Race and Reconciliation: Essays from the New South Africa

Race and Reconciliation: Essays from the New South Africa

Race and Reconciliation: Essays from the New South Africa

Race and Reconciliation: Essays from the New South Africa


A meditation on the lessons to be learned from South Africa's transformation in the wake of apartheid. Justice, truth, and identity; race, society, and law--all come into dramatic play as South Africa makes the tumultuous transition to a post-apartheid democracy. Seeking the timeless through the timely and trying to find the deeper meaning in the sweep of events, Daniel Herwitz brings the vast resources of the philosophical essay to bear on the new realities of post-apartheid South Africa--from racial identity to truth commissions, from architecture to film and television. A public intellectual's reflections on public life, Herwitz's essays question how the new South Africa has constructed its concepts of reconciliation and return and how its historical emergence has meant a rethinking, reimagining, reexperiencing, relabeling, and repoliticizing of race. Herwitz's purpose is to give a philosophical reading of society--a society already relying on implicitly philosophical concepts in its social and political,agendas. Working through these concepts, testing their relevance for reading society, his book itself becomes a part of the politics of definition and description in the new South Africa.


The inauguration of a new nation.

1985. P. W. Botha, expected to make a speech announcing massive reform of the crumbling apartheid state, instead refuses to “cross the Rubicon.” Overnight the rand devalues by more than 100 percent in a country already embroiled in war, chaos, township violence, and spiraling state terror.

1985 and 1987. the business and academic communities secretly meet the African National Congress, first in Lusaka and then in Dakar. the African National Congress begins to consider the idea of a negotiated settlement rather than an outright victory. All parties to the South African conflict fear the massive social upheaval that would come with a civil war in the country. No side can expect easy “victory” or even victory at all.

1989. Communism collapses, eroding the African National Congress's most important financial and military support bases. the National Party begins to realize that the likelihood of a Soviet-style state in South Africa is evaporating. This catalyzes the party into preparations for a negotiated settlement.

1990. Nelson Mandela is released from prison.

1991. the apartheid state is formally ended and the codesa talks (Coalition for a Democratic South Africa) take place at Kempton Park, outside of Johannesburg. the African National Congress has decided to forgo the continuation of the armed straggle, which it now believes will lead to nothing beyond a destructive stalemate. Mandela immediately . . .

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