MOVING BEYOND THE ABYSSAL LINE: THE POSSIBILITY OF EPISTEMIC JUSTICE IN THE ‘POST’- APARTHEID CONSTITUTIONALISM

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DOI:

https://doi.org/10.29053/pslr.v16i1.4514

Abstract

In this article, I reflect on the idea of a ‘post’-apartheid South African
constitutionalism and the related and implicated notion of
Transformative Constitutionalism by emphasising its continued bondage
to a colonial and apartheid past. In an effort to critically explore the
‘post’-apartheid transformative constitutional framework, I examine
the endurance of colonialism as coloniality in the manner it has
unfolded in the South African context. This exploration involves
highlighting three constitutive elements of this endurance: linear
historicism as observed in Hobbes’ social contract; the geography of
reason as theorised by Schmitt; and the lines within South African
society and knowledge systems as a result of what De Sousa Santos calls
‘abyssal thinking’. Although the endurance of historical colonialism as
coloniality can be described in a number of ways, I deal with these
specific constitutive elements in order to argue that the doctrine of transformation, which includes Transformative Constitutionalism, has
largely been ineffective in its attempt to eradicate coloniality as it has
failed to achieve epistemic justice for the majority of (South) Africans.
I conclude by suggesting that the doctrine of transformation and, as
such, Transformative Constitutionalism has served to further exclude
and marginalise the knowledge of indigenous (South) African people in
the ‘post’-apartheid constitutional dispensation. The project of
transformation has sustained the abyssal line as it has been internalised
through coloniality. As such, the ‘post’-apartheid South African
dispensation remains divided by this line — essentially discarding
indigenous (South) African people and their knowledge systems to the
abyss. I further argue that the persistence of coloniality, sustained by
the abyssal line, requires a project of conceptual decolonisation if
coloniality and epistemic injustice is to be undone. In this sense, a true
(South) African dispensation may be disclosed.

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Published

13-03-2023