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Postapartheid justice: Can cosmopolitanism and nation-building be reconciled?

Nagy, Rosemary
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) Law & Society Review. 40(3): 623-652.

South African plaintiffs are suing numerous multinational corporations under
the American Alien Tort Claims Act for aiding and abetting apartheid’s crimes
against humanity. This article argues that Re South African Apartheid Litigation
should be understood as a cosmopolitan remembering of the nation. This
interpretation runs counter to theoretical and political presumptions of an
inherent antagonism between cosmopolitanism and nationhood. The apparent
divide between cosmopolitanism and nation-building is bridged by the
concept of victimhood. Insofar as nation-building in South Africa depends
upon the restoration of victims, so too is cosmopolitanism victim-centered in
its commitment to prevent harm and suffering. The apartheid litigants enact
the duality of cosmopolitanism: they press for justice on the basis of cosmopolitan
right, yet they do so in part because of their continued marginalization
in the ‘‘new’’ South Africa with respect to issues of ‘‘truth’’ and reparation.
Following on the ‘‘unfinished business’’ of the South African Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, the apartheid litigation illustrates the intersection of
cosmopolitanism with national memory and belonging. (Author’s abstract)


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