A Foray into (Study of?) African Political Theology

Presented by Siphiwe Ignatius Dube

Monday, 21 May, 2018 - 15:00

The idea of a specific configuration called an “African Political Theology” (henceforth APT) raises a number of interrelated questions centred on definition (nomenclature), tradition (relationships), and development (sustainability). First, how do we define APT – are the definitions originary or expanded from others, and what are the political implications of speaking of a singular APT in a context of religious diversity such as the African continent? As Chukwudi Eze (2008) puts it, “With few exceptions, today’s Africa is remarkable for the number and diversity of religions that peacefully coexist on the continent” (p. 169). Consequently, taking such diversity seriously raises an important question of how does one deal with it in conceptualising a notion of an APT. That is, should we already start from the position of plurality and speak of African Political Theologies? If so, how do we address aspects of establishing or tracing a tradition with heft in similar ways that the western concept of Political Theology seems to have been able to, or is that even desirable, important, and necessary? Given that the western canon of Political Theology, whether traced from “discussions in political theory around the work of Carl Schmitt” or “discussions in Christian theology around the work of Jurgen Moltmann, Johann Baptist Metz, and Dorothee Solle” (Lloyd and True 2017, p. 539) reflects “a specific notion of Western history and hence Christendom” (Assmann qtd. in deVries 2006, pg. 28), how is APT to be placed in relation to this canon? Is it as a reaction to the western canon; as a subset of the western canon that has finally found its own plurality in a globalised context; as an offshoot that concerns itself with different questions; or as a subservient discourse that continues to bolster the problematic epistemological stance of African knowledge systems with respect to western knowledge systems?

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