Reading Primo Levi on “hybridity” in the context of South Africa: Moving towards humanizing descriptions of the other

  • Joyce Rondaij Protestants Theologische Universiteit, Amsterdam
Keywords: Primo Levi, Nico Koopman, hybridity, justice, the other


Primo Levi discovered his otherness – his Jewish identity – by experiencing discrimination: through the anti-Semitic laws enforced by the Fascist regime in the 1930’s and the year of imprisonment in Auschwitz. After his return to Italy, the notion of the “hybrid” helped Levi describe his own non-fixated identity and was presented by him as a protection against the fear of the stranger and the return of the concentration camps as its threatening result. In this article I explore Levi’s literary writings on hybridity and relate them to South African theologian Nico Koopman, who proposes a pedagogy of hybridity to support pluralistic societies in moving from alienation and oppression to human dignity and freedom. I propose that a dialogue between the post-Holocaust and post-apartheid context on hybridity can enrich our self-understanding as hybrid creatures and enable just relationships with others.
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