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 A Tentative Topography of Postcolonial Theology M AY R A R I V E R A A N D S T E P H E N D. M O O R E As the crow flies, the Theological School at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, is less than thirty miles from the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York City. In other respects, of course, the distance between these two institutional spaces is absolute: they occupy two parallel discursive dimensions that, left to their own devices, would extend to infinity without ever intersecting. On the afternoon of November 2, 2007, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia’s most distinguished literary scholar, and arguably the most influential literary and cultural critic on the planet (although the term ‘‘planet’’ resists casual usage after Spivak: she has turned it into a complex philosophical concept), stepped through the portal between these parallel dimensions to attend the seventh Drew Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium (henceforth, TTC7). This, however, was not her first encounter with the strange tribe of theologians. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, whose office had been contiguous to Spivak’s the previous year, had been bold enough to invite her to meet informally with him and certain other theologians with an interest in her work, and Spivak had been bold enough to accept. Thus it was that Peter Heltzel, Mayra Rivera, Lester Edwin J. Ruiz, and Mark Lewis Taylor sat down for a conversation with Spivak in New York Theological Seminary on April 26, 2006. Professor Spivak must not have found the experience entirely disagreeable, because when Catherine Keller and Stephen Moore, organizers of TTC7, got wind of it and invited Spivak to participate in a more formal and more public conversation around her work in its relation PAGE 3 ................. 17764$ INTR 10-28-10 12:06:31 PS 4 兩 m a yr a r iv e r a a n d st e p he n d . m o o re to theology, she also readily accepted. Subsequent to TTC7, moreover, she has delivered the William James Lecture on Religious Experience at Harvard Divinity School. Talking to theologians and other religionists is evidently proving habit-forming for Professor Spivak, and many of us could not be more pleased. BEGINNINGS These theological conversations with Spivak took place in a space that had gradually opened up within the field of theological studies since the 1990s and that had come, retrospectively, to be named postcolonial theology. This space defies clear demarcation, however, despite its attainment of a name; still in its emergent phase, it overlaps complexly with other, more established areas of theological inquiry, such as liberation, contextual, and political theologies. Even despite—or possibly because of—its blurred boundaries, postcolonial theology has already emerged as a site of intense intellectual and political energy, marked as it is by unprecedented preoccupation with the effects of empires old and new, and productive engagement with the interdisciplinary field of postcolonial studies—including that complex corner of it occupied by Spivak, an iconic figure for postcolonial studies, yet one who appears to be outside the field as much as inside it. Stephen Moore’s essay in this volume explores Spivak’s paradoxical relationship to postcolonial studies, the field that has mediated the reception of her work in the theological disciplines. Kwok Pui-lan’s essay, meanwhile, explores Spivak’s relationship to theological studies in a direct fashion—and in a more systematic fashion, we might add, than any other essay in the volume. As such, Kwok’s essay functions as a kind of second introduction to the volume, although it was not written as such. The present introduction , for its part, focuses more broadly on the reception of postcolonial studies as a whole in theology and hence with sketching out the general contours of postcolonial theology. The task of mapping the reception of postcolonial studies in theology necessarily begins on the always porous boundary between theology and biblical studies, for the Bible was the first focus of explicit postcolonial analysis in the theological fields. Equipped with the tools of liberation and contextual hermeneutics, and/or with the resources of the proliferating interdisciplinary field of postcolonial studies, biblical scholars began in the mid- to late 1990s to examine anew not only the ancient imperial contexts PAGE 4 ................. 17764$ INTR 10-28-10 12:06:31 PS a t en t a ti v e top o gr a p hy of po s t co l o ni a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780823248780
Related ISBN
9780823233250
MARC Record
OCLC
708566770
Pages
480
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-18
Language
English
Open Access
No
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