International Studies & Programs

Ubuntu Dialogues Gathering 2023

 Welcome Letter 

From The Gathering Organizing Team

Delegates & Guests to the Ubuntu Dialogues Gathering, 

We are thrilled that you will be joining us to celebrate the outputs of the Ubuntu Dialogues project over the past four years and to envision the intellectual and relational possibilities of our shared commitment to Ubuntu in both academic and public domains of our lives and work. The September 25-29 Gathering at MSU is the second of two culminating events of a 2019-2023 partnership between Michigan State University (MSU) and Stellenbosch University funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Gathering follows the conference that took place at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, in October, 2022 (see short film). It takes a two-pronged approach to wrapping up the Ubuntu Dialogues project and transitioning to the ideation phase of a transcontinental and multi-hub Institute of Ubuntu Thought and Practice (IUTP): 

  • Centering collective rather than individual genius 

  • Grounding the concept/theory of Ubuntu in practice

Consistent with Ubuntu tenets of decentering the individual and centering the collective, our time together will be structured as a communal Gathering of dialogue and shared enrichment rather than as a plenary-style Conference spotlighting individual expertise or featuring individual presentations. We hope to combine intellectually stimulating learning with relationally enriching networking opportunities that emerge from robust interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and transcontinental dialogues and engagements among students, scholars, practitioners, artists, activists, funders, and community and university leaders. This approach to being together allows us to confront and engage with questions such as: which/whose knowledge on Ubuntu is valued as legitimate, and which/whose knowledge is not, and why? We seek to validate practitioners and non-traditional experts and put their knowledge and work into conversation with scholarly outputs mostly widely generated in academia. To this end, one full day is dedicated to learning from and with off-campus Ubuntu practitioner communities such as the Ubuntu Village in Flint, the Ziibiwing Cultural Center in Mt Pleasant, the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, and the Justice League, in Lansing. 

In addition to putting a premium on collective genius, the Gathering recognizes that the relationship between Ubuntu as concept and as practice on and off the African continent has not always been but should be symbiotic. It rests on the understanding that Ubuntu is most grounded when the conceptual and the applied components inform, speak back to, and enrich each other. We hope to anchor our conceptual and contextual understandings of Ubuntu in practice-focused activities that generate and foster sustained dialogue and engagement across disciplinary, generational, and other differences. Doing so allows all of us to better appreciate that Ubuntu is not just an abstract idea with limited application to our present realities. The theme of the Gathering, Pause|Participate|Practice, is a reminder and an invitation to pause and take note of ourselves, fellow human beings, and the environment around us; to participate and be fully present and involved in activities; and to practice and make everything we know or learn about Ubuntu be the reality we live in our interactions with self and others. We believe that this is what our current context of individualistic and siloed mode of thought and operating demands and deserves.

We look forward to welcoming you to East Lansing and the Michigan State University community in September!

The Ubuntu Dialogues Gathering Team 

JONES, Halla, Ubuntu Dialogues Project Coordinator || jonesha6(at)

MAJEE, Upenyu S., Inaugural Director, Institute of Ubuntu Thought and Practice (IUTP) || majeeupe(at)