Title page for ETD etd-10232007-161813

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Vellem, Vuyani Shadrack
Email vvellem@presbyterian.org.za / vido@executivemail.co.za
URN etd-10232007-161813
Document Title The symbol of liberation in South African public life : a black theological perspective
Degree PhD (Dogmatics and Christian Ethics)
Department Dogmatics and Christian Ethics
Advisor Name Title
Prof D E de Villiers Supervisor
  • symbol
  • liberation
  • public life
  • South Africa
  • perspective
Date 2007-09-05
Availability unrestricted

This dissertation examines the meaning of the symbol of liberation in public life within the new context of democracy in South Africa from a Black Theological perspective. It is broadly shaped by the following two main questions:

    (a) Is the symbol of “liberation” still the most appropriate one in designating the major goal of Black Theology in the present South African public life?

    (b) Is it possible to redefine “liberation” as a major goal of Black Theology in such a way that it would still be applicable in the present South African public life?

To appropriate the meaning of the symbol of liberation and its possible redefinition, the architectonic content of the dissertation can be described as soteriological and ecclesiological. This means that in the first place, the soteriological architecture of liberation in shaping and mediating black experience and expectation provides an angle from which the classic tenets of Black Theology of liberation are illuminated and appropriated for our new context. In classic Black Theological understanding, salvation in Jesus Christ is evoked through the symbol of liberation. To liberate is to give life comprehensively in history, albeit not exclusively political, but comprehensive life as an affirmation of God’s own eschatological future beyond history. Liberation is still an appropriate, analectic root paradigm or organizing symbol that galvanizes the norms and principles of Black Theology for participation in public life.

In second instance, the dissertation, alert to the unprecedented cultural consciousness since the 1990s, harnesses African ecclesio-political symbols of ikhaya and ubuhlanti to develop a Black Public Theology of liberation. This is executed in dialogue with the currency of the notions of reconstruction and development. The dissertation maintains that reconstruction and development in the main do not alter the essence of Black Theology of liberation, but provide its redefinition as a constructively impatient and insurgent discourse in a less-embittered mode in the present South African public life. The heuristic device of ubuhlanti (kraal) from which notions of amandla (power), ukudla (food), and inkundla (open assembly) are derived is employed to signify the reestablishment and anamnetic praxis of protological life-giving foundations upon which ipso facto publicity and democracy are founded from a Black Theological perspective.

imvuselelo, a spirituality of solidarity in a politike koinonia of a subaltern culture in trenches of poverty, suffering and social death. Imvuselelo provides a well out of which Black Public Theology of liberation must drink for critical engagement with the state, economy, moral regeneration, HIV/AIDS, poverty, wealth, women and child abuse in public life. This architecture of Black Public Theology of liberation is in subaltern counter-publics which are the fireplace (iziko) of sanity, governance and harmony in circumstances of social death and the fragmentation of life by spheres that command beyond their “trusts,” “bonds,” and covenants in public life, khaya.

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