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Poetically Africa dwells: A dialogue between Heidegger’s understanding of language as the house of Being and African Being-with (ubuntu) as a possible paradigm for postfoundational practical theology in Africa

Johann-Albrecht Meylahn

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 31, No 1 (2010), 9 pages. doi: 10.4102/ve.v31i1.381

Submitted: 08 March 2010
Published:  19 November 2010


The search for new paradigms and perspectives for practical theology in South Africa begins with the context, South Africa. What perspectives are given and what perspectives respond to the call of this context when this African context is brought into dialogue with the thoughts of a thinker who has to a large extent determined the paradigm of postmodern Western thought? This article was inspired by the hope that such a dialogue will reveal unique outcomes that could offer perspectives and possible paradigms for doing postfoundational practical theology in South Africa. I specifically brought into dialogue Heidegger’s understanding of language and the poetics of Being, with ubuntu, interpreted as Being-with [mit-Sein] and how African ubuntu can be interpreted as being of language – poetically Africa dwells-with-others. This dialogue in Africa with Africa, on and of the house of Being, can only but ‘gift’ practical theology with new perspectives and paradigms, because practical theology can be understood as a critical theological reflection on the word event (language event) in the various sub-disciplines of practical theology (homiletics, pastorate, liturgics and diaconical ministry), responding to the Word event of Scripture as the written said in answer to the Divine saying.

I have reflected on this dialogue, not as an outsider objectifying Africa or postmodernism, but as one born in Africa (as-one-in-Africa) whose mother tongue (house of Being) is that of middle Europe. Theology has always been most creative at the intersection or intercessions of paradigms of thought, that is, Jerusalem–Athens, Jerusalem–Athens–Alexandria, Jerusalem–Athens–Alexandria–Rome, et cetera. The time has come for southern Africa to be part of this intersection and these intercessions, to offer perspectives and paradigms for practical theology.

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Author affiliations

Johann-Albrecht Meylahn, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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