Towards an African theology of public conversation
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Public conversation is an important aspect of a day-to-day social life in African social world. Its scope also extends into the political realm, be being a critical dimension of democratisation in the continent. This dissertation aims at constructing the contours of an African theology of public conversation. It embarks on the analysis of the notion of ‘public’ as understood within the constellations of African politics and African theology, with the aim of establishing the possibility of context-focused theological reflection on the role of public conversation in Africa. Taking a cue from the literature on the interactions between Jürgen Habermas and some theologians, it establishes the possibility of African theological reflection on communicative action and advance contextual sensitivity in theological constructions by bring cultural and local values that are of significance, without necessarily resorting into cultural nostalgia. To this end, the study turns to a detailed study of African palaver, a customary conflict-resolving mechanism, as a model of public conversation. Palaver stands as a paradigm of traditional consensual democracy, which is communally bound, narratively structured and enshrines anamnestic solidarity between the visible and invisible members of a community. It will be argued that the structured interplay between community, narrative and memory makes African palaver an effective tool of communicative action. In order to advance this argument, it will be demonstrated that palaver offers a site of argumentative reasoning, a kind of narrative rationality, conceived as alternative form of communicative rationality to the one suggested by Habermas. On a theological level, the study builds on Johannes Baptist Metz’s memory-oriented narrative theology, as embodied by his idea of ‘dangerous memory’ and advances the argument for a contextual theological categorisation of memory-oriented (anamnestic) solidarity. In the final analysis, the study provides a hypothetical ground for theological contextualisation on the basis of a symmetrical conversation between culture and theology.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2022-05-31
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 31st May 2022
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