afrikaner National Party clearly still controlled the machinery of government including all security apparatuses (Eze, 2010). Thus, when Michael Onyebuchi Eze refers to an acceptance of the condition for amnesty for former National Party officials by the ANC as ‘progressive’, we find the evidence of his claim in the very fact that power transitioned peacefully to a democratically elected government. Given the sociopolitical climate in the immediate post-apartheid South Africa however, the transfer of political power in itself could not serve as remedy for decades of marginalization and oppression suffered by the majority in the hands of the minority. It will take something special, almost miraculous, to sustain the peace that had emerged from the negotiations for amnesty.
Eze (2010) suggests that the institutionalization of the TRC with the legitimacy to grant amnesty, as well as serving as a podium for the development of a new common history towards the future, significantly met this end. Ubuntu became the theoretical foundation for the TRC, infusing into it the values that guided the processes of negotiating reconciliation, while justifying such reconciliatory efforts (Eze, 2010). Ubuntu “facilitated the process of reconstituting the subjectivity of “victims” and “perpetrators” within the ambience of a new consciousness” (Eze, 2010: p.161); simultaneously ‘reconstituting’ and ‘reconciling’ distinct subjectivities, provoking a conversion from victimhood-to-survivorhood. The TRC thus provided forum for both victims and perpetrators to have a human encounter. Ubuntu provided an opportunity for the oppressed to speak and be heard as agents in South Africa’s history, bringing the victims and perpetrators to embrace their common humanity. As Eze (2010) maintains, the ‘other’ became a recognizable human being, no longer a distant ‘it’ set apart by the segregationist policies of apartheid (see also Jolly, 2001). Libin (2003) in his summation of the thoughts of journalists who covered the TRC proceedings, suggested that the most significant achievement of the TRC was its ability to put a face to both victims and perpetrators; and give a voice to the opressed.
The TRC and its Ubuntu-based processes have faced accusations of a denial of justice, with the process often critiqued in contrast to the Nuremberg, Hague, Arusha, and Tokyo trials (see Gibson, 2002; Derrida, 2001; Ramose, 2003b). However, Eze (2010) is right to suggest that South Africa was a different context, the country lacked the immediate capacity to attempt to bring thousands of perpetrators to justice, but significantly, the Western notion of punitive-based retributive justice did not serve the nation’s practical purposes, and a restorative concept of justice made more sense (see also Jolly, 2001). This sentiment was aptly captured in the report of the TRC (vol.1, 1998: p.5):
There is no doubt that members of the security establishment would have scuppered the negotiated settlement had they thought they were going to run the gauntlet of trials for their involvement in past violations. It is certain that we would not, in such circumstances, have experienced a reasonably peaceful transition from repression to democracy. We need to bear this in mind when we criticise the amnesty provisions in the Commission’s founding Act.
Ubuntu’S capacity to reveal the cruel truth of South Africa’s past, exposing the injustice of apartheid as enjoyed by perpetrators who for a long time claimed innocence through a crime of complicity, is in itself sufficient justification for the TRC and its processes (Krog, 1998; Jolly, 2001). However, the magnanimity of ‘victims-turned-survivors’ to forgive and reconcile rather than seek vengeance, has its foundations in Ubuntu’s notion of restorative justice as distinct from standard (Western) notions of retributive justice as codified in humanitarian international criminal law for example (Ramose, 2003b). The Western concept of retributive justice finds justification in a belief in established judicial processes, which aids people in overcoming their feelings of anger from perceived injustices by meting out the appropriate measure of punishment, the victim is satisfied, and the wrongs of the past are forgotten (Nussbaum, 2016). Contrarily, the notion of restorative justice is well defined within the Nguni maxim: ‘Umu-Ntu akalahlwa’, that is, “no one is beyond redemption” (Mhlambi, 2020: p.16); a desire to turn one’s life around must be welcomed by the society. This is the basis of tolerance and reconciliation in Ubuntu and the legitimating logic of South Africa’s TRC, by discarding the humanity of the oppressed, the oppressor equally lost their humanity, which could only be restored through reconciliation.
The Instrumentality of Ubuntu for IR:
While disciplinary IR is increasingly becoming receptive to non-Western sources of knowledge, with the emergence of Global IR as evidence of this progression, there seems to be a vacuum concerning how to reconcile novel sources of knowledge outside the West with extant, albeit Western, yet indisputably useful knowledges. Equally, concerns remain over the nature of interactions between knowledge sources from distinct regions of the non-Western world. The following sections of the dissertation aims to propose the usefulness of Ubuntu as a dialogical tool for guiding interactions between distinct sources of knowledge within Global IR; as well as propose Ubuntu as an alternative worldview for ordering global politics. As Michael Onyebuchi Eze (2010) has asserted, it is practically impossible to apply the values of Ubuntu traditionally even to Bantu communities in contemporary times. While Ubuntu possesses rich qualities, it is also the case that the societies associated with these qualities are known historically for their dehumanizing practices that marginalized and oppressed certain members of the society such as women. The use of the concept in post-apartheid South Africa required reengineering to fit the context in which it was being applied, its usefulness in IR must equally follow such processes of reengineering and contextualization as a modern ideology.
Ubuntu “can be enriched, refined to accommodate vagaries of present circumstances; it can be useful in law, in Constitution, and public ethics. As an ideology, it ceases to be dogmatic; it becomes flexible (although it can also be manipulated)” (Eze, 2010, p. 160). Ubuntu cannot be substituted for a political system such as democracy, hence, its instrumentally as a discourse rests on an ability to reexamine and incorporate the concept into fluctuating sociopolitical and economic circumstances (Eze, 2010). We must recall and locate Ubuntu as internal to particular societies – the Bantu tribes; thus, an imposition of Ubuntu externally to other societies amounts to hegemonism. The point is that the goods and virtues of Ubuntu possibly carry different meanings in different societies, what is considered good in any society must be internal to that society as publicly agreed upon (see Eze, 2010). Ubuntu must constantly be evaluative, paying attention to historical as well as socioeconomic and political context, it must be open, adaptable to changing circumstances, nondogmatic, and dialogic. If Ubuntu can be any use for IR, its advantages will rest on its performative capacity.
Ubuntu as a Dialogical Tool:
A major challenge to the Global IR project maybe a refusal by the mainstream to engage with emerging alternative sources of knowledge. While Global IR is providing a framework within which novel knowledge sources can contribute to the discipline, a lack of a methodology for accommodating unique sources of knowledge may result in prophylactic tactics that renders dialogue impossible. A dialogical methodology that opens up space for an encounter of distinct knowledge sources in their uniqueness and ‘otherness’, yet adaptable to context is necessary. Borrowing from Freire (2005), dialogue herein is conceived as a process of interaction between two or more sources of distinct knowledges, with the ultimate aim of constructing new knowledge that benefits all.
In his seminal work ‘Orientalism’, Edward W. Said had argued that European scholars who studied the Orient (East) constructed a division epistemologically and ontologically between East and West, which consequently (re)presented the East as backward and evil, and significantly, irreconcilable with the West (Said, 2003). Said’s proposal was not to deny differences between East and West, but rather to problematize the “notion that difference implies hostility, a frozen reified set of opposed essences, and a whole adversarial knowledge built out of those things” (Said, 2003, p. 352). A significant challenge to the progress of Global IR, is potential hostility towards non-Western sources of knowledge, or indifference. But there simply cannot be disciplinary progression without dialogue. Ubuntu as a dialogical tool can bridge this “unbridgeable chasm separating East from West” (Said, 2003, p. 352).
Dialogue as a creative process enables us to “transcend our subjective particularism by looking beyond our purviews and mind-sets”; dialogue serves the purpose of bringing subjectivities to an understanding (Eze, 2010, p. 154). Transcending our subjective particularisms can be accomplished via the hermeneutic “process of experience, judgement, interpretation and understanding” (Eze, 2010, p. 154). Ubuntu’s role in dialogue must be performative, in that it embraces diverse histories, accounts, experiences, and memories, while concomitantly reinventing, rather than concealing anatagonisms (see Eze, 2010). The point where Eastern and Western knowledge meet is a point of a potential confluence of distinct memories, narratives, and realities, this distinction need not be confrontational, as long as one narrative does not seek to impose itself and dominate. Jolly (2001) has argued that where collective memories encounter there is a need to negotiate contradictions; similarly, transcending the chasm of East and West in disciplinary IR requires negotiation, accomodation, and compromise.
Ubuntu as a method of dialogue as Eze (2010) argues, is a creative process, fluid, adaptable, and transformative for both subjects. It is transformative in the sense that the experience of an encounter between two distinct cultures through dialogue is bound to improve the status of the subjects, because as Bernstein (1991) suggests, by comprehending cultures distinct to ours “we can come to a more sensitive and critical understanding of our own culture and those prejudices that may lie hidden from us” (p. 36). Ubuntu’s hospitality trait allows for the accomodation of the ‘other’, without requiring that the ‘other’ discard their difference.
The marginalization of knowledge sources outside Western boundaries within disciplinary IR has been a problem of a misconception of the ‘other’, a problem of setting apart what one does not, or refuses to recognize. Ubuntu as was evident in the TRC in post-apartheid South Africa, was able to transcend a subjectivity constructed on exclusionary practices while reconstructing a new discursive subjectivity based on distance and relation. While being inclusive, Ubuntu remains open and sensitive to difference, cautiously non-hegemonic, paying attention to historical context as it reconciles diverging memories not by imposition as a unified false consciousness, but via a process of bringing these memories into dialogue (Eze, 2010). Ubuntuas a dialogic tool hence, becomes a process of a construction of novel intersubjective knowledge, a better understanding of the other. Knowledge of the other is significant for IRs purposes as a discipline that deals with the world, but not in the confrontational manner that has underpinned the discipline for much of its history, but in a constitutively dialogical manner. It is the case hence, that criticisms levelled against IRs inability to sufficiently analyze the non-Western world are justified, because Western knowledge has refused to dialogically encounter knowledge from the ‘other’. The validity of knowledge must therefore, depend on its dialogue with, and recognition of the validity of other sources of knowledge.
Ubuntu and Global Responsibilities:
Normatively, Ubuntu can be instrumental in developing an intercultural definition of humanity and human dignity to cater for the world’s present humanitarian crisis in its numerous guises; as an alternative conflict resolution mechanism; and as a belief system for responding to an impending ecological catastrophe. Magobe Bernard Ramose (1999) has discussed how for centuries the ideals and values – underpinned by individual rationality, that emerged during the enlightenment epoch, were reserved solely for Europeans. While the status of humanity was later extended to other regions of the world, publicly at least, first codified globally in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948), social science scholarship seems to have persisted with the definition of humanity that led to the dehumanization of numerous races. This definition is grounded within Western individualist rationality as promoted from the enlightenment era (see Karavanta, 2011). Kozlarek (2011) is right to argue that there is a need for a new kind of humanism, one that reflects the realities of the contemporary world. Indeed, a new kind of humanism cannot emerge through an imposition of a universalist humanist tradition, and because universal ideas and values are extant in all cultures, there is a need for dialogue to identify those common values that makes a human in today’s world (Kozlarek, 2011; Dieterlen, 2011). The reality of today’s world is one of differences – in culture, as well as in experiences and narratives; yet as Kozlarek (2011) posits, people throughout the world share a common predicament, that of dehumanizing experiences. From the experiences of migrants fleeing conflict and inhumane conditions of living, to ordinary citizens living in constant fear as a result of warfighting and crime, today’s reality points to a confluence of dehumanizing experiences, one in need of constructive dialogue.
The continuing crisis of humanity to an extent, as intricate as it obviously is, can be traced to Western individualist conceptions of what makes a human. Eze (2011) for example, has described the exclusionary policies of apartheid South Africa as underpinning the needs of capitalism; the need to exploit and accumulate wealth justified the need to oppress the ‘other’. Capitalism has its roots in such individualist notions that promote competition as necessary for living a dignified life. This dissertation is not a critique of capitalism; however, there is a need to problematize the kind of thinking that has created the current reality of the world, especially if an alternative is to be proposed.
It is almost a truism to suggest that global politics, like the world itself is everchanging and non-static, and in such a world, new relationships are consistently being constructed and old ones reconstructed. This process of construction and reconstruction requires a new kind of mediation in the contemporary world, one underlined by such Ubuntu values as reconciliation, hospitality, forgiveness, and the recognition of difference as the starting point of dialogue; with a strong symbolism of inclusiveness, and an intersubjective process that seeks to restore discarded humanisms. Ubuntu can be instrumental in this case by guiding the processes of the construction of new relationships and the reconstruction of strained extant ones.
The new social history of South Africa in the post-apartheid era was a merging of two diverging memories and narratives, of oppressor and oppressed, of perpetrator and victim. From the civil war in Yemen that has created the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster among other conflicts in the Middle East (International Crisis Group, 2020); to the unending civil wars in the African region (De Waal, 2019); to the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan along other tensions in the Asian region (Tellis, et al., 1998); and the race crisis that grips the United States of America (U.S.) and Europe (King, 2020); all potentially made worse by the present Covid19 pandemic (Charlton, 2020); these problems and numerous others, between state and non-state actors globally, are all emblematic of an unending crisis of humanity. The inability to resolve these challenges is reflective of the inadequacies of extant conflict resolution mechanisms for example. This is not to oversimplify the nature of these challenges; it is merely to suggest that we need to approach them today from new perspectives.
Ubuntu’s performativity implies that where conflictual parties dialogue, past inadequacies can be reformed by reconstructing their future relationship. Conflict resolution mechanisms globally often seek retribution for the victims, a process considered as the norm; however, such retributive concepts of justice often exacerbate conflicts because perpetrators are unwilling to subject themselves to punitive measures. While suggesting a restorative notion of justice for conflict resolution may be considered unfair or a denial of justice, in situations such as the Yemen crisis for example, where the humanitarian costs of war have become unmanageable, surely alternatives must be pursued for the ultimate sake of peace. Restoration does not imply letting perpetrators of heinous crimes work free; the Nguni aphorism: ‘Umu-Ntu ngu mu-Ntu’ (a person is a person) implies that individuals have the liberty of conscience to do right or wrong, and as long as they demonstrate a genuine willingness to do right, which must be reflected in an individual’s effort towards incessant service to one’s community, then restoration can commence (Mhlambi, 2020). A demonstration of such a willingness implies that an individual must be permitted the chance of redemption: ‘Umu-Ntu akalahlwa’ (no individual is irredeemable) (Mhlambi, 2020).
In a humanitarian crisis, both victim and perpetrator lose their humanities, the victim loses their dignity of life while the perpetrator loses the essence of their humanity because they no longer recognize the humanity of another, they lose and lack Ubuntu. In this case, a gradual and deliberate effort at restoration can be instrumental in forging new relationships and giving a new meaning to their horrible histories. However, transforming how we resolve conflict in today’s reality is simply not enough to ensure harmony and stability. In the Anthropocene age, there is a need to make our environment a conscious part of our reality because it directly affects both domestic and global security (see Dalby, 2013).
In Nguni cosmology, there is an environmental attribute to becoming a human being, for an individual’s existence is not dependent on his/her relations to another individual alone, but also to a unique form that makes up a whole (Mhlambi, 2020). Mhlambi (2020) outlines the forms as the individual, the community, the cosmos, and the environment. These forms together make a whole and harmony can only be achieved when one recognizes his/her relationship with the individual forms, as the ultimate reality. Recognizing others, including all the other forms is in conformity with uMvelinqangi, who is the ultimate source of all forces complexly and inseparably intertwined (Mhlambi, 2020). Today’s reality must recognize the intricate connection between individuals and their communities, as well as their relations with the natural world, for a failure to take care of the environment will ultimately result in disharmony and global instability. The impending ecological crisis is reflective of the wasteful culture of the current order of affairs, because humans have objectified the environment as separate (different) from ourselves, allowing us to unscrupulously exploit the earth. The interconnectedness between humans, the environment, and the spiritual is what Kunene (1981) has referred to as ‘umthetho wobuntu’ (‘the Fundamental Law of Humanity’). Yamamoto (1997) alludes to similar sentiments when he says that Ubuntu is the “idea that no one can be healthy when the community is sick” (p. 52). The realities of the modern world have taken the natural environment for granted, exploiting and destroying its resources, individuals must reconcile with the environment by recognizing it as a significant part of our existence and humanity, and begin to make practical effort towards healing.
In summation, this chapter has demonstrated the performative ability of Ubuntu as a public discourse typified by South Africa’s TRC. Significantly, this chapter has outlined the instrumentality of Ubuntu for Global IR, as a dialogic methodology for engaging with a plethora of knowledge sources, as well as a distinct worldview for the reimagination and reorganization of global affairs.
CHAPTER V. CONCLUDING REMARKS:
The dissertation has argued that there are African forms of knowledge which are quite distinct from other forms of knowing, which can be located in African experiences, insights, stories, and more, while emphasizing the need for such African knowledge sources to be reflective of African experiences. The third chapter evinces the location of such African forms of knowledge through an examination of the Southern African cosmology of Ubuntu, introducing the essence of the philosophical concept and its primary qualities of African humanness and humanism. The subsequent chapter demonstrates the performativity of Ubuntu as a public discourse in the foundation of the post-apartheid South Africa, arguing that the values of humaneness – especially those of reconciliation and forgiveness, entrenched within the concept were the theoretical basis for the functioning of the nation’s TRC. The dissertation argues that Ubuntu’s restorative model of justice is significantly distinct from Western notions of retributive justice, hence Ubuntu can serve as a distinctive worldview capable of enriching Global IR.
The rest of the dissertation is dedicated to demonstrating the performative power of Ubuntu as a public discourse, especially its instrumentality to Global IR. In this regard, the dissertation makes the case that Ubuntu can serve as a dialogical methodology for assessing IRs’ growing body of knowledge sources. The power of Ubuntu to recognize differences while reconciling antagonisms, is reflective of the concept’s capability to integrate a plethora of distinct forms of knowing for the promotion of a truly Global IR. This ability to recognize and accept difference, is aptly reflected in the popular Nguni aphorism: a person is a person through other persons. This is not to say that people are the same, the case being made is that the primary quality of an individual that must first be recognized is their indestructible and unique humanity, which is a process of a construction of community-wide relations.
Ubuntu’s instrumentality for Global IR is further emphasized through its distinct worldview, by proposing alternative ways of reorganizing and reimagining global responsibilities. Relying on Ubuntu qualities of hospitality, generosity, and empathy, the dissertation proposes the need to develop a new intercultural humanism as a response to the continual crisis of humanity. The dissertation similarly argues that conflict usually dehumanizes both victim and perpetrator, hence, conflict resolution mechanisms can rely on Ubuntu’s restorative quality especially in cases where individuals have significantly lost their humanism and dignity. According to Ubuntu, forgiveness and reconciliation cannot be dismissed as a denial of justice, but as a redeeming process for the greater good of humanity. Further, the environmental attribute of Ubuntu challenges individuals to embrace the natural environment as a fundamental part of our humanity, for a genuine healing process is required for restoring the environment after centuries of exploitation.
In summation, the Global IR project has begun a process of bringing together distinct sources of knowledge, a process this dissertation has contributed to through an examination of Ubuntu and its instrumentality for said project. This dissertation is an original contribution to the process of pluralizing IR, as well as a demonstration of the ability of non-Western sources of knowledge to significantly contribute to the reimagination and reorganization of global politics. The process of bringing in African knowledge will require looking beyond IR boundaries as well as engaging with other disciplines, but it will also require developing new methods and methodologies for reading African sources of knowledge. As has already been alluded to, this dissertation is merely a preliminary engagement, with the hope that subsequent studies will explore and examine numerous other sources of knowledge from the African region for the enrichment of Global IR.
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