Conference highlights social issues
The Society of Commons at the University of KwaZulu-Natal recently hosted a conference at the university’s Howard College Campus under the theme, Philosophy Born of Struggle-inspired.
The conference was supported by the Student Representative Council, Student Services Division and the College of Humanities.
Speakers included Professor Ari Sitas of UCT; socio-political critic and activist, Mr Mphutlane wa Bofelo; Director of the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity (CCRRI) at UKZN, Professor Rozena Maart; a panel of students from the CCRRI who work on Philosophy Born of Struggle, including Minehle Dlamini and Philile Langa; and Pan African activist, Mr Vusi Oldman Mahlangu.
The Conference also featured book launches, music and poetry performances. “When Molaudi and Zola came to me to discuss their idea about hosting a conference that was titled, “Philosophy Born of Struggle – inspired,” I gave them my support immediately. With short notice, and little funds one can plan events that still have an impact.
‘As someone who has been in attendance at Philosophy Born of Struggle conferences for several years now and a keynote speaker at the 20th conference at Purdue in 2013, I have seen our students take on the old school of intellectual traditions and inject them with questions that speak very clearly to their understanding of Philosophy Born of Struggle,’ said Maart.
Maart explained: ‘Philosophy Born of Struggle, as an area of study is also the name of the annual conference which brings together scholars from around the world who offer accounts of the Black experience of being human in their work, as well as examine the ways in whick key concepts in philosophy – mind, consciousness, thinking, knowledge and reason, among others –are addressed within African, African American, Asian, South and Central American contexts, the global south, the Arab world.’
‘One only has to look at the history of our country, and the continent of Africa with its remaining 52 countries, to understand why social and political thought that emerges from social movements within which the oppressed and the colonised are embedded are crucial to the study of philosophy. Scholars who work from the Philosophy Born of Struggle position recognise the struggles against slavery and oppression, the struggle for freedom, humanity, independence and decolonisation, and as such also address these themes within their work. The struggle with European philosophy is not simply one of curriculum adjustment within our country but one that needs to, in the words of Enrique Dussel, “shift the geography of reason.’
There were skype exchanges featuring Professor Tommy Curry of Texas A&M, who is the president of Philosophy Born of Struggle conference; Professor Lewis Gordon, one of the key scholars in this area, and Professor Louis-George Tin, the President of CRAN (a coalition of black organisations fighting racism) in France.
Chairperson of the Society of Commons, Mr Molaodi Wa Sekake, said the conference looked at, among others, the level of participation of students into social matters that affect them.
‘Many think that a university is the beginning and the end. They don’t think about life after university especially social and political issues in the labour market, like retrenchments, inequality, racism, sexism and patriarchy, among others. This conference was an attempt to raise consciousness on the basis of our experiences not on the basis of how or what we are told is the reality. Hence, Philosophy Born of Struggle.’
Maart said the organisers of the conference showed great leadership and a commitment to broadening the parameters of philosophical thinking. ‘The organisers certainly did the university proud,’ she said.
Mahlangu, who spoke on Pan Africanism and Socialism in Africa, said he found the conference unique and interesting.
‘As a Pan Africanist activist, I enjoyed the topic of my talk very much. It gave an opportunity to correct mistaken ideas and misconceptions about Pan Africanism as a revolutionary ideology. Our intellectual and political discourse has been highly littered by utter valgurization and misconceptions of the ideology.
‘I must congratulate the Society of Commons for organizing such a unique Conference. We should encourage the youth and African working class youth in particular to organize such conferences. Engaging with the youth and grass roots activists made the conference more special,’ he added.