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.
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