Public Lecture: Planetary Human Entanglements and the Crisis of Living Together

The Politics of Borders, Migrations, Belonging, Identities and Citizenship in the 21st Century

African Studies Group
3 min readMar 2, 2020


By Professor Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, University of South Africa

Date: Thursday 12 March 2020

Time: 4.30pm — 6.00 pm

Venue: Forum Theatre Level 1 Arts West Building, University of Melbourne, Parkville Campus.

Please register via:


The paradox of the 21st century is that of greater planetary human entanglements enabled by globalisation, technological conquest of space and distance, marked by migrations and repopulations of the earth on the one hand and on the other the upsurge of narrow nationalisms, exclusionary xenophobic feelings, and rising of walled states at a global scale. This keynote address is focused on this paradox of the 21st century and it returns to the foundational question of who belongs to the earth — a question which underpinned and drove the colonial expansion of the fifteenth century, the emergence of the broader politics of social classification of human species and their racial hierarchisation.

The fundamental thesis here is that the 21st century is haunted by the colonial modernity’s paradigm of difference which enabled not only social classification and racial hierarchisation but also the colonial conquest, cartography, naming, and owning of the world by the drivers of the colonial project. Such offshoots of modernity as nationalism inevitably embraced and were driven by the paradigm of difference as they envisioned modern nation-states. Here was born the complex politics of borders, belonging, identities, and citizenship. The foundational colour line defined by William EB Dubois mutated into multiple other lines of gender, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, citizenship, and others markers of difference that are currently haunting the modern world.

Consequently, sharing the earth and living together as humans as well as co-existence with other beings has become a major challenge within a modern world cut-across by borders. Borders have crossed the human habitats and are determining the tempo of migrations, criteria of belonging and citizenship. Human identities are hostage to the social classifications and racial hierarchisations, making it very difficult to live together and to share space on earth.

The Public Lecture is presented as part of the African Studies Group inaugural conference on Borders, Identities and Belonging in a Cosmopolitan Society: Perspectives from African Migrants in the Diaspora, 12–14 March 2020. Register to attend the conference here.

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni is currently Research Professor and Director of Scholarship at the Department of Leadership and Transformation (DLT) in the Principal and Vice-Chancellor’s Office at the University of South Africa (UNISA). He previously worked as Acting Executive Director of Change Management Unit (CMU) in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at the University of South Africa (UNISA) (January 2018-September 2019), Director of Scholarship at CMU (2016–2017), founding Head of Archie Mafeje Research Institute for Applied Social Policy (AMRI) (2012–2015). He is also the founder of the Africa Decolonial Research Network (ADERN) based in at the University of South Africa. He is a National Research Foundation (NRF) rated social scientist; a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf); a Fellow of African Studies Centre (ASC) in the Netherlands; and a Research Associate at the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies at The Open University in the United Kingdom. Professor Ndlovu-Gatsheni has published over a hundred publications. Some of his latest major publications include Decolonizing the University, Knowledge Systems and Disciplines (Carolina Academic Press, 2016); and Decolonisation, Development and Knowledge in Africa: Turning Over a New Leaf (Routledge, 2020). An exhaustive list of publications can be found HERE.



African Studies Group

ASG is an association of researchers with interests in African studies hosted by the University of Melbourne.