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Title: Orality as casualty : contextual and postcolonial analysis of biblical hermeneutics in Bembaland
Author: Mukuka, Tarcisius
ISNI:       0000 0004 5924 2901
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2014
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This research aims at examining biblical hermeneutics in Bembaland, Zambia. Home to 4.8 million people, 50%-75% of whom are nominally Christian and 44% Catholic, with literacy levels at 61.4%, this thesis explores the interplay of orality and scribality in the Bembaland experiences of biblical hermeneutics. The terminus a quo of this thesis is that the shift in preferred medium from orality to scribablity in Bembaland affected not only hermeneutical understandings of the Bible, but also the broader social praxis. This can be identified in changed ways both of thinking and the derivation of meaning, both in terms of heteroglossal interpretation and the patterning and understanding of authority. The terminus ad quem of the thesis is that rather than hold orality and textuality in an antithetical binarism, it is more fruitful to pursue a negotiated and hybrid approach which holds oral and textual poetics in constructive symbiosis. In making this argument, rather than calling in the hermeneutical bulldozer of one single method, our approach is to unlock the Bemba experiences using a bricolage of analytical tools which have included contextual fieldwork, postcolonial critique, communication theory, spatial theory and linguistic analysis. In particular, the argumentation is alert first to the deconstruction of textual interpretations authored by the dominant and literate elite; secondly, the silencing of colonized 'others' as subjects of their own history; thirdly, the emancipation of misued biblical passages through hermeneutics of suspicion, retrieval, restoration and transformation. As a worked example, I have proposed a negotiated, oral-textual and hybrid hermeneutics of Rom 13:1-7. The outcomes of the 'oral-scribal' analysis undertaken partially echo McLuhan's famous phrase, 'The medium is the message.' The evidence suggests that there has been a tectonic shift in the biblical hermeneutics of Bembaland. Succinctly, this may be characterised principally by the move from oral/aural to chirographical/typographical media management in which communication and space were utilised as a means of exerting power and control. In the particular Bemba context of << Ubufumu e busosa >> - 'Royalty is constituted by speech' the effect is seismic since tribal authority has hitherto been constituted by the spoken rather than the written word. Thus informed, the research proposes a rebalancing of this destabilizing shift using two metaphors. Firstly, hearing/reading the word under an African tree as << Teleela Mulumbe >> ['Hear the news'} has the potential to open up what James Maxey has referred to as the oral ethos of the Bible in a context that is still characterised by residual orality; secondly, hearing/reading the word in Terra Nullius, ['unclaimed land'] where both oral/textual media hybridity and community hybridity are the catchwords. In like manner, this allows for border-crossing or 'transgressive hermeneutics' that is meta-gendered and trans-ethnic in its redemptive power.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: 220 Bible ; 960 History of Africa