Historical Time between Chronos and Kairos: On the Historicity of The Kairos Document Manifesto, South Africa, 1985

Chronos and kairos are two Greek words that designate different temporal experiences not entirely opposed, but nonetheless irreducible to each other. This difference is highly relevant to theoretical debates on historical time, despite the hegemony of the chronological paradigm in modern historiography. This article upholds that claim by analyzing a South African manifesto titled The Kairos Document (KD), issued in 1985. My aim is to present a study on the historicity of the KD, arguing that the document is a paradigmatic case for, on the one hand, understanding the particular form of temporal experience encompassed by the notion of kairos, and on the other hand, applying the difference between chronos and kairos for historiographical analysis. I present a twofold approach to the KD. First, I situate the manifesto within its broader political, social and intellectual context, addressing as well the impacts it managed to inflict upon chronos-time. Secondly, I demonstrate how the KD grasps its own historical moment from a disruptive temporality that emerges on the threshold between a crisis and the urgency of taking timely action (kairos). I conclude this article by claiming that the kairological dimension of historical time becomes more evident in situations experienced as crisis.