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Scholars and UK Faculty to Honor Nelson Mandela’s Legacy

Nelson Mandela’s name is now synonymous with South Africa’s bold attempt at national reconciliation. In light of his recent passing, a panel will explore his legacy on Thursday, April 17, at 3:30 p.m. in the Student Center, rm. 230. A reception will follow the panel discussion.

The event, titled “No Greater Cause; Reconciliation and the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela,” will trace the global discourse of truth and reconciliation through a broader consideration of Mandela’s remarkable life.

According to Stephen Davis, assistant professor in African American and Africana Studies, Mandela’s life has become a point of reference in global debates about violence, memory and truth-telling.

“The immediate roots of this remarkable experiment lie in Mandela’s careful shepherding of the peaceful negotiated settlement, his principled commitment to the preservation of memory and his thoughtful approach to healing the many traumas of the post-conflict society in South Africa,” said Davis.

The panel discussion will begin with a short, keynote address by James Campbell who holds the Edgar E. Robinson Professorship in History at Stanford University.  Campbell’s address will explore Mandela as an issue of historical memory, and the different political uses to which his life story has been and will likely be put. 

“Not to put too fine a point on it, I think Mandela has come to serve something of the same role in South African historical memory that George Washington has long served in American memory (minus the cherry tree),” said Campbell. “I’d like to talk about how that process has happened and what it may obscure or overlook.”

Campbell has authored numerous books and articles. His most recent book, “Middle Passages:  African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2007. Campbell’s current research focuses on the politics of historical memory, the complex, contested processes through which societies remember and misremember their pasts.

Other panelists will include:

  • Stephen Davis, assistant professor in African American and Africana Studies and International Studies, Social Theory
  • Francis Musoni, assistant professor in African American and Africana Studies and International Studies, Social Theory
  • Karen Mingst, professor of Political Science and Peace Studies

“This panel serves as an important reminder that questions of equality, social justice, and reconciliation are issues that face not just a national community, but a global one,” said Susan Carvalho, associate provost for internationalization. The visible links between Gandhi, King, and Mandela, as they wrestle with issues of oppression and violence, are an inspiring way to see how the global dynamics, that we talk about in UK core, work in people’s real lives.”

The UK History Department in collaboration with the MLK Center, the College of Arts & Sciences and the UK International Center organized the panel discussion.

For more information contact Stephen Davis, assistant professor in African American and Africana Studies and International Studies, Social Theory: srda227@g.uky.edu.