Isabel Hofmeyr will introduce Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj (Indian Self-Rule), and the theories and debates around it, as part of the GIPCA Great Texts /Big Questions free public lecture series.

Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj (Indian Self-Rule) is one of the great books of the world. It is the only place in which Gandhi set out his political theories in book form.

Gandhi produced books on other topics and wrote articles and letters voluminously, but Hind Swaraj, written in 1909 on the SS Kildonan Castle as he returned from London to South Africa, is the only book that we have in which he expounds his ideas of non-violence and satyagraha (‘passive resistance’). Although it is widely regarded as his rebuke to anti-colonial Indian activists who argued that the violence of imperialism could only be ended with counter-violence, Gandhi’s analysis suggests that such a strategy merely absorbs the logic of imperialism and makes one resemble one’s enemy.

Addressed to, and shaped by, its South African audience (identified as the South African Indian subscribers of his newspaper Indian Opinion) and context, Gandhi explores whether this diasporic community might be able to claim rights as Indian subjects. Gandhi’s themes of long-distance nationalism have new relevance in an age when globalisation and transnationalism are issues of increasing pertinence.

In an age where information overload was beginning to make itself felt, Hind Swaraj is also an investigation into the ethics of reading. Taking the form of a dialogue between an Editor and a Reader, it explores how best to read under such circumstances. With ideas around patience at the heart of his thinking, one answer was a form of ‘patient reading’, and formed part of Gandhi’s attempt to sidestep the hurtling speed and haste of modern life.

Isabel Hofmeyr is Professor of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her work focuses on Africa and its intellectual trajectories in the Atlantic and Indian oceans. She has published widely on the Indian Ocean and recently produced two edited volumes (Eyes Across the Water: Navigating the Indian Ocean [with Pamila Gupta and Michael Pearson] and South Africa and India: Shaping the Global South [with Michelle Williams]).

She is currently completing a book Gandhi’s Printing Press: Global Trajectories of Print Culture in the Indian Ocean. She has an interest in the stories of South Africans in the Indian Ocean and is working on a second book on Boer prisoners of war who were held in India during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. Hofmeyr has been Acting Director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa ( which she helped to establish. She has a A-rating from the NRF and is currently a fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies.

The event will take place in Hiddingh Hall at 17:30 and is free. No booking is necessary, but seating is limited. Refreshments will be served from 17:00. For more information phone the GIPCA office on 021 480 7156 or e-mail

Isabel Hofmeyr audio recording available for download.

Isabel Hofmeyr video recording:

Start: 29 Sep ’11 5:30 pm

End: 29 Sep ’11 6:30 pm

Cost: Free


Organizer: GIPCA


Venue: Hiddingh Hall

Phone: +27 21 480 7156

Address: Google Map UCT Hiddingh Campus, 31-37 Orange Street, Cape Town, 8001, Cape Town, Western Cape, 8001, South Africa