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n Journal of Literary Studies - "Welcome to the world of our humanity" : (African) humanism, and Black South African writing

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Abstract

As a concept in Western thought and culture, humanism is a generic term referring to a broad spectrum of beliefs and value systems. It emphasises human potential, in particular man's capacity for reason, and implies the idea of a "core" or shared humanity which is transcultural and transhistorical. However, it lays itself open to criticism that it is in fact culturally specific and that its Eurocentrism has helped legitimate colonialism and its suppression or denigration of other cultures. <br>This paper considers the continuing resilience of a progressive humanism, and explores this in relation to African humanism or &lt;I&gt;ubuntu&lt;/I&gt; : to what extent does "African humanism" resemble "humanism" in its Western form? &lt;I&gt;Ubuntu&lt;/I&gt; is mentioned in the final clause of the interim South African Constitution; it was central to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and is arguably one of the values on which the new South African democratic order is based. The article looks briefly at some of the attempts to apply this protean term to such diverse fields as religion, education, jurisprudence, and business management, and then examines the extent to which the values associated with &lt;I&gt;ubuntu&lt;/I&gt; are embodied in the work of black South African writers - in particular, Es'kia Mphahlele, who refers to himself as an African humanist. The article concludes with a brief consideration of Phaswane Mpe's recent novel, <I>Welcome To Our Hillbrow&lt;/I&gt; (2001), which foregrounds the xenophobia and divisiveness that seems endemic to contemporary South African society. It concludes that, in the context of the attempt to construct a democratic South African culture built on a respect for human rights, some recourse to the idea of a shared humanity is almost unavoidable.

As 'n konsep in Westerse denke en kultuur is humanisme 'n algemene term wat na 'n wye spektrum oortuigings en waardesisteme verwys. Dit beklemtoon menslike potensiaal en in besonder die mens se redelike vermoë. Humanisme behels die idee van 'n "kern"- of gedeelde menslikheid wat transkultureel en transhistories is. Dit is egter blootgestel aan die kritiek dat dit in werklikheid kultuurspesifiek is en dat die Eurosentrisme daarvan bygedra het om kolonialisme te legitimeer en om ander kulture te onderdruk of te denigreer. <br>In hierdie artikel word die voortdurende herstelvermoë van 'n progressiewe humanisme oorweeg en word die verhouding daarvan tot Afrika-humanisme of <I>ubuntu</I> ondersoek. Afrikadenkers en politieke leiers het dikwels die waardes van 'n "Afrika humanisme" beklemtoon: In watter mate kom dit ooreen met "humanisme" in sy Westerse vorm? &lt;I&gt;Ubuntu&lt;/I&gt; word in die interim Suid-Afrikaanse Grondwet genoem. Dit het sentraal gestaan in die werk van die Waarheids- en Versoeningskommissie en is moontlik een van die waardes waarop die nuwe demokratiese bestel van Suid-Afrika gegrond is. In die artikel word kortliks gekyk na sommige van die pogings om hierdie betekenisryke term toe te pas op diverse terreine soos godsdiens, onderwys, regspraak en sakebestuur en na sommige van die aansprake wat daarvoor gemaak word. Dit lei tot 'n ondersoek na die mate waarin die waardes wat met &lt;I&gt;ubuntu&lt;/I&gt; geassosieer word in die werk van swart Suid-Afrikaanse skrywers gestalte kry - in besonder die werk van Es'kia Mphahlele, wat na homself verwys as 'n Afrikahumanis. Die artikel word afgesluit met 'n kort oorsig van Phaswane Mpe se nuutste roman <I>Welcome To Our Hillbrow</I> (2001), waarin die xenofobie en verdeeldheid wat endemies blyk te wees aan die hedendaagse Suid-Afrikaanse gemeenskap, uitgelig word. Die gevolgtrekking word gemaak dat, in die konteks van die strewe na 'n demokratiese Suid-Afrikaanse kultuur wat op respek vir menseregte gebaseer is, 'n appèl op die idee van 'n gedeelde menslikheid feitlik onvermydelik is.

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/content/litstud/20/3_4/EJC62376
2004-12-01
2016-12-04
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