Authors: Kavitha Ramsamy*, Rutgers University
Topics: Africa, Cultural Geography, Ethnic Geography
Keywords: non-violence, transition to democracy, Gandhi
Session Type: Paper
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Palladian, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
Gandhi’s twenty-year sojourn in South Africa was central to his political and spiritual evolution as a non-violent activist for radical social change. However, the memory of Gandhi’s work in South Africa has been contested recently along two lines: After its transition to democracy, South Africa embraced the rhetoric of the “rainbow nation” as a way of overcoming its deeply fractured apartheid past. The memory of Gandhi in South Africa became a flashpoint of debate in the emerging narrative of a unified South African nation, as segments of the Indian and African populations contested Gandhi’s contribution to the South African freedom struggle. Second, Joseph Lelyveld, in his widely publicized recent biography of Gandhi, resurrected the claim that Gandhi was an imperial apologist who harbored racism toward Africans, which re-ignited earlier disputes about Gandhi’s legacy. The aim of this paper is to explore Gandhi’s activism in South Africa, with a focus on his relationship with Africans. The paper will (a) survey the existing literature on Gandhi’s years in South Africa and identify conceptual gaps; (b) examine the controversy regarding Gandhi’s ethnocentricism toward Africans; and (c) sketch out a framework for interpreting his contribution to South Africa’s struggle for democracy.