The Steve Biko Lectures in Philosophy

The Steve Biko Lectures in Philosophy

March 2015 -November 2016

“We believe that in the long run the special contribution to the world by Africa will be in this field of human relationships. The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look, but the great gift still has to come from Africa – giving the world a more human face.” 
-Steve Biko, Some African Cultural Concepts 

The dehumanizing effects of the South African apartheid regime offered Steve Biko a privileged insight into the general working of the project of Western modernity and of its uncompromising colonial expansion – a colonization of ideas, bodies, and territories – since the 17th century. 

The modernization of Western economic and political structures, the rise of individualism and of the principles of negative liberty brought in their wake the loss of the authority of tradition and of its substantive values.This has led authors such as Hegel, Marx, Arendt, Habermas, McIntyre and Deleuze to think of alternative possibilities of human relationships that transcend the terms set by the model of the self-interested and calculating subject. Biko’s call for the humanization of the oppressed also targeted the notion of the liberal subject.Inspired by the ethical notion of Ubuntu, meaning that “one should become more human by communing with other human beings”, this humanization would offer the world a new way of thinking about human relationships, a new kind of Sittlichkeit. 

The aim of this lecture series is to continue this interrogation and critique of modernity from the epistemic standpoint that Steve Biko’s life and thought represents and symbolizes. This is a standpoint that is at once developed inside the hierarchy of the system, colonized by its norms, and yet formulates a perspective outside of it as the oppressed other. 

Our six invited speakers will address themes that have a direct bearing on the political and cultural situation that a post-colonial and post-apartheid society such as South Africa tends to find itself in, a situation that is exceptionalfor casting light on the limits of the project of modernity.Our speakers will address issues including the nature of political subjectivity, tradition, and community; liberalism, politics, and religion; memory, forgiveness and trauma;the constitution of personal, racial, cultural and political identities; the rationalization of society and technological progress; and the discourse of humanism, agency and empowerment. 

Our six speakers will be engaging on these themes with leading scholars based in South African institutions, with an exchange between characteristically sub-Saharan and Continental perspectives. 

Lecture series organized by the Centre for Phenomenology in South Africa, the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, the French Institute of South Africa and with the support of the Steve Biko Foundation.

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