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International Conference Looks at ‘Politics of Inequality’

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Law professors, writers, political scientists and apartheid-era dissidents will discuss the “politics of inequality” in South Africa in an international conference at the University of Florida March 5-7.

The conference looks back on the work of the late Gwendolen Carter, a UF professor who was regarded as one of the founding figures in African Studies in the United States. Participants will discuss current trends in South Africa in light of the insights Carter made in her groundbreaking book, “The Politics of Inequality: South Africa Since 1948.”

The conference will draw speakers from a wide variety of disciplines, from law to political activism. Speakers include prominent opponents of South Africa’s former apartheid regime, including novelist and poet Jonty Driver, who was jailed for his opposition to the white-dominated government and poet Dennis Brutus, who was sent to Robben Island Prison for his efforts to have South Africa suspended from the Olympic Games.

Topics to be covered include:

  • The Media and Democratic Transition in South Africa
  • Framing AIDS and Human Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa
  • South African Land Reform and the Global Development Industry
  • Racial Reparations: the New Pan-Africanism?
  • Truth and Reconciliation in Post-Apartheid South Africa: A Pan-Africanist Perspective

The conference honors the 100th anniversary of the birth of Carter, a political scientist who was widely regarded as an authority on 20th century African politics. She established that reputation in 1958 with the publication of “The Politics of Inequality,” a book that changed the way many scholars looked at African politics by bringing issues of human rights and equality to the forefront.

“She was a household name among South African intellectuals and political exiles,” said Samuel T. Dell Research Scholar Winston Nagan, a co-organizer of the conference. Nagan and Professor Emeritus of History R. Hunt Davis, Jr. were friends of Carter.

“She could show up just about any presidential palace in Africa and find the doors opened to her,” Nagan said.

Among other accomplishments, Carter was able to save the historical archives of the African National Congress during a period when the South African government was seizing and destroying such records.

“Gwendolen Carter was one of the most influential American scholars on Africa,” said City University of New York Professor Tom Karis, who co-authored several books with Carter and will speak at the conference. “A conference on the centennial of her birth is a welcome occasion for comparing her classic book, ‘The Politics of Inequality,’ with the pursuit of equality in South Africa today.”

The conference is free and open to the public, and is organized by the Center for African Studies and co-sponsored by the Fredric G. Levin College of Law, UF’s Center for International Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Office of the Provost and Office of the Vice President for Research.

The Gwendolen Carter Conference is the centerpiece of the event schedule for UF’s Center for African Studies, said Leonardo Villalon, director of the center. While this year’s conference will begin at UF, it will conclude with a series of events at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, later this year.

“This year’s conference offers a retrospective on Gwendolen Carter’s work, with a continuing examination of her influence on African Studies,” Villalon said. “Because much of this work is focused on the law and politics of South Africa, it’s fitting that we are holding panel discussions at the law school – and cooperating with the University of Cape Town to hold events in South Africa.”

To learn more about the conference, contact the Center for African Studies at (352) 392-2183, or contact conference co-organizers or

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