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God's justice is social justice: exploring African feminist theologies in a masters programme at two South African higher education institutions.

How should we understand the "and" that connects "ecclesiology" (i.e., debates on Faith and Order) and "ethics" (i.e., ongoing reflections on Life and Work or Church and Society (1))? This was the central question asked at the conference on "Ecclesiology and Ethics: The State of Ecumenical Theology in Africa" held at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, in June 2015. As invited speakers to this conference, we re-cast the categories of ecclesiology and ethics as "God's justice" and "social justice" respectively, arguing that the binaries between the two categories are artificial and unhelpful especially in contexts of rampant social injustice.

In this paper we wish to engage with a further set of uncomfortable questions, which was inspired by the central question of the conference. Why was this question about the "and" that connects ecclesiology and ethics--God's justice and social justice--being asked at all? Moreover, why was this question being asked in 2015, when the answers had arguably been provided by liberation theology, which since its advent in Latin America in the 1950s has sought to examine this very relationship between theology and social justice, ecclesiology and ethics, God's justice and social justice? Why was this question being asked now, when history affirms that in the years subsequent to the advent of liberation theology in Latin America, it took firm root in particular contexts of oppression throughout the world, such as in Africa, Asia and other majority world settings, manifesting itself in new and renewed forms such as black, Asian, Palestinian, and feminist liberation theologies (though some may argue the latter was in protest to liberation theologies).

Despite the foregoing historical evidence, this question about the nature of the "and" is still being asked in the 21st century and is being asked in the context of ecumenical theology in Africa. Why indeed is the question being asked? We posit at least three inter-related reasons. The first has to do with what we perceive to be a refusal to accept the transformation of theological education as a precursor to social transformation. The second, we argue, is a backlash against liberation theologies--not least feminist theologies--undergirded by the belief of many that these theologies have run their course and that it is time to return to the "real and hard systematic and rigorous work." Finally and closely related to this is the fact that theological education seeks to compete in the global higher education sector. This sector focuses on knowledge that is scientifically rigorous while being grudgingly supportive of socially responsive knowledge production. We propose that it is the former issue of scientifically rigorous knowledge production that lies at the heart of the question about the nature of the connection between ecclesiology and ethics. Liberation theology rendered this connection seamless--but questions within a higher education context of disciplinary rigour and activist inclinations have called this connection into question afresh.

In this contribution, taking the above into account, we ask what is needed to meaningfully integrate these two disciplinary areas--ecclesiology and ethics, or God's justice and social justice. Drawing on a case study of a Masters programme in Gender, Religion and Health (GRH) within two South African higher education contexts, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and Stellenbosch University (SUN), we argue that African Feminist Theology, which is the key philosophical and pedagogical underpinning of the programme, provides a model for how these disciplinary binaries might be broken. More importandy, however, it provides a model for a more "flourishing" graduate (health wise, gendered, and religious-ed) and steers us away from models that "promote the fragmentation and slavish adherence to 'disciple-ship' rather than the production of imaginative ways of being." (2)

We have documented the genesis of the GRH Masters programme elsewhere. (3) Here it is important to note that the Masters programme was initiated in four higher education institutions in Africa (4) by a call from the Church of Sweden, which saw an engagement between the academy, faith leaders, and health providers as an important component to affirming sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights in Africa. The mandate to the participating higher education institutions was, therefore, to develop a Masters programme that would intersect these three areas in meaningful ways. The overarching aim of the programme was to facilitate social transformation in faith communities that challenge sexual and reproductive health rights through their patriarchal theological beliefs. The programme began in 2013 and it is currently in its third year of existence.

In this contribution we will first provide a brief historical overview of how the GRH programme fit within UKZN and SUN's curriculum transformation strategies, and then we show how African Feminist Theology (if activated with all its theoretical, methodological, and political possibilities) can provide a curriculum model for the production of this more "flourishing" graduate. (5) At Stellenbosch University, in their Strategy for Teaching and Learning 2014-2018, Working document (29 August 2013), a flourishing graduate is described as possessing "an enquiring mind" and being "an engaged citizen, a dynamic professional, [and] a well-rounded individual." (6) To what extent is this development of such a graduate enabled by the GRH programmes at both institutions, which share a similar commitment to graduate attributes? (7)


The article relies on a case study methodology. The data was produced from historical strategy documents of the two institutions: original 2013 core module templates of the GRH programme; cohort supervision observations; and reports generated by the initial coordinators. Three central tenets of African Feminist Theological pedagogy are explored: namely an epistemological privilege of women's experiences, a democratic classroom, and transdisciplinarity for social transformation.

Multi-disciplinary work, in contrast to transdisciplinarity, we argue, seems to miss the final step, which--as McGregor and Volckmann, drawing on a range of other scholars, points out most perceptibly--is beyond the academy. They envision it as an integrated combination of: (a) disciplinary work, (b) scholarship between and among disciplines (interdisciplinarity), and (c) knowledge generation beyond academic disciplines and across sectors external to the university (at the interface between the academy and civil society). (8)

In order to explore how AFT produces a more flourishing graduate who can meaningfully intersect ecclesiology and ethics, we first have to understand the respective histories of the two institutions under study and their relationship to curriculum transformation and the liberation theological impulse. We now turn to this discussion using UKZN and SUN's curriculum transformation strategies, mainly drawing on reports generated by the coordinators at the two institutions in 2013. (9)

Theological Curriculum Transformation at UKZN

In 1991, the erstwhile School of Theology at the University of Natal embraced the call for a more integrated and transformed theological curriculum and deliberately mainstreamed contextual and liberation theologies into the curriculum through an endeavour called "The Contextualisation of Theological Education Project." These calls were made within the context of the Education Development Programme (EDP) by the University of Natal. Gerald West, one of the scholars at the forefront of the curriculum transformation, notes, "The EDP was designed to enable academic departments across the University to reconstruct their pedagogy in ways that would address and redress the disadvantages encoded into apartheid's Bantu Education system." (10)

Just over a decade later, Isabel Phiri and Sarojini Nadar, together with their colleagues in the department, began to make calls for the "engendering" of this Africanized and contextualized curriculum in line with what Mercy Oduyoye labelled an "irruption within an irruption." In other words, the challenge was to include sexism in existing Africanized agendas of racism and classism. She classically noted that "the concerns and experiences of women as women are yet another locus of liberation theology." (11) The idea was to have a specialized programme in gender but to also mainstream gender into the curriculum in general. (12) Courses and templates for a specialized postgraduate programme from Honours to PhD were developed, and gender was mainstreamed into the undergraduate programme. This gave birth to a programme called Gender and Theology. In 2004, a further development occurred when the University of Natal merged with the University of Durban Westville to form the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The existing School of Theology at the University of Natal merged with the Department of Religion and Culture at the University of Durban-Westville. This led to the re-naming of the Gender and Theology Programme to Gender and Religion, with the intention of ensuring the study of gender within the context of multiple faith traditions. The GRH Masters Programme was inserted into this already existing named interdisciplinary programme at UKZN. So the broader curriculum transformation of theological education began in the early 1990s at UKZN.

Theological Curriculum Transformation at SUN

While no readily available evidence exists for an overt transformation of the theological curriculum at SUN, as happened at UKZN, the institutional transformational "Pedagogy of Hope" project at SUN, spearheaded by late theologian and rector of the institution Russel Botman in 2007, certainly provided space for centres such as the Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology to thrive. In his address entitled "A Collegial Discussion on the 'Pedagogy of Hope' at Stellenbosch University" on 1 June 2010, Russel Botman reflected on what a pedagogy of hope means for SUN. He asserted that "the university should be a place of relevance. In our context, that means SU should be a place of meaning for the people of South Africa and the rest of the continent and the world at large." The Pedagogy of Hope introduced in 2007, he said, was to guide "the core activities of the university--which are teaching and learning, research and community interaction." He further elaborated that linked to the pedagogy of hope project were the five themes that were distilled from the international development agenda, namely eliminating endemic poverty and related conditions; promoting human dignity and health; promoting democracy and human rights; promoting peace and security; and promoting a sustainable environment and a competitive industry. (13)

The Human Dignity focus at the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University was linked to the Pedagogy of Hope project, as an OSP (Overarching Strategic Plan). The erstwhile Dean of the Faculty, Elna Mouton, commenting on the establishment of this focus, stated,
   The aim is not to establish an independent centre, but rather to
   coordinate and integrate the activities of the different centres in
   a meaningful and sustainable manner. This will also form part of a
   process of increasing transdisciplinary interaction with other
   faculties. In addition, we also want to link the work done by the
   Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology more strongly to the
   activities of the Faculty by creating an office that will focus on
   the promotion of human dignity. (14)

So, while the GRH initiative found a home within a specifically named interdisciplinary programme at UKZN, at SUN it was housed within the more general Human Dignity focus.

With this background of varying degrees of pedagogical transformation within the Religion and Theology school and faculty at UKZN and SUN, it is important to now examine how the GRH programme functions to meaningfully integrate ecclesiology and ethics. Yusef Waghid asserts that "transformation in higher education is not merely adding to students' knowledge base, skills and potential" (15); rather it is to "develop the critical ability of students and educators to the extent that they become self-determined (rational) and reflexive." To what extent does the key philosophical underpinning of the teaching programme in both institutions--namely African Feminist Theology--enable the above to happen?

African Feminist Theology

African Feminist Theology (AFT) is characterized by a contextual feminist pedagogical approach that is rooted in a critical awareness of how knowledge is co-opted by patriarchy in terms of production and transfer as well as content and form. An African feminist theological pedagogy seeks to deconstruct such patriarchal forms of knowledge while building new knowledge for the purpose of creating a more equitable society. Because the pedagogy is contextual, there is a recognition of a diversity of feminist approaches. It is clear that that AFT was understood and employed in different ways at the two institutions. AFT's employment has changed over the three years of the programme, as its developers have drawn from the lessons learned in the initial years of constructing the curriculum; but it is important to understand how it was first taken up in 2013, which is the period that this contribution focuses on. An African contextual feminist pedagogical approach is evidenced not only in what is taught in the programme (content) but how it is taught (form).

So AFT is based on at least three pedagogical principles. The first is an inductive approach to knowledge production: rather than privileging abstract theoretical building, AFT privileges lived experiences and focuses on the actual problems that women experience. In other words, in the tradition of liberation theology, AFT begins with an epistemological privilege of the experiences of African women. The second pedagogical principle within AFT is the creation of a "democratic feminist classroom" (16) where multiple voices are heard and engaged with. Finally, transdisciplinarity--an ability to work within and transform disciplines--is an end-goal of the AFT pedagogy. In what follows, we will reflect on how each of these components was enacted within this curriculum and how they all contribute to meaningfully integrating ecclesiology and ethics.

Epistemological privilege of (women's) experiences

We noted at the beginning of this article that in the history of the two institutions, curriculum transformation that focused on the specificities of the African context began to happen in the early 1990s and at the turn of the 21st century. Some attention (albeit to varying degrees at the two institutions) was given to developing a "Contextual Theology" at both institutions, as was the trend in many African theological education institutions at the time. (17) Nyambura Njoroge and the Circle of Concerned African women theologians, however, noted the inadequacy of this transformation. Njoroge asserts:
   African theology developed without taking into account women's
   lived experience. Indeed, the whole project was gender blind. This
   hindered the pioneering male theologians from condemning cultural
   and religious practices and attitudes destructive to the life and
   well-being of women. A large number of women in the Circle have
   thus written articles on women's experiences and perspectives in
   African religions and cultures, affirming life-giving practices
   while criticising destructive elements in areas such as rites of
   passage, birthing, naming, marriage, widowhood, and polygamy. Until
   women's views are listened to and our participation ensured, the
   truth will remain hidden and a life-giving African theology is
   doomed to fail. (18)

In the core modules at both institutions, therefore, the "lived experiences" of women were central to the teaching in the programme. So instead of an abstract focus on theory building, the students were introduced to case studies drawn from media reports, NGOs, research studies, and the literature produced by the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. These experiences were related to a diverse range of topics, as was noted by the coordinators. The coordinator at SUN in 2013, for example, related,
   The goal of the [core] module was to reflect critically on topics
   like physical and mental health, HIV-AIDS, sexuality and sexual
   orientation, reproductive health, gender-based violence and
   sustainable livelihood in order to create an awareness of the
   extent of the problem in local and global contexts, as well as
   contemplating creative strategies to address these concerns. This
   critical reflection was based on a theoretical framework that
   encompassed gender theory, feminist theory of praxis and queer

   The second week of the course moved towards exploring the complex
   intersectional nature of issues related to the themes Gender,
   Health and Theology. Sexual violence, HIV and Aids and
   the life denying realities that often face LGTBIQ people within
   faith communities were used as case studies. The course was
   concluded by exploring redemptive readings of Biblical literature
   by using alternative strategies such as reading against the grain
   of the text or in the practice of Contextual Bible reading.

The academic coordinator of the GRH Core Module at UKZN in 2013 showed a similar commitment to focusing on providing an epistemological privilege to lived experience. She reflected that the main method of teaching deployed in this module was in line with narrative theology as reflected in the works of African feminist theologians and other Western scholars. Using the works of both Western/African feminists and African women theologians, students discovered that narratives not only help women to expose some of the injustices done to them but it also brings healing to their lives. Therefore this method was also seen as therapeutic to women. Mercy Oduyoye reflects that "we tell our stories of joy and sorrow through songs, poems and proverbs as a way of doing theology." Narrative theology also helped the students to realize that the knower is a very important person especially when dealing with issues of culture and abuse.

The Coordinator at UKZN further reflected on the importance of giving epistemological privilege to women when she cited Rebecca Chopp's plea for women's knowledge to be centralized in theological discourses. Drawing on Chopp, she asserted:
   Eve's greatest fault was wanting to know ... through this desire
   she risked herself into the epistemological fray that made her
   desire the knowledge that was meant for the male privileged ...
   this desire has created uneasy relationships between women and
   knowledge especially in the Christian world. Chopp advocates for a
   standpoint theory which contends that where you are positioned
   dictates the kind of knowledge you have.

From the above it is evident that the programmes at both institutions made concerted efforts to transform traditional malestream pedagogy by foregrounding women's lived experiences and making them a legitimate starting point for theology. Lived experiences can most perceptibly be given expression within the context of a feminist democratic classroom, which is a key pedagogical value of AFT, as Mercy Oduyoye notes:
   The normative role of stories in Africa's oral corpus, and the role
   of story in biblical theology, give women the paradigm for their
   theological reflection. Story was a traditional source of theology
   which seems to have been superseded by analytical and deductive
   forms. It has taken the feminist movement to bring back the
   personal into academic studies and thereby revive the importance of
   the story. (19)

Stories and personal experience thrive well in democratic classrooms and it is to this discussion that we now turn.

Democratic classroom

The benefits of a democratic classroom have been well documented in the literature on critical pedagogical practice and the social construction of knowledge. (20) A feminist democratic classroom can be created via various means of non-traditional, non-didactic pedagogical approaches. In the programmes at both institutions this was achieved through self-directed and collaborative learning that was student centred. Activities that required and promoted group-work, facilitated tutorials, and seminar presentations were adopted to great effect as is reflected by one of the coordinators in the programme at SUN in 2013:
   The course was designed and structured in such a way as to
   introduce the major theoretical framework within the first week.
   Gender Theory, Queer Theory and a Feminist Theory of Praxis were
   introduced in an interactive collaborative learning space. Students
   were encouraged to engage with the prescribed readings and to
   reflect on their engagement by presenting the content of the
   readings to fellow students. By using this approach all students
   were engaged in the learning environment and became co-responsible
   for the construction of the learning space.

This collaborative learning space of the classroom was extended to the supervision model, which supported the research process that involved the formulation of a research proposal and dissertation writing. The dissertation forms the largest component of the Masters degree. The cohort supervision model was adapted both at UKZN and SUN from an existing transdisciplinary model within the College of Humanities at UKZN. Both the institutions organized cohort supervision workshops independently as well as with each other. There were instances when combined cohort workshops were held and both staff and students from both institutions attended. Each institution had an opportunity to host the other during the research proposal phase as well as in the final presentation of the dissertations.

The main objectives that were developed by the authors (of this paper) for the Humanities UKZN cohort were adopted for the GRH cohort as well. The objectives were to save time and fast-track completion of proposals and theses/dissertations within the stipulated minimum completion times, supplement one-on-one supervision, add interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary richness within the Higher Education context, share and acquire supervision skills, provide collegial interaction and peer support, promote student-centred learning, and stimulate higher order thinking in the production of critical researchers. Through the process of the cohort workshops, students were encouraged to present their research before an audience of peers and staff from a variety of disciplines (higher education, theology, sociology of religion, health). The initial workshops were aimed at assisting students to develop the research proposal and the following objectives in the proposal writing phase sought to enable the student to demonstrate:

* Knowledge of how to translate a real-life problem into a research problem;

* An understanding of the research process (literature review, theoretical frameworks, research approaches, analysis strategies, and ethical considerations) required to write the research proposal;

* The skill to identify the relevant and appropriate literature, theoretical framework, research approach, analysis strategy, and ethical considerations when writing the research proposal;

* The ability to write a complete research proposal according to the required format and to be able to orally defend such a research proposal in the relevant forum.

Drawing on a presentation by Michael Samuel called "Learning in Community: The Cohort Model of Doctoral Studies," De Lange et al. posit that
   learning in/through a cohort model has a three-fold structure:
   students learn to become researchers and knowledge producers
   through a range of activities (peer review, oral presentations,
   defending work in progress and so on), while simultaneously
   learning to supervise; staff learn about supervision
   (mentoring/team supervision, offering supervisory advice and
   critique), and there is collaborative support for learning through
   each of the phases (progress).

The claim by De Lange et al. supports our assertion that the cohort model of supervision for the Masters programme, too, aligns with the pedagogical philosophy of a democratic feminist classroom. In this model both the "master" and the "apprentice" co-construct knowledge so that, in line with feminist thought, hierarchies are blurred and power is shared. This, however, does not render the democratic classroom an uncontested space. In fact, the Coordinator of the SUN programme in 2013 noted these tensions, while recognizing their benefits: (21)
   Students were encouraged to engage with each other and with
   scholars from various different fields in a number of workshops and
   cohort meetings that were organised in partnership with scholars
   from our regional partner (UKZN) and within the Faculty of Theology
   at Stellenbosch University. Due to the differences in terms of
   style, focus and content of the courses at the various
   institutions, the conversations that developed were often creative,
   critical and mutually enhancing. The contextual focus of the work
   at UKZN often challenged Stellenbosch students to ask the very
   important "So what?" question, compelling students to explore the
   contextual relevance of their academic work. The major focus on
   discipline specific theory at SUN often enhanced theoretical
   discussions and stimulated academic rigour.

The democratic classroom as embodied within the cohort seminars aligns in almost all aspects, we would argue, with the central tenets of how African feminist theology is produced. Nyambura Njoroge notes that African women theologians "emerging within this generation of theologians who emphasised 'doing' rather than 'thinking' theology, have attempted to be at the heart of where theology is being created, in the womb of the community of faith, to academically articulate what is being produced. For us, process and approach are as fundamental as content." (22) Furthermore, the community spirit exemplified within the democratic space of the cohort supervision seminars finds congruence with the characterization of African women's theology as a "theology of relations." Mercy Oduyoye explains that African women theologians
   grant that there are unique insights that come from individuals
   from contexts other than one's own and that there is something to
   be appreciated from that which is different. Other people's
   thoughts and arguments become stimulants, and not points of
   argument aimed at establishing what is definitive. Rather the
   approach is that of dialogue as women aim at affirmations,
   continued questioning of tradition in view of contemporary
   challenges, and as they struggle with making their own contribution
   to the creation of theologies that respond to the demands of
   spirituality. (23)

The dialogue that African feminist theologians utilize as a foundation and stimulus to the construction of our theologies is also a dialogue that we strive for between and among traditional theological disciplines. It is not just a dialogue between the disciplines that is sought, but what is hoped for is that the dialogue would eventually lead to a transformation of these disciplines, which have, we would argue, tended to create the binaries between ecclesiology and ethics. African feminist theologies provide us with tools for how to be truly transdisciplinary.

Transdisciplinarity as a Means toward Social Transformation (24)

"Education is not the filling of a pail, hut the lighting of a fire."

The above quote, often attributed to the Irish poet William Buder Yeats (1865-1939), (25) is a good description of the philosophy undergirding the foundations of the intended curriculum. This foundational belief was challenged during the implementation of the curriculum, particularly in the context of UKZN, as we discovered that the interdisciplinary nature of the teaching subjects, as well as the context within which we teach, requires attention to both--the filling of the pail and the lighting of the fire--and that these are not as mutually exclusive as the quotation by Yeats or the theorization by some scholars might indicate. Hence we would modify the quote slightly to more accurately reflect the philosophy of the programme: "Education is not [just] the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

Generally students who register for the programme come with a pre-existing "fire blazing" to make the world a more gender-equitable place, but they lack the theoretical and the philosophical insights and vocabulary to articulate how such social transformation should occur. The "filling of the pail" with these skills is crucial, but this "filling" was done in different ways at the two institutions. At SUN, the filling was done mostly within a vertical knowledge structure, (26) where the focus is on cumulative knowledge; hence the focus at SUN was first and foremost on developing disciplinary expertise, and only afterward were health and gender added into the mix. This was based on an understanding that this vertical knowledge structure was more "academically rigorous." As the coordinator SUN 2013 noted: "The major focus on discipline specific theory at SUN often enhanced theoretical discussions and stimulated academic rigour." If we had to cast this within the terminology of the above-mentioned conference in which this contribution was situated, the focus was on studying ecclesiology as a separate category from the ethics and social justice agenda.

Within UKZN it was recognized that knowledge is, and must of necessity within an interdisciplinary programme be, filtered through a horizontal knowledge structure that pays attention to both the knower and the knowledge. (27) This is possible within what Patricia Hill Collins terms an activist-intellectual paradigm (28) that, we would assert, seeks to combine the lighting of the fire with the filling of the pail. The coordinator at UKZN specifically related this to the methodology that was being taught to the students: namely narrative theology. She stated, "Narrative theology helped the students to realise the value of the knower in doing research especially when dealing with issues of culture and abuse."

It is generally agreed that the purpose of a Masters degree is to develop the research competencies of students. It is to introduce the student to the theoretical, methodological, and philosophical drivers of a particular discipline. The GRH Programme in this regard was unique in the sense that it required an integrated understanding of three disciplines--Gender, Religion/Theology, and Health. It required an intersecting of ecclesiology and ethics. We have shown elsewhere and above the extent to which the integration and inter. sectionality required of the programme were achieved at both institutions. (29)

African feminist work shares this vision of intersectionality as articulated by Obioma Nnaemeka:
   [T]he work of women in Africa is located at the boundary where the
   academy meets what lies beyond it, a third space where the
   immediacy of lived experience gives form to theory, allows the
   simultaneous gesture of theorizing practice and practicing theory,
   and anticipates the mediation of policy, thereby disrupting the
   notion of the academy and activism as stable sites. (30)

The attributes needed by a graduate to embody this "third space" are the attributes referred to at the beginning of this article, as outlined in SUN's Teaching and Learning Vision. This graduate has to be trained in what Kincheloe describes as a "bricoleur" researcher. Transdisciplinary work does not necessarily result in a lack of disciplinary depth and rigour. Kincheloe holds that
   disciplinarians maintain that interdisciplinary approaches to
   analysis and research result in superficiality; interdisciplinary
   proponents argue that disciplinarity produces naive
   overspecialization. The vision of the bricolage promoted here
   recognizes the dialectical nature of this disciplinary and
   interdisciplinary relationship and calls for a synergistic
   interaction between the two concepts ... In this genealogical
   context they would explore the discipline as a discursive system of
   regulatory power with its propensity to impound knowledge within
   arbitrary and exclusive boundaries. In this context, scholars would
   come to understand the ideological dimensions of the discipline and
   the ways knowledge is produced for the purposes of supporting
   various power blocs (31)

Disruption of the divisions between academic theological disciplines and methodological power blocs has been a hallmark of African feminist theology. Mercy Oduyoye notes how AFT departs from traditional ways of doing theology:
   Traditionally, doing theology for the most part consists of knowing
   what others have written on your area of interest, doing your own
   listening and study of the contemporary scene and context, and
   finally having something to say on the issue. But the women's
   process does not end here, neither does it have to begin with
   reading other people's works, indeed most of the time the impulse
   to theologise is generated by experience or praxis. African women's
   theology does not end in documents, for the divorce of theology and
   ethics does not make for commitment and responsible living. This
   makes women seek a theology characterised by a struggle to make
   religion relevant to the challenges of contemporary Africa. (32)

Developing a bricoleur researcher is a step in the direction of transdisciplinarity that leads to social transformation, thereby demonstrating that God's justice is social justice.


We return to our central question about the extent to which African Feminist Theology does not just provide a philosophical underpinning for intersectionality, but is a signpost for transdisciplinarity as a means toward social transformation. In our previous research drawing on Susan McGregor's definition, we asserted that transdisciplinarity is an integrated combination of "disciplinary work; scholarship between and among disciplines (interdisciplinarity) and knowledge generation beyond academic disciplines and across sectors external to the university (at the interface between the academy and civil society)." (33) This contribution has shown that a transdisciplinary epistemological shift is required for the 21st century that not only renders disciplinary boundaries porous but essentially transforms them, thereby affirming that God's justice is social justice.

While the disciplines of ecclesiology can never be equated nor fully fused, what we have shown in this paper through the ways in which these disciplines intersect is that an almost transmutation (in theological language) occurs. The one becomes the other and then returns to its state, but is never left untouched by the other. Instead, as the apostle Paul states, we who do this work at the nexus of ecclesiology and ethics are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

DOI: 10.1111/erev.12193

(1) As a reviewer to this article points out: "One is given the impression that ecclesiology refers to the theoretical while ethics would be the actual lived experience, or in the article's terms, God's justice is a faith issue but social justice the real issue, the lived experience, on the ground." The reviewer argues that it could very well be the other way round. The study of the church (ecclesiology) is to quite an extent an empirical study, while ethics is not, unless it is applied. We concur with the reviewer, but in the framework of the WCC documents and the conferences, ecclesiology is understood as a study of the church and its doctrines--such as issues of Trinity, revelation, incarnation etc. These are given central place of importance in the study of ecclesiology. What the paper shows through the case study of the Gender, Religion and Health programme is that the intersection between these two areas is possible. For example, to ask what it means for the incarnated God to experience the suffering of a human being--but perhaps even more scandalously the suffering of a woman--is at once both an ecclesiological and an ethical question.

(2) Thanks to Michael Anthony Samuel for this insight and phrasing.

(3) See Sarojini Nadar, Sarasvathie Reddy, Charlene Van der Walt, Lilian Siwila L, Elisabeth Gerle, '"Flourishing Guinea Pigs': Exploring Intersectionality and Interdisciplinarity in a Master's Programme on Gender, Religion and Health at two South African Universities," Journal of Gender and Religion in Africa 20:2 (2014), 203-30.

(4) University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and Stellenbosch University (SUN), South Africa Makumira University College in Tanzania (MUCT), and the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST), Ethiopia.

(5) Nadar et al., "Flourishing Guinea Pigs," 203.

(6) See "Strategy for Teaching and Learning 2014-2018," working document, 29 August 2013, at: https://www. attributes%E2%80%99%20(an%20enquiring%20mind%2C%20an%20engaged%20citizen%2C%20a%20 dynamic%20professional%2C%20a%20well-rounded%20indi vidual).

(7) See UKZN Strategic Plan Document Goal Number 4 on Teaching and Learning Excellence, at: http://www. about-ukzn/strategic-plan.

(8) McGregor and Volckmann, "Making the transdisciplinary university a reality," Integral Leadership Review 10.2 (2010): 2010-03. May be accessed online at 2010-03-article-mcgregor-volckmann.php.

(9) Note that quotes taken from the coordinators included in this paper are from these reports.

(10) Gerald West, "Community Reconstructing Biblical Studies Pedagogy: The Case Of Tamar And Kerina," Journal for Constructive Theology, Gender, Religion and Theology in Africa 14:1 and 15:2 (December 2008/July 2009), 74.

(11) Mercy Oduyoye, "Reflections from a Third World Woman's Perspective: Women's Experience and liberation Theologies," in Irruption of the Third World: Challenge to Theology, ed. Virginia Fabella and Sergio Torres, 246-55 (New York: Maryknoll, 1983).

(12) Isabel Phiri has noted, "The need for mainstreaming gender in theological education is a global one and has been well articulated by a number of theological conferences and scholars ... The Lutheran World Federation took the lead at a global level to begin the process of engendering theological education by organizing a consultation on 'Engendering Theological Education for Transformation', held in Montreux, Switzerland, 4-8 November 2001. The report of this consultation has been widely circulated to stimulate further discussions on engendering theological education." See Isabel Phiri, Major Challenges for African Women Theologians in Theological Education (1989-2008), International Review of Mission 98:1 (2009), 113-14.

(13) "A Collegial Discussion On The 'Pedagogy Of Hope' at Stellenbosch University, 1 June 2010, Opening remarks by Russel Botman, Rector and Vice-Chancellor," Sanlam Hall, The Neelsie, 1 June 2010, at: http://stbweb01.

(14) See "Human Dignity a Common Thread at Theology," Stellenbocsch Univeristy website, 4 March 2009, at:

(15) Yusef Waghid, "Knowledge Production and Higher Education Transformation in South Africa: Towards Reflexivity in University Teaching, Research and Community Service," Higher Education 43:4 (2002), 459.

(16) bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress (London: Routledge, 2014), 179.

(17) See the Handbook of Theological Education in Africa, ed. Isabel Phiri and Dietrich Werner (Oxford: Regnum Books, 2013), which contains several chapters on theological curriculum transformation in Africa.

(18) Nyambura Njoroge, "The Missing Voice" Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 99 (1997), 77-83.

(19) Mercy Oduyoye, Introducing African Women's Theology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 11.

(20) bell hooks, Teaching Community: Pedagogy of Hope (New York, N.Y: Routledge, 2003); Marjorie Jolles, '"Real Women' in Women's Studies: A Reflexive Look at the Theory/Practice Dilemma," Feminist Teacher 18:1 (2007), 74-85; Jane Kenway and Helen Modra, "Feminist Pedagogy and Emancipatory Possibilities," in Feminisms and Critical Pedagogy, ed. Carmen Luke and Jennifer Gore, 138-66 (New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 1992).

(21) Naydene de Lange, Guruvasagie Pillay, and Vitaliis Chikoko, "Doctoral Learning: A Case for a Cohort Model of Supervision and Support," South African Journal of Education 31:1 (2011), 15-30, at 18.

(22) Njoroge, Missing Voice, 78.

(23) Oduoyoye, Introducing African Women's Theology, 11.

(24) Much of this section is drawn from the "philosophy of teaching" statement prepared by Sarojini Nadar for a teaching award in 2014. See:

(25) Its origins unfortunately cannot be verified even through the collected writings of Yeats. We stumbled upon it on a desk of a colleague in India.

(26) Basil Bernstein, "Vertical and Horizontal Discourse: An Essay," British Joumal of Sociology of Education 20:2 (1999), 157-73.

(27) Karl Maton, "Language of Legitimation: The Structuring Significance for Intellectual Fields of Strategic Knowledge Claims," British Journal of Sociology of Education 21:2 (2000), 147-67.

(28) Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment (New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2000).

(29) Nadar et al., "Flourishing Guinea Pigs."

(30) Obioma Nnaemeka, "Nego-Feminism: Theorizing, Practicing, and Pruning Africa's Way," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 29:2 (2003), 357-85.

(31) Joe Kincheloe, "Describing the Bricolage: Conceptualizing a New Rigor in Qualitative Research," Qualitative Inquiry 7:6 (2001), 683-84.

(32) Mercy Oduyoye, Introducing African Women's Theologies, 17-18.

(33) Nadar et al., "Flourishing Guinea Pigs," 222.

Sarojini Nadar and Sarasvathie Reddy

Sarojini Nadar is afullprofessor in and leader of the Gender and Religion programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Sarasvathie Reddy is a senior lecturer in the Higher Education and Training Unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is also the academic coordinator of the PhD in Higher Education Programme and an Education consultant in the GRH Programme
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Author:Nadar, Sarojini; Reddy, Sarasvathie
Publication:The Ecumenical Review
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Date:Dec 1, 2015
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