Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 19:20:56 -0500 (EST)
From: Derick Fay <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "NUAFRICA: Program of African Studies Mailing List" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Xty. & liberation movements
Xty. & liberation movements
From Derick Fay
19 February 1996
This is in response to Meredith McKittrick's query about theorizing
Christian activism in Namibia.
On South Africa the following may be helpful, though I don't recall any
of them as being heavily theoretical.
- Peter Walshe
Church vs. State in SA: The case of the Christian
Institute (London: C. Hurst & Co., 1983)
"South Africa: Prophetic Christianity and the Liberation Movement" in
Journal of Modern African Studies v 29 no 1 (March 1991).
- "Marxism, Black Theology, and the South African Dilemma,"
Journal of Modern African Studies v 28 no 3 (1990). This is useful for
its bibliography on the Black Theology movement (I would definitely
recommend the primary sources--Mosala, Chikane, Setiloane et al. as well), &
because it addresses institutional and theological dilemmas that would
likely arise in linking Marxist politics and Christianity anywhere.
Servants of Power (1983) on the English-speaking
churches in SA also might be useful in theorizing reasons why churches as
institutions fail to take a revolutionary position. Cochrane also
attempts a periodisation of Xn. resistance to apartheid in M. Prozesky,
ed., Christianity Amidst Apartheid (London: Macmillan 1990).
There's also the literature on liberation theology in Latin America;
Orbis Books has a Reader in Liberation Theology (I believe that's the
title). Primary sources would be the writings of Gustavo Guttierez,
Ernesto Cardenal (esp. the Gospel in Solentiname series), Leonardo
Boff, Juan Luis Segundo. I'm not up to speed on the secondary lit. but I
should add that the level of theoretical sophistication of these authors is
high, esp. Segundo's Liberation of Theology. Maria Alves, a Brazilian
political scientist visiting Amherst in 1986 taught the class in which I
first read this material; she might have published something on it since
Re: theorizing "the use of Christian discourse" I would offer two
suggestions. First is to situate that discourse in its institutional
settings, because the kinds of inst. settings in which Xn. activism in
SA & Latin America have emerged are quite different. In SA, Walshe argues,
Xn. activism was largely independent of
denominations, ecumenical, & aimed not at creating separate Xn. political
institutions but @ contributing to the struggle as a whole. In Latin
America, in contrast, w/one dominant church (Roman Catholic) instead of a
plurality of denominations, liberation theologians have focused much more
(in "Base Christian Communities," consciousness-raising groups inspired
largely by Paulo Freire's work) on transforming the structure and
teachings of the church.
One way of putting the question, then, would be
to ask whether the discourses are directed to society at large, as a
means for transforming the soc. & letting the church bureaucracy catch up
w/events, or whether they are directed at transforming the church as a
basis for social change.
Here I'm getting even further out of my field, but another comparative
case might be the American civil rights movement; unlike SA & Latin
America the theological discourse wasn't linked w/Marxism; like SA, it
took place in a setting of denominational pluralism, but like Latin
America, denominational structures played an important role in mobilizing.
My second suggestion re: theory is to try to avoid treating religion as
essentially instrumental, as your phrasing of the query, " how people have
used Christian ideology" suggests. I think taking seriously local agency
must also entail recognizing that the religious ideas, identities, &
experiences of actors aren't easily reducible to instruments of other
I hope all this is helpful.