Thursday, September 29, 2011

Viva Prof. Wangarĩ Maathai, Viva Kenya, Viva Africa!

It seems to me that Kenyans still do not appreciate how far we have come. As we mourn and plan to bury Prof. Wangarĩ Maathai may she remind us of the struggle and the dangers we had to endure to win our freedom. Freedom is never given in a silver platter. I am glad Wangarĩ lived to see the fruits of her struggle. Viva Prof. Wangarĩ Maathai, Viva Kenya, Viva Africa. Forward marching, ever.


Monday, September 26, 2011

"I Will Be A Hummingbird" - Wangari Maathai

Prof Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace laureate and conservation heroine

Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai dies in Nairobi


The world has lost a precious jewel. You may have passed on Wangaari Maathai but your transformative work lives on. Green Belt Movement Always on My Mind. Fare Thee Well, Till We Meet.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Defining Postcolonialism

At a time when we are witnessing a re-colonization of Africa through the United Nations or International Criminal Court (ICC), it is important for us to fully reassess our understanding of freedom and justice. Postcolonialism offers a good starting point. In my opinion, postcolonial criticism offers the best theoretical and methodological tool to help analyse and interpret the re-colonization process. But what in the world is Postcolonialism?

Postcolonialism is a much contested term. In certain disciplines, postcolonialism is defined as scrutinizing and exposing colonial domination and power as they are embodied in texts, structures and attitudes, and as searching for alternative ways while thus overturning and dismantling colonial perspectives. According to Fernando Segovia, postcolonialism takes seriously the reality of the empire, of imperialism and colonization, as “an omnipresent, inescapable and overwhelming reality in the world.” Since colonization was not just about soldiers and cannons but also about forms, images and imaginings, postcolonial inquiry is helpful in investigating the issues of empire, nation, ethnicity, migration, human subjectivity, race and language.

As a concept “postcolonialism” though problematic helps bring together a number of issues, even conflicting ones. First among these can be located in the term “colonialism”. When using the term colonialism, I am aware of the fact that legacies of colonialism are varied and multiple even as they obviously share some important features. European colonialism was not a monolithic operation; rather right from its inception, it deployed diverse strategies and methods of control and of representation.

Nonetheless, whenever the term is invoked, it draws immediate reaction from both sides of the aisle. Chinua Achebe points out those from the former colonies who see today’s indictment of colonialism as a brand of “cheap, demagogic and outmoded rhetoric.” To this group, the term conjures an image of people’s inability to take responsibility of their problems. This group from the formerly colonized countries looks at the African inglorious past as paralleled to modern day African failed state of affairs. In other words, rather than deal with their own failures, in self-defence the formerly colonised people resort to apportioning blame to others for their problems.

On their part, people from the former colonizing world see ingratitude. The group juxtaposes blessings of civilization that Europe brought to Africa against modern day African return of ingratitude. They are quick to remind that the postmodern powers repudiate colonial missteps and in order to make up for these missteps, new relationships of equality between once-colonised and colonizers have been established.

However, without merely apportioning blame and self-righteousness, there is a real need to investigate this rather complex relationship that developed with all of its totalizing discourses. The primacy and even the complete centrality of colonialism was so totalizing in its form, attitudes and gestures, that it virtually shut out any innovation or alternatives within the colony. Rather than accept colonialism as simply a divine project undertaken for the glory of God and an extension of the rule of law, through postcolonial inquiry we are able to understand that colonialism and all its manifestations both in intentions and acts was an integral part of capitalist development. Colonialism as Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Aimé Césaire remind us is a practise and not a theory. It is a historical process and not a metaphysical idea; a relationship of power at the economic, political and cultural levels.

Besides the domination of physical space, the other important aspect of colonialism was in its ability to persuade the colonized people to internalize colonial logic and speak its language. In the commonly known process of “colonising the mind”, the colonized succumbed by accepting the lower ranking in the colonial order while assimilating the values and assumptions of the colonizers. Colonialism suggested certain ways of seeing reality and specific modes of understanding that reality. In the end it offered explanation as to the place of the colonized in the colonial world which in almost all cases was a subservient position while rendering the colonizer as superior in all ways.

It is in this subtle dynamic that led to the internalization of certain expectations about human relationships that colonialism was effectively devastating. Through language, colonialism took upon itself the power of describing, naming, defining, and representing the colonised. Since language, as wa Thiong’o has offered, is the carrier of culture and values by which we perceive ourselves and our place in the world, colonization by imposing upon the colonized a particular value-system it succeeded in denigrating the colonized’s cultural values. Therefore, postcolonial inquiry as wa Thiong’o articulates, brings to the fore the questions of language and their importance in answering the question of identity and being.

The other important aspect of postcolonial inquiry is not just its contestation of colonial domination but also in neo-colonialism and the legacies of colonialism. Rather than place colonialism securely in the past or suggesting a continuous line from that past into our present, postcolonialism contends that colonial values and attitudes did not disappear with the acquisition of national independence. The past colonial experiences still cast their shadows over our own present. The experience of the colonial situation outlived the attainment of formal independence.

Postcolonialism begins from the perspective that postcolonial reality is framed by active legacies of colonialism, by the institutional infrastructures inherited from colonial power by elite groups, or appropriated by later generations of elites. In our postmodern world, where the structure and culture of the colonial society are evident, there are tendencies to omit colonialism, racism, and ideologies of repression in our daily engagements. Through postcolonial inquiry, we are not only able to challenge such tendencies, but also see colonialism and decolonisation as not separate phases in history but as cultural processes in dialectical relationship with each other.

Postcolonial criticism ultimate’s goal is to offer an alternative intellectual inquiry and interpretation on the past and present encounters with both the colonial and present global encounters of unequals. As an academic venture, postcolonial theory interrogates texts, structures and attitudes for colonial intentions and tendencies. In a clearer way, it investigates and exposes the link between knowledge and power in textual, cultural, socio-political and economic productions where the dialectical relationship between language and power is fundamental and far-reaching. Therefore, re-engagement with our past is paramount if we hope to dismantle neo-colonial structures such ICC and UN.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Peter Kenneth in Atlanta



I have found Peter Kenneth's proposal on healthcare helpful. I have not heard so far one who directly address issues that are dear to my heart as this man. Time will tell if his is mere political rhetoric or he is one serious presidential contender. So far, I am impressed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thank you former South African President Thabo Mbeki




‎"I am an African" come may what. Thank you former South African President Thabo Mbeki for your commitment to achieve what is right for us as Africans. Africa's Rebirth is a must not a choice.

Thank you former South African President Thabo Mbeki




‎"I am an African" come may what. Thank you former South African President Thabo Mbeki for your commitment to achieve what is right for us as Africans. African Rebirth is a must not a choice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Introducing Ordinary African Readers' Hermeneutics


My book Introducing Ordinary African Readers' Hermeneutics which has just been published by Peter Lang International Academic publishers introduces the concept “ordinary African readers' hermeneutics” in a study of the reception of the Bible in postcolonial Africa. It looks beyond the scholarly and official church-based material to the way in which the Bible, and discourses on or from the Bible, are utilized within a wide range of diverse contexts. 
I show that “ordinary readers” can and did engage in meaningful and liberating hermeneutics. I have used the term “ordinary readers” to refer specifically first to the literate African readers who remain poor and marginalized. In this category I include peasants and the unskilled laborers living both in the rural and urban areas of the African societies. Secondly, the term includes the illiterate and semi-literate African Bible readers. Even though these categories of ordinary readers form the main bulk of the African Christian churches, they are usually assumed “passive” and their readings and interpretations not taken seriously. In the book, I show that these readers are indeed capable hermeneuts (interpreters) whom biblical scholars (and mainly African scholars) must take seriously. 
Using the Agĩkũyũ's encounter with the Bible as an example, I demonstrate that what colonial discourses commonly circulated about Africans were not always the “truth”, but mere “representations” that were hardly able to fix African identities, as they were often characterized by certain ambivalences, anxieties and contradictions. The hybridized Biblical texts, readings and interpretations generated through retrieval and incorporation of the defunct pre-colonial past created interstices that became sites for assimilation, questioning and resistance. 
The book explores how Africans employed “allusion” as a valid method of interpretation, showing how the critical principle of interpretation lies not in the Bible itself, but in the community of readers willing to cultivate dialogical imagination in order to articulate their vision. I propose an African hermeneutical theory, which involves the fusion of both the “scholarly” and the “ordinary” readers in the task of biblical interpretation within a specific socio-cultural context. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

INTRODUCING ORDINARY AFRICAN READERS' HERMENEUTICS

Dear Friends,
I am very pleased to inform you that my first book titled INTRODUCING ORDINARY AFRICAN READERS' HERMENEUTICS has been published by Peter Lang Ltd, International Academic Publishers. The book is being released for sale immediately. See the link below for a synopsis of the book. Thank you for your support. 
http://www.peterlang.com/download/datasheet/58920/datasheet_430289.pdf

Monday, January 10, 2011

My First Book


I wish to alert the followers of this blog about my upcoming book titled “Introducing Ordinary African Readers’ Hermeneutics: A Case Study of the Agĩkũyũ Encounter with the Bible.” This book is set within a postcolonial framework and introduces the concept “ordinary African reader's hermeneutics”. It looks beyond the scholarly and official church based material to the way in which the bible, and discourses on or from the bible are utilized within a wide range of diverse contexts. In the book, I show that ‘ordinary readers’ can and did engage in meaningful and liberating hermeneutics. Using the Agĩkũyũ’s encounter with Bible, I demonstrate that what colonial discourses commonly circulated about Africans were not always 'truth', but mere 'representations' that were hardly able to fix African identities as they were often characterized by certain ambivalences, anxieties and contradictions. The hybridized biblical texts, readings and interpretations generated through retrieval and incorporation of the defunct pre-colonial past created interstices that became sites for assimilation, questioning and resistance. The book explores how Africans employed 'allusion' as a valid method of interpretation showing how the critical principle of interpretation lies not in the Bible itself, but in the community of readers willing to cultivate dialogical imagination in order to articulate their vision. In the end, I propose an African hermeneutical theory, which involves the fusion of both the ‘scholarly’ and the ‘ordinary’ readers in the task of biblical interpretation within specific sociocultural context. 

Synopsis:

The book explores the extent to which “ordinary readers” participated in the development of biblical interpretation in Africa. The book takes into the account the paradigm shift in African biblical studies where the image of a “decontextualized and non-ideological” scientific Bible reader is slowly being replaced with one of a “contextualized and ideological” reader. In the study, I use the Agĩkũyũ of Kenya as a case study to recover and reconstruct the historical encounters of the Africans with the Bible; and to show that the semi-illiterate and illiterate do engage the Bible as capable hermeneuts.

The study uses postcolonial criticism as a theoretical and methodological tool to help analyze and interpret archival data and colonial texts. This methodology has been most helpful in revealing that ordinary African readers actively and creatively engaged biblical texts in the moment of colonial transformation using several reading strategies and reading resources. Despite the colonial hegemonic positioning, these Africans hybridized readings from the Bible through retrieval and incorporation of the defunct pre-colonial past; creating interstices that became sites for assimilation, questioning and resistance. My study shows that even though the aims, nature and reliability of biblical interpretation in Africa may never have been independent from the consciousness and will of the colonial discourse that assumed its own dominance and superiority, its development was not monolithic. I have shown that the process of introducing the Bible and its teachings in colonial Africa could not allow exact replication of intended meanings. 

I offer three main arguments which operated at various levels of colonial contacts. The first is that the crossing-over and the borrowing back and forth in colonial contexts became possible through the “concept of ‘fixity’” in the construction of otherness.  Stereotypes helped reinforce this concept as its major discursive strategy and produced a process of ambivalence in the colonial representation of the colonized subjects. Secondly, the colonizers’ experience and that of the Africans which they represented testified to the diversity and differences present in the colonial world. Since the African context was a world with its own agendas, priorities, and history, it was not possible to develop unitary and pure forms of hermeneutics. Therefore, hermeneutics that evolved out of the colonial situation could not be anything but hybrid, mixed and impure. Since hybridity as understood in postcolonialism is never total or complete, it remains perpetually in motion, pursuing errant and unpredictable course, open to change and inscription. Thirdly, due to the ambivalences, anxieties and contradictions as well as the hybrid nature of colonial discourses, the colonial situation offered an “in-between” space where other possibilities in interpretation became feasible. By investigating the interstices of colonial culture and experience, it reveals to us that it is in this “liminal space” that came the “enigmatic questioning” which disturbed any unified notion of history and every unitary concept of the colonizer’s values.  What emerged from this scenario was a newness which not only contested but also innovatively interrupted the acts of representation and interpretation.

 In the end I have proposed an African hermeneutic theory that accepts both scholarly readers and the ordinary readers with respect to biblical interpretation as constitutive of a community of readers positioned in a particular sociocultural milieu. It is a theory that invites the socially engaged scholars to commit to: reading the Bible from the experienced reality of societal margins; reading communally with each other; and to read critically. The metaphor Sokoni (at the marketplace) is proposed as the starting point in which both the “ordinary” readers and scholarly readers can engage the Bible through the language of the African theatre and storytelling.

The rationale for the book:

While much research and writing have been done on the history of Christian mission and the development of Christianity and theology in Africa, the research literature in biblical studies and hermeneutics pays little attention to the processes and consequences of colonization for biblical interpretation and uses of scripture in Africa. In postcolonial Africa, where the Bible has widely been accepted as the supreme rule of faith, ethics and morality, few indigenous biblical scholars have engaged in critical biblical scholarship which interrogates the relationship between the Bible and colonialism regarding the issues of language, class, gender, ideology and human subjectivity. Among the many trained theologians, few are biblical scholars. As Gerald West has observed of African theologians, it is also true of the biblical academies in Africa that only a handful of African biblical scholars consciously reflect on methodology and theory.  

In addition, the question of biblical hermeneutics is yet to be settled, particularly in the formerly colonized territories. The postcolonial context, just as the colonial context, remains a site where the Bible has the potential of becoming both a solution and a problem, both an oppressor and liberator. The Bible is now widely accepted as an African book and a beloved text, however, its potency as a destructive force cannot be ignored. The Bible as literature remains a powerful tool in which a given ideology can be passed on and be received as the norm in daily practices. Moreover, the postcolonial context in which the Bible operates is still contestable and ambiguous. The postcolonial situation in Africa demands a new critical tradition in biblical studies and hermeneutics that follow colonial resistant literature to affirm the right of people once again to seize the initiative of history. I am of the opinion that potentiality of such a critical edge in African biblical scholarship that is able to harness the true creative power of the African people has not been fully explored and tested.

For example, while the Christian activity of the Bible Translation has made great strides in offering the Africans the Bible in the languages of their ancestors, hardly have theological schools in Africa seen it worthy to include the translated texts (which most ordinary readers use) in the biblical studies curriculum. What this translates to is the inadequacy of biblical hermeneutics to offer critical tools that students of theology can employ when they encounter the untrained ordinary readers in their daily wrestling with the translated texts. Theological schools, as such, disregard untrained, illiterate or semi-literate readers as important conversation partners in the development of biblical hermeneutics.

In addition, I am of the opinion that to understand this process one must also address the question of the discourses of colonialism. By discourses of colonialism, I mean understanding the representation and categorization of the African identities produced and reproduced by various colonial rules, systems and procedures in order to create and separate the Africans as “Other”. Therefore, to understand colonial relationships one needs to analyze words and images as they were used and applied in the historical transformation of the colonial society. Such an analysis reveals not just the individual or social groups but also a historical consciousness at work. For this reason, the place of language, culture and the individual within the political and economic realities of the colony have to remain at the fore front for a fuller comprehension of the evolution of biblical interpretation in colonial Kenya.
             
The book is an attempt towards filling in the gap. It builds on the new methodological and theoretical approach in African biblical studies which has been laid out through the able minds of Gerald West, Musa Dube, Itumeleng J. Mosala and Aloo O. Mojola, among others postcolonial biblical critics.

The intended readership of the book includes African biblical scholars and Africanists, African theologians and historians, Students of religion, theology and biblical studies, Researchers in approaches to hermeneutics, Postcolonial theorists and critics.

Please, stay tuned for more about this book.