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Journal for the Study of Religion

versión On-line ISSN 2413-3027
versión impresa ISSN 1011-7601


JODAMUS, Johnathan. 'Make the Circle Bigger': Alternate Discourses of Identity Construction in Black Theologies. J. Study Relig. [online]. 2017, vol.30, n.2, pp.207-227. ISSN 2413-3027.

The role and place of South African Black theology in post-apartheid South Africa has been questioned since the advent of democracy in 1994. Recognising that South African Black theology was essentially 'protest theology' against an unjust White government1, its utility in a post-apartheid context with a Black government in place, has been questioned. Predominant within this questioning is the political usefulness of Black Theology. What has remained largely un-examined in the literature is a focus on the prefix ' Black' in 'black theology'. It is this that forms the focus of this article. Scrutiny of the prefix ' black' requires a scrutiny of the complexity of racial identity in South Africa. Notwithstanding the ways in which scholars reach for the 'inclusive Biko notion of Black' as a means to almost 'get on' with the political task of black theology, as opposed to debating identity, in this article I argue that critical race and identity theory are central to discussions on resurrecting Black Theologies. I offer a disclaimer that I will not be focusing so much on the matter of theology in this paper, but my focus will be on how identity is racially constructed and I offer suggestions as to how we may begin to think more critically regarding this category within a subject such as black theology. I bring my experiences of being 'Coloured' in South Africa into dialogue with critical identity theorists and argue that we need to ' make the circle bigger,' to include diverse perspectives on identity and that while Spivak's notion of 'strategic essentialism' (i.e. stressing uniformity in blackness) was important in Apartheid South Africa, in post-apartheid South Africa, our ideas of race need to be far more nuanced, if we are to achieve the political ends of Black Theology.

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