Criminal justice, cultural justice: The limits of liberalism and the pragmatics of difference in the new south africa
Article first published online: 7 JAN 2008
Volume 31, Issue 2, pages 188–204, May 2004
How to Cite
Comaroff, J. L. and Comaroff, J. (2004), Criminal justice, cultural justice: The limits of liberalism and the pragmatics of difference in the new south africa. American Ethnologist, 31: 188–204. doi: 10.1525/ae.2004.31.2.188
- Issue published online: 7 JAN 2008
- Article first published online: 7 JAN 2008
What are the limits of liberalism in accommodating the growing demands of difference? Can a Euromodernist nation-state, founded on One Law, infuse itself with another, with an African jurisprudence? And how is it to deal with cultural practices deemed “dangerous” by the canons of enlightenment reason? These questions are especially urgent in postcolonies like South Africa, with highly diverse populations whose traditional ways and means are accorded constitutional protection. Here we examine how South Africans are dealing with such “dangerous” practices in an era in which their nation is becoming ever more policultural; how, in the process, an Afromodernity is taking organic shape in the interstices between new democratic institutions and the kingdom of custom; how the confrontation between Culture, in the upper case, and a state founded on liberal universalism is beginning to reconfigure the political landscape of this postcolony—as it is, we argue, in many places across the planet.