The Other and the construction of cultural and Christian identity : the case of the Dutch Reformed Church in transition

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The aim of this thesis is to explore the interaction between cultural and religious identity, and more especially, Christian identity; how they develop in relation to each other, and how they differ. This thesis takes as its, starting point the conviction that the understanding of, and the relationship to, the other, is what both develops and distinguishes Christian identity from cultural identity. In order to come to a better understanding of this complex set of relationships, the case of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa has been examined. The role of the Dutch Reformed Church in the cultural construction of Afrikaner identity has been examined both in the formative stages of Afrikanerdom until the demise of Apartheid, and then in its more recent role in the deconstruction and reconstruction of Afrikaner identity since the transition to democracy in 1994, tracing both continuities and discontinuities between the earlier and later periods under review. Several others have been considered critical for the construction of Afrikaner identity. Finally, having considered the global upsurge of ethnic and religious fundamentalist identities and the effects of this on Afrikaner identity, the message for the future both locally in South Africa and globally is one of Christian humanism, in conjunction with a general need for global ethics, protecting and celebrating our full humanity, irrespective of race, gender, culture and religious conviction. This thesis is interdisciplinary, examining the issues both from a socio-historical viewpoint and from a theological perspective drawing, in particular, on the work of Mary Douglas and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Includes bibliographical references (p. 269-287).