A comparative examination of hostility towards migrants around the world

Imagined Liberation

Xenophobia, Citizenship, and Identity in South Africa, Germany, and Canada

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Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley

"Adam and Moodley are exceptionally well equipped and also well placed to undertake the study on xenophobia. This book is novel because it focuses on xenophobia in the South African townships. Imagined Liberation makes a major contribution by summarizing and synthesizing the current literature in the West and by exploring the relevance of these perspectives to South Africa. The insightful analyses of the issues of xenophobia and immigrant policy in Canada and Germany spell out how a better understanding of the problem in South Africa could enhance the general understanding of it."
Hermann Giliomee, Professor Emeritus of Political Studies, University of Cape Town

On a spectrum of hostility towards migrants, South Africa ranks at the top, Germany in the middle and Canada at the bottom. South African xenophobic violence by impoverished slum dwellers is directed against fellow Africans. “Foreign” Africans are blamed for a high crime rate and most other maladies of an imagined liberation.

Why would a society that liberated itself in the name of human rights turn against people who escaped human rights violations or unlivable conditions at home? What happened to the expected African solidarity? Why do former victims become victimizers?

With porous borders, South Africa is incapable of upholding the blurred distinction between endangered refugees and economic migrants. Imagined Liberation asks what xenophobic societies can learn from other immigrant societies, such as Canada, that avoided the backlash against multiculturalism in Europe. Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley stress an innovative teaching of political literacy that makes citizens aware as to why they hate.



Read the Introduction (pdf).



"Imagined Liberation is an in-depth analysis of all that ails contemporary South Africa by two world-famous authors. This book is further enriched by their autobiographical statements which put their work into vivid perspective and provides both an insider's and an outsider's view of recent developments. Adam and Moodley put South Africa in a comparative context with other multiethnic societies, emphasizing both similarities and differences, and avoiding the pitfalls of both provincialism and historicism. Imagined Liberation provides critical, insightful, anguished, and yet unjaundiced and remarkably accurate, objective, and realistic assessment of South Africa's decline into massive corruption, inefficiency, police brutality, and moral bankruptcy by stressing the persistent, indeed widening, inequality by race and class which lies at the root of most current problems."
Pierre van den Berghe, Emeritus Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington

"[A] highly complex and articulate theory of xenophobia that has many echoes for internal migration within the European Union and for displaced international migration by 'illegals' generally.... Imagined Liberation is to be an impassioned, heartfelt plea to complete the liberation dream in South Africa, to end hatred of the marginalized stranger in all societies, and to build policies everywhere to promote multiculturalism and respect for human dignity. And I could not agree with [the authors] more on that."
Ethnic and Racial Studies



List of Abbreviations and Acronyms


Part I: Integrating Difference

1. Comparative Xenophobia

2. South African Perspectives on Xenophobia

3. Youth Voices
Aim and Methodology • An Ethnography of Township Schools • How Students View Foreigners

4. Falling from Grace
Shifting Views on “Mandelaland” • Reflections on Mandela • Patriarchy, Sexual Violence, and HIV/AIDS • Crime and Punishment • Corruption and Consumption • Reracialization, Affirmative Action, and Black Economic Empowerment • Descent into Zimbabwe? • Popular Sentiment versus a Liberal Constitution

Part II: Variations of Migration Policies: Africa, Germany, and Canada

5. Settler Colonialism
Two Types of Colonialism • Founding Myths and Intergroup Attitudes • Metropolitan/Settler Relations

6. Xenophobia in Germany
The Case of Roma/Sinti • Muslims as Enemies • Capitalist versus Communist Xenophobia • Conclusion

7. Multicultural Canada as an Alternative?
Canadian Identities and Cultural Traditions • How to Select Immigrants • Opportunistic Multiculturalism

Part III: Political Literacy

8. Xenophobia and Political Literacy
Comparing Political Education in Multiethnic Societies • Political Literacy as Strategy to Combat Xenophobia • Nation, Nationalism, Ethnicity, Ethnocentrism, and Critical Patriotism • Cosmopolitan Consciousness

9. Theorizing Xenophobia

Conclusion: Alternatives and Global Trends

Autobiography I: Navigating “Difference”: Insiders, Outsiders, and Contending Identities (Kogila Moodley)
Autobiography II: Controversies: Peacemaking in Divided Societies (Heribert Adam)
Index of Names


About the Author(s)

Heribert Adam is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Educated at the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, he has published extensively on comparative ethnic conflicts and peacemaking, particularly socio-political developments in South Africa. He was awarded the 1998 Konrad Adenauer Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the co-author of Seeking Mandela: Peacemaking Between Israelis and Palestinians (Temple).

Kogila Moodley is Professor Emerita, Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia, where she was the first holder of the David Lam Chair. Raised in the Indian community of apartheid South Africa, her research is focused on critical multiculturalism, anti-racism education and citizenship. She has served as President of the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Racism, Nationalism, and Ethnic Relations. She is the co-author of Seeking Mandela .

Subject Categories

Community Organizing and Social Movements
Race and Ethnicity

In the series

Politics, History, and Social Change, edited by John C. Torpey.

This series will disseminate serious works that analyze the social changes that have transformed our world during the twentieth century and beyond. The main topics to be addressed include international migration; human rights; the political uses of history; the past and future of the nation-state; decolonization and the legacy of imperialism; and global inequality. The series will also translate into English outstanding works by scholars writing in other languages.



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