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15 March 2022

The Dean of the Faculty of Law invites staff and interested individuals to attend the inaugural lecture of Prof Ulrike Kistner, Department of Public Law, titled The ‘person’ in question – legally, grammatically, philosophically.

Date: 17 March 2022
Time: 17:30
Venue: Equitas Auditorium

To attend the lecture, please RSVP to Refilwe Majola at

More about the speaker:

Prof Kistner has held teaching positions in Comparative Literature at Wits University, Modern European Languages at UNISA, and Philosophy at the University of Pretoria. She is currently working at intersections between political philosophy, social theory, jurisprudence, and psychoanalytic theory.


A major shift has been noted in constitutionalism and human rights frameworks – from human and civil rights to principles centred on ‘personhood’ and ‘dignity’. This shift calls for closer historical-critical investigation of the status of ‘person’. Roberto Esposito directs this inquiry to a philosophical grammar of the impersonal third person.

My contribution to this inquiry sets in with a probing of Esposito’s propositions, considering the post-apartheid elevation of ‘person’ in constitutionalism and philosophical elaborations of communitarianism. To the extent that the concept of ‘ubuntu’ is embedded in a linguistic ontology developed by Kinyarwanda, my argument will navigate between Rwanda and South Africa in the mid-1990s, and between juridical, moral-philosophical, linguistic, and Africanist notions of ‘ubuntu’ and corresponding claims on African philosophy.

The radical questioning of ethnolinguistic tenets on the part of some African philosophers brings me back to the philosophical grammar of the third person which, far from being confined to study old grammar books, opens alternatives to ethnophilosophical approaches to the ‘person’ in question. 

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