A spirit of Ubuntu gestures towards both an embrace and a challenge that holds Others to greater moral accountability, and calls on them to be ethical subjects. Ubuntu is fundamental in both ethics and politics, and is relevant to the embodied politics of forgiveness after mass trauma and violence. I will elaborate on this notion of the relationship between Ubuntu and an “embodied politics of forgiveness” and introduce the concept of inimba as the ultimate expression of radical interconnectedness toward wholeness. Inimba, loosely translated as “umbilical cord,” emanates from the womb. Thus, when one’s expression of Ubuntu carries an embodied quality, one bears (or feels) the Other in one’s inner being and responds to the Other as if they were their own flesh and blood. By locating the essence of our ethical responsibility towards others in the heart of the body, we are called to respond to the traumatic disruption of the past not with the moral force of righteous aggression, but with the moral force of love. Thus, the image of inimba is an evocative one because it draws us to respond to the suffering of the Other as if the Other were the child that one carried in one’s womb. This points us toward understanding the body as a site for ethical engagement, a site for forging human links across time and space with the Other — even an Other responsible for one’s irreparable loss.
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is Professor and Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University. Her work focuses mainly on two strands of research: exploring intergenerational repercussions of oppression and … MORE