Re-imagining Cosmopolitanism in Post-Apartheid South Africa

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  • Title: Re-imagining Cosmopolitanism in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Reviving Historical “Cosmubuntuism” in Forced Removal Spaces for a Democratic Future
  • Author(s): Mogamat Noor Davids
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Common Ground Open
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Community Diversity
  • Keywords: Apartheid, Cosmopolitanism, Cosmubuntuism, Diversity, Forced Removals, Ubuntu
  • Volume: 18
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2327-0004 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-2147 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Davids, Mogamat Noor . 2018. "Re-imagining Cosmopolitanism in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Reviving Historical “Cosmubuntuism” in Forced Removal Spaces for a Democratic Future." The International Journal of Community Diversity 18 (1): 23-36. doi:10.18848/2327-0004/CGP/v18i01/23-36.
  • Extent: 14 pages


While the colonial-apartheid governance was obsessed with “segregation” as a policy imperative, culturally diverse communities were established in many South African urban spaces. When the National Party came to power in 1948, these culturally mixed spaces became prime targets for destruction as they represented the antithesis of apartheid segregation: integration. With the promulgation of the Group Areas Act (1950), places like District Six, South End, Fietas (Pageview), and many others, were bulldozed to the ground and their inhabitants were forcibly removed to resettle in separate, racially exclusive townships. Given the post-1994 democratic transformation and its subsequent struggle to undo the legacy of colonial-apartheid, those cultural mixed spaces represent the best examples of what contemporary South Africa needs to aspire to become a democratic society. Considering the contestation around the concept “cosmopolitan” to describe culturally integrated living spaces, this paper defines those historical communities as “cosmubuntu” communities, emerging from pre-colonial Ubuntu communities. An argument is constructed that “cosmubuntu” communities go beyond Eurocentric cosmopolitanism, but also grew out of the Khoi-san expression “!ke e: /xarra //ke”—“diverse people unite”—which informs the African humanist philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am human through other humans” Using the historical case study methodology, this article conceptualises “cosmubuntuism” and illustrates its manifestations in three communities destroyed by forced removals: Fietas (Pageview), District Six, and South End. Forced removals literature is employed to answer the research question: what are the manifestations of “cosmubuntuism” in pre-apartheid South Africa and how can this concept encapsulate “unity in diversity” in a post-apartheid South Africa? Recommendations are made to integrate the history of “cosmubuntuism” and forced removals in a post-apartheid curriculum.