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The Agikuyu, the bible and colonial constructs: towards an ordinary African readers’ hermeneutics

Kinyua, Johnson Kiriaku (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Recognising 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, this research seeks to explore and understand the role of the “ordinary readers” in the development of biblical interpretation in colonial Kenya. It seeks to understand whether the semi-illiterate and illiterate can engage the Bible as capable hermeneuts. The study uses postcolonial criticism to recover and reconstruct the historical encounters of the Agĩkũyũ with the Bible. It reveals 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 hybridised readings from the Bible through retrieval and incorporation of the defunct pre-colonial past; creating interstices that became sites for assimilation, questioning and resistance. The study proposes 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 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.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Sugirtharajah, R. S. (Rasiah S.) and Guest, Deryn
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of Theology and Religion
Subjects:BS The Bible
BX Christian Denominations
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:693
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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