Love is a Weapon: Gandhi, Tolstoy, Kallenbach and nonviolence
178 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002
Before Gandhi became the Mahatma, he was Mohandas. Living in South Africa for over twenty years, the young lawyer-turned-activist campaigned for the rights of migrant workers from India, fighting alongside the British in wars against the Boers and the Zulu Kingdom. It was in these harshest of racist, imperialist battles that young Gandhi began to develop the thought and practice that would become his signature in later years.
During these years in South Africa, Gandhi formed friendships with the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and Prussian-Jewish architect, Hermann Kallenbach. Out of their unlikely friendship, Kallenbach and Gandhi founded the Tolstoy Farm, a retreat which acted as a laboratory for experimenting with techniques of nonviolence both as theory and as a practical way of living.
In this course we look closely at Gandhi’s South Africa years—a time of both racial warfare, and great love and friendship—to understand the source of the philosophies and practices that would later inspire many currents of the civil rights movement in the United States. While many analyses of Gandhi and his thought focus on ideas and influences from Braminical and Jain sources, this course will focus on the South African moment and this archive in particular.
Main texts for the course will include the collected writings of Gandhi, The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-bearer of Empire, by Desai & Vahed, Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You, correspondence between Tolstoy and Gandhi, and Gandhi and Kallenbach. We will also read supplementary texts, which provided inspiration for Gandhi’s practice, such as Thoreau on civil disobedience, John Ruskin’s “Unto this Last,” and Plato’s Apology.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
January 27 — February 17, 2016